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Before considering this topic, read pp. 261-265 (pp. 277-281 in the Fifth Edition) in your textbook.
Although generally participated in by voters at much lower levels and receiving much less media attention than general elections, direct primaries play an important role in producing the elected officials who represent us. Held months before the general election, primaries are, basically, the elections in which Democrats and Republicans narrow down the list of candidates seeking to be their party’s candidate in the general election to one per office.
There are essentially three different types of primaries:
* CLOSED PRIMARIES are, as the name indicates, “closed” for participation to only members of the particular political party holding them. In a state with a closed primary system, an individual registers as, for example, a Democrat or Republican at the time that they register to vote. They are then allowed to vote in the primary for the party with which they’ve registered when that election is held.
Closed primaries tend to be favored by strong partisans and the political parties themselves because they allow party members to have more of a say in the candidates that will run under their party banner. While this does tend to lead to a party running candidates whose views are more in line with the views of the party members in that state, this can also lead to electoral difficulties if the strong partisans turning out in primaries pick a candidate *too* strongly “left” or “right” in contrast to the views of the state’s voters as a whole. Another somewhat controversial aspect of closed primaries is that they may, essentially, shut out individuals who refuse to register under a party banner from participating in the primary process at all.
* OPEN PRIMARIES are, consistent with their name, essentially open to any registered voter wishing to participate in them. Basically, if you are a registered voter living in an open primary state, you do not register as a member of a particular political party. On primary day, you can choose whether you wish to vote in the Republican or Democratic (* or third party, if available; third parties rarely hold primaries for a variety of reasons, and are more likely to choose their candidates via convention) primary.
Open primaries tend to be favored by individuals who consider themselves “independents” or do not otherwise strongly identify with either of the major parties. However, their “openness” does potentially open them to a greater possibility of “sabotage.” For example, if one of the two major parties has little in the way of competitive contests at the primary level, people who identify with that party may choose instead to vote in the opposition party’s primary, opting for the candidate they believe it will be the easiest for their favored candidate to defeat in the general election.
* NONPARTISAN BLANKET PRIMARIES are a rare, but interesting, type of primary, currently held in only three states: California, Louisiana, and Washington. These types of primaries allow individuals voting in their state’s primary to, essentially, select among all of the candidates vying for an office. For example, if four Democrats, four Republicans, a Libertarian, a Green, a Constitution Party candidate, and two Independents are all vying to be Louisiana Attorney General, a Louisiana resident has the opportunity to vote for one of any of these individuals when they turn out to vote in the primary. Additionally, if they choose a Democrat for Attorney General, it is completely acceptable to pick, say, a Republican for Lieutenant Governor and a Green for Governor on the same primary ballot. The top two vote-getters for each office then face off against each other in the general election, regardless of party– which can, theoretically, produce odd scenarios such as two Republicans facing off against each other for an office on the general election ballot with no Democrat and vice versa. (Some states, including Louisiana, also feature a variation in which, if one candidate succeeds at garnering more than 50% of the vote on the initial primary ballot, no run-off is required and that individual wins the office outright.)
This topic is more of an open-ended, comparative state politics-type question than one narrowly focused on Texas, partly because Texas’s primary system is somewhat difficult to classify in the first place. Some sources classify our system as an open primary system, but your textbook more accurately defines it as “technically” closed (as required by state law), but “semi-open” in practice. (The “semi-” comes from the tighter restrictions in Texas (in contrast to “truer” open primary states) regarding movement between voting in different party primaries once a voter has already voted in that of a particular party in a particular year.)
1) Consider the ways that different state parties choose their general election candidates via the primary process. Is there a particular type of primary that you consider to be the most effective at accomplishing its goal? Is having primaries closed only to registered party members ideal in letting citizens with common views band together to pick a candidate to represent them or does it too often tend to lead to “extreme” candidates who appeal more to hardcore Democrats and hardcore Republicans rather than the average citizen? Is an open primary system preferable for allowing any registered voter to participate in a hotly-contested primary, or is the idea of allowing individuals who don’t identify with the views and goals of a particular political party a say in choosing that party’s candidates objectionable? Is there an argument to be made for the spread of the relatively recently developed “free-for-all”-style nonpartisan blanket primary of Louisiana and California?
Regarding Texas and our somewhat difficult-to-classify primary system, is there a particular method of conducting primaries that you would favor our political parties adopting here? Do you think particular types of primaries suit certain states while other types suit others? Is there a difference between the type of primary system you personally prefer vs. the type of primary system you think may serve particular political parties or the state or national electorate as a whole best? In considering these questions, feel free to expound on your views regarding political parties (both at the state and national level) and the primary processes by which their candidates are chosen as they currently stand.