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Stop Paying For Primaries

On March 5th a lawsuit was filed in Federal Court challenging New Jersey’s use of public money to finance primary elections for the two major political parties.  The plaintiff organization, called EndPartisanship, has issued a press release about the suit.

I quote:

The coalition today filed suit in the U.S. District Court in Newark, New Jersey demanding that every voter should have an equal and meaningful vote at every stage of the state-funded election process, regardless of their party affiliation or non-affiliation. New Jersey plaintiffs represented in the suit by the coalition include Mark Balsam, Charles Donahue, Hans Henkes and Rebecca Feldman who are registered as unaffiliated voters, plaintiff Jaime Martinez, a registered Democrat, and plaintiff  Tia Williams, a registered Republican.

Over 47% of New Jersey voters choose not to register with a political party and 42% of American voters now self-identify as Independent or unaffiliated voters, yet most states have primary systems that give political parties special access to the voting franchise and penalize voters who do not wish to join a political party.

The Republican and Democratic Party have prevented attempts to allow non-partisan voter participation in many states by asserting their first amendment right of association. This is despite the fact that primary elections like those in New Jersey are conducted at significant public expense.

Fewer than 8% of all registered voters participated in New Jersey’s last primary election at a cost of $12 million to the taxpayers. This amounted to more than $92 per vote cast. And 2.6 million New Jersey voters were not allowed to vote in the primary election unless they joined either the Republican or Democratic Parties.

 I fully agree.  The government should no more pay to determine who the leader of a political party is than they should pay for who the leader of the Knights of Columbus is.  Let the parties do it on their own without making it a government function.  Personally, I would just have a general election that would include everyone that collected a statutory number of petition signatures.  It could include more than one Democrat or more than one Republican and any smaller parties or independents that qualified.  Ballot positions could be determined by the largest amount of collected signatures.  If none of the candidates gets  50% +1 of the vote, have a runoff between the two top vote getters.

Parties can be useful as a brand, so the public knows approximately where the candidate is philosophically, but none of them should be officially supported or favored by the law.  The current primary system is one of the ways they make sure that the public chooses only between “safe” candidates who won’t rock the boat.

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