A Hybrid Primary = Path to Free and Fair Elections
WHERE WE ARE
What is a “fair” election?
The Nonpartisan Top-Two primary has been
nicknamed a "jungle" primary and this clearly
resonates with many voters. In an "open" election,
two or more candidates with similar views will
typically "split" a single block of voter support.
Thus, a candidate may fail to advance from the
primary to the general election or, may fail to win
the general election, simply because there is a
similar candidate on the ballot.
This is a very real concern for the major
parties because both Republicans and Democrats
typically field more than one candidate per office.
(There were 13 Republicans on the ballot in the
2016 Florida Presidential Preference Primary.)
A Nonpartisan Top-Two Election is a free
election - but it’s not a “fair” election. Voters in
both Oregon and Arizona have reasonably concluded
that fair elections are just as important, if not more
important than - free elections. At a minimum, any
proposed new election system cannot inherently
disadvantage the top candidates – Republicans and
Democrats. There are ways to mitigate the “vote
splitting” problem such as “Ranked Choice” and
“Approval” ballots, but vote splitting is not the real
“Achilles Heel” of the Nonpartisan Top-Two election.
A “Fair” election guarantees that the top
candidates advance from the primary to the
general election, and the top candidate is
The “Bipartisan System”.
In the large urban areas of Oregon, the number
of registered Democrats far outweigh Republicans.
At the same time, Republicans hold a decided edge
in all the rural areas. Consequently - if the primary
is nonpartisan, two candidates from the same party
will likely advance to the general election in many
electoral districts. Not surprisingly, partisan voters
“hate” the idea of a nonpartisan primary. Under the
existing “bipartisan system”, each political party is
guaranteed a spot on the general election ballot -
even if their candidate has no chance of winning.
What is surprising - is that many unaffiliated
and Independent voters also “hate” the idea of
choosing between two candidates from the same
party in the general election. These voters believe
the purpose of the primary is to select the best
“candidates” to represent the liberal and
conservative approaches to governance. The
purpose of the general election is then to provide
voters a vigorous debate between the two sides,
and the opportunity to choose between the
disparate approaches. It doesn’t necessarily matter
who represents the two sides of the debate,
(Republican, Democrat, Minor-Party or
Independent), only that both viewpoints are
Many unaffiliated voters will not support a new
election system if it does not provide them with an
obvious choice between a liberal and conservative
on the general election ballot - even if they strongly
support free elections. This is the fatal flaw of the
Nonpartisan Top-Two primary. Voters will not
support abolishing the bipartisan system.
Finally, note that “unaffiliated” and
“Independent” are not the same thing. Many
unaffiliated voters are extremely partisan, but they
have chosen not to participate in the initial
“candidate selection” stage of our elections. It’s
unfortunate, but in the world today, prospective
employers can readily access voter registration and
a plethora of other personal information on the
web. Registering as a member of a political party
can easily lead to lost job opportunities.