Think Freely Media presents Common Sense with Paul Jacob

Washington State has a long history of popular antagonism to political parties. For years, the state enforced an open primary, which meant that Republicans could vote in Democratic primaries and Democrats in Republican primaries. This was very popular, because it led to widespread strategic voting.

Well, that’s a euphemism. In open primaries, what you get is not mere strategic voting so much as sabotage. I have heard of Democrats and others boasting of voting in Republican primaries, for example, supporting Pat Robertson. Why? They believed Robertson to be unelectable, and hoped putting Robertson ahead would undercut the GOP in independent voters’ eyes, and make running against the party easier in the general election.Shooting numbered ducks.

Well, a few years ago that system was thrown out as unconstitutional, as an abridgment of free association rights.

But instead of allowing party members to select candidates, Washington State movers and shakers cooked up something else altogether. They set up a system wherein anyone could use a party’s label — even if that party’s members don’t know said candidate or despise him. Robbing parties of any control over candidates offered in their name is far worse on the very constitutional issue that nullified Washington’s traditional open primaries. Though Top Two has been legally challenged, the U.S. Supreme Court just this week refused to hear arguments.

The name “Top Two” comes from the fact that only the top two vote-getters in this super-open primary are on the general election ballot. The new system has completely removed minor party candidates from the general election ballot, when most folks vote.

Top Two has had the same impact in California. Arizona voters will decide the issue this November, on their ballot as Prop 121.

This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.

By: Redactor


  1. Ruth Bennett says:

    What a shame! Top-Two gives a huge amount of power to the small number of primary voters to decide the choices for the much larger number of voters in the General Election. it also means that in some districts voters will get just 2 Republicans or 2 Democrats to choose from!
    If you want to solve the problem of highly partisan government, Top-Two is NOT the way to do it. If you really want to help the issue then we need to seriously change the way we redistrict and make truly competitive districts.

  2. Rick_in_VA says:

    VA is an open primary state. I have used that option to vote in demo primaries to help throw a monkeywrench into their system.
    VA also doesn’t require a person to declare a party.

  3. MoreFreedom says:

    The two party voting system, or top two, are designed to entrench party power. A better solution, providing voters more power and choice, is the use of Instant Runoff Voting (IRV). IRV ensures a majority winner with one round of voting. One essentially ranks the candidates in one’s order of preference.

    If you aren’t familiar with IRV, get familiar with it via this demo:

    There are many possibilities with IRV. Theoretically, primaries wouldn’t be necessary (but IRV could also be used in primaries to pick a party candidate). IRV could lead to elimination of ballot access discrimination (favoring Demorepublicans as compared to Libertarians). IRV can be used when electing a board (where several will get a seat).

    I believe the major parties wouldn’t like it, because it might lead to voters actually voting for the candidate they prefer, rather than voting against the candidate they fear the most.

  4. […] that won’t happen anytime soon. Not long ago the Supreme Court refused to rule on the state’s goofy system. So it […]

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