Closed Primaries Prevent Mischief

After Sen. Thad Cochran’s controversial tactics of recruiting Democrats to secure his nomination in Mississippi’s Republican primary, a national dialogue emerged about the open primary process, in which anyone can cross the aisle to vote in the other party’s election. It’s a terrible system.

Primaries are an opportunity for a party to nominate the candidate who will best carry forward its set of ideological principles. The general election will then allow voters to decide which party has made a better case. It’s a two-step process, with each step having a distinct, important function.

Allowing the opposition party a vote undermines the purpose of primaries, effectively resulting in two general elections, and a muddled message with no clear distinction between the parties.

In many ways, political parties function like private organizations, complete with dues-paying members. When the party leadership uses these dues to drive turnout for members of an opposing organization, it betrays the trust of the membership and subverts the intended process.

When inter-party voting becomes commonplace, it also lays the groundwork for spoilers — Democrats running as Republicans, or vice versa, for the sole purpose of taking votes away from other potential nominees. This surely violates the intent behind the party system and the primary process.