State of Elections

William & Mary Law School | Election Law Society

Tag: Open Primaries

Mississippi’s Newfound Frustration With Open Primaries

By Staff Writer:

Mississippi garnered unexpected national attention this summer as its system of open primary voting became a contributor to the wider debate of how best to fairly and legitimately select candidates and representatives. If you haven’t been paying attention, Mississippi’s long running Republican Senator, Thad Cochran, came very close to losing his seat to Tea Party Conservative Chris McDaniel in a rather ugly, tight primary race. In an effort to overcome his challenger in a runoff election, Cochran strategically capitalized on Mississippi’s use of open primary voting by asking traditionally Democratic voters to support him in the primary runoff against his far more conservative opponent. In a state where Democrats’ primary voters turned out in less than half the number of participants as the Republican primary, Cochran’s gambit to garner those as-yet uncast primary votes could be considered borderline tactical genius. McDaniel and his supporters are pretty sure, however, that it should be considered less than legal. Continue reading

What’s Geauxing On: Everybody’s Copying Louisiana?

When one thinks of Louisiana, the first thing that comes to most people’s mind is likely not “model for electoral reform.”  This, after all, is the electoral system that in recent years has brought a veritable parade of politicians whose terms in office have transitioned into terms in prison on corruption charges.  That’s why it may come as a surprise that there are movements afoot in states across the country to adopt the most unique element of Louisiana’s electoral system.

In 1976, Louisiana adopted a non-partisan blanket primary system for both its state and congressional elections.  Also known as an “open” or “top-two” primary, this unique system puts candidates of every party on the same ballot for the primary.  If any one candidate receives a majority of votes, that candidate is elected without any need for a general election.  If, as frequently happens when there are more than two candidates on the ballot, no candidate wins a majority of votes, the top-two candidates go on to a run-off general election. The goal of open primaries is to promote the election of more moderate candidates.  The theory, however, is controversial. Continue reading

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