Where the Book Fair meets the Open Primary

Steven Rankin is the proprieter of the Southern Crown blog. A Mississippi man, he and I struck up a correspondence regarding the current open/closed primaries litigation in Virginia and Mississippi.

You may know that there is a case in the Virginia Courts that could eliminate the use of open primary for nominating candidates in Virginia. You may not know that there is a similar law suit working its say up the ladder in Mississippi. In fact, it is in part because of this mirrored situation that Steve submitted a title for the Book Fair.

As the Book Fair was intended as a place to exchange titles and reading ideas, I held back the bulk of his email. However, his analysis of the current situation, taken in concert with the title he submitted, convinced me his note were worthy of a post of their own:

“I’ve just purchased from Amazon (for an amazingly low price) the 2002 book, Voting at the Political Fault Line: California’s Experiment with the Blanket Primary. Its editors are Bruce Cain of UC-Berkeley and Elisabeth Gerber of the University of Michigan.

California used the blanket primary in 1998 and 2000, before the U. S. Supreme Court struck it down in California Democratic Party v. Jones. This case, of course, is the main precedent for the Virginia Republicans’ and the Mississippi Democrats’ federal lawsuits against their states’ open-primary laws.

After reading what this book says about open primaries, I’m even more convinced that mandatory open primaries will be declared unconstitutional. At this point, it looks as though the Virginia case has the best chance of reaching the U. S. Supreme Court first. If so, Miller v. Brown will precipitate a landmark ruling.

The book also mentions the “top two” system (“nonpartisan primary”), in which all candidates run in the same election, with the top two vote-getters, regardless of party, advancing to the runoff. Louisiana is currently alone in using the “top two” to elect all of its state officials, although efforts are underway to install the “top two” in Washington state and Oregon.

The book agrees with me that the “top two” is constitutional, and it’s too bad that four judges in Washington state have apparently not read it, as two federal courts there have recently struck down Washington’s “top two” initiative.

Last week the state announced that it will appeal Washington State Republican Party v. State to the U. S. Supreme Court.

BTW: I think the “top two” is fine for judicial and local elections, but I personally despise it for state and congressional elections. I believe that political parties deserve to be able to officially nominate candidates for those offices.

— Steve Rankin
Jackson, Mississippi


I urge you to take a gander at his blog…thoughtful analysis, excellent writing style, and marvelous taste in blog composition!


One thought on “Where the Book Fair meets the Open Primary

  1. In California’s blanket primary, all candidates of all parties were listed on a single ballot, with the top vote-getter from each party advancing to the general election. Thus, the primary voter was free to cross party lines from office to office.

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