Open primaries

As Connecticut moves past another primary and into the general election, we once again lament the policy of the two major parties to ban the participation in primaries of the largest block of voters - those registered as unaffiliated.

The logic behind the closed-primary process is flawed. Democrat and Republican leaders fear, it appears, that if they let the unaffiliated vote in their parties' primaries it will provide one less incentive for voters to join the parties, further weakening them. But this coercive approach is not working. The ranks of the unaffiliated continue to grow.

While it is true that voters can enroll in a party up until the day before the primary and then renounce the new affiliation the day after, that is a poor substitute for an open process.

As the perennial minority party in the state, Republicans would have the most to gain from acting first to open their primaries. The state's GOP could engage unaffiliated voters by allowing them to select Republican candidates on primary day and many of those voters would be more likely to continue backing the Republican candidates through Election Day. An open process could engage some unaffiliated voters to the degree that they decide to register as party members. Such a move by Republicans could well force Democrats to open their process as well. Perhaps Democrats should act first.

We would not endorse a change allowing voters to cross party lines - Republicans voting in Democratic primaries and vice versa - because it would invite electoral mischief. But allowing an unaffiliated voter to select a Republican or Democratic primary to vote in makes sense. It would certainly increase primary day participation, which is often dismal.

The editorial board is composed of the publisher and four journalists of varied editing and reporting backgrounds. The board's discussions and information gained from its meetings with political, civic, and business leaders drive the institutional voice of The Day, as expressed in its editorials. The editorial department operates separately from the newsroom.


Loading comments...
Hide Comments