America needs to get rid of closed primaries

Posted by jesse shayne on July 20, 2017 at 5:30 PM

This editorial was published by The Independent Florida Alligator

As we’re sure you are aware, Florida is a closed primary state. This means that in order to vote in a primary election, Florida residents must be registered with a political party. It also means in the primaries, they are only be able to vote for candidates running for a position within their registered party. In general elections, however, they are able to vote for any candidate in any party.

In our opinion, closed primary states need to be brought to an end. Not only are they restrictive and suppressive, but they further divide our nation by strengthening party identification.

When voters are forced to decide on a party to affiliate themselves with, they become attached to that party. Of course, they do have the free will to vote for whoever they chose to in the general election, but registering as one party or another does tend to cause most voters to develop a mentality that influences the way that they vote. This bond people start to feel with their party has the power to influence voting patterns and impact overall election results.

Many people who are voting for the first time don’t know much about politics. Thus, they often don’t know much about political parties or which one aligns most with their beliefs. A lot of the time they end up choosing a party for the wrong reasons. It might be because their parents, significant other or friend support that party. Either way, these voters are commonly not thinking independently.

When a young person is just starting to explore the world of politics, they should be able to do so free of ties and regulations. They should be able to consider themselves an independent or bipartisan and still have the right to vote in a primary election. By forcing them to identify with a particular party, they lose the right to vote for candidates across the board they may want to support. Instead, they vote only from the percentage of candidates they are allowed to vote for.

What’s more is sometimes even voting veterans, young people and adults who are well versed in politics, still aren’t exactly sure where they lie on the political spectrum. For many people, casting a vote is about a person, not a party. Plenty of well-educated voters find themselves falling somewhere in the middle. Denying these holistic thinkers the right to vote for candidates they wish to support in the primary election is not only suppressive but unjust.

In addition to these restrictions closed primaries put on voting freedoms, these regulations also further divide our already disconnected nation.

As mentioned before, when voters are forced to identify with a specific party, they often become more attached to that party. They think of themselves as a Republican, a Democrat or a third party. Not as an independent thinker.

Even if you are registered with a party that you don't feel strong ties to, you often can’t help but get offended when you see a social media post calling your party ignorant. You can’t help but become angry when your distant relative rants about your party at the Thanksgiving dinner table. No matter the strength of your ties, you still become upset when someone challenges a part of who you are.

Especially after this last election cycle, people have been clinging to their party ties. Americans become more divided every day and closed primaries are only working to further separate us from our fellow citizens.

While seeing an end to closed primaries is not the only solution our country needs to come together again, it is certainly a good start toward a more connected and tolerant country.