I'm Right Again Dot Com

                             A new commentary every Wednesday — July 27, 2016

The Crazy Quilt of Primary Elections.

    Once upon a time, during the apex of the age of the party machine in American politics, the process of choosing candidates for public office was a far more simpler process than that which has developed since. The machine boss was epitomized in the early 1900s by William Tweed of New York City and the decade 1926-1936 by Thomas J. Pendergast of Kansas City. There were others. 

    All across American, "The Boss" decided who would run and who would be elected. This was the time of the pyramidal pay-off, the skim off by ward heelers in every precinct who took their cut and passed the money up through many layers to the top dogs in City Hall and passed down patronage to the lowliest vote— seller.  

    Ever so slowly, the worst of the corrupt in this arcane art were overturned by reformers within the major parties—who brought about the election-within-the-election that became known as the "primary," a device that permitted we scufflers in the crowd a somewhat more equitable opportunity to participate in a more honest and  transparent method of choosing candidates.

    Perfect, it is not, but uniquely American. Because the people of each state decided among themselves how it is be be done, it has evolved and is still evolving into a  crazy quilt of methodologies that is like a ever-changing kaleidoscope—almost as many varieties as there are States in the Union.

    The big divides are whether the primary is to be a partisan or non-partisan primary, open or closed... but hold on, the combinations of variables are nearly infinite. And it is crazy.

    In Idaho, the major parties can select to open or close their primaries, individually. For example, The Republicans can decided to permit only Republicans to vote on their ballot and the Democrats can decide beforehand to let Republicans also vote on their primary ballot. The only catch is that the voter who crosses the bridge between parties for that election has to vote in the next primary election using a list of Democrat candidates. Or visa versa, of course—the Republicans can decide to permit registered Democrats to vote on the Republican primary ballot, but again, if they do, they will have to use the Republican ballot in the next primary election, also. 

    In my State of Arizona, I understand that one can change from say, Independent  to Democrat, or Independent to Republican, for one day, and switch back to Independent the day after primary election day. One should arrange to do this some time in advance. If you are registered as an Independent, you can't vote in the primary of either major party. 

    In Texas and Hawaii, voters in primaries can vote on any partisan ballot of their choice, irrespective of their party registration. No, one cannot vote on both parties' primary ballots.  

    Out of all combinations. the IRP, the Instant Runoff Primary is the craziest. If there are any number of candidates running in the primary for a political office, voters in their party may rank candidates in order of preference. If one candidate among them attains a majority (over 50%) of the total votes on the first count, the primary election of the candidate representing that party in the general election is over. However, if  none of the candidates has a majority, the candidate having the least number of votes is eliminated and a recount ensues, and can continue again and again, casting off the bottom vote-getter until only two candidates remain. The one of the final two holding the greater number of votes, is, of course, the winner of that party's primary and listed for that party as their nominee in the general election.

    I may be mistaken at any point in time, as this Wonderland of Primary Election choices is constantly being modified by one State legislature or another or by by the Mad Hatters engaged in each States' primary election process. 

    If you've any doubt about what of the multitude of primary protocols obtains in your State, I suggest you contact your state or county election office, or you might show up at a polling place unprepared or have your mail-in vote nullified.

   -Phil Richardson, Observer of the human condition and storyteller. "He goes doddering on into his old age, making a public nuisance of himself." - Joseph L. Mencken


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