Reconsidering primaries

Speaking of elections, why are the taxpayers paying for party primaries, anyway? The current system not only uses public funds to do the business of the political parties, it largely disenfranchises independent voters, who make up nearly 20 percent of the electorate.

This year’s lowest-ever turnout may have been the result of voter fatigue—this was the seventh election in four years—but it was also the natural outgrowth of a flawed system. Party primaries tend to attract the ideological true believers among voters, which is why the winners so often reflect the far-left and far-right wings of their parties.

They also tend to skew local elections. When independents stay home because they have no voice in the statewide races, they surrender the races for county supervisors and sheriffs to the same true believers. The result too often is the same kind of polarization seen at the state level.

Perhaps the parties should go back to selecting their candidates at conventions. That, or begin underwriting the primary elections, which now serve their interests, not the people’s. If neither of those options appeals to them, the rest of us should insist that they join the effort to establish open primaries that give independent voters a voice. The alternative is continued apathy and dismal turnout at the polls.