Columns / Politics

Alternatives to Primaries

By Anthony Vargas

Staff Writer

Getting the attention of voters for presidential primaries can be challenging – turnout is often lower than the general election. Some believe, however, that there are alternatives that could change the way the country nominates its party presidential candidates.

Christine Todd Whitman, former governor of New Jersey, would prefer open primaries in hopes of bringing in more voters.


Open primaries doesn’t require voters to declare a party affiliation; any voter has the opportunity to vote in that primary. Twenty states, including Indiana which goes to the polls on Tuesday, have open primaries.  According to Whitman, this is what will draw more voter attention to the primaries.

“I believe in open primaries where people can go in and declare on that day whether they wanted a Republican ballot or Democratic ballot,” Whitman said. “So I would approve of open primaries.”

Whitman is no stranger to attempts to change voting. She took part in a program called Americans Elect 2012, which proposed creating a way to nominate an independent to become president. According to Whitman, that program came with its own list of issues, such as potential candidates failing to choose their own vice president from one of the two existing parties.

“None of the candidates met the requirements within the timeframe we had,” Whitman said. “They had to do some of their own work. None of them actually did it. I think they all thought they were going be handed the nomination.”

Other improvements to primaries she thinks should be made include holding them on a better day so more citizens are free to vote.

“Instead of on a Tuesday [hold it] on a Saturday, [it] makes it easier for people to get there [and] easier to register,” Whitman said.

Mark Effron, an assistant professor in the communication department at William Paterson University, supports the idea of having a national primary.

“On one hand, it’s very attractive to think ‘oh we can get rid of all of these delegates and have our primary’,” he said. “But on the other hand one of the strengths of our country is that we do have these different states and each state has its own quirkiness and its own demographic makeup and I think there’s something to be said about preserving the primary system.”

However, Effron does have issues with the way the current system works, especially how the primaries begin.

“I don’t like the fact that the first two states that get all the attention, Iowa and New Hampshire, really don’t look like [the] United States,” he said. “They’re overwhelmingly white, they’re not particularly urban, and I think it gets the race going on a kind of off-beat way.”

He added, “I think if the first primary was in Illinois, New York, or California, you’re looking at a much more diverse makeup and much more representative of what the country is. I don’t think it’s a perfect thing, but I do like the idea that each state can play some role.”

For Jerry Spriggs, author of Equal Voice Voting, a proportional vote system would help alleviate current issues with the primaries, such as the indecisiveness of voters.

“Of course I’m favoring proportional representation,” he said. “I think it’s more even handed, it’s the fair thing. If you’re on top in one period of time, with winner take all [then] that’s wonderful, but you’re not always going have the golden candidate so it can go both ways.”

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