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Beneficial effects of closed primary gone after this fall

It will be a headache for Sec. of State Jay Dardenne’s office to hold a contested Libertarian party primary, but in the end it’s a good thing and one more advantage swept away by the end of closed primaries for federal offices except for the presidency after this election cycle, courtesy of recent legislation.

In the past, secretaries of state have warned when several years ago recognized political parties (due to a relaxation of restrictions) increased beyond the two major parties that logistics would become more complicated by instituting a closed primary. The time has come statewide for the Senate contest, which means extra work in setting up different ballots for three parties instead of two which may tax the space available on the ballot.

But having this extra burden is good. A reason why Louisiana has been stuck with less accountable elected officials which has garnered griping about the quality of governance is that the blanket primary system focuses more attention on the personalities of those running for office because less of it needs be focused on their issue preferences for which party identification stands in. Closed primaries make party identification a more relevant cue and make that cue more meaningful by containing more issue-based information for voters. Having to win a party primary also encourages more discussion about issues by candidates in order to differentiate themselves from opponents with the same label.

Unfortunately, the return to the blanket primary system for U.S. House and Senate elections in Louisiana removes these advantages. Do not think this is accidental; many state legislators harbor ambitions of getting into Congress and they think because they won their present office using one electoral system having that same system for federal office would increase their chances. And even as Dardenne’s office proclaimed it supported the return to the blanket primary for cost reasons (potentially three elections maximum being reduced to two), that argument was a red herring as having a primary produce a plurality winner would have accomplished the same objective. Therefore, the change back (having been this way from 1976-2006) came relatively easily.

Even had the plurality rule been instituted, there would be some additional expense and work because of the logistics mentioned above. Still, it would have been a small price to pay to produce more responsible government; indeed, to reap truly these benefits closed primaries should have been extended to state and local offices. However, the opposite occurred and Louisiana not only missed this chance, it moved slightly backwards. The headache will end for a few after this election cycle, but the disadvantages of an immature electoral system will continue.

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