Illinois House Kills Bill to Convert Open Primary to a Secret Open Primary

Illinois has always had an open primary.  Illinois has never asked voters to choose a party when they fill out voter registration forms.  Illinois primary rules require voters at the polls on primary day to publicly ask for one party’s primary ballot.

Earlier this year, Governor Pat Quinn rewrote HB 4842, to convert it into a bill that says Illinois should switch to a secret open primary.  A secret open primary is one in which each voter decides in the secrecy of the voting booth which party’s primary to vote in.  The Governor rewrote the bill under a process that is called an “Amendatory Veto.”

The Illinois legislature is currently meeting in its veto session.  The Illinois House took no action on the Governor’s version of HB 4842, so it has now died, and the Illinois primary will remain one in which a voter must publicly choose a primary ballot.  In an Illinois veto session, when the Governor carries out an amendatory veto, that bill is sent back to the house of origin.  If that house simply does nothing, the bill dies, because it is never sent over to the other house.

The news media of the United States have no consistent definition of “open primary”.  The term means something different in almost every state, if one only reads the newspapers.  In Pennsylvania, “open primary” means a closed primary in which the party organization makes no endorsement.  In Illinois, “open primary” means a secret open primary.  In California, “open primary” means a top-two system.  In Florida, “open primary” means a blanket primary.  In Kentucky, “open primary” means a closed primary in which independents can choose any party’s primary to vote in.  Because of this inconsistent terminology, Illinois newspapers are reporting that Governor Quinn’s “open primary” idea has been killed.


Illinois House Kills Bill to Convert Open Primary to a Secret Open Primary — 19 Comments

  1. Thus the obvious —
    Primary type 1
    Primary type 2
    — as in all *science* — different classifications of stuff.

    P.R. and App.V. — NO MORON primaries are needed.
    ONE [general] election.
    EQUAL nominating petitions.

    Much too difficult to understand for the armies of party hack MORONS in the State regimes ???

  2. Louisiana’s “open primary” is a “top two” system.

    Arizona has a semi-closed primary, in which independents may vote in either the Democratic or the Republican primary; however, it’s popularly called an “open primary.”

    Iowa has true open primaries, despite also having party registration. A registrant of Party A who wants to vote in Party B’s primary simply changes his registration at the polling place on primary day and votes in the primary of his new party.

    Alaska’s Democratic and minor parties list all of their candidates on the same primary ballot, which is available to any registered voter. That’s a blanket primary, but Alaskans call it an “open primary.”

    Keeping primary voters’ identities secret is similar to having delegates to nominating conventions wear disguises (personally, I would go for either a Batman or a Zorro costume).

    I predict that the US Supreme Court will ultimately strike down the state-mandated open primary, in which each voter picks a party on primary day. Then the “public vs. secret” argument will be irrelevant. A party could still have an open primary if it wanted one, but I don’t see any party opting for a secret open primary.

  3. In 2004, when California had a ballot initiative for a “top two,” Senator John McCain wrote a column in which he endorsed that initiative.

    McCain said, “My state of Arizona has an open primary.” So he evidently did not know the difference between a “top two” and a semi-closed primary.

  4. “Keeping primary voters’ identities secret is similar to having delegates to nominating conventions wear disguises (personally, I would go for either a Batman or a Zorro costume).”

    A “secret open primary” is a mockery of what is still supposed to be a nomination process for a private or semi-private political association. Louisiana “jungle primaries” are thus preferable for their comparative lack of deviousness and hypocrisy.

  5. #2 In California, “open presidential preference primary” means one in which the Secretary of State puts every candidate who has garnered news attention on the ballot, rather than limiting it to those who have actively petitioned to be on the ballot.

    If the Supreme Court ever does rule in the manner you favor, it will lead to States adopting electoral systems open to all voters and candidates, as used in Louisiana, Nebraska, and Washington, (and in California beginning next month); or systems where political parties are required to maintain their own records as to who is permitted to vote in their primary. This would be compatible with Pick-A-Party primaries, or those where the choice is open.

  6. IF caucuses, primaries and conventions exist, then —

    PUBLIC nominations by PUBLIC Electors/Voters of PUBLIC candidates for PUBLIC offices is PUBLIC business by PUBLIC election L-A-W-S.

    See the infamous White Primary cases from Texas late 20s-early 30s in SCOTUS — beginning of the end for the party hacks.

    Sorry — ALL nomination stuff is PUBLIC and not a cute little EVIL game for the party hacks in factions of the public to control–

    i.e. ALL of the primary combinations can be dictated by such PUBLIC laws

    party registration
    no party registration
    no independents
    etc. etc.

    Of course, SCOTUS seems unable to have any brains on the subject matter — thus the ongoing chaos in the various State regimes.

    P.R. and App.V. = ONE election
    Ballot access ONLY via equal nominating petitions by ALL Electors/Voters.

  7. #5: “If the Supreme Court ever does rule in the manner you favor…”

    My state has state-mandated open primaries, and the only change I would personally make here is to eliminate party primaries for local offices. However, the Supreme Court for some 35 years has been moving toward greater autonomy for political parties. Just look at the reasoning, e. g., in the California Democratic Party v. Jones blanket primary case, and it’s not hard to predict what the justices will say about the state-mandated open primary.

    Let’s say the Supreme Court hears the Idaho Republicans’ case and strikes down their state-imposed open primary. The Idaho Democrats have indicated that they will keep their primaries open to ALL voters. And any party in any other open primary state that did not want an open primary for itself would have to file suit; it would be an easy case, but it would take time.

    The Mississippi Democrats brought suit against the open primary. They said if they won, they would invite independents but block Republicans from Dem primaries. The Mississippi Republicans indicated, moreover, that they would keep their primaries open to ALL voters.

    So even if the high court strikes down the state-imposed open primary, there will continue to be open primaries. The difference will be that the parties– not the state– will decide who is eligible to vote in party primaries (the state does have the power to prohibit parties from inviting members of opposing parties to vote in their primaries).

    I think you’re engaging in wishful thinking in your prediction of a massive proliferation of the “top two” monstrosity. If a state can no longer force (true) open primaries on parties, the parties will still be concerned with staying in the voters’ good graces. State legislatures are very unlikely to mandate the “top two” for state or congressional offices, and many states don’t have the initiative process.

    No states now require parties to maintain their own records for the purpose of excluding some voters from their primaries. In every state where at least one party wants to exclude some voters, the state registers voters by party (29 states and D. C. now have party registration).

  8. #7 The implementation of a true open primary in Washington and California was in response to the Supreme Court’s decision in California Democratic Party v Jones.

    Alaska has muddled along with their semi-half-baked-open-blanket primary because of a decision of the Alaska Supreme Court. But how much sense does it make to have a Libertarian candidate nominated by Democrats step aside for a loser in the Republican primary, as almost happened this year? So why not simply switch to a Top 2 Open Primary?

    Rod Beck wants to get rid of the Republicans who voted against him in the three consecutive primaries that he lost. How is he going to be helped by party registration by the State of Idaho? Why would he be opposed to the screening of voters by the party? And the Democratic Party wouldn’t have to exclude anyone if they didn’t want to.

    If a bunch of Supreme Court Judges appointed by Barack Obama overturn the Pick-A-Party primary, the voters are likely to switch to a true open primary such as is used in Washington. Idaho does have the initiative process.

    Mississippi Democrats could simply issue Photo ID’s to those who they permitted to vote in their primary. Why should they have to let people vote in their primary because the voter told some government bureaucrat that they were a “Democrat”.

    Once enough congressmen are elected by Top 2 primaries, they may decide to require it nationwide.

  9. Top 2 primaries — one more step to have —

    NO primaries.
    ONE election — ballot access via equal nominating petitions.
    P.R. and App.V.

    — i.e. putting ALL of the party hack stuff in caucuses, conventions and primaries into the history junk yard — along with divine right of kings and slavery.

  10. According to the US Supreme Court, an open primary is one in which the party’s ballot is available to any primary voter who requests it. Where the state compels open primaries, each voter chooses a party on primary day.

    Washington state tried to keep its blanket primary after the Jones ruling but lost it in Reed v. Democratic Party of Washington State. The voters then enacted the “top two” (as it’s correctly called in WA) via initiative in 2004, and the “top two” was implemented in 2008.

    California used the blanket primary in 1998 and 2000, until the Jones decision struck down the state-mandated blanket primary. In 2004, Prop. 62, which would have imposed the “top two,” was defeated. Prop. 14 passed in 2010 because (1) that a##hole Maldonado black-mailed the legislature into putting it on the ballot, (2) that a##hole Schwarzenegger poured millions of dollars from his campaign fund into the campaign, and (3) the opponents, strapped for money, did not mount a campaign until a few weeks before the election. Consequently, millions of voters never heard an anti-Prop. 14 message.

    In Alaska’s current system, independents are invited to vote in the Republican primary, while ANY voter may vote in the Democratic//minor party blanket primary. Thus 80%-plus of voters are eligible to vote in the GOP primary, while 100% are eligible for the Dem//minor party primary.

    Does AK use the above system for its congressional elections? When the state used the all-party blanket primary for lower offices, it had separate party primaries for Congress.

    I agree that AK is a potential victim of the “top two.” The state has a long history with the blanket primary, and it has the initiative process.

    Ex-senator Beck wants the Idaho Republican Party to be able to block non-Republicans from voting in GOP primaries. Again: the Idaho Democrats say that they will keep their primaries open to ALL voters.

    If your party screening scheme is such a great idea, why is it that NO states now use it? Party registration is the most practical way to identify voters’ party preferences.

    I don’t know that either of Obama’s two Supreme Court appointees has been involved in any cases concerning parties’ candidate-selection processes. However, I expect the high court to follow its precedents for greater party autonomy.

    The Mississippi Democrats could not begin to afford the cost of photo IDs for their party members. They are now having trouble finding candidates for the 2011 state elections.

    If the US Supreme Court does indeed strike down the state-mandated open primary, it will be interesting to see whether the Mississippi Democrats file a new lawsuit against our open primary system. The Dems caught a lot of hell from the voters after they filed their 2006 suit.

    The US Congress has historically been reluctant to tell the states how to conduct their elections. As of 2012, Louisiana, Washington, and California will be the only states using the “top two” to elect Congress members. This assumes, of course, that the pending litigation does not invalidate the “top two” in California and Washington.

  11. #4: Robert LaFollette, the godfather of American progressivism, was a strong proponent of secret open primaries. His state of Wisconsin is now one of the eight states with secret open primaries.

    “Louisiana ‘jungle primaries’ [aka ‘top two’] are thus preferable…”

    I disagree, because when there are official party primaries, (1) each party is authorized to have one candidate for each office in the general election, and (2) the voter is not officially limited to just two choices in the final, deciding election. In the “top two,” to be sure, the two final candidates may be from the same party.

    Also, the “top two” makes it nearly impossible for independents and small party candidates to reach the final, deciding election.

    I do believe that the parties should know who votes in their primaries, i. e., who chooses their nominees.

  12. #10 There is NO mention in the mere nearly dead U.S.A. Constitution that X percent of ALL PUBLIC Electors/Voters [a faction] have a magic constitutional right to nominate THEIR faction candidates for PUBLIC offices and the party hack faction label on the PUBLIC ballots.

    Try and solve for (or even find) X in the Constitution.

    A few States do mention party hack nominations specifically.

  13. #10 If the Supreme Court had not ruled the was it did in California Democratic Party v Jones, then the blanket primary would not have been challenged in Washington. Reed v. Democratic Party of Washington State was still under appeal at the time the Washington Grange proposed the Top 2 initiative. The initiative actually provided that if the Washington variant of the blanket primary were upheld on appeal, then the Top 2 primary would not replace it.

    The 9th Circuit ruled that voters think of themselves as Republicans or Democrats, just as reliably as if the State maintains files of their political faith, as was done in California, and thus the Washington blanket primary was not materially different from that in California. If the Idaho case is appealed to the 9th Circuit, then that court will have to re-examine their finding in Reed, since Idaho does not permit cross-over voting once a voter has marked their party on the ballot.

    Rod Beck ran for the the US Senate against Dirk Kempthorne in 1992 and lost. He then served one term in the Idaho Senate from 1994-6. He lost in primaries in 2002, 2004, and 2006. Rod Beck wants candidates in the primary to pledge loyalty to the Republican platform. Under my scheme, he could set a similar standard for voters. Democrats would be free to welcome or exclude voters as they saw fit.

    The reason that no state has adopted this plan yet is because the Supreme Court has let States use open primaries, where voters are free to choose their party on election day.

    Alaska does use its semi-cross-hatched-blanket primary for all of its partisan elections. Each party gets to pick who can vote in its primary. In one election, the Democrats let everyone but Republicans participate.

    Justice Sotomayor was part of a 3-judge Appeals Court that upheld a district court ruling in Lopez Torres that was subsequently overturned 9-0 by the US Supreme Court.

  14. #13: The US Supreme Court refused to hear the state’s appeal in Reed v. Democratic Party of Washington State in February 2004. As I recall, it was a few months later that the legislature passed the bill providing for a “top two.” The bill was worded so that Gov. Gary Locke (your hero) could veto the “top two” and instead install open (or pick-a-party) primaries, which WA used in 2004 and 2006.

    The state Grange got the “top two” initiative (I-872) on the November 2004 ballot, and the voters approved it. In March 2008, the US Supreme Court said that the “top two” is constitutional on its face but left the door open for an as-applied challenge.

    I’m not clear on what you mean about the 9th circuit re-examining its ruling in Reed. A blanket primary makes crossover voting inherently possible, whereas it’s understood in an open primary system that the voter may only choose among one party’s candidates.

    The US Supreme Court has not “let states use open primaries,” since the high court has never yet heard an open primary case. In the California Democratic Party v. Jones blanket primary ruling, the court said, “This case does not require us to determine the constitutionality of the open primary” (if that’s not an exact quote, it’s close).

    ALL voters, including Republicans, are eligible to vote in Alaska’s Democratic//minor party blanket primary.

    Sounds like Sotomayor may be opposed to letting parties decide how to nominate their candidates.

  15. In its LaFollette ruling (1981?), the US Supreme Court declared that it’s unconstitutional for a state to use an open primary to select delegates to a party’s national convention, if the party objects.

    In this decision, the court said that political parties have “the freedom to identify the people who constitute the association, and to limit the association to those people only.”

  16. Read the last section of I-872. There must have still been some appeals in progress at the time of the initiative. The Grange began their initiative drive after the governor’s ill-advised veto.

    In the California version of the blanket primary, registered Democrats could cross-over and vote for the nominees of the other parties. Washington argued that their version of the blanket primary was different because voters were not registered with political parties. So, they argued, Democrats were not voting in the Republican primary, because there were no “Democrats”.

    The 9th Circuit ruled that voters when they voted considered themselves to be Democrats or Republicans. That is, party membership is a matter of state of mind, as much as some yellowing records stored in a filing cabinet of a state bureaucracy. So if someone thought of themselves as a Democrat, they could cross-over and vote for the Republican nominee in some office under a Washington blanket primary.

    So a voter in Idaho when he goes into the voting booth thinks of themselves as being a Democrat or a Republican, indicates that on the ballot and votes accordingly. He can’t cross-over, since he indicated on the ballot that he was a Republican or Democrat. Just because Ben Ysursa doesn’t have a record of the voter’s state of mind, doesn’t mean that it doesn’t exist.

    In 2004, there were 4 primary ballots in Alaska.

    (C) Democrats, Republicans, Libertarians, Alaskan Independence, Green, nonpartisan and undeclared voters could vote in the primaries of Libertarian, Alaskan Independence, and Green parties.

    (D-C) Democrats, Libertarians, Alaskan Independence, Green, nonpartisan and undeclared voters could vote in the primaries of the Democratic, Libertarian, Alaskan Independence, and Green parties.

    (R) Republicans, nonpartisans, and undeclared could vote in the primary of the Republican party.

    There were many more votes cast for Libertarian, Alaskan Independence, and Green party candidates on the D-C ballot than on the C ballot.

    In 2006, the Democrats decided to let Republicans vote in their primary so the (D-C) and (C) primaries merged. In 2008, the same setup was used, except the Green Party is no longer qualified to hold a primary.

    The political parties in New York were not opposed to the system used to nominate Supreme Court judges (which in New York is an intermediate appeals court). Remember, that the motto for elections in New York is we put the con in con-fusion.

    #16 LaFollette dealt with the national political parties which are not subject to regulation by the States. A State, if it wanted to, could choose the candidates for president and vice president, and associated electors in direct primaries, or even a Top 2 primary. Florida permits political parties to hold direct primaries, rather than indirect delegate selecting parties.

  17. In LaFollette, the national Democratic Party sued the state of Wisconsin for using an open primary to select convention delegates. The state Democratic Party sided with the state and against the national Democratic Party.

    The state Supreme Court ruled in favor of the state, and the case was appealed directly to the US Supreme Court, which reversed the state Supreme Court. Potter Stewart wrote the majority opinion.

    As I recall, the national Democratic Party, after prohibiting the open primary in 1984, allowed the Wisconsin Democrats to go back to using the open primary in 1988.

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