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Study Notes

Open Primary

AQA, Edexcel, OCR

Last updated 22 Mar 2021

An open primary is a type of primary election whereby electors can participate regardless of whether or not they are registered to that political party.

Map of Primary Usage

As with closed primaries, the rules for open primaries vary by state and not all states will use open primaries. Open primaries can however be seen as controversial due to numerous Supreme Court decisions regarding their constitutionality. Currently as of 2008, nonpartisan blanket primaries are regarded as constitutional.

Non-partisan blanket primaries are run where all candidates who wish to stand for election, regardless of party are present on one ballot. In the end, the top two candidates go forward to contest the General Election.

There is a debate around the effect that open primaries have on voter participation. On the one hand it is said to increase participation among voters. If voters are allowed to select candidates, then the logic follows that they would then have an increased chance of voting in the General Election. However, on the other hand an open primary does not require a voter to register with a political party, and thus they are not invested in the political process, so do not turn out to vote.

Another point surrounding Open Primaries is the ability for agents of other parties to subvert the process. One party could arrange for its supporters to vote for a particular candidate in an opposing party who would be easier to defeat in a General Election. There has been some evidence of this happening in various primaries. The 2008 Presidential Primaries saw Mitt Romney win among registered Republicans, but it was Democrats and other than gave McCain the leading edge.

Below is a selection of states which use open primaries:

Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Hawaii, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, South Carolina, Tennessee, Vermont, and Wisconsin.

This list is not exhaustive but it could be useful if you remembered a few to illustrate any exam answers

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