Op-Ed: End the closed primary in PA
In the Pennsylvania primary election on May 18, almost 1.3 million voters were not allowed a say in choosing candidates for our highest courts, mayor of one of our largest cities, and many municipal elections that will affect our daily lives.
Pennsylvania is one of just nine states that continue the practice of closed primaries: using public dollars to pay for private, partisan primaries. This system puts parties in charge, forcing candidates to play to the most partisan base rather than providing incentives for collaboration and outside-the-box solutions. In elections where the primary decides final outcomes, as is the case in many areas of the commonwealth, just a small percentage of PA voters choose our elected officials.
A Gallup poll released last month showed that nationally, 40% of U.S. voters consider themselves unaffiliated, while 31% are registered as Democrats and 26% are registered Republicans. Unaffiliated voters are the fastest growing group, especially among younger voters.
Voters are tired of electoral rules designed to maintain partisan power. Instead, we need systems that help us select leaders willing to listen to voters rather than party leaders. We need reforms that allow our elected officials to finally resolve pressing problems left unaddressed by decades of gridlock.
The League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania supports the work of Open Primaries PA. Along with coalition partners, we support:
- Fairness in representation to bring in more than one million Pennsylvania voters who are shut out of primary elections that often determine who represents them
- Accountability in elections to elect lawmakers who are accountable to the electorate at large, not just party leaders
- No taxation without representation so that publicly funded primary elections are open to all voters
We strongly urge an end to closed primaries and would celebrate top-two or ranked-choice primaries, or any permutation of open or semi-open primaries.
Terrie Griffin is the board president of the League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania.