Saturday, February 09, 2008


Over the last several years there has been a lot of press over the issue of "disenfranchisement".

As a principled Independent I have been effectively disenfranchised by the new Louisiana primary system.

I think the Democrats might let me vote, I heard they were going to let Independents vote, but lately I've been hearing its a completely closed primary. Anyway since 49% of Democrats are African-American, Obama seems pre-destined to win. I'm not real excited about voting for Hillary anyway, and I'm not convinced of Obama either.

The Republican Party seems to be determined not to listen to voters, unless there is a landslide. But I can't really blame them for being scared since David Duke crashed their Party. In any event as a registered Independent, I'm not allowed to vote in their primary anyway.

Not that Louisiana matters all that much in the presidential race.

Louisiana's unique Open Primary system was established by Edwin Edwards. There have been several reasons given, but the main one seems to be the useless General Elections routinely held prior to the Open Primaries. Back in the day virtually all of the candidates were Democrats, often racist segregationist ones, often there was no challenger from any other party. It was common in those days to say that the Louisiana Republican Party could hold it's convention in a phone booth. Can't say that anymore and you couldn't hardly find a phone booth, to hold it in anyway.

Interest in changing the open primary system really came about when David Duke ran for Governor as a Republican. In a crowded field he came in second and the Republican Establishment couldn't effectively do anything to distance themselves from him. The second watershed event was when opportunist extroidinare, Cleo Fields captured the Democratic Party position in the Governors race.

Both parties eventually realized that demographics of the Open Primary system tended to favor the candidates on the ends of the spectrum or who had a sizable natural constituency. That effectively eliminated the middle. The center is often represented by several candidates who split a substantial majority of the votes. There was a sort of fratricide among the moderates. A lot of people on both sides worried that a Governors race could someday feature both Duke and Fields or their political successors.

Whether this new system will be better than the previous arguably more democratic system remains to be seen. I think it's a step backwards, but time will tell.

This prompted me to consider the whole quasi-Official Parties, The Democrats and The Republicans, who have conspired openly and for a long time to prevent the establishment of a viable Third Party. Even creating a myth that the Two Party System was somehow intended by the framers of our Constitution.

With the open primary system where party labels meant little, the open primary in Louisiana probably came closest to a true electoral democracy. Virtually anyone with a filing fee could get on the ballot.

The new closed primary system effectively subsidizes the Two Party System. The State keeps the party rolls. The State conducts the parties primaries, but allows the parties decide who is allowed to vote and even to ignore the results.

In states that have conventions or caucuses, the parties effectively limit participation but at least the taxpayers aren't billed for the expense of a full blown election.

Last week Rush Limbaugh was in full rant mode because "Independents and Moderates'" were allowed to vote in the Florida primary, simply by showing up at the polls and deciding to vote Republican. This was apparently a devious plot by "Independents and Moderates" to elect McCain. He claimed it was against Florida law. I don't know about that, but it shouldn't be. Some states allow "crossover voting. I think they all should. No one in the United States of America should be required to declare their political affiliation or be denied the right to vote.

The States should have no role in party politics. Parties, as far as they exist should be regulated in their activities and be publicly and completely transparent, but officially invisible.

I'm afraid we've taken a step back from true participatory democracy.


Leigh C. said...

Yep, it's left me, a registered independent, out as well. Why does that have to equal "dangerous nonconformist"? Maybe we should've run into the polls and written in "none of the above" en masse. How would THAT be for nonconformist?

bayoustjohndavid said...

I don't know if the state should be picking up the tab for presidential party primaries, but I don't see a problem in other elections -- at least, not with the state picking up the tab. It makes no difference whether it pays for an open primary and a runoff or party primaries and a runoff. Okay, there is the likelihood of the parties needing runoffs before the general election, but that's a practical consideration involving a relatively small amount of money, not a philosophical issue. Since a plurality wins in general elections, it actually increases the chances of an independent or third party candidate winning -- like Jesse Ventura. Also, La. allows any party that has a certain number of registered voters to have a primary. Of course, when I registered years ago, you could only registered Ind., Dem. or Rep.

I see that you were also confused about the Democratic primary. All last Fall, I was under the impression that the Democrats would allow independents to vote in their primary, and the Republicans would have a closed primary. Then, in January, it finally got reported that both parties would be having closed primaries. Did the Democrats change their rules or did they send out incorrect information last year? Did the AP or some other outlet get it wrong and did the misreported details get copied elsewhere? I was a little peeved that none of the stories about voter confusion mentioned the fact that incorrect information got circulated in November and December.

mominem said...

I wasn't so much confused as misinformed.

I clearly recall someone for the Secretary of State's off stating on the Radio that Democrats would allow Independents to vote in the Democratic primary. All of the later reports were secondary, and the media aren't the most accurate source.

Why should the state conduct elections for party offices?

Why should the state maintain the Parties membership for them?

Why should I be required to state my political party affiliation on the public record?

bayoustjohndavid said...

I realized that confused was the wrong word shortly after making the comment. My point was that apparently a lot of people got the wrong info., and nobody wants to acknowledge that either the Secretary of State's office or the Dem. Party messed up -- apparently it was the Secretary of State's office. I'm almost surprised that we haven't heard it portrayed as an attempt to suppress the Obama vote by misinforming independents, even though the misinformation was conveyed before it became obvious that Obama did better with independents. However, you could really get creative with the conspiracy angle -- the Republican Secretary of State's office misinformed Independents to help Clinton, therefore...

I would put elections for party offices in the same category as presidential primaries. I was talking about whether the state uses party primaries or open primaries to winnow the field in races for elected office.

mominem said...

It's possible it wasn't the Secretary of State but some other official. But I heard it and I apparently wasn't the only one.

If the parties are going to use the State to hold primaries, Citizens should not be required to declare their allegiance for the official record.

I wouldn't mind state funding so much if any registered voter could simply show up at the polls and request whatever ballot they want.

Apparently a number of states do it that way and the world hasn't come to an end.

This to me is one more example of the Louisiana political class putting their interests ahead of everyone else's.

db said...

Thanks for the history of the primary system in LA.

And the media has really dropped the ball on this one.