EDITORIAL: Open Up the Primaries

18th Congressional District voters had the opportunity to cast a ballot yesterday. Did you take advantage of your right to make your voice heard? I didn’t… here’s why.

Less than 10% of eligible voters in the 18th Congressional District chose to cast a ballot yesterday. Let’s put that in a more imaginable scenario – Think about your workplace today. Are there ten or more people there? Okay, pick any ten people in your workplace and put them into the same room. Of the people in that room, only one of them – IF even that – chose to vote yesterday.

Why did we have such a low turnout?

The pundits will say that it was an issue of a “summertime special primary with only one question on the ballot” and a “lack of interest”. That’s reasonable, I suppose, but there is a much bigger issue.

Illinois does not have open primaries. You must declare a party and take that party’s ballot.

Issues of privacy aside, having to declare a party in the current two-party system leaves a number of potential voters with no place to land. Those, like myself, that consider themselves to be political Independents – believing that there are some good qualities of the Democratic platform and some good qualities of the Republican platform, as well as lesser third parties – can’t in good conscience take either ballot and cast a vote. We do not want to be specifically identified as a supporter of either party, in the future. We want to see the process work, but don’t believe that all of the tools are there.

So, what’s the solution?

Why do we continue to force Illinois voters to declare a party for primary elections? Open up our primary elections. Put all of the candidates – five of them, in this case – on one ballot. Indicate their political parties, if you must, but put them all on one ballot. You don’t have to change the rules to determine who moves on from a primary. The top vote getter from each party on the ballot still moves on to the general election.

Is that the only solution? No, it’s not. There will still be apathy among some voters. There will still be those who choose not to vote because they don’t feel fully informed. But, I firmly believe that there are thousands of potential voters who would take advantage of their right to vote, if primary elections were opened up in Illinois.

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