Utah: Democratic chief claims county clerks are running a GOP registration drive | The Salt Lake Tribune

Utah Democratic Party Chairman Peter Corroon is complaining that county clerks statewide are essentially running a taxpayer-funded drive to register new Republicans. But election officials say he is misconstruing their efforts, which are aimed at helping voters receive whichever by-mail party ballot they choose in time for the June 28 primary. The dispute comes, in part, because 20 of the state’s 29 counties are conducting elections mostly by mail this year. So clerks wrote letters to the 41 percent of Utahns who are not affiliated with any party, asking whether they want a Democratic or Republican ballot. Letters warn that if voters choose to receive a GOP ballot, they will then be registered as Republicans. That’s because the GOP allows only registered Republicans to vote in its closed primary, but Democrats allow anyone of any party to vote in its open primary.

California: ‘Open Primary’ law confuses voters ahead of presidential primary | KSBW

It’s unlikely anyone would find this year’s presidential primary boring, but some California voters are finding the upcoming June primary a little confusing. “I was expecting to see both parties and that you could make a choice,” said voter Rosetta Winston. Christine Krynak also said she expected to see candidates from both parties. In 2011 a new “Open Primary” law took effect in California that’s left some voters thinking when it comes to the June 7 presidential primary, they can vote for any of the candidates, regardless of their party preference. But that’s not quite how it works because the Open Primary law does not apply to candidates running for president.

Virginia: GOP vote surge in Northern Virginia definitely included some Democrats | The Washington Post

Did Democratic “crossover” voters in Virginia help fuel the state’s extraordinary surge in Republican voting on Super Tuesday? More than twice as many GOP ballots were cast on Tuesday than had been submitted in the 2008 presidential primary. Part of the increase was undoubtedly because of the tumultuous nature of this year’s Republican primary, and the fact that there are still many candidates jostling for votes. But interviews at the polls and posts on social media showed that at least a slice of those voters were people who planned to vote Democratic in the fall, but took advantage of Virginia’s open-primary law to try to impact the Republican race. “Lifelong Democrat here and I cast my first vote for a Republican yesterday in the VA primary,” Liz Odar, an Arlington millennial, said in an email. “I decided my vote was better used as a vote against Trump.”

New Mexico: Independents Lose Bid for Open Primaries | New Mexico In Depth

A plan to amend the state Constitution to let independents vote in primaries was tabled Monday by the House Judiciary Committee. One of the sponsors, Rep. Moe Maestas, D-Bernalillo, said the proposal (HJR 12) would get more New Mexicans involved in the political process. He cited record low voter turnout and a growing population of independent voters. “I’m a firm believer in the idea that, if folks vote in the primaries, they’ll also vote in November,” Maestas told members of the Committee.

Alaska: Democrats want to allow independents in party primary | Associated Press

Alaska Democratic party leaders have approved allowing candidates not affiliated with a political party to run in the Democratic primary. In a letter to state election officials provided by the party late Tuesday afternoon, party chair Casey Steinau said that Democrats believe a state law requiring a candidate seeking a party’s nomination to be a registered voter of that party to be unconstitutional and unenforceable. A memo prepared for the party by an attorney with a Washington, D.C., firm concluded that a political party’s freedom of association is likely to be found to include the right to allow non-affiliated candidates to seek that party’s nomination and that state law prohibiting that is likely to be held unconstitutional.

Utah: State, GOP appear headed to court over election law — again | KSL

A federal judge Monday permanently barred the state from forcing political parties to hold open primary elections and dismissed all other claims in the Utah Republican Party’s lawsuit. As U.S. District Judge David Nuffer closed the case, the Utah GOP and the state continued to wrangle over the meaning of part of the law, setting the stage for another court battle, possibly before the Utah Supreme Court. Meantime, Gov. Gary Herbert told the Republican State Central Committee over the weekend that he wishes he would have vetoed the controversial new election law and let voters decide the issue as proposed by the Count My Vote initiative.

Utah: GOP, state appear headed to court on new election law — again | Deseret News

A federal judge Monday permanently barred the state from forcing political parties to hold open primary elections and dismissed all other claims in the Utah Republican Party’s lawsuit. As U.S. District Judge David Nuffer closed the case, the Utah GOP and the state continued to wrangle over the meaning of part of the law, setting the stage for another court battle, possibly before the Utah Supreme Court. Meantime, Gov. Gary Herbert told the Republican State Central Committee over the weekend that he wishes he would have vetoed the controversial new election law and let voters decide the issue as proposed by the Count My Vote initiative.

Montana: Federal judge, GOP lawyer have lively exchanges over open-primaries | Associated Press

In a hearing on a lawsuit to restrict Republican primary elections to party members only in Montana, a federal judge Thursday questioned whether non-Republican voters are actively crossing over to vote in and influence GOP legislative primaries here. “So, voters are going to give up their right to vote for the president, the U.S. Senate and congressional (candidates of their own party) … to vote to screw up the other guy’s legislative candidates?” asked U.S. District Judge Brian Morris. “You’re telling me that happens regularly?” Matthew Monforton, a lawyer representing numerous GOP central committees, told Morris it does happen – and that’s why Republicans should be allowed to close their primary elections to members only.

Arizona: Open primary group facing GOP challenge on financial disclosure | Arizona Daily Sun

A group working to change election laws and tighten up rules on “dark money” is facing a complaint that it is illegally hiding the source of its own cash. Tim LaSota, attorney for the Arizona Republican Party, said that former gubernatorial hopeful Paul Johnson is taking donations and spending money to craft an initiative for the 2016 ballot. LaSota said that means he needs to comply with campaign finance laws. But Johnson, who previously was the mayor of Phoenix, said he is doing nothing illegal. He said the requirement to report is triggered by actually coming up with specific language to put on the ballot, something that has not yet occurred. Only then, Johnson said, need he disclose who is financing the effort.

Montana: Deputy attorney general withdraws from closed primary case | The Missoulian

A deputy attorney general will no longer be defending the state in a Republican challenge to the state’s open primary elections after the party accused him of misconduct. Deputy Attorney General Jon Bennion, a Republican, filed a motion Friday to withdraw as counsel from the case. “I submit this notice of withdrawal in order to prevent future misunderstandings with the Montana Republican Party and to facilitate future communications,” Bennion said in court documents. Two other attorneys from Attorney General Tim Fox’s office will continue to defend the state in the case calling for primaries in which voters can only cast ballots for candidates in their own party.

Arizona: Independents still get GOP primary vote | Arizona Daily Sun

Arizona’s nearly 1.2 million political independents will be able to continue to influence who Republicans nominate for office, at least for the foreseeable future. The executive committee of the Arizona Republican Party on Saturday rejected a proposal to try to close future primaries and limit participation to the 1.1 million who are officially members of the Grand Old Party. Party spokesman Tim Sifert said committee members concluded it made no sense to try to challenge a 1998 voter-approved measure which paved the way for independents to vote. That vote came despite a recommendation from state precinct committeemen to shut out the independents. But Sifert said such a legal move might cost $75,000. And he said only the executive committee can spend party money.

Voting Blogs: All in the Family: New Jersey Closed Primaries Challenged | State of Elections

This past August the United States District Court in New Jersey dismissed a complaint brought by voters and independent interest groups to open state primaries and prevent the state from funding closed primaries. The coalition, formed by Endpartisanship.org, is appealing to the Third Circuit to end state funded primaries for the two major parties. Their complaint alleges that the New Jersey statute impermissibly funds closed primaries to the detriment of unaffiliated candidates and voters generally. Endpartisanship.org is a coalition of various groups that believe the two party system has been unfairly supported by the states and that the taxpayer funds supporting the parties creates an unfair advantage to the detriment of independent candidates. This is their first lawsuit as a coalition and it seems that they may have hit a major roadblock.

Editorials: For 2016, bring back Colorado’s presidential primary | The Denver Post

Two political scientists at Colorado College made the case in The Sunday Denver Post that lawmakers should open up the next presidential primary in this state to wider voter participation. But Thomas E. Cronin and Robert D. Loevy aren’t just lonely voices in the wilderness in this belief. Others have raised similar questions over the years about the wisdom of relying on a low-turnout caucus system to select the parties’ presidential favorites. Indeed, a group known as Colorado Open Voting is hoping to reform the caucus system this year through legislation, according to spokesman Curtis Hubbard — if sponsors can be found at the Capitol. Let’s hope lawmakers step up and a resulting bill reflects some of the principles espoused by Cronin and Loevy. The present system in which a relatively small slice of activists attend local caucuses to determine the presidential candidate that each party supports has the effect of limiting both public interest and participation — as well as the influence of Colorado in the presidential selection process.

Connecticut: Republican Party Reflects On Electoral Process After November Losses | CT News Junkie

The Republican Party hasn’t won a statewide election in Connecticut since 2006. This year’s defeat has the party leadership questioning where it can improve the electoral process. Republican Party Chairman Jerry Labriola Jr. announced the formation of an Election Reforms Subcommittee earlier this month at a Republican State Central Committee meeting. He charged the 13-member committee to report its findings by Jan. 27. “I’ve placed no boundaries on the subcommittee,” Labriola said last week. “Everything’s on the table.” That means everything, including an open primary system that would allow unaffiliated voters to participate in choosing the Republican Party’s nominee. Former Gov. Lowell Weicker, a Republican-turned-independent, has been advocating for the Republican Party to switch to an open primary system for years.

Voting Blogs: Mississippi’s Newfound Frustration With Open Primaries | State of Elections

Mississippi garnered unexpected national attention this summer as its system of open primary voting became a contributor to the wider debate of how best to fairly and legitimately select candidates and representatives. If you haven’t been paying attention, Mississippi’s long running Republican Senator, Thad Cochran, came very close to losing his seat to Tea Party Conservative Chris McDaniel in a rather ugly, tight primary race. In an effort to overcome his challenger in a runoff election, Cochran strategically capitalized on Mississippi’s use of open primary voting by asking traditionally Democratic voters to support him in the primary runoff against his far more conservative opponent. In a state where Democrats’ primary voters turned out in less than half the number of participants as the Republican primary, Cochran’s gambit to garner those as-yet uncast primary votes could be considered borderline tactical genius. McDaniel and his supporters are pretty sure, however, that it should be considered less than legal.

Editorials: The Primary Puzzle: what role do primaries play in shaping election results? | NCSL

Where primary elections are concerned, there’s more than one way to skin a cat. And for years, political thinkers have debated what effect the design of a state’s primary has on electoral results. In this age of sharp partisan polarization—when primaries often determine who occupies the seat more than the general election does—the question of how primaries can shape results has become increasingly urgent. High-profile congressional upsets in recent primaries—House Majority Leader Eric Cantor in Virginia and Senator Thad Cochran of Mississippi (although he later squeaked out a win  in the runoff)—have also drawn attention to the debate over which type of primary best reflects the will of the voters. Some political reformers see opening up primaries as a way to curb the influence of the parties’ ideological extremes, which tend to dominate in closed primaries that are open only to registered party members. But does wresting primaries from the control of only registered party members actually result in the election of candidates with more moderate views? Research suggests it’s, at best, an open question. Those who have studied the phenomenon say the hard evidence is under-whelming.

California: Same-party races force hard choices | Sacremento Bee

John McAtee, a 52-year-old voter from Elk Grove, isn’t happy about the state of his ballot this year. In two legislative contests, the Republican will not have a candidate of his own party to choose from. For state Assembly, he can pick between Democrats Jim Cooper and Darrell Fong. For state Senate, his choices are Democrats Roger Dickinson and Richard Pan. He considers the scenario one drawback of living in a heavily Democratic area. “I am not moving, but you take your lumps,” McAtee said. A reverse scenario is playing out in a Roseville-centered congressional district, where veteran conservative Rep. Tom McClintock is challenged by fellow Republican Art Moore. More than 116,000 Democrats there have no opportunity to select one of their own. Democrat Michael Adams said he’s met Moore at district events and also has attended McClintock’s town-hall meetings. Adams, a 68-year-old resident of Roseville, said the upcoming congressional contest boils down to this: “Voting for the lesser of two evils is what I have to do.” In California, 25 same-party contests populate the fall ballot, intraparty battles made possible by voter-approved Proposition 14 in June 2010. Under the measure, the top two candidates regardless of party advance to the general election.

Montana: Lawsuit seeks to close open primaries to prevent party crossover | NBCMontana

Attorney Matthew Monforton of Bozeman filed a federal lawsuit Monday, in District Court on behalf of the Ravalli County Republican Central Committee. It names Montana Secretary of State Linda McCulloch and Ravalli County’s election administrator as defendants. Monforton is a State House candidate who successfully pushed the state Republican Party this spring to add support of closed primaries to its platform. Monforton said he filed the lawsuit with the 2016 elections in mind. He said he expects other county political committees to join it. McCullouch declined to comment, as did Ravalli County Elections Supervisor Regina Plettenberg. Ravalli County Republican Chairman Terry Nelson referred questions to Monforton.

Editorials: Open primaries something Dems, GOP can agree on | Albuquerque Journal

It’s rare in New Mexico when Democrats and Republicans see eye-to-eye on an issue. So it’s refreshing to see Republican Gov. Susana Martinez support a reasonable plan put forth by two Democrats, Sen. Bill O’Neill and Rep. Emily Kane, that would open up party primaries to independent voters. O’Neill and Kane plan to introduce legislation in January that would allow voters who decline to state a party affiliation to choose whether to vote in the Democratic or Republican primary, but not in both. Members of a party could not vote in the other party’s primary, which had been a sticking point for many partisans. The goal is to increase voter participation – only about 20 percent of eligible voters cast ballots in the June primary – and to attract young voters who increasingly don’t want to affiliate with either party.

Editorials: Write-in scam cheats other voters | Joe Brown/Tampa Tribune

A judge in Tallahassee disqualified a write-in candidate in the Florida House District 64 race Thursday because the write-in didn’t live in the district. As a result, what was a closed primary election between two Republicans scheduled for Aug. 26 now will be open to all voters in November — as it should be. District 64, which runs from Safety Harbor in Pinellas County to Carrollwood in Hillsborough, is set up to lean Republican, so much so that Democrats didn’t even bother to field a candidate to challenge incumbent Rep. Jamie Grant, R-Tampa. Grant did manage to draw a Republican challenger, however, in Miriam Steinberg, a Tampa engineer. Still, at that time all voters in the district were eligible to vote in the primary. Florida mandates an open primary if members of only one party are on the ballot and there are no other candidates running in the general election because the winner of the primary automatically wins the general election.

Editorials: Adopt the Open Primary | Sen. Charles Schumer/New York Times

Polarization and partisanship are a plague on American politics. Political scientists have found that the two parties have each grown more ideologically homogeneous since the 1970s. The Senate hasn’t been so polarized since Reconstruction; the House has not been so divided since around 1900. As measured by laws passed, the current Congress is on track to be among the least productive in our republic’s history. How did this happen? One of the main causes has not gotten enough attention: the party primary system. … We need a national movement to adopt the “top-two” primary (also known as an open primary), in which all voters, regardless of party registration, can vote and the top two vote-getters, regardless of party, then enter a runoff. This would prevent a hard-right or hard-left candidate from gaining office with the support of just a sliver of the voters of the vastly diminished primary electorate; to finish in the top two, candidates from either party would have to reach out to the broad middle.

Mississippi: Judge Dismisses McDaniel Supporter’s Lawsuit To Prevent Crossover Voting | TPM

A lawsuit aimed at stopping crossover voting in Mississippi was dismissed by a judge in the state on Tuesday. The race has been caught up in controversies about the practice of “crossover voting,” in which some outside groups are accusing Sen. Thad Cochran’s (R-MS) campaign of encouraging Democrats and African-American voters to support him in the runoff. The lawsuit, by Ronald W. Swindall, a supporter of Mississippi state Sen. Chris McDaniel (R) was filed on Monday. McDaniel is facing Cochran in the runoff for the GOP nomination for U.S. Senate.

Utah: GOP Mulling Lawsuit Over ‘Count My Vote’ Compromise | UtahPolicy

Utah Republican Party leaders tell UtahPolicy that they are considering suing the state over SB54, the Count My Vote citizen initiative petition compromise that provides a dual-track process to candidate nominations. It’s not the dual-track that state party chair James Evans finds illegal. Rather, it is the requirement in SB54 that political parties have an open primary. The state GOP has a closed primary today. Several court cases, including one in Idaho, rule that the government can’t force a political party to open its primaries, says Evans. Thus, there are legal problems with SB54 from the get-go, Evans believes. That may be the case if the compromise law, sponsored by Sen. Curt Bramble, R-Provo, forced all political parties to have open primaries.

New Jersey: Group sues the state to open primary elections to all voters | NJ.com

New Jersey primaries could one day include all voters, not just those affiliated with a political party if a California-based non-profit has its way. The Committee for a Unified Independent Party and The Independent Voter Project, which together form Endpartisanship.org, have joined a group of seven registered voters in filing the suit against Secretary of State Kim Guadagno seeking to have the current primary system declared unconstitutional because it bars nearly 50 percent of all state voters from the process. “Defendant barred nearly half of New Jersey’s registered voters from participating in New Jersey’s 2013 primary election because they exercised their right not to associate with either the Democrat or Republican Party,” the brief, filed in District Court earlier this month, states. “This action seeks to protect the fundamental right to vote under the New Jersey Constitution and U.S. Constitution from the condition required by the New Jersey Primary Election Law that a voter forfeit his or her First Amendment Right not to associate with a political party.” The suit goes on to claim that the state, which foots the bill for the annual primary election, is violating the New Jersey constitution by allocating money for the primaries, which are held on behalf of private political parties.

Nebraska: Democrats decide to open primary voting to independents this year | Associated Press

Nebraska Democratic Party leadership has decided to open its statewide May primary to independents. The party’s Central Committee voted 32-30 on Saturday to make the change. State party chairman Vince Powers said the measure is aimed in part at encouraging people to vote. “This vote emphasizes the openness of our party and the great importance we place on the political process and voter participation in all elections,” Powers said.

Utah: Bill to Head Off ‘Count My Vote’ Moves Out of Committee | Utah Policy

Sen. Curt Bramble calls the “Count My Vote” initiative a “gun to the head” of Utah’s political parties. If the CMV initiative gets on the ballot and passes in November, it would do away with the state’s caucus and convention system for nominating candidates in favor of a direct primary. Bramble says CMV backers and Utah’s political parties were unable to find a middle ground, so that’s why he’s sponsoring SB 54, which is a compromise between the two positions – and would essentially make the “Count My Vote” initiative a moot point. “The best kind of political compromise is where both sides can claim victory,” Bramble told a packed Senate committee hearing room on Friday morning. “I crafted this bill so that both sides don’t get what they want. Under the legislation, ‘Count My Vote’ gets what they were asking for from the parties, while the parties get to keep the caucus system if they meet certain criteria.”

South Carolina: Could Open Primaries Close the Door on Graham in 2014? | State of Elections

A recent case out of South Carolina is drawing attention to the potential impact of open primaries on election results. South Carolina law does not require voters to formally register with a particular political party in order to cast a vote in a primary. A system in which voters can select the primary they wish to vote in regardless of party affiliation is called an open primary system.  Open primary systems sometimes draw criticism because they can allow voters to engage in so-called crossover voting.  Crossover voting occurs when members of one political party deliberately vote for a candidate they perceive to be weaker in an opposing party’s primary in order to give their candidate an advantage. It is important to note that voters in an open primary system do have to select only one primary in which to vote, so crossover voting naturally removes a voter’s opportunity to cast a ballot for the actual candidate of her choice in her own party’s primary.  Exit polls provide evidence that voters have crossed party lines during primaries in South Carolina. For example, despite South Carolina’s traditionally conservative electorate, nearly 30% of the voters in the Republican presidential primary in 2012 were either Democrats or Independents.  Further, nearly a quarter of the independents chose Ron Paul as their candidate of choice, rather than the eventual winner in the primary, Newt Gingrich.

Hawaii: Judge to determine if Hawaii primary election system is ‘severe burden’ to free association | Associated Press

A federal judge said at a hearing that he will likely rule in favor of a lawsuit challenging Hawaii’s open primary election if he finds there’s a “severe burden” on the First Amendment right to free association. Judge J. Michael Seabright said at Monday’s hearing that the case could ultimately end up before the U.S. Supreme Court. The Democratic Party of Hawaii’s lawsuit claims the primary system allowing every registered voter to participate in the party’s nomination process is tantamount to forced political association and is unconstitutional. The party wants to ensure Democrats are selected at the primary stage by those willing to identify as Democrats. “What the party does not want is anonymous persons deciding its candidates,” Tony Gill, an attorney representing the party, told the judge.

California: Panel Rejects Challenges to ‘Top Two’ Election Laws | Metropolitan News-Enterprise

The Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Wednesday rejected challenges to Proposition 14, which established the “Top Two” election system used after the 2010 elections, and the measure’s implementing legislation. Senior U.S. District Judge James G. Carr of the Northern District of Ohio, sitting by designation, said there is no constitutional impediment to requiring candidates to list themselves as preferring a qualified political party, or as having “No Party Preference,” or to be listed without any statement about party preference at all. The Elections Code has since been amended to eliminate the blank-space option, so that all candidates are listed either by party or as “No Party Preference.” Proposition 14 replaced the state’s closed partisan primary election with an open primary in which the top two vote-getters, regardless of party, qualify for the general election.

Utah: Democrats vote to keep caucus-convention system | The Salt Lake Tribune

Escaping mostly unscathed from some intraparty sparring, Utah Democrats elected to keep their caucus/convention system intact Saturday, arguing that a switch to an open primary would be too costly and, therefore, prohibitive to common-folk candidates. Following two hours of sharp debate during their state party organizing convention in downtown Ogden, Democratic delegates voted 53.3 percent to 46.6 percent to keep the status quo. But party insiders pledged to spend the next year exploring improvements — including a possible hybrid system that could set a lower vote threshold at convention to allow candidates onto a primary ballot. “There is nothing built in and I anticipate tremendous dialogue now,” Democratic Chairman Jim Dabakis said after the vote. “My sense is people want more primaries. This preserves that option.”