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.
States have a range of possibilities when deciding on what kind of primary election to use. At one end of the spectrum is the closed primary, which permits only registered party members to vote.
On the other extreme is the open primary that allows all voters to cast a ballot in the primary of their choice, regardless of their own affiliation. Some states use this method across the board, while others use it only in certain circumstances. In some states, voters have to publicly declare which primary they’re voting in, while in others, they can make the decision in the privacy of the voting booth.
Full Article: The Primary Puzzle.