Party primaries are an antiquated way of choosing candidates

Published 11:48 am Wednesday, July 31, 2019

After much worry, campaigning, knocking on doors, early visits by candidates to constituents’ homes and tons of push cards and other goodies passed out, the primary is at hand.

Seems like only yesterday, candidates were lining up at the circuit clerk’s office and filing their qualifying papers to run for office as a Republican, Democrat, independent or some small political party.

Tuesday, people will go to the polls, announce their party preference, sign the register and cast their ballots.

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Question: Do we really need party primaries?

Wouldn’t time be saved by having open, non-partisan primaries where everyone runs at once and the two candidates with the most votes in each contested race face off in a general election?

I bring the subject of open primaries up every once in a while because I believe it would make it easier for people to truly vote for the person they want.

Growing up in Louisiana, I remember the old party primary system, or rather the Democratic primary system. When I was growing up in the 50s, 60s and 70s, Louisiana, like most other southern states at the time, were pretty much solidly Democratic, with the winds really beginning to shift to the GOP in the 70s with Richard Nixon. Some might argue it was before that, but we can debate that in another column. Now back to Louisiana.

The Republican Party at the time was so small they couldn’t generate a party primary. The members met, held a party caucus and selected their candidates. The Democrats slugged it out in the primaries. That is until a guy named Edwin Edwards was elected governor. He declared he was not going to fight it out in the primaries while his Republican opponent sat idly by. He passed the Open Primary Act and the party primaries were a thing of the past.

When Louisiana did that, I basically became an independent. In a way I’ve stayed that way, voting not for a party but for the person I believe is the best person to represent where I live.

Since I’ve been in Mississippi, and since independents can’t vote in primaries, I look at the races and decide which has the most candidates I think are best and chose a party. Sometimes it’s Democrat, sometimes Republican.

And when it comes to local elections, I don’t put much stock in party labels, since state law pretty much dictates what local government can and can’t do.

To quote former congressman and former mayor of New York, Fiorella LaGuardia, “There is no Democratic or Republican way to pick up garbage.”

I think it’s time to do away with party primaries. They’re antiquated and they can in some instances deny someone the right to vote for the person they really want without having to worry about party affiliation. We’re already doing open primary with state judicial races, which are non-partisan, so why not all political races.

It’s time to truly have one man, one vote.

About John Surratt

John Surratt is a graduate of Louisiana State University with a degree in general studies. He has worked as an editor, reporter and photographer for newspapers in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post staff since 2011 and covers city government. He and his wife attend St. Paul Catholic Church and he is a member of the Port City Kiwanis Club.

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