Stillwater News Press

Our View

July 9, 2014

OUR VIEW: Open up local primaries

STILLWATER, Okla. — Do you realize political parties are not mentioned anywhere in the U.S. Constitution?

Voting rights of the individual are clearly defined, but nary a word about political parties.

So what’s our point?

Open primaries.

Democrats or independents in Payne County didn’t have a vote in the Payne County Commission District 3 primary, and won’t be allowed to vote in the August runoff.

The District 3 commissioner serves all in his district, and many of those residents pay taxes. Yet, he will only be elected by Republicans. It just doesn’t make sense.

The same thing happened in the District 9 district attorney’s race. No Democrats filed and Republicans elected Laura Austin Thomas in June.

An open primary doesn’t require voters to be affiliated with a political party to vote for partisan candidates. All candidates appear on the same ballot, and voters make their choices. The two candidates with the largest number of votes, regardless of affiliation, proceed to a runoff.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled this system was constitutional in 2008. Approximately 20 states use some form of an open primary system. Our neighbors in Arkansas, Missouri and Texas operate some form of open primary.

Partisan primaries work in states where the Republican and Democrat parties are strong, but that simply isn’t the case in Oklahoma.

We are seeing that right now in the county commission race. It’s time Oklahoma opens primaries to all voters.

Everyone should have a vote when it comes to choosing their elected officials.

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