Editorial: Massachusetts primary process should serve as model for others

  • ADVANCE FOR SATURDAY, MAY 28 - FILE - In this March 4, 2008, file photo, a shortage of Democratic primary ballots prompts Sandusky County, Ohio, officials to keep polling places open until 9 p.m., including this polling place for the Townsend Township precinct in Vickery, Ohio. A bill headed to Republican Ohio Gov. John Kasich in 2016 would establish a new process for state courts when they consider last-minute extensions of voting hours, potentially making it harder to keep polling places open longer on election day in the presidential battleground state. (Jason Werling/Sandusky Register via AP, File) MANDATORY CREDIT Jason Werling

Published: 6/3/2016 6:17:48 PM

When it comes to elections, we rarely get to agree with a majority of both Republicans and Democrats.

Certainly this has been a strange year for presidential political dynamics, to say the least, but it has brought to the surface a strong current of dissatisfaction with how we select our finalists for president.

A recent survey by the Associated Press and NORC Center for Public Affairs Research showed the public prefers open primaries to those that are closed to all but party members. They like primaries instead of caucuses and they oppose the party insiders known as super delegates that are allowed in Democratic presidential conventions.

Changing the primary process has been a refrain sung by the unconventional candidacies of Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump this year, but the survey seems to reflect not their supporters’ unhappiness but a deeper unhappiness by the electorate as a whole with the current mix of caucuses, open and closed primaries and sometimes arcane pre-convention party rules.

According to the poll, 38 percent of Americans say they have little confidence in the Democratic Party’s process for selecting a presidential nominee, and 44  percent say the same for the Republican side.

Fifty-three percent of Americans and 46 percent of Democrats don’t like superdelegates, the party insiders who get to attend the Democratic nomination convention but aren’t obliged to side with their home state voters.

Most Americans don’t understand how some of their state’s nominating mechanisms work, but feel the preliminary weaning of candidates should involve them all, more directly and more democratically — not through caucuses but through a primary election.

We like the approach used in Massachusetts, a so-called modified closed primary.

Perhaps we are spoiled with our primary, where you can vote without having to attend a nightlong caucus and where unenrolled independents, people not affiliated with any official party, who account for about half of the state’s electorate, can swing Republican or Democratic on election day. Independents get to vote for the person, not the party.

We also like a system where the state delegates to the national convention are allotted proportionally, not on a winner takes all basis, as Republicans do in some states. Proportional allotment more accurately and fairly reflects the public voice expressed at the polls.

After this primary season’s bruising political gantlet, both national parties are talking about potential changes in how the nominee selection is handled. We hope the strong national dislike for what we have now will drive the two major parties and the states to make major changes, and follow the Massachusetts model.


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