A New Primary System?
Two For Thought
By John Fuller
Rep. Scott Reichner, R-Bigfork, has introduced a bill (HB436) that would establish a version of Louisiana’s “top-two” primary election system.
This “top-two” structure would allow voters to choose any candidate, irrespective of political party, in primary elections. If adopted, this would be the most dramatic change in Montana election laws since the adoption of open primaries.
Under the “top-two” plan, the top two vote recipients would face each other in the general election. If any one primary election candidate received a majority of the vote, he/she would be declared the winner of the office.
In Louisiana, often times the general election features candidates from the same party. Third-party candidates seldom survive the primary.
If the “top-two” system had been in effect in the last election, Congressman Denny Rehberg would have been elected senator and Rick Hill would have been governor. Perhaps Reichner’s proposal is worthy of a look.
But before Republicans and Democrats support or reject this plan, everyone needs to study it.
By Joe Carbonari
While I genuinely respect Scott Reichner, and often agree with him, I was pleased to learn that his HB 436 , proposing a top-two primary here in Montana, has been tabled and quite probably is dead for the session.
Turnout in our primaries is historically low, about half of what is typical in our general elections, and those who do turn out tend to be the activists and the more ideologically extreme.
Is that who we want to have determining who will run our state? I hope not. Nor do I want to see independents and third-party candidates routinely excluded from the general election ballot.
There is a move afoot, here in Montana and across the country as a whole, to disenfranchise and/or discourage those voters that the Republican Party cannot attract or hold. Better my Republican friends should spend their time re-examining their positions and their message.
We need more voters, and more candidates, who understand the complexities of the issues that face us. Limiting the choices that voters have and working to restrict the opposition’s turnout is not good for the health of our democracy.
Let’s work to expand, and to improve, the level of our partisan competition – not to limit it. Let us win by worth.
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