Louisiana Governor Aims to Overhaul Unique Open Primaries

(IntegrityTimes.com) – The Louisiana Legislature’s special session begins on January 15. One of the primary purposes for the special session is to create through redistricting a second black-majority district as was decided by the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in November. Governor Jeff Landry says they will also be addressing other election-related policies like campaign finance laws, federal election qualifying fees, and how the primary elections are run in Louisiana.

Louisiana currently has an open primary, which means that all candidates regardless of party affiliation run in the same primary for elected office. This is sometimes called a jungle primary, and proponents praise it for the fact that it allows voters who are not affiliated with either the Democrat or Republican parties to vote in primary elections. A candidate wins the election with 51% of the vote. If no candidate receives 51% in the primary, then the top two candidates, once again regardless of party affiliation, go on to the general election.

Open primaries can be used to vote strategically, which some believe is a good way to weed out more extreme candidates either on the left or right of the political spectrum. However, critics complain that this can lead to “clone candidates” where the top two candidates are not only of the same party but also remarkably similar in policy or viewpoint. Louisiana has had its unique jungle primary since 1975 except for two years between 2008 to 2010 when they switched to closed primaries for federal elections due to legal challenges.

The open primaries were reinstituted because the resulting combination of open and closed elections proved frustrating for voters, and many felt that non-affiliated voters were being excluded from the process. Several recent polls regarding the jungle primaries in Louisiana have revealed that the majority of voters in the state favor them over closed primaries. The proposed change has supporters and critics on both sides of the political aisle in Louisiana; however, it remains to be seen if the special session will alter the way that Louisiana conducts primaries.

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