Sunday, January 25, 2015

Consolidated Primary? I'll See Your Consolidated and Raise a "No"

My friend Abdul Hakim-Shabazz has recently written about having a "consolidated" primary for Indiana's municipal elections. What he's really proposing is doing what many other states do and take the labels away from municipal politics. I really don't love this idea because partisans and party workers honestly and truly believe there is a difference in how the political parties view their role as election officials and how government works. I also don't like the idea of someone claiming a "non-partisan" mantel even though we all know what jersey they are wearing.

But I think there is some tinkering that can be done with municipal city and town elections that are held in Indiana. Some of it is proposed in the Indiana General Assembly.

House Bill 1038 would move many of the municipal elections held in off, odd numbered years to even numbered years. It appears that they aren't all moving to the same year. Some offices would be moving to the Presidential year and others would be moving to the non-presidential year.

Personally, I'd like to see Mayor in one election cycle and have the municipal legislative body in the next cycle. That way one can serve as a referendum on the other.

But one bill I don't see being proposed in the general assembly, or elsewhere, is the elimination of publicly funded primaries.

I think many people mistake primaries as some sort of election where one candidate goes up against another (or ore) candidate of the same party, they duke it out, and whoever gets the nomination goes on to face the other nominated candidates in November.

What primaries actually are a system designed for the benefit of a political party, which is supposed to be a private organization with its own rules and regulating laws. Political organizations should have full and complete control over who they nominate. I believe these organizations can efficiently nominate candidates in a low cost way without the public having to dig out the massive amount of resources to pull off a public election in which not one public official is actually elected.

Some people may scoff at this idea but it is the exact same system that is often used to fill political vacancies. It is also by the major parties of Indiana to nominate candidates for all of their state-wide office candidates besides Governor. The minor parties that are recognized in Indiana also decide their candidates by a political convention.

And a number of states do this as well when nominating for President. They are called the "caucus" states. Yes, the Democratic and Republican parties of Iowa actually pay for their caucus.

So can we have that discussion, Indiana?


  1. "I think many people mistake primaries as some sort of election where one candidate goes up against another (or ore) candidate of the same party, they duke it out, and whoever gets the nomination goes on to face the other nominated candidates in November." That's exactly what primaries are.

    It wasn't political party leaders that asked for primaries. They don't want primaries. The party leaders would much rather hand pick the candidates themselves or through a caucus or convention system. It was reformers who saw the public being given no choice over who their elected officials were that pushed forward primaries in order to protect their franchise. Most districts aren't competitive between the parties. Therefore, the primary is the only time when the public has any meaningful input.

    Your use of vacancy elections as proof of a system that would work is not at all persuasive. Those elections can easily be rigged through the county chairman appointing people from all over the county to fill vacancies, with their sole purpose being voting at the vacancy elections. Rarely are they even contested because potential candidates know they are rigged. About 80% of PCs are appointed not elected. Appointed PCs can be removed at will and don't have to live in the precinct they are appointed to represent.

    In a county like Marion County that regularly puts on rigged slating conventions, it's shocking that anyone would advocate the elimination of primaries. So you want party bosses picking our candidates with absolutely no public check on their choices? No thanks. The money the government spends on political primaries is one of the best expenditures of our tax dollars.

  2. I get where you're coming from. But as someone who isn't affiliated with a party in any manner, I really don't care for policies for their well being. They're private organizations and can do as they wish. People can run for PC and try to change. If we look outside of Indiana and in Presidential politics, the more grassroots or underfunded candidates tend to do better in POTUS caucuses than they do in electoral primaries. And if we look at caucuses within Indiana politics, establishment candidates don't have a complete stranglehold on them. Ryan Vaughn lost his Indiana Senate caucus bid back in 2009.Many state reps and state senators started as appointments via caucus, and I'm sure there's at least some of them that you're a fan of.

    I think we just see things differently. I look at the MCGOP and you think "Wow, they're ignoring their grassroots" and I'm thinking "what grassroots? This is who the party is".


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