Readers Write: Closed primaries infringe on individual choice

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Each citizen’s vote is an intent to cause the election of someone specific, whether it is in an open or closed primary.

In my opinion, it is incorrect for anyone, or any entity (e.g., a political party), to assume a voter’s motivation for casting a specific vote.

After living almost seven decades, I continue to maintain that closed primaries are grossly unfair by allowing only registered members of a major/declared party to vote in a Primary Day election.

Voters unaffiliated with any New York State recognized political party are totally disenfranchised from voting on Primary Day in New York State.

In New York State, 27 percent of its registered voters were not able to vote in the state’s most recent Presidential Primary Day elections in 2016 (https://www.thenation.com/article/three-million-registered-voters-wont-be-able-to-vote-in-new-yorks-primary/).

By assuming any voter is part of a “strategic” movement to vote for the weakest opposition party candidate in order to undermine the opposition party is tantamount to acting as the “thought police.”

To date, I have not seen any substantial evidence that open primaries cause such alleged, “strategic” voting issues, such as to warrant the essential disenfranchisement of voters who wish to cast their ballot outside their registered party.

In fact, 35 states have ‘freed’ each of their voters to vote for any candidate listed on their respective ballots on a Primary Day in the interest of fairness, independent of party affiliation.

New York State remains one of only 15 states holding onto what I believe is the unfair ‘closed primary’ mentality in which major parties continue to hold sway over and restrict, what I believe is each resident’s right to vote independently.

Over the course of my almost-50 years of voting as a New York State resident, I have heard dozens of fellow New York State residents complain about the restrictions imposed on their ability to vote ‘truly independently’ on Primary Day.

Many residents, including myself, did not learn until later in life that voters in 70 percent of our United States are granted the freedom to vote for any party’s candidate on a Primary Day’s ballot…a freedom only allowed in states with open primaries, but not in New York State.

New York State’s voters remain in the group of only 30 percent of states who are denied that very same privilege of voting in open primaries.

No political party, in my opinion, has the right to hold sway over a voter’s independent choice on any Primary Day ballot.

If there is any hope for this country to ever become moderately cohesive, again, political parties must stop viewing each other as the “opposition.”

I believe the majority of voting Americans realize that extremes, in any direction, will not serve the best interests of our current citizens and their progeny.

An “us” versus “them” political mentality will continue to tear at the very fabric of our American foundations.

In fact, America’s own founding fathers tried to warn future generations about the potential dangers presented by dominating political parties.

Founding father, George Washington, warned that political party dissension “agitates the community with ill-founded jealousies and false alarms, kindles the animosity of one part against another.” 

In his farewell Presidential speech, Washington referred to “political parties” as “factions” warning, “The alternate domination of one faction over another, sharpened by the spirit of revenge, natural to party dissension, which in different ages and countries has perpetrated the most horrid enormities, is itself a frightful despotism. But this leads at length to a more formal and permanent despotism.”

Founding father, John Adams warned, There is nothing which I dread so much as a division of the republic into two great parties, each arranged under its leader, and concerting measures in opposition to each other. This, in my humble apprehension, is to be dreaded as the greatest political evil under our Constitution.”

It is my belief that each critically thinking citizen, without regard to party affiliation, would vote for the candidate whom he believes will best serve the public good in any open primary.

If a voter is unhappy with his party’s candidates, he should not be required to endure the extra burden of collecting signatures of fellow party members on a designating petition to place a preferred member of his party onto his party’s primary ballot.

Also, if a voter is unhappy with his party’s candidates, he should not be required to endure the extra burden of circulating or signing a petition to place a preferred candidate from any party onto an independent party line on the New York State general election ballot.

It is obvious to me, and to many other critically thinking New York State residents, that requiring a voter to ‘jump through such outrageous hoops’ to vote outside of his registered party on Primary Day is patently unfair and designed to discourage voting for candidates other than whom the major, political party machines support.

We live a free country in which each voting citizen should be able to cast his vote in any way he sees fit.

Closed primaries are one of the causes of serious, unfair election problems, in my opinion, not vice-versa.

It is time for New York State to become an open primary state, along with the other existing 35 open primary states.  Otherwise, major political parties in New York State will continue to curtail many voters’ abilities to use their critical thinking skills to choose independently on Primary Day elections.

Why should residents in 70 percent of our United States enjoy the extra freedom-of-choice offered by open primaries (untethered by being locked-into voting only for a candidate in one’s registered-political party) while New Yorkers are denied that same freedom-of-choice?

Even our revered Founding Father Thomas Jefferson, declared, “…if I could not go to heaven but with a party, I would not go there at all.”

Kathy Rittel

East Williston

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