Home Page -> Commentary -> 1 June 1998 -> Open Primary

Open Primary - A Definition

For those readers who aren't from California (or the United States, for that matter), here's what an open primary is:

As an example, let's say that Ron Smith and Roberta Jones, both Republicans, each think he or she is the best candidate for Governor. On the Democratic party side, Deborah Harris and Dan Thomas each thinks he/she is the best candidate for Governor.

In the November election, you can have only one Republican candidate and one Democratic candidate. How does each party decide who will be the their choice in November?

Rather than having the party officers choose, the state holds a primary election in which the voters decide whether Ron or Roberta will be the Republican candidate and whether Deborah or Dan will be the Democratic candidate.

When you registered to vote, you said which party you were affiliated with. Before 1998, if you had registered as a Democrat, you would get a ballot that gave you a choice between Deborah or Dan. If you were registered as a Republican, you could choose only between Ron and Roberta.

All of this has changed as of 2 June 1998. Now you will get a ballot with all four names: Ron, Roberta, Deborah, and Dan. You get to choose any one of them; it doesn't matter which party you registered with. This is called an open primary.

Back to comment of 1 June 1998