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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 6/4/17

Why New Jersey's Closed Primaries Led to Voter Apathy, Polarization and Gridlock

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New Jersey and Virginia are the only two U.S. States politically in play in a major way in 2017, with governor and most, if not all, down-ballot state, county and local positions on the ballot. According to the United States Elections Project - Voter Turnout Data, in 2016, Virginia, an open primary state, had a primary election voter turnout of 30.1 % or 47.5 % higher than New Jersey, a closed primary state, with 20.4%.

In New Jersey, those voters who do not specify a political party affiliation when they register to vote are listed as unaffiliated; as a closed primary state, only voters who affiliate with a political party may vote in that party's candidate selection process (i.e., the primary election). However, NJ unaffiliated voters may declare a party affiliation up to and including the day of the primary election. Therefore, unaffiliated voters can participate in the primaries, if they are willing to join one of the political parties for at least primary election day.

In the 21st Century both political parties have been losing registered voters, the Republican Party starting after 2004 and the Democratic Party starting after 2008, with unaffiliated registered voters increasing nationally by almost 63% (27% versus 44%) between November 2004 and April 2017, according to Gallup.

90% of the Elections are Determined in the Primary
90% of the Elections are Determined in the Primary
(Image by Open Primaries)
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The majority who vote in closed primaries are hardcore partisans, with these primaries favored by both major political parties. In more cases than not, closed primaries result in nominees that are polar-opposites and with one gets elected to the political office, gridlock is the result.

Closed primaries raise a "Taxation without Representation" issue. Why do we, the taxpayers and voters, go on subsidizing the parties' closed primary elections? Why do we prop up partisan machines that so often give us unappetizing choices, leaving us with state and local governments prone to squelching of innovation, bad policy and gridlock?

Between October 2010 and April 2014 Rasmussen Reports ran several polls asking likely voters "Is it fair to say that neither party in Congress is the party of the American people?" The October 2010 poll resulted in 43% agreeing, 35% disagreeing, with 22% not sure. The April 2014 poll results were: 53% agreed, 28% disagreed, while 19% were not sure. Put another way, in April 2014 almost twice as many likely voters agreed that it was fair to say that neither party in Congress is the party of the American people! Unfortunately, Rasmussen Reports has not polled this issue for over three years, but it is doubtful that the results have improved.

If the majority of likely voters (which excludes those unlikely to vote) believe neither party in Congress is the party of the American people, is it any wonder that the United States experiences such low voter turn-out? The inability to have a say in the primaries cause many unaffiliated votes to suffer "learned helplessness" resulting in too many of them dropping-out of the electoral process, yielding low turn-out in general election.

Unaffiliated voters dissatisfied with politics as usual in New Jersey and wish to influence change within one party more than the other should seriously consider joining one of the political parties for election day and voting for the change they desire. This is the last thing either of the partisan machines wish to see happen, but may result in the needed political change necessary to bring about genuine open primaries in New Jersey.
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A seasoned financial professional, currently providing subject matter expertise on a variety of regulatory topics, including the Dodd-Frank Act, the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA) and overall compliance monitoring. He has previously held (more...)
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