Viewpoint: Open primaries overdue

July 1, 1993

Viewpoint: Open primaries overdue

By Joe Baker

Open primaries overdue

By Joe Baker

Senior Editor

Moline Democrat Rep. Mike Boland has revived a pet proposal. He wants Illinois to adopt an open primary system.

Boland says this would allow voters to participate in the election process without declaring any affiliation with a political party.

Boland, chairman of the House Committee on Election and Campaign Reform, believes an open system would increase voter participation.

The idea is a good one. The present system benefits no one except the politicians. So far as the act of voting is concerned, why is it necessary to know if the person casting the ballot is of this party or that or an independent?

“This bill will safeguard people’s privacy if they choose to vote in primaries for governor, other statewide officials, Congress, state legislators, and some county officials,” Boland said. “Under the current system, many voters choose not to take part in primary elections because they don’t want to declare a political party,” he added.

This system would not apply in presidential primaries. Rules of the National Political Party Committee require party declarations for selection of delegates to the national party conventions.

Boland said his proposal would save money for the taxpayers because county clerks would be able to use generic voting booths instead of providing a certain number of booths for each party. These generic booths also would shorten waiting lines in some areas.

The Moline legislator noted the turnout in all elections is dropping, and the decline is especially strong in primaries. “This bill should increase voter participation in the off-year primary elections when turnout is often half that of presidential primaries,” Boland said.

“Those states that have open primaries, such as Wisconsin, California, Washington, and Louisiana all have higher rates of participation than Illinois. Whatever we can do to stir interest again in the electoral process is worth a try,” he said.

Unfortunately, the chances of this bill passing the legislature and being signed into law are rather remote. Boland co-sponsored a similar bill in 1999. It cleared committee but never became law.

The good ol’ boys don’t want the system changed. It allows them to keep a handle on who their party members are. The present primary method is not the only reason turnouts are low.

Many voters feel their vote counts for little or nothing. They suspect there is manipulation, though they may not know how or when it happens or who is behind it.

Evidence is abundant that computerized voting machines are being used to rig elections across the country. The ability to prove it is fading because the newer machines leave no audit trail. All there is in the machines are the totals.

Beyond that, the public is shut out of the counting of the ballots. No one is allowed to see the process. Public elections are counted by a few private companies answerable to no one. National tabulations are done by the highly secretive Voter News Service, which is owned by the corporate-controlled national media.

Much of the public senses that we are not dealing with honest elections. Until the method is changed, public apathy no doubt will continue.

The public must demand to be part of the tabulation process. That is the only way we will know that a true and correct count takes place. It also should be posted for all to see. That includes the national election, too.

If Canada can count millions of paper ballots in just a few hours’ time without errors or challenges, we should be able to do the same.

What we have now is just a way to keep the same people in office and perpetuate the corruption that exists.

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