Stories from the NFCCA Newsletter, the “Northwood News”

Northwood News ♦ October 2021

Would Open Primaries Be a Good Idea for Maryland?

By Jacquie Bokow

Maryland uses “closed primaries,” which prohibit Independents from participating; we’re one of only nine states that do this.  Nearly 20 percent of Maryland voters don’t affiliate with either of the two main parties, yet our closed-primary system blocks them from participating.

In an opinion piece in The Washington Post in September, Baltimore business owner Drew Greenblatt proposed “nonpartisan primaries” — where all voters get a say in who represents them — as the solution to reforming our election system.  Under this system, “no longer are politicians’ performance reviews being done by voters who already agree with them, but by all voters.”

As reported in Maryland Matters in September, Christopher Warshaw, an assistant professor of political science at George Washington University who lives in Montgomery County, says our area’s general elections aren’t competitive.  He wrote in an Abell Foundation report in June that a nonpartisan Primary, in which all candidates run on the same ballot regardless of their party, might make General Elections more competitive.  Only the two most popular candidates, regardless of their party, would move on to the General Election, which would completely shift the competition from the Primary to the General Election.

If it’s true in our heavily Democratic County as it is nationwide, that just 10 percent of voters cast ballots in Primary Elections, those few voters are essentially deciding the winners.

Another possible change is using “ranked-choice voting,” something that was adopted by Takoma Park several years ago for nonpartisan municipal elections.  This allows voters to rank their candidates by preference instead of just voting for one individual.  New York City adopted that system last year.   ■

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