The Hybrid Primary Home

Ending voter and candidate exclusion.

The Hybrid Primary: Combining party primaries with a Top-Four.

Posted by on April 5, 2019


In March of 2020, there were 3.6 million voters registered as unaffiliated in Florida. At the same time there were over 5 million voters registered as “No Party Preference” in California. All of these voters, and millions more nationwide, received a blank primary ballot for U.S. President in 2020.

By law, Independent voters may not participate in choosing the top presidential candidates for the general election ballot. For decades, both federal and state courts have ruled repeatedly, that closed primaries are “private” political party functions. As such, all voters and candidates, not affiliated with the political party, may be legally “excluded”.

In a traditional closed primary state, voters must declare their party affiliation at the time of registration. More recently, many states have adopted “Relaxed Registration Requirements” (3R). In a 3R closed primary state, Independent voters are given additional opportunities to declare their party affiliation by simply requesting a major party ballot.

In “semi-open” and “semi-closed” states, Independent voters must typically submit a form requesting a major party ballot prior to the election. In the “open” variant, sometimes called “same-day-registration”, Independent voters may declare their party affiliation by simply choosing a major party ballot on election day. The terms “semi-open”, “semi-closed” and “open” are used by partisan operatives to dupe Independent voters into believing the primary is not closed. (Propaganda). These terms are almost always used in conjunction with a false claim that “Independents can vote in the primary.”

In 2004, Washington State became the first state to adopt a Top-Two primary for all State and Federal offices except U.S. President. California followed suit in 2010. Unlike a closed primary, a Top-Two is an “open” qualifying election. All voters and candidates are allowed to participate, and only the top candidates advance to the general election.

In November of 2020, voters in Alaska approved a “Top-Four with Ranked Choice” ballot measure. This is similar to the Top-Two except four candidates are advanced from the primary. Ranked choice is then used to avoid vote splitting in the general election. With a Top-Four, the general election cannot devolve into a choice between the lesser of two evils.

The Hybrid Primary Election

Technically, the “Hybrid” primary is neither a private closed primary nor a public qualifying election. A hybrid primary uses a two-stage vote tally to combine the existing closed nominating primaries with a public Top-Four qualifying election. This eliminates the possibility of “vote-splitting” by major party candidates in the primary. (There were 13 candidates for president on the Florida ballot in 2016. There were at least 20 Democrats running for president in 2020.)

Election Reform Alternatives

With a Hybrid primary, major parties retain the ability to consolidate their base of support behind a single candidate for each office, while Independent and Minor Party voters secure the right to participate in selecting the top candidates for the general election ballot. Along the way, Minor Party and Independent candidates secure the right to equal ballot access. All of this without any additional cost to the taxpayer.

Additional Reading Available

The hybrid primary is a “new thing”. It was first proposed in late 2016, and has not been implemented in any state (as of 2019). For a more detailed overview, read the post: “The “Hybrid Primary” – no voter should ever receive a blank primary ballot.”

Alternative Hybrid Primary Ballots

If you want to get actively involved and participate in a real election reform campaign, read the post: “Is it true? Can Independents vote in presidential primaries?—Nope!

Finally, visit the “posts” page on this site for the most recent significant advances in U.S. election reform. “Top-Four with Ranked-Choice: Did Democrats make the difference in Alaska 2020?” is an analysis of the 2020 general election.