In the United States, elections are conducted as a two stage process. In the primary election, voters (collectively) choose two or more top candidates who will advance to the general election. The word “election” is something of a misnomer in that no candidate is actually elected. The primary is a formal “poll”. In the general election, voters (collectively) choose a single candidate – who is elected.
Over the years, the two major parties have colluded to corrupt this process. Both federal and state courts have declared that major party primaries are “private” political functions. As such, all unaffiliated voters and candidates may be legally “excluded”. The result is that the general election has devolved into a runoff between the two major party candidates, and these candidates represent only the affiliated party voters who are allowed to participate in the closed primaries.
Minor party and Independent candidates are allowed on the general election ballot, but are so disadvantaged, they make an impact only as “spoiler” candidates. Minor party candidates are even excluded from the public debates in the run-up to the general election. Independent candidates rarely qualify for the general election ballot at all.
The constitution provides for elections every two years so that voters may replace public officials and their associated organizations – if they fail to represent the people who elected them. Under the current corrupted election process, individual office holders may be replaced, but there’s no possibility of either major party being challenged by a new political organization with alternative priorities and solutions.
Exclusion is and always has been a violation of the constitutional right to freedom of association. However, in the past, the issue of exclusion was largely ignored because the vast majority of voters and candidates chose to affiliate with a major party. In recent years however, the situation has changed dramatically.
In Oregon, according to official voter registration reports published by the Office of Secretary of State, there were nearly 2.8 million registered voters as of March 2019. Of these: 35.1% were registered as Democrats; 25.4% were registered as Republican; leaving nearly 40% registered as not affiliated with either major party – 1.1 million voters. There are more unaffiliated voters than democrats. There are many more unaffiliated voters than Republicans. But Democrats and Republicans are allowed to vote in the primary, and unaffiliated voters are not.
A two stage election process consisting of a primary poll and general election is a sound plan and should be continued. But – all voters and candidates must be allowed to participate in the primary election. Otherwise, the general election is a sham.