The Public Ballot: A Republican alternative to real election reform.

Recently, there’s been an uptick of support at the Independent Voter Network (IVN) for an election reform proposal called “The Public Ballot”. Basically, the existing Democrat and Republican primaries are not altered, but a third major party primary for Independent and minor party candidates is added.

This idea was first introduced in California by two Republican assembly members as ACR 145 – 2016. A very similar proposal called “The Peoples Primary” was introduced in the Oregon legislature by Republicans in 2017 as HB-3140. Both proposals died quickly in legislative committees.

These proposals look a lot like the hybrid primary, and the posts at IVN use a lot of the same rhetoric and language that’s used to argue for the hybrid primary. Both proposals use three different ballots, and the posts at IVN even use a diagram showing the three ballots side-by-side, just like the posts here. So let’s compare the diagrams to see how the proposals match up.

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Is it true? Can Independents vote in presidential primaries?—Nope!

A few months before each primary election, in states that conduct closed primaries, articles begin to appear claiming that independents can vote in the upcoming major party primaries. Voters only need to submit a form requesting a partisan ballot, or in some cases, simply choose a partisan ballot on election day. These are often claimed to be “hybrid”, “semi-open” or “semi-closed” primaries. In one case, the author actually claims the primary is “open”. The posts excerpted below are great examples:

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The “hybrid” primary – no voter should ever receive a blank primary ballot.

A hybrid primary is a Top-Four primary. Unlike a simple Top-Four, a hybrid primary used a two stage vote tally to incorporate the closed major party primaries. This is a special type of “Ranked Choice” ballot. Registered major party members indicate their first choice on the ballot, but their second choice is always the top party candidate.

The best way to explain how this all works is by examining the ballots that voters may choose to use. Shown below are “mock” ballots for the 2016 U.S. Presidential Primary. These are representations of actual ballots received by Oregon voters in May of 2016. (Note: Oregon had 3 major parties in 2016, but the third party had no presidential candidate.)

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