In an article we published yesterday, I explained why I support a resolution being considered by the North Dakota Republican Party that calls for the legislature to make changes in the way political parties can nominate their candidates for the general election. In short, if the changes became a reality, political parties could choose whether or not to nominate their candidates via the June primary. If you read the article, you’ll notice I was very careful in how I explained the proposal:
“I want to be very clear that if the legislation being called for ultimately matches what the resolution intends, then it does not necessarily mean all nominees would be determined by the convention process. As mentioned in the NDGOP Grassroots Empowerment Initiative, the ‘governing bodies of the respective parties [would] have the choice to employ or eschew this option.’ One district’s governing body may choose a convention, some a caucus, and others the primary. In fact, a governing body could choose to maintain the current practice of endorsing candidates and allowing the primary to ultimately determine the nominees. The key here is that it would be up to the party’s discretion going forward, not the state’s.” (Emphasis Added)
It’s very important that North Dakotans understand the proposal. Failure to do so may lead some to believe that its passage would automatically eliminate the June primary altogether— and that just isn’t true. Unfortunately, it appears some folks don’t quite understand the resolution. An example of this is found over on Rob Port’s Say Anything Blog. Port published an article tonight on the subject and there’s at least two examples of paragraphs in which it isn’t entirely accurate.
“Last week I wrote about proposed legislation, being considered for endorsement by the North Dakota Republican Party, which if passed would end North Dakota’s open primary system.” (Emphasis Added)
“If the Legislature does away with the June primary vote, I hope the political parties maintain a statewide vote to choose their candidates.” (Emphasis Added)
A third example of similar verbiage can be found in the article Port wrote on the subject last week.
“If North Dakota does away with the June primary vote, I would hope Republicans (and the other political parties) would continue to do some sort of a statewide balloting to ensure the candidates they choose are representative of all Republicans and not just those who show up to state conventions.” (Emphasis Added)
I encourage you to read Port’s articles in their entirety to see what you think. But I’m not alone in my concern that readers of these articles on Say Anything Blog will leave with the impression that “North Dakota’s open primary system” is entirely on the chopping block. And that’s simply not the case. This is clearly explained in the resolution itself:
“The changes, in effect, would allow District or State Party organizations to issue certificates of nomination for candidates independently endorsed in compliance with NDCC and the rules of the governing body conducting the endorsing exercise and to bypass the Primary Election IF THEY SO CHOOSE moving directly to the General Election ballot.” (Emphasis Added)
So, if passed, would June primaries cease to exist? No.
Is it possible that some voters won’t see candidates from certain parties on a June primary ballot in their districts? Yes. For example, District A’s Republicans might choose to select their nominees for the State Legislature via a convention— therefore bypassing the June Primary. Yet, District B’s Republicans might choose to continue selecting their nominees for the State Legislature through the June primary. The key is that the discretion would be left to the governing bodies of the parties involved. This is only proper when we consider the fact that they are private organizations.
Please understand, I mean no disrespect to Say Anything Blog or Rob Port. But I think it’s important that people understand the proposal being made. We’re best equipped to have a debate on the issue at hand when people understand what is being proposed.