Tue August 14, 2012
Primary Voters Must Choose One Party
Wisconsin voters have to choose one party in Tuesday’s primary.
Here’s just one scenario, a voter cannot vote in the Republican U.S. Senate primary and in the Democratic Congressional race. If they do, the polling place scanner will spit the ballot back out. The voter then has three tries to get it right.
Government Accountability Board spokesman Reid Magney says under state law, voters must choose candidates of one party, “The primary is held for the benefit of the party to choose its nominee. If you’re an independent voter, you can choose either one of those, but you have to choose one.”
If a voter chooses the party preference on the ballot, that party choice will override all votes. For example, if a voter selects the “Republican” party preference, but then votes for a Democratic candidate, the Democratic vote will be ignored.
Wisconsin has an open primary system, meaning Democrats can vote for Republicans and vice versa. UW-Milwaukee political science professor Kathleen Dolan says that system comes from the early 20th century Progressive movement, which has its roots in Wisconsin. Back then, parties controlled the primaries. She says, “The Progressives were really one of the first purveyors of the idea that people should vote for the person, not the party. So it is culturally and politically a piece of the Wisconsin political tradition.”
Dolan adds the open primary system increases the number of people who can participate, but parties have less control of a race’s outcome.