This past Tuesday was Election Day for the primaries in Pennsylvania. Since this is the off-year, meaning that it is not a presidential election year, the ballot was primarily (pun intended) filled with federal and state Senate and House candidates, in addition to more local positions. But before delving into the election results, one should understand how primaries work.
Primaries are the precursor to the general election, used to narrow down the ballot to a select few candidates. Often one candidate is chosen per party based on the primaries, but it depends on the state’s laws pertaining to the primaries. See, there are six main types of primaries that states adopt to carry out their primaries. Each has its pros and cons, but all states can choose for themselves which option they like better, which applies to presidential, federal, and local elections.
Closed primaries work where voters must be registered in a political party in order to vote. This means that both independent and unaffiliated voters are excluded from the primaries and can only vote in general elections. This approach is arguably advantageous because it strengthens and promotes party unity: it restricts the decision of representation of that party to committed members only, leaving no room for outside outliers. However, some worry that voters would register for other parties so that their opposing party would have a weaker candidate, making their preferred candidate stronger (this is called raiding). However, raiding isn’t very common. States that have closed primaries include Delaware, Florida, Kentucky, Maryland, Nevada, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, and Pennsylvania.
Partially Closed Primaries
Partially closed primaries are similar to closed primaries, except for one main difference. Here, parties get to choose before every primary whether they want to allow unaffiliated and/or independent voters to participate in their primaries. This creates some confusion among voters because they never know what the policy is going to be for each party, but it does allow for parties to have more flexibility in determining their voter inclusivity. States that use this system include Connecticut, Idaho, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Dakota, and Utah.
Partially Open Primaries
Partially open primaries permit voters to cross party lines, either voting republican or democrat depending on that specific election. However, they must declare their ballot choice (either democrat or republican) before they vote. Basically, voters can switch back and forth every election, but during that specific election, they must declare their party affiliation before voting. This allows more freedom on the voting side but also shows some cohesiveness like in closed primaries. States that do this are Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Ohio, Tennessee, and Wyoming.
Open to Unaffiliated Votes Primaries
Primaries open to unaffiliated voters are just that. Basically, only unregistered voters can vote in either primary, but people who have registered already can only vote for their own party. This is especially advantageous for independent voters but does kind of discourage registration with a specific party, which can detriment parties. States that have adopted this way include Arizona, Colorado, Kansas, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Rhode Island, and West Virginia.
Open primaries don’t require party registration at all for anyone. Anyone can vote for whatever primary they want, regardless of whether they have affiliated with a certain party or not. This means that there is less party unity in the nomination, but gives voters the maximum amount of flexibility in voting, and privacy in their choice (because they don’t have to declare their party affiliation). Mostly, this is a big proponent of cross-over voting. States that implement this process include Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Hawaii, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, North Dakota, South Carolina, Texas, Vermont, Virginia, and Wisconsin.
Top-two primaries do away with party nomination completely. The way they work is that all candidates are on the same primary ballot (usually with their party affiliation next to their name). The top two candidates with the most vote percentage advance to the general election. This increases the likelihood of moderate candidates winning, but does reduce voter choice by making it possible for two people of the same party to end up in the general election against each other with no representation of the other party at all. The two states that use this system are California and Washington, but Alaska has something similar with its top-four primaries. In addition, Louisiana has no primary at all, just a follow-up election as needed, and Nebraska has a similar ballot without any party designation at all.
As shown, all of them have pros and cons. Which is better? Should America choose one system to consistently use? Is it fair to let each state choose a different way, or is it more freeing? These methods have definitely changed between states overtimes. At the moment, Pennsylvania has a closed primary system, but they’re definitely has been a push to move toward open primaries.
Anyway, now on to the results for the federal PA primaries!
US Senate: John Fetterman (D)
*Republican race is still too close to call and appears to be moving toward a “recount.”
US House (Districts 1-5): Ehasz (D,1), Fitzpatrick (R,1), Boyle (D,2), Bashir (R,2), Evens (D,3), Dean (D,4), Nascimento (R,4), Scanlon (D,5), Galuch (R,5)
Governor: Josh Shapiro (D), Doug Mastriano (R)
Lieutenant Governor: Austin Davis (D), Carrie DelRosso (R)