Friday, September 18, 2015

Time For Non-Partisan Primaries In South Dakota? Makes Sense To Me.

     The growth of Independents and others unaffiliated with the two major parties in South
Drey Samuelson
I Think He's On To Something
(photo from
Dakota is a fact that is probably self-explanatory.
Since 2006 their numbers have grown from around 14% of total registrations to around 21%, which is a pretty stark statement about the growing disenchantment among South Dakota voters (consistent with national trendswith our 2-party system as it's evolved in the past decade.  I know out here in the western section of the state, many of us "west river" voters, like me, probably reflexively register as Republicans because in this GOP-dominated region, primaries are effectively the general election.  Whoever bears the big "R" in the general is so likely to win that the real chase is among Pubs.  

     Meantime, some talented and potentially effective Dems get lost in the Republican shuffle. I'm tired of that.  I'd love to see a primary system that does away with party affiliations and just gets some politically unaffiliated candidates into the primaries who can run on the basis of who they are as individuals, not who they are as surrogates for party machines.  This is why I'm so supportive of my good friend Drey Samuelson's efforts to create just such a scheme.  Drey was retired Senator Tim Johnson's (D-SD) Chief of Staff.  He has teamed with well-known Democrat Rick Weiland to bring to life an initiative that would change South Dakota's Constitution-bound primary election system from one that is party-differentiated to one that is party-blind.  
The Rise Of Independents
Not Just An SD Thing
(graphic from

     This is a system consistent with the way things are done in Nebraska.  It's also a set-up used in municipal elections that's common to 20 out of the 30 largest cities in the United States. The method recognizes that competent delivery of government services isn't a function of party affiliation. And when it comes to deliberation over policy, I think lawmakers freed of partisan commitments can make decisions based on criteria that have little or nothing to do with the whims and desires of their party bosses. Can you imagine a government based on sound, rational principles of good government and fiscal policies--not on pandering to party and special-interest dictates?  I can.  Uphill battle that it may be, this initiative, still in the signature-gathering process, provides something to ponder for those who are restless about politics as usual in South Dakota--along with a chance to do something about it.

1 comment:

  1. While this is an improvement over the current system, I'm skeptical of the 'no labels' approach. It's natural for candidates and their supporters to organize and develop a belief system - there's no fighting against that (nor is that even desirable). I'd advocate instead for a system that facilitates greater diversity of ideological camps and parties, so various 'Independents' could finally have representation. That would only happen by dropping single-member-districts/plurality voting in favor of multi-member-districts/proportional voting.