PDHblog This is a place for members of Progressive Democrats of Hawai‘i to express their thoughts, hopes and exasperations about political happenings.

December 12, 2007

closed primaries

Filed under: HI Politics — frosty @ 4:18 pm

i know this is a hot issue and has the potential to split the party, if it hasn’t already. there is a disclaimer, of sorts, at the very beginning of the blog, but given the nature of this particular topic, i feel the need to reiterate. the statements i make here are mine and mine alone. i do not, in any way, shape, or form speak for the progressive democrats of hawaii as an organization. officially, PDH has no position on this issue.

that being said, as a liberal and an active member of the democratic party of hawaii, i am a staunch supporter of closed primaries.

the internal party debate, so to speak, became public in the headline story of today’s honolulu advertiser. from where i sit, the divide lies between two groups: the elected officials, party leadership, and those who are afraid of how it will look, who are against the suit, and the those who believe that the members of the party should be the sole deciders of who represents the party in general elections.

the arguments against the suit fall along the lines of, “people shouldn’t have to sign a party card in order to vote,” or “voter turn out and/or party membership may drop,” or “the party won’t be able to raise money,” or even “it will play out badly in the press.” in my opinion, they’re all just plain silly.

my understanding is that hawaii used to have closed primaries, but this was changed in an effort to increase voter participation and turnout in elections. it is also my understanding that voting statistics have not borne this out. hawaii has some of the lowest voting figures in the nation.

the democratic party of hawaii is an organization in which membership is required for participation. if someone wants to run for office as a democrat, they have to sign a party card. if you want a say in the party platform and want to attend the bi-annual state party convention, you have to sign a party card. party members determine the direction of the party, the party platform, and in most states who gets to represent the party in the general election.

the party officials don’t want to close the primary because the current system works out in their favor, not in the favor of the party and it’s members; the party is beholden to the elected officials, not the other way around. i can’t possibly be the only one that is bothered by this fact.

as for people who think they should get a choice in primary elections without having to join a party, i say tough. you want a say in who gets to run in the general election? sign a party card. you think the party has been hijacked by left-wing nut jobs? join the party and get involved. i’ll admit, people who pay attention to what’s going on only during election years make me crazy.

why should someone who doesn’t care enough about the party to join get any kind of say in how the party functions, what it’s platform is, or what candidates represent the party in elections?

i fully support the lawsuit and will do whatever is in my power to do, to see that the party OF WHICH I AM A MEMBER gets to determine its own course.


  1. […] Kudos to Derrick DePledge for this Advertiser story about a intra-party split among Hawaii Democrats regarding a resolution passed at last years convention calling for a lawsuit to seek closed primary elections. A blog post at the Progressive Democrats of Hawaii blog is probably a fair barometer of those in favor of the lawsuit going forward, even though the post is carefully couched in “one person’s opinion only” language. A vote to rescind party authorization for the lawsuit narrowly failed amid procedural confusion at a state central committee meeting last month in Kona. Another vote is possible at a state central committee meeting in January on O’ahu. […]

    Pingback by Poinography! » The ultimate irrelevancy of party affiliation on naked display — December 12, 2007 @ 7:34 pm

  2. Thanks for your summary Frosty!
    I would just like to add one point… I believe that with a “closed primary” you don’t actually have to sign a party card, per se. You just must indicate which party, if any, you identify yourself with when you register to vote.

    Comment by rachel — December 13, 2007 @ 1:20 pm

  3. anyone wishing a list of the germane legal authorities discussing the law having to do with primaries send me an email requesting it. stevelaudig@gmail.com. I’m traveling so it may take a few days to do it.

    In my opinion there’s little doubt the current hawaii system fails under the US constitution. Whether it is wise to have public participation primaries to select a party’s candidates is a separate issue from whether the entire electorate [including republicans, libertarians, “independents”] should be able to secretly participate in selecting a political party’s candidate. Designating or labelling the present system “open” as if that is a “good” thing flaws the debate. The present system is “open” in the sense that it is “open” to unscrupulous and secret manipulation, rigging and gaming by non-Democrats.

    If the party leadership is unwilling to follow the party’s instructions they should resign. The “leadership” is a combination of unprincipled, and strategically and tactically wrong, again, on this point. They need to read the constitution they took an oath to uphold.

    Comment by steve laudig — December 14, 2007 @ 3:48 am

  4. […] see my post on this issue here. « dems fall on their faces…. again! « […]

    Pingback by The People’s Dialectic » closed primaries in hawaii — December 15, 2007 @ 6:47 pm

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