Louisiana Considers Restoring “Jungle Primary”

From 1978 until 2006 Louisiana used the Jungle Primary, also known as the Nonpartisan Blanket Primary or Top Two Primary, for Congressional elections. This system is still used for state and local elections in Louisiana, but was discontinued in 2008.

On April 7th, the the Louisiana House and Governmental Affairs Committee unanimously passed HB 292. Congressional elections would be converted back to the Jungle Primary with the first round occurring in November. If no one received a majority in November, a runoff would be held in December. HB 292 was written and is being spear-headed by Rep. Hunter Greene, a Republican of Baton Rouge.

While the bill is likely harmful to third parties, it represents a major improvement over the old Jungle Primary, which did not allow third parties at all–only Republicans, Democrats, and “No Party”. Richard Winger, of Ballot Access News, said of the bill:

Top-two isn’t nearly so bad when the first round is in November. No candidate is cut out of the summer and fall campaign season.

h/t to Ballot Access News.

8 thoughts on “Louisiana Considers Restoring “Jungle Primary”

  1. Jeff Sadow

    Louisiana has never had a “top-two” blanket primary. That was a creation of Washington in 2004 and only recently implemented. The top two finishers do not (almost) automatically go to a general election in Louisiana as in Washington. Instead, a candidate receiving an absolute majority in the first election is declared the winner. See http://jeffsadow.blogspot.com/2010/04/problem-would-return-with-primary.html

    Also, it is untrue that no-party (independent) or minor party candidates could not run under the old system (which will become the system again if HB 292 makes it into law). No-party candidates always could while the reason minor party candidates could not is that the rules then created difficult burdens for a party to officially register for ballot access. Now changed to make it considerably easier, those rules had nothing to do with the rules governing elections.

  2. Jeff Vanke

    Following Winger’s comments… not only is no candidate cut out of the final months of campaigning — the big-party candidates are forced to confront the issues raised by non-big-party candidates, which is much less likely to happen if the top-two primary is held months before November.

  3. Steve

    This could even be a positive for mid-major parties. If they poll enough to deny the duopoly parties an outright majority, they could force Ds and Rs to work for the mid-major vote in the run-off.

  4. Steve Rankin

    Washington state voters approved their current “top two” system for state and congressional elections in 2004. They first used it in 2008, following a US Supreme Court ruling (the “top two” is still facing federal litigation, however).

    When I spoke with the secretary of state’s office in Olympia in 2001, they were already referring to the “top two” by that name; most of their municipalities were using it for their own elections.

    As to the comment that the “top two” is not so bad when the first round is held in November: It still makes it nearly impossible for independents and small party candidates to get elected. If there’s a runoff, it will almost always be one Democrat and one Republican, two Democrats, OR two Republicans.

    The main argument for restoring party primaries in Louisiana was that, when a member of Congress was not elected until December, he didn’t have access to the best committee assignments and office space (the 2002 runoff between Sen. Mary Landrieu (D) and the Republican Suzanne Terrell, e. g., took place on Saturday, December 7).

  5. Steve Rankin

    The system that Louisiana uses for its state and local elections– popularly called the “open primary”– is part of the residue of the old one-party (truly NO-PARTY) system, in which elections were decided in the Democratic primary, with a Democratic runoff if necessary.

    Once the Republicans began running a few candidates, Democrats usually had to run three campaigns. A Republican rarely had primary opposition, so he only had to run in the general election. The Democrats naturally resented this, and they wanted to (1) force the Republican(s) to run in the same election with the Democrats, and (2) restore the two-step election process that everyone had been accustomed to.

    Click here for more on this topic (see especially “History” and “Louisiana System.”

  6. Jeff Vanke

    Whether the open primary is in June, for example, or November, any individual party has the right to hold its own primary election or caucus prior to that (enforced by trademark rights). The Supreme Court (I think?) is pointing pretty clearly in that direction re freedom to associate.

    It may be that the duopoly parties would be less likely to have their own primaries or caucuses if the open primary were in June vs. November. But there’s no guarantee of that, so there’s no guarantee that non-duopoly parties would have a better chance in June than in November.

  7. rockford

    The statement that this bill “represents a major improvement over the old Jungle Primary, which did not allow third parties at all–only Republicans, Democrats, and “No Party”” is not accurate.

    The old pre-2008 system did allow third parties. In fact, there were candidates running with the “Libertarian” ballot label in 5 U.S. House races in Louisiana in 2006, which was the last year in which Louisiana used the jungle primary for Congressional elections.

    It WAS more difficult for a party to get recognized status (and, therefore, a ballot label for that party’s candidates) in Louisiana prior to the 2006 Congressional elections, but the law that changed that was not related to the law that switched Louisiana to a party primary system.

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