It’s Time to End Closed Primaries

It’s Time to End Closed Primaries

By Andrew Cadwallader, Chauncy Wadsworth, & Hassan Ayub

Haverford College has always had a strong tradition of consensus voting. Plenary, one of our campus’s most significant events, is about adopting the policies that best support our vision for Haverford’s future, giving each and every one of us this opportunity to share our voice. Yet, the disconnect between the voting culture that exists within the “Haverbubble” and the rest of Pennsylvania couldn’t be more apparent.

In April 2024, voters across PA will participate in our primary elections, putting into practice one of America’s greatest freedoms: the right to vote. However, over one million registered voters will not vote: not for a lack of care, but because they are barred from doing so. Since 1937, our Pennsylvania Election Code has prohibited unaffiliated voters from participating in our primary elections. We believe it is time for that to change.

We serve on the leadership team of Students for Ballot PA, a chapter of the broader campaign Ballot PA. Hosted by the Committee of Seventy, a good-governance reform organization based in Philadelphia, we seek to end closed primaries across Pennsylvania. This would finally allow millions of Pennsylvanians unaffiliated with any political party to exercise their right to vote in political primaries once and for all. 

Primary elections in Pennsylvania determine approximately 90% of  ultimate outcomes. Regardless of their party status, any registered voter in PA deserves to participate in Pennsylvania’s elections. Legislation to reopen primaries would better this state’s democratic process, expanding political participation across our electorate.

As college-aged voters, we are at the center of this electoral flaw as many of our peers have a higher tendency to register as independent voters; in fact, Gallup Polling revealed that 52% of Generation Z voters identify as political independents. Moreover, across PA, urban areas and college towns see higher concentrations of independent voters. House districts with larger student populations—State College and Oakland, Pittsburgh for example—see up to 35% more independent voters than the state average. Those voices have the right to be heard in our primary elections.

Last April, a bipartisan group of Senators led by Senators Dan Laughlin and Lisa Boscola introduced SB400. Moreover, Representatives Jared Solomon and Chris Rabb introduced HB979, which was co-sponsored by 11 of their colleagues, while Representative Marla Brown introduced HB976, which was co-sponsored by 8 of her colleagues. To the benefit of the millions of unaffiliated Pennsylvanian voters, SB400, HB979, and HB976 declare that those registered as unaffiliated “shall be permitted to vote in primary elections.” These bills are crucial, and we hope to see them consolidated on Governor Shapiro’s desk by the end of this year.

Seven states across the country remain with closed primaries. Let’s be the next one to move forward![1] 


Your Haverford College Students for Ballot PA Co-Chairs, Andrew Cadwallader, Chauncy Wadsworth, and Hassan Ayub

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