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Column: Time to end taxpayer-funded primaries

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With the May primary being about a month away, a few things popped on my radar screen to make me think that it’s probably time for Indiana to change the way it conducts primaries.

I reached this conclusion after doing a story about the actual number of contested primaries in Indiana. It was interesting to see how many races there were in both the Democratic and Republican primaries with only one person on the ballot.

For example, only 15 percent of the 100 races in the Indiana House of Representatives were contested.

What is the point of a primary? It’s for political parties to pick a candidate to present to the voters to win in a general election.

So, if the point of a primary is for Democrats and Republicans to pick their candidates, why should the general public pick up the tab? I can see if we were doing an open primary, but we aren’t.

Indiana’s primaries are closed, which means only “declared” Republicans and Democrats are supposed to vote in them.

As any county clerk will tell you, running an election is complicated. You need election judges, inspectors, poll workers for each precinct. You have to find space. Ballots have to be printed. That seems like a lot of work so 11-12 percent of registered voters can choose a candidate.

So instead of a political primary, why not do county conventions? They would operate just like state and national conventions where the parties and their delegates would select a candidate to present to the voters.

We already do this Indiana with the secretary of state’s office, treasurer, auditor and attorney general. The Democrats, Republicans and Libertarians have conventions in which they nominate candidates and then present them to voters for approval in November.

Now one of the criticisms of eliminating the primary system is that the party bosses and insiders will pick the candidate and the better choice may not necessarily be the one who is picked by the voters. That is a risk that you take.

As long as primaries remained closed and voters have few choices, then there’s no reason taxpayers should open their wallets and foot the bill to do for political parties what they should be doing for themselves.

Abdul Hakim-Shabazz is an attorney and the editor and publisher of He is also a frequent contributor to numerous Indiana media outlets. He can be reached at

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