The Hybrid Primary: Combining closed primaries with a Top-Four.

In March of 2020, there were 3.6 million voters registered as unaffiliated in Florida. At the same time there were over 5 million voters registered as “No Party Preference” in California. Nearly all of these voters, and millions more nationwide, received a blank primary ballot for U.S. President in 2020.

Cartoon of a female poll-worker asking "Which ballot would you like? Democrat? Republican? Independent ...Or I don't give a damn?"

By law, Independent voters may not participate in closed primary elections. For decades, both the federal and state courts have ruled repeatedly, that closed primaries are “private” political party functions. As such, all voters and candidates, not affiliated with the political party, may be legally “excluded”.

In 2004, Washington State became the first state to adopt a Top-Two primary for all State and Federal offices except U.S. President. California followed suit in 2010. Unlike a closed nominating primary, a Top-Two is an “open” qualifying election. All voters and candidates are allowed to participate, and only the top candidates advance to the general election.

The Top-Two primary is a “free” election, but it isn’t a “fair” election – it doesn’t guarantee the top candidates will win. Both major parties consistently field more than one candidate for each office and these candidates will often “split” the party voters. A strong candidate may fail to advance to the general election simply because there is another candidate with similar views on the same ballot. (There were 13 Republican candidates for U.S. President on the Florida ballot in 2016. There were at least 20 Democrats running for president in 2020.)

In addition, the Top-Two primary is fatally flawed in that third party and Independent candidates rarely advance to the general election. In California, for statewide office, even Republicans have difficulty advancing. The general election is often a runoff between two Democrats. Even Independent voters find this situation unacceptable.

In November of 2020, voters in Alaska approved a “Top-Four with Ranked Choice” ballot measure. This is similar to the Top-Two except four candidates are advanced from the primary. Ranked choice is then used to avoid vote splitting in the general election. Unlike the Top-Two, with four candidates on the ballot, the general election cannot devolve into a choice between the lesser of two evils. Vote splitting by major party candidates in the primary election however, is not resolved.

The Hybrid Primary Election

Technically, a “Hybrid” primary is neither a private closed primary nor a public qualifying election. A hybrid primary combines an existing closed partisan nominating process with a public Top-Four qualifying election. This eliminates the possibility of “vote-splitting” by major party candidates in the primary.

Election Reform Alternatives

With a Hybrid primary, major parties retain the ability to consolidate their base of support behind a single candidate for each office, while Independent and Minor Party voters secure the right to participate in selecting the top candidates for the general election ballot. Along the way, Minor Party and Independent candidates secure the right to equal ballot access. All of this without any additional cost to the taxpayer.

Additional Reading Available

The hybrid primary is a “new thing”. The first version was proposed in late 2016, and has not been implemented in any state (as of 2020). This initial version utilized a two stage vote tally in a single election. It works perfectly fine for state and local races – but simply cannot be used for the U.S. Presidential primary. (The Holy Grail of election reform.) For a more detailed overview, read the post: “The “Hybrid Primary” – no voter should ever receive a blank primary ballot.”

Alternative Hybrid Primary Ballots

A second, much improved version, was developed specifically for the U.S. Presidential election. This second version, introduced in early 2021, combines a “Virtual Caucus” conducted from January thru June and a “Top-Four” qualifying primary in September. For a detailed description, read the post “An early “Virtual Caucus” followed by a late “Top-Four” primary – a realistic alternative for the U.S. Presidential election?

The “Virtual Caucus” actually turned out to be a six-month-long “Tracking Poll.” There is now a website devoted specifically to Top-Five Tracking polls called Watch the intro video below and visit the YouTube channel for more information on the 2024 nationwide ballot measure campaign to overall the U.S. Presidential race.

Finally, for an in depth overview of election reform in the United States and the plan moving forward, read the post “Anti-Propaganda 2040: A twenty-year plan for free presidential elections.” This post is necessarily long, but it’s the only comprehensive discussion of election reform publicly available anywhere.