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Primaries should stay closed

Primaries should stay closed

People enrolled in political parties, not outsiders, should determine a party's candidates.

Among the legitimate calls for election reform are some illegitimate reforms, like the latest movement to open up New York's political primaries to all voters, regardless of political affiliation.

It might seem undemocratic to exclude a large population of voters from an election in which the top candidates for president are determined. But when you think about it, it’s really not.

In New York, there are about 5.8 million enrolled Democrats and 2.7 million enrolled Republicans out of 11.7 million total enrolled voters. That leaves 3.2 million registered voters in New York who are either enrolled in smaller political parties or not enrolled in any party at all out of the loop when it comes to selecting one of the two major-party presidential candidates.

That’s a lot of people. And while the situation is unfortunate, it's not undemocratic. And it's not wrong.

Each political party represents its own particular philosophy for governing. It has its own positions on issues. It has its own collective understanding of what needs to be done to move the country forward.

As with any political, social or family organization, there are bound to be disagreements within the body over the approach taken and the individuals best suited to represent that organization. That's why they have political primaries in the first place, to let the members vote on the party's philosophies, positions and direction.

Allowing outsiders to meddle in that decision-making would be akin to allowing members of the NRA to set the policies and elect the leadership of anti-gun groups. Or having someone from another religion come into your place of worship and have a say in what your church represents.

The individual political parties are not of like minds, and outsiders' participation in their activities would contaminate and dilute the opinions of those who believe in their fundamental principles.

When this newspaper endorsed candidates in the presidential primaries earlier this month, a key directive of the editorial board's discussion was to consider the candidate who would best represent the particular party in the general election. It wasn't to select the best candidate for the entire country. That comes later, when everyone gets to vote.

There are aspects of the primary process that do need to be reformed, particularly the enrollment deadlines, which are absurdly early. Many people who wanted to have a say in picking the presidential candidates didn't even realize the deadlines had passed until it was far too late.

These deadlines, which are set by state election law, unduly prevent a party's voters from participating in the candidate selection process, and that is undemocratic.

So if you want to vote in the Republican Party primary, register to vote as a Republican. If you want to vote in the Democratic Party primary, register to vote as a Democrat. It's your choice.

But if you want to enroll in a separate political party or none at all, then you've got no business determining another party's candidates.

You wouldn't want them doing it to you. Why, then, should it be OK for you to do it to them?

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