Typically third parties select their endorsed candidates for public office via conventions of their members. Normally party members seeking office make presentations during the convention to familiarize the members with their qualifications and campaign objectives. Following the presentations the members in attendance vote to endorse or reject each candidate if only one has applied for an office. If more than one candidate is applying for an office endorsement the members vote to select a winner. Excluding non-third party members from voting is justified since the convention is conducted at the party's expense and preserves the 1st amendment right of association.
Partisan Closed Primaries
The purpose of a partisan primary is for members of political parties to nominate candidates for the general election and elect party officers. Given the state's interest in protecting the associational rights of party members and in preserving the integrity of the electoral process, the state may legitimately allow political parties to close their primaries to nonmembers. However, for public funded primaries it is unjust to exclude registered independent voters from participating in all political party candidate nominations.
Partisan Open Primaries
The Courts have held that open partisan primaries violate a political party’s first amendment right of association. However, there are states that don't require declaring a party affiliation when a resident registers to vote. These states typically allow any registered voter to participate in a Democrat or Republican party primary but not both.
Non-Partisan Open Primaries
In a non-partisan open primary candidates from any party are on the same ballot for all voters to select. Parties may choose to limit endorsed candidates via convention or some other method prior to the primary. The Supreme Court has stated that under such a system, a State may ensure more choice, greater participation, increased privacy and sense of fairness – all without severely burdening a political party’s 1st Amendment right of association.
Top Two Non-Partisan Open Primaries
California and Washington have implemented top two non-partisan open primaries. The two candidates for any office that receive the most votes advance to the general election. One advantage of this primary type is it ensures that the candidate that wins the general election will receive a majority of the total votes cast. One significant disadvantage in a solid red or solid blue state - like California - is that frequently both candidates for an office in the general election are from the same party.
Top Four Non-Partisan Open Primaries
Alaska has passed legislation to implement top four non-partisan open primaries. One advantage of this primary type is it ensures a more diverse choice of candidates for an office in the general election. One disadvantage is for a plurality vote general election there is no guarantee that the winner will receive a majority of the total votes cast. Another disadvantage is in a swing state there may only be two Democrat and two Republican candidates for an office who advance to the general election. The following video explains some disadvantages of plurality voting and the advantages of ranked choice voting coupled with top four non-partisan open primaries.
Top Five Non-Partisan Open Primaries
To date no state has passed legislation to implement top five non-partisan open primaries. The main advantage of top five non-partisan open primaries compared to top four is that even in a swing state there is a high probability that at least one of the five candidates for an office who advance to the general election will be a third party or independent candidate. The following video explains the benefits of top five non-partisan open primaries and how they compliment ranked choice voting.
Runoff elections are second elections held to determine a winner when no candidate in the first election meets the required threshold for victory. Runoff elections can be held for both primary and general elections.
Primary Election Runoff Elections
The following states conduct runoff elections when no candidate receives a majority of the total votes cast for an office in the primary election:
Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Mississippi, *North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, *South Dakota, Texas and *Vermont.
* North Carolina: 30%; South Dakota: congressional & gubernatorial only; Vermont: ties only
General Election Runoff Elections
Georgia and Louisiana conduct runoff elections when no candidate receives a majority of the total votes cast for an office in the general election.
The general election is conducted statewide and is not limited to voters in a particular party or a specific locality. General elections are conducted on the first Tuesday after the first Monday of November in even-numbered years. The general election for the President is conducted quadrennially on the first Tuesday after the first Monday of November. Many states elect their Governor in non-presidential general elections which increases voter participation.
Special elections are conducted when an office becomes vacant when the official resigns, dies or is removed from office.