Open primary would have helped Dodson

Preserving one’s political independence comes at a heavy price in Pennsylvania, where the closed primary system effectively disenfranchises registered independents and third-party voters.

About 10 percent of the electorate was automatically excluded from the Hollidaysburg’s mayoral primary, in which Joe Dodson – a very feisty fellow and a people’s mayor if there ever was one – was defeated by two votes by a well-healed candidate with extensive personal interests in real estate and insurance.

Independents weren’t even allowed on the voting premises.

Another 35 percent – those registered as Democrats – were given a token vote in the judicial elections but were given no say at all in who would be mayor of their own community, simply because they ticked the wrong box when they registered to vote.

In such a heavily Republican town, the primary is the real election. Excluding local voters based on party affiliation is an affront to democracy.

The closed primary system subverts the intent of the state constitution, which prohibits disenfranchising citizens and does not sanction partisan control over the conduct of elections.

I don’t question mayor-presumptive John Stultz’s integrity, and he obviously had the sincere support of a lot of Hollidaysburg voters.

But there’s little doubt that Dodson, who had overwhelming support in the working-class and moderate income sections of town, would have won easily in an open primary or a non-partisan election.

The closed primary system not only discourages participation, it also makes it much easier to purchase an elective office. It’s a principal reason why both the Democrats and the Republicans keep churning out congressional and general assembly candidates that are entirely beholden to either corporate or union interests, leaving the rest of us voiceless.

With the unions now in seemingly terminal decline, it’s little surprise that Harrisburg has become a candy shop for the very largest corporations in the state at the expense of small landowners (note, for example, Act 13), small businesses and the working middle class.

Left to their own devices in an open political system, the people of Blair County would elect socially conservative candidates who are equally skeptical of state and corporate power.

In congressional elections, more Republicans and Democrats would stand against the suicidal trade relations that are impoverishing our communities. But under the existing electoral process, only candidates with corporate backing can hope to win, and the Walmart agenda prevails.

As a result, we are sliding inexorably toward overt corporate rule, such as that found in much of the third world, and the inevitable decline in prosperity that entails.

The only antidote lies in open primaries, term limits, caps on campaign spending and equal status for independent voters.

Richard Latker