In 1897, the great progressive Robert La Follette, soon to be governor of Wisconsin and “founding father” of primary elections, urged: “Go back to the first principle of democracy, go back to the people, substitute for both the caucus and the convention a primary election where the citizen casts his vote directly.”

Primaries certainly are a great step forward for democracy, despite their drawbacks. Equally certainly, variations have developed reflecting differences among the states. As the Supreme Court noted in Tashjian v. Republican Party of Connecticut (1986): “The relative merits of closed and open primaries have been the subject of substantial debate since the beginning of the century, and no consensus has as yet emerged.”

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