Why Does Louisiana Have a Jungle Primary & Is It Corrupting the State?
There are things about Louisiana that make it unique and some are good and the rest are...tied to politics. And one of those - unique and political - is the way we in the Pelican State hold our elections. There's the way 49 states do it. And then there's us.
What is a 'Jungle' Primary?
And we call it the "jungle," or open primary. Here's how Ballotpedia describes it.:
"In Louisiana, all candidates running for a local, state, or federal office appear on the same ballot in, regardless of their partisan affiliations. If a candidate wins a simple majority of all votes cast for the office, he or she wins the election outright. If no candidate meets that threshold, the top two finishers, regardless of their party affiliations, advance to a second election in December. In that election, the candidate who receives the greatest number of votes wins."
See, while every other state in the USA has closed primary elections, i.e., a separate primary for each major party), here in Louisiana, it's just one big pot. An election gumbo, if you will.
The History of Louisiana's 'Jungle Primary'
"We had (open primaries) in Louisiana until the early 70s," says political analyst Scott Hughes, explaining that 50 years ago 90% of Louisiana was Democrat. "Governor Edwin Edwards, a Democrat, he had to keep running in these brutal Democratic primaries.
"You had a primary where only Democrats ran against each other. Then the top two would run against each other and at the end, you'd have the Democratic candidate. Then, in the finals, (the Dem winner) would run against the one Republican."
Hughes then explains that Edwards "tired of running and running," pushed through legislation to change the process, "And we've been there since then."
Whose Idea was the 'Jungle' Primary?
And who in the Governor's mansion or the Democrat political party dreamed up the idea? "Probably Edwards and his political machine," Hughes says. "They wanted to find a way to cut out a round (of elections) or run against that untouched Republican.
"It was (implemented) for political reasons and to keep Democrats from having to beat up on each other. But after 30 or 40 years, the net result is...now you look at Louisiana and you see all statewide officials are Republican, you see a legislature that is effectively two-thirds Republican."