Roughly 41 percent of voters in Connecticut do not identify with either major party and are excluded from the primary process. We lag most states in election reform such as open primaries, equal ballot access, early in-person voting or ranked choice. Both parties claim and counter-claim a desire for fairer and freer elections — yet ignore reforms that would increase turn-out, improve proportional representation and tamp down party extremism.
In 1984, Connecticut’s Republican Party adopted a rule that unaffiliated voters could participate in their primaries. It was challenged by the secretary of the state, claiming it violated a 1956 state statute, allowing only party members to vote in primaries. The case went to the U.S. Supreme Court where it ruled Connecticut’s closed primary law unconstitutional, basing it on First Amendment rights of political parties to associate with whoever they want. After the ruling, the General Assembly passed legislation establishing procedures where unaffiliated voters “could” vote in a primary, if the parties amended their rules. Neither major party has taken the issue up since.