Some political races are essentially won in the primary, before the votes are ever cast in the November election, because candidates can run for office as both Democrats and Republicans instead of choosing one party.

Cross-filing has been allowed in Pennsylvania since the 1970s, permitted only for district judges, judges and school boards. The practice started in an attempt to

remove party politics from positions that are supposed to be nonpartisan, said Marita Green, voter service chairwoman for the League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania.

With party affiliation apparently taboo in those races, state Rep. Ron Miller, R-Jacobus, said it would be fair to open the primary elections for those races to independent and third-party voters.

If legislators don't want to allow independent and third-party voters to vote for these offices, then cross-filing shouldn't be permitted, he said.

The practice often results in the same candidate winning both tickets and advancing as the only candidate in the general election.

In practice: District Judge David Eshbach said he cross-filed for his highly contested seat in 2011 because it increased his chances of winning the office and it demonstrated nonpartisanship. He said he would have welcomed third-party voters.

"My and my campaign's position was that we were all in it for the primary, that we needed to win it right there, and that's what we did," he said. "We didn't know if we would have a race in November, and we were very fortunate that we didn't."

Eshbach captured 45 percent of the Democratic vote to win that party's nomination and 52 percent of the Republican vote for that nomination, beating four other cross-filed candidates.

"By the time November came around, my name was on both tickets," he said. "I was pleasantly surprised."

Though the system worked to Eshbach's advantage, he said he believes the primary should be open to all voters.

But he said third-party voters could have been a part of the process in November, running a candidate on the ballot against him then, but nobody chose to do so.

-- Reach Christina Kauffman at