We've long argued Pennsylvania should open its primary elections to non-affiliated voters.

These are independent thinkers who choose not to associate with the big parties -- but in too many cases, those parties' primary elections are the only chance for these voters to have any say in these races.

Numbering 43,000, independents and those non-affiliated with either the Republican or Democratic parties make up the fastest-growing voting bloc in York County.

Yet Pennsylvania's closed primary system -- one of only 13 in the country -- means they can't participate until the General Election in November, by which time many races are already decided.

Two years ago, when York County elected a new district attorney, two new judges and six new district judges -- all but one district judge seat were settled in the primary. By the time people who weren't registered Democrat or Republican got a chance to vote, there were no choices left.

In fact, The York Dispatch analyzed results of the last three municipal elections -- 2007, 2009 and 2011 -- and found that 42 percent of countywide seats, district judges, school boards, township supervisors, borough councils and mayoral seats were decided in the primary elections.

Eighteen percent of the county's registered voters had no say in the outcome of those races.

It's likely many of the highest profile races in the 2013 election will be decided in the primary, as well.


Two candidates are running for district attorney. Both are Republicans, meaning one will be eliminated in the May 21 primary.

There are two candidates running for Common Pleas judge and 13 candidates vying in three contested district judge races. Because those candidates are cross-filed -- meaning they run as Republicans and Democrats -- those races will end on May 21 if the same candidate tops both parties' tickets.

Knowing so many registered voters are being disenfranchised, the League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania has recommended open primaries, saying the elections are funded by taxpayers and should be open to everyone.

New Democratic state Sen. Rob Teplitz, whose district includes parts of York County, is the latest lawmaker to answer the call, recently introducing a bill to allow registered independent voters to choose whether to vote as a Republican or Democrat in the primary and have their affiliations changed for a single day -- election day.

Unfortunately, the two major parties are perfectly happy with a system rigged in their favor, and most members of the Legislature have no desire to change. It's their party and they can invite whomever they like.

But there does seem to be some wiggle room for a change.

The main reason so many races are decided in primaries is 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 often results in the same candidate winning both tickets and advancing as the only candidate in the general election.

State Rep. Ron Miller, R-Jacobus, said those primary elections should be open to independent and third-party voters -- or cross-filing shouldn't be permitted.

Either one would fix the problem.