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Title:A primer on primaries: Exploring the variation in U.S. primary election laws
Author(s):Evans, Jillian Elizabeth
Director of Research:Gaines, Brian J
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Gaines, Brian J
Doctoral Committee Member(s):Sin, Gisela; Sulkin, Tracy; Bernhard, William T
Department / Program:Political Science
Discipline:Political Science
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Degree:Ph.D.
Genre:Dissertation
Subject(s):primary elections
political parties
Abstract:Candidate nominations in the U.S. are governed by an intricate system of laws and party rules that vary substantially across the states. The reasons why these laws and rules differ—and the considerations that motivate state elected officials and party leaders to change them—are not well understood. In this dissertation, I analyze the variation in enfranchisement, or the type of primary, focusing on primary elections for offices below the level of the presidency (e.g., congressional, gubernatorial, state legislative, etc.). Some states’ primaries are open to all voters, while other states permit participation only by those registered with the party, and still others use some type in between. I study potential explanations for these differences, using both quantitative analysis to identify aggregate patterns and in-depth qualitative investigation of significant cases. This research enhances our understanding of the nominations process and yields insight into the complex nature of institutional change. Analyses of the present-day variation in enfranchisement indicate that the state-level contextual variables often assumed to be related to the type of primary in fact demonstrate little explanatory power, but this does not mean that the variation is merely idiosyncratic—it is still the product of reasoned choices made by state governments and party leaders. The causes of the initial adoption of the direct primary resist easy explanation because the two most commonly cited forces (pressure from progressive reformers and leaders acting to preserve the parties’ self-interest) were both influential, depending on the context. A study of selected changes in the type of primary that have occurred in recent decades suggests that there is a logic underlying elected officials and party leaders’ preferences for one type or another, but because elites’ expectations regarding the anticipated consequences of changing the type of primary are highly conditional, it is difficult to explain or predict changes in enfranchisement based on knowledge of their preferences alone. And these partisan elites are not the only relevant actors; both the courts and the electorate have frequently played a role in shaping enfranchisement, further complicating the task of predicting when or why changes occur. Primary elections, like many other political institutions, are prone to inertia, and formal changes are rare. When they do occur, explaining them requires careful attention to the details.
Issue Date:2019-07-02
Type:Text
URI:http://hdl.handle.net/2142/105778
Rights Information:Copyright 2019 Jillian Evans
Date Available in IDEALS:2019-11-26
Date Deposited:2019-08


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