How primary elections could change

Published: 3/11/2009 12:01 AM

SPRINGFIELD - Illinois voters may be able to keep their choice of political party secret the next time they vote in a primary election.

A plan establishing an "open primary" was approved 5-4 Tuesday by the state Senate Elections Committee. State Sen. Maggie Crotty, an Oak Forest Democrat, joined the committee's four Republicans to move the plan to the full Senate.

In an open primary, every candidate in every party is listed on the ballot. A voter chooses which party primary to vote in once he or she is in the privacy of the voting booth. Currently a voter must declare his or her party to an election judge who then gives the voter the chosen party's ballot.

The proposal responds to voter concerns that their choice of political party, which is a public record, could be used against them when applying for a state job, said state Sen. Larry Bomke, a Springfield Republican and sponsor of the plan.

While all of the parties and candidates would be listed on a single ballot, voters could still choose only one party's primary to vote in. A voter couldn't vote in the Republican primary for the U.S. Senate race and then jump to the Democratic primary for governor.

Bomke said he believes an open primary would lead to more voters participating in primary elections.