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The Future of the Direct Primary

September 11, 1926

Report Outline
Nominating Conventions and Direct Primaries
Objections to Direct Primary System
The Short Ballot and Preferential Voting
Pre-Primary Conventions

A leading argument against the direct primary, dating from its first appearance in the United States as a substitute for the convention system, is founded upon the encouragement it affords to the excessive use of money in political campaigns. By largely increasing the expense of nomination to important offices, it is argued, the primary system has operated to exclude worthy candidates of small financial resources and to bring about the selection of less desirable types, thus lowering the standard of ability throughout public life.

Point has recently been given to this line of argument by the Senate investigating committee's disclosure of the large amounts expended in the primary campaigns resulting in the nomination of Col. Frank L. Smith and Rep. William S. Vare as the Republican senatorial candidates in Illinois and Pennsylvania, Opponents of the primary system have been quick to seize this advantage, and to bring forth additional arguments, in a significant, if still unorganized, movement for a general repeal or modification of state primary laws by the 1926 legislatures.

Attack Upon the Primary System

An attack upon the state-wide primary system in Pennsylvania was launched by Senator David A. Reed, a supporter of Senator Pepper in the recent campaign, in a speech, June 12, before the Republican State Committee at Philadelphia, in which he recommended a return to the convention system of nomination. Harry A. Mackey, manager of the successful Vare campaign, testified before the Senate investigating committee four days later to his belief that the primary system should be abolished. Governor Pinchot, the third candidate in the primary, later attributed the movement for repeal of the primary to the “reactionaries” and expressed the opinion that “there is as little chance that such a civic crime will be perpetrated as there is that the freedom of Pennsylvania's press.will be put under restrictions and restraints.”

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