Jeff Landry, Louisiana’s newly elected governor, is pushing to scrap the state’s unique open primary system, which would be a change in precedent to how the state currently elects its politicians.
The state’s election system puts candidates running for state and congressional offices, despite their party, on one ballot, with the “primary” typically occurring in either October for odd-numbered years or in November for even-numbered years. If a candidate gets a majority they win the office — and if not, the top two candidates advance to a Saturday runoff about a month later.
Landry moved on Monday to call for a special legislative session that could change not only the state’s primary structure, but also address congressional redistricting. The session will take place from Jan. 15 to Jan. 23.
Save for a brief interruption in 2008, the system has been in place for decades in the state for both state and congressional offices.
Landry won his election last October with over 51 percent of the vote. He officially took office Jan. 8 as the state’s first GOP governor in eight years — giving Louisiana an all-Republican state government. However, the open primary’s elimination is not guaranteed by the supermajority in both legislative chambers.
“We built the Republican Party on open primaries,” Lt. Gov. Billy Nungesser told the Louisiana Advocate, adding that he thinks closed primaries encourage political extremism. “Candidates at least have to campaign to represent all of Louisiana. When you close the primary, you’re going to get the far left and the far right.”
After a court found the old congressional election maps likely violated the Voting Rights Act, the state House and Senate are required to add another majority Black district.
The legislature has until Jan. 30 to do so or else a district court could decide on a plan for the upcoming elections in a trial in February.
“The courts have mandated that the state of Louisiana redraw our congressional districts. Redistricting is a state legislative function. That is why today, I followed the court order and made the call to convene the legislature of Louisiana into a special session on redistricting,” Landry said in a statement.