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Primary Roundup: June 11, 2024

On Tuesday, June 11, four states held their congressional primaries (South Carolina, Maine, Nevada, and North Dakota).

Unite America
June 14, 2024

Primary Roundup: June 11, 2024

On Tuesday, June 11, four states held their congressional primaries (South Carolina, Maine, Nevada, and North Dakota). These states have a combined total of 14 congressional districts. To this point, 26 states — with a total 254 U.S. House seats — have held their congressional primaries. 

Nevada’s primaries are closed, prohibiting nearly 800,000 voters not registered with a major party from participating. Ten closed primary states have held congressional primaries to date, excluding nearly 8,800,000 registered voters.

Tuesday also marked the first state primary in Maine in which independent voters were allowed to participate. The state legislature passed legislation to replace closed primaries with semi-open primaries in 2021. Over 275,000 active registered unaffiliated voters are now eligible to participate.

National Update

More than half of the U.S. House has already been effectively elected to Congress. To date, just 5% of the country’s voting age population has effectively elected 52% of the U.S. House of Representatives. By the end of primary season in mid-September, more than 80% of U.S. representatives will already be chosen.

Analysis of June 11 Primaries

South Carolina has seven congressional districts, and all seven of them are rated “safe” by the Cook Political Report. This means that 100% of the state’s congressional seats were effectively decided in the primaries. Just four of the seven safe seats had competitive primaries — meaning two or more candidates ran in the district’s dominant party primary. In those competitive primaries, 248,409 voters participated — which is just 6% of the state’s voting age population.

This means that, overall, 6% of South Carolina’s voting age population effectively elected 100% of the state’s U.S. House delegation in dominant party primaries.

In Nevada, three of the state’s four congressional districts are rated safe, meaning that 75% of the state’s congressional seats were decided in the primary. Of the three districts that were safe, only two were competitive. Just under 100,000 people participated in those primaries, which is only 4% of the state’s voting age population. Overall, just 4% of Nevada voters effectively decided the outcome in three of the state’s four congressional districts during the primaries. 

Unsurprisingly, the story is similar in the other two states:

  • Maine has just two congressional districts, and one of them is rated safe. In the First Congressional District, which is safe for Democrats, incumbent Rep. Chellie Pingree ran unopposed in the Democratic primary. She was effectively reelected without having to earn any votes.
  • North Dakota only has one congressional district and it is rated safe for Republicans. The seat was open this cycle as incumbent Rep. Kelly Armstrong (R) decided to run for governor instead of seeking reelection. Five candidates entered the decisive GOP primary, and North Dakota Public Service Commissioner Julie Fedorchak won with just a plurality of the vote — 46%. Fedorchak is endorsed by Trump and is embracing conservative/MAGA policy positions while branding herself as a “problem solver.” Just 93,804 voters participated in this GOP primary that effectively elected Fedorchak, which is only 16% of North Dakota’s voting age population. 

One of the most notable primaries that occurred on June 11 was the Republican primary in South Carolina’s Third Congressional District — an open seat. No candidate received a majority of the vote and the seat will be effectively determined in a low-turnout primary runoff. Mark Burns (33%) and Sheri Biggs (29%) were the top two finishers and advanced to the runoff. Burns, a pastor, was endorsed by Trump. Burns holds extremely hardline positions on immigration, stating his commitment to “revisiting the 14th amendment” (which, among many other things, grants birthright citizenship). Biggs aligns herself with Trump, supports hardline immigration positions and strong pro-life policies.

In South Carolina’s Fourth Congressional District, Rep. William Timmons (R) narrowly fended off a challenge from far-right candidate Adam Morgan, 52%-48%. Timmons has a conservative voting record and received endorsements from Speaker Johnson and Trump, but Morgan, a state representative, tried to paint Timmons as a moderate and criticized his support for Kevin McCarthy as speaker prior to McCarthy’s ouster. Morgan started the South Carolina state version of the far-right Freedom Caucus and received support from prominent congressional Freedom Caucus members Bob Good (R-VA), Matt Gaetz (R-FL), and Scott Perry (R-PA).

Opportunities for Change

Fortunately for voters in Nevada, passionate reformers are advocating for change that will increase their impact on elections and enfranchise the state’s independent voters in primaries. Nevada Voters First has sponsored an initiative that has successfully qualified for the November 2024 ballot after earning majority support at the ballot in 2022. (Initiated constitutional amendments in Nevada must pass in consecutive election cycles in order to be implemented.) 

If passed, the initiative would amend the Nevada Constitution to implement an all-candidate open primary (also known as a nonpartisan primary) in the state. All voters would be eligible to participate, and the top five finishers would advance to the general election. This initiative would also implement instant runoff voting (also known as ranked choice voting) in the general election. General election voters would have the ability to rank candidates in their order of preference, and, if necessary, an instant runoff would be held to ensure a majority winner.

The ultimate goal of all reform efforts, including this one, is to put voters first in order to establish a more functional and representative government.