The Louisiana House refused to upend the state's congressional elections this fall, and instead sent a bill Tuesday to overhaul the congressional primary system to a compromise committee to delay its effects until the 2012 elections.


The Louisiana House refused to upend the state's congressional elections this fall, and instead sent a bill Tuesday to overhaul the congressional primary system to a compromise committee to delay its effects until the 2012 elections.
The proposal by Rep. Hunter Greene, R-Baton Rouge, would return the state to an open primary system that would allow all candidates, regardless of party, to run against each other on the same primary ballot.
The House and Senate have both passed versions of the bill. But the House voted 89-2 Tuesday to send the measure to the conference committee, rather than agree to Senate changes that would make the bill effective this fall, shaking up an election cycle already under way. The House had backed changing the primary rules beginning with the 2012 elections.
"It gives a lot less heartburn to House members to change the system" in 2012, Greene said.
The bill would end Democratic and Republican primaries and run congressional elections in the same manner as those on the state and local levels.
All candidates for Congress would run against each other in a November election, with the top two vote-getters advancing to a December runoff if no candidate captures more than 50 percent of the ballot.
Currently, voters cast ballots in Republican and Democratic primaries, an October party primary runoff if needed and then a November general election, to select their congressmen and U.S. senators. The change began with the 2008 elections after decades under an open primary system.
Supporters of switching back say the move would save the state $6.6 million every two years and would end a confusing system that runs different primaries for state and federal elections.
Greene said the change this fall might not save that much money, because of other statewide elections still scheduled. He also said the secretary of state's office raised questions about possible problems in getting all the pieces in place to revamp the schedule for this fall. The state would need federal approval, for example, before the primary system could be changed.
The open primary bill has won approval from both chambers despite opposition from the leaders of both the state Democratic and Republican parties. They argue it would diminish the seniority of Louisiana's members of Congress because some could be elected in December, a month later than in most other states.