Today saw the result of the first ever mass ballot to select a parliamentary candidate when voters in Totnes selected Sarah Wollaston in a postal ballot of all registered voters. (BBC News: GP wins Tory 'open primary' race) It marks the first time any part of the UK has had anything approaching US-style primary elections.
(A word of clarity. For a few years now some Conservative parliamentary candidates have been selected by open meetings of local voters billed as "primaries" but which are really closer to "caucuses", requiring active attendance at the meeting.)
The full result is at ConservativeHome: Dr Sarah Wollaston selected after 25% turnout in Totnes Open Primary, but the figure that interests me the most is the turnout. 16,644 ballot papers were returned, representing approximately 25% of the electorate. Whatever expectations were spun in advance, the raw figure means that the fears people had that such primaries would lead to rival parties trying to vote pack the results have been proved baseless. This experiment can be considered a success and primaries should be rolled out on a wider basis.
There is, however, one problem still to be resolved. The postal ballot was not cheap, costing some £40,000 and few local parties have that kind of money to hand. (Yes I know the slogan "there shouldn't be a price on democracy" but it's easy to say that when you're not the one paying that price.) Taking the process online is a possibility in the medium term, but at present there's no obvious simple way for all voters to verify themselves so as to ensure against voter fraud. But if that could be overcome - and I believe it already has been in other countries - then this could radically open up candidate selection across the board.