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After Sen. Thad Cochran's controversial tactics of recruiting Democrats to secure his nomination in Mississippi's Republican primary, a national dialogue emerged about the open primary process, in which anyone can cross the aisle to vote in the other party's election. It's a terrible system.

OUR VIEW: Open primaries produce viable candidates

Primaries are an opportunity for a party to nominate the candidate who will best carry forward its set of ideological principles. The general election will then allow voters to decide which party has made a better case. It's a two-step process, with each step having a distinct, important function.

Allowing the opposition party a vote undermines the purpose of primaries, effectively resulting in two general elections, and a muddled message with no clear distinction between the parties.

In many ways, political parties function like private organizations, complete with dues-paying members. When the party leadership uses these dues to drive turnout for members of an opposing organization, it betrays the trust of the membership and subverts the intended process.

When inter-party voting becomes commonplace, it also lays the groundwork for spoilers — Democrats running as Republicans, or vice versa, for the sole purpose of taking votes away from other potential nominees. This surely violates the intent behind the party system and the primary process.

People who vote in the opposing party's primary do not do so to support the candidate who best represents their views, but merely to be disruptive. Votes should represent the honest preferences of the voters, not opportunistic game-playing.

When there is a perception among the public that elections are not honest, that they are being bought and sold by special interests and K Street lobbyists rather than representing the true opinions of voters, the democratic process suffers. This country depends on an engaged, active electorate making informed choices about the candidates.

Closed primaries protect the integrity of elections and make voters feel that their representation is in their own hands, not the tool of political manipulation.

Adam Brandon is executive vice president at FreedomWorks, a conservative advocacy group in Washington, D.C.

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