Are the parties over?

It’s a trend that’s been underway for years, and it may only accelerate. For all the talk of the enduring strength of the two-party system, voters unaligned with any party make up the largest — and a growing — share of the Massachusetts electorate.

The Globe reports that the share of “unenrolled” or independent voters has ticked up slightly over the last two years and represents the largest chunk of registered voters in the state in at least 70 years.

Independents now account for 55 percent of registered voters, with Democrats claiming 33 percent and the official Republican ranks flirting with single-digital status at 10.4 percent, the lowest since Dewey didn’t defeat Truman in 1948.

The question is, what does it all mean for next week’s primary elections, when independents in the state can choose to vote in either party’s primary? Those voters are hardly afterthoughts in the primary calculus. MassINC Polling Group president Steve Koczela tells the Globe they make-up the majority of voters in most Republican primaries and about 40 percent of those casting ballots in Democratic races.

The registration numbers, on their face, might buoy the hopes of Republicans, challenging the image of Massachusetts as deep blue sea owned by Democrats. But as Tufts political scientist Jeff Berry tells the Globe, lots of independents actually lean toward one party or the other, making the term, he says, somewhat of a “misnomer.”

Certainly when it comes to congressional races, that leaning has become pretty consistently Democratic. Apart from Scott Brown’s flash-in-the-pan special election win for Senate in 2010, it’s been more than 20 years since the state sent a Republican to Congress.

The share of unenrolled voters only seems likely to grow under the recently passed automatic voter registration law, which will bring onto the rolls new voters with no history of engagement in electoral politics.

Peter Ubertaccio, a Stonehill College political science professor, tells the Globe the growing share of unenrolled voters in the state is one factor in low turnout for state primaries, since those voters feel less tethered to party-based elections.

That raises a troubling question for representation in the Bay State. With many state legislative contests and some congressional races effectively decided in low turnout party primaries (the 7th Congressional District tilt between Michael Capuano and Ayanna Pressley is Exhibit A this year), it’s fair to ask whether our current system is the right one for the times.

California has thrown in the towel on the idea of party primaries, with all candidates appearing on a single primary ballot for races except president, with the top two advancing to the November general election.  Meanwhile, the idea of using another type of runoff system known as ranked-choice voting is gaining attention in the state. There is a particularly strong case to be made for such an approach in races like the 10-way Democratic primary for the Third Congressional District seat, which looks more like a crapshoot than a reasoned exercise in democracy.

MICHAEL JONAS


BEACON HILL

The Mass Cultural Council votes to rein in out-of-state travel and use of state-issued credit cards following Boston Herald reports raising questions about those practices. (Boston Herald)

While lawmakers focused on their reelection, a bill taxing short-term rentals sits idle on Beacon Hill near the finish line. Sone $40 million in rentals on the Cape and islands went untaxed this summer, leaving nearly $2.3 million in taxes on the table. (State House News)

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

The former Fall River Office of Economic Development, in a battle with Mayor Jasiel Correia over its ouster as the city’s private planner, is charging that former mayor Will Flanagan refused to sign an affidavit supporting the private non-profit’s position because he was seeking support from Correia for a medical marijuana license. (Herald News)

Kara Elliott-Ortega was named Boston’s new chief of arts and culture. (Boston Globe)

A building application for a proposed 52-bed detox facility near Quincy Center will be withdrawn after the developer said backlash from neighbors forced him to look for another location. (Patriot Ledger)

WASHINGTON/NATIONAL/INTERNATIONAL

Joan Vennochi says Rhode Islanders should be thankful that Gov. Gina Raimondo drew the line on how much the state would pony up to keep the Red Sox Triple-A farm team in Pawtucket. (Boston Globe)

ELECTIONS

Rep. Rady Mom of Lowell is facing three challengers in a tough primary fight that in some ways revolves as much around Cambodian politics as it does Lowell politics. (CommonWealth)

The Globe endorses two incumbent Boston state reps facing challenges in next week’s Democratic primary, LIz Malia and Jeff Sanchez, but gives the nod to challenger Jon Santiago over veteran state Rep. Byron Rushing in a third Boston race.

The Berkshire Eagle profiles Andrea Harrington, one of three candidates running for Berkshire County district attorney. Carol Pryor of Jamaica Plain says a commitment by candidates to transparency in office is essential in DA races. (CommonWealth) Former Suffolk County prosecutor Bobby Constantino and education and politics activist Kristin Johnson crunched the donation numbers and found that Suffolk DA candidate Greg Henning is getting no love from the Boston neighborhoods most affected by incarceration.

State House News identifies some of the big spenders (hello, Speaker Robert DeLeo) and some of the non-spenders (Rep. Jonathan Hecht) in Beacon Hill political races.

The three Republicans running for the US Senate nomination differ more in tone and style than on substance or positions on issues, writes the Globe’s Matt Stout. Meanwhile, Josh Miller finds some daylight between Democratic gubernatorial candidates Jay Gonzalez and Bob Massie. (Boston Globe)

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

The Boston region’s red-hot housing market may be cooling ever so slightly. (Boston Globe) Not so, however, for prime commercial space in Kendall Square in Cambridge, where a 36,000-square-foot lot (that’s less than an acre) has sold for $50.5 million. (Boston Globe)

The federal International Trade Commission blocked the Trump administration’s tariff on Canadian newsprint, giving a major victory to the struggling publishing industry. (Wall Street Journal)

Joseph Sater, the co-owner of the Middle East Restaurant and Nightclub in Cambridge, retired amid allegations online of sexual misconduct. He is denying the “unsubstantiated third-party claims.” (WBUR)

Old Sturbridge Village is revamping its program in the 19th century living museum to better reflect the roles of blacks and women. (Associated Press)

Scores of Facebook employees have joined together to challenge what they call the company’s “intolerant” liberal bias. (New York Times)

EDUCATION

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos is preparing new sexual misconduct regulations for colleges and universities that would expand protections for students accused of assault, harassment, or rape and reduce liability for schools. (New York Times)

Two strikes against Judith Scannell, the superintendent of schools in Methuen. She not only didn’t have a superintendent’s license, she lacked a principal’s license as well. (Eagle-Tribune)

It was another day of late buses — some by as much as two hours — for Boston school students, with silence continuing from the School Department on whether tense contract talks with bus drivers are the cause. (Boston Globe)

Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo announced an executive order banning anyone except police officers from carrying guns in public schools or on the grounds. (Providence Journal)

HEALTH/HEALTH CARE

The Centers for Disease Control say cases of common sexually transmitted diseases have hit an all-time high and warn some strains of gonorrhea are becoming resistant to antibiotics. (U.S. News & World Report)

TRANSPORTATION

With the Alewife garage set to undergo significant repairs, the MBTA knocked a dollar off the price increase for weekday parking. It will now cost $9 instead of $10 starting Sept. 4.

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT

The Trump administration’s New England EPA administrator, Alexandra Dunn, has won praise from environmentalists for her generally science-based policy outlook — even though she sticks to the unscientific shoulder shrug of punting on the question of whether global warming is primarily caused by human activity. (Boston Globe)

Amidst the blistering heat yesterday customers in Eastern Massachusetts dealt with two different power failures. (Boston Herald)

Orleans officials are eyeing a plan to build a new dune at Nauset Beach and remove some of the parking lot pavement to protect the popular money-making beach and its facilities. (Cape Cod Times)

CASINOS/MARIJUANA

Good Chemistry, which opened a medical marijuana facility in Worcester earlier this month, gained approval to add recreational sales at the same location. The company says recreational sales aren’t likely to begin until late this year or next year because of approvals needed at the state level. (Telegram & Gazette)

Holbrook selectmen approved a host agreement for a medical marijuana dispensary in town to grow recreational pot but extracted a promise that the company would not seek a license for a retail store. (The Enterprise)

CRIMINAL JUSTICE/COURTS

A college friend of convicted Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev sentenced to six years in prison for removing items from Tsarnaev’s UMass Dartmouth dorm room has been released and will be deported to his native Kazakhstan. (Associated Press)

MEDIA

Media analyst Ken Doctor believes Tronc, the owner of the Hartford Courant, New York Daily News, and Chicago Tribune, is going to be sold off in parts. (Nieman Journalism Lab)