Posted by allison minoux on May 27, 2015 at 1:22 PM
An intern's perspective on open primaries
When I stepped in to Open Primaries’ office this winter, I had many uncertainties towards a career path. I have always been interested in politics and government structure, but I have never been part of a movement that lays outside traditional party lines. It has been refreshing to be part of a movement that is not ingrained in party control and seeks to reverse the norm by advocating for open, nonpartisan primaries. Our current system reflects party interests, instead of citizens’ concern.
I came to this office with a basic understanding of primaries, but I had no idea how much political backlash nonpartisan, open primaries were causing. There are countless lawsuits, court cases, and scholarly debates occurring across the country that threaten or dismiss the viability of open primaries. In my research, I have been analyzing primary structures in all 50 states to create a resource on our website that helps educate and inform voters about the movement and their state’s primary rules. I have researched and drafted content for the website that simplifies the complexities inherent in election law.
I never imagined that I would become so familiar with the intricacies of primaries and their structural diversity across the country. For example, Nebraska holds open primaries for congressional races, but not all state and local races, meaning that unaffiliated voters will not be able to vote in some (but not all) state and local primaries. I have also learned how important terminology is when describing voter registration. “Independent” is not necessarily the same as ”unaffiliated” or “undeclared”. I am now able to navigate the ins-and-outs of individual state primary laws and consider myself an unofficial “primary expert.”
This internship has given me confidence and structure that has helped me grow personally and professionally. I feel that my opinion is valued and heard, even though I am an intern. On my first day, I was asked to write down tangible goals to make my experience substantive. This action showed me that my time and work would be valued. I also had the opportunity to attend the National Conference of Independents, where I met with many political organizers from around the country. I was lucky enough to hear Dr. Leonora Fulani and Jackie Salit speak; their words were filled with such passion that they left me feeling inspired.
The fluid start-up environment of Open Primaries has been a helpful learning tool because it has allowed me to see the inner workings of a nonprofit political advocacy group. I have been able to examine our relationships with other political groups and individuals. I have spoken with voters all over the country to gauge their opinions the political system and primary process. I have seen our ideas in staff meetings turn into flourishing campaigns.
Open Primaries has helped me define my goals; I know that I want to work in political advocacy and now have more of the skills necessary to do so. My time at Open Primaries has encouraged me to use my political voice and shown me how to analyze all sides of an argument. I urge you to think beyond partisan politics and party rhetoric next time you cast your vote.