Posted by Adriana Espinoza on October 23, 2015 at 11:38 AM
Open Primaries Endorsed by Student Political Action Club at NYU
On September 30th, Open Primaries went to NYU to present a case for nonpartisan top two primary reform to the members of the Student Political Action Club or S-PAC. We were invited by the group’s President, Akbar Hassonjee. S-PAC is a nonpartisan student-led public policy reform group that was formed to promote open discussion of policy and encourage student political activism. Their motto—where student vision comes before any party or creed—fits in perfectly with the mission of open primaries.
Legislative Director, Al Benninghoff and I presented to the group in a small room in Bobst Library, where we discussed the state of our democracy, an electoral system run by and for the two major parties, and an electorate that has evolved to be more independent and reject party affiliation.
It was a good forum to discuss these issues, as S-PAC was founded to promote open debate, and students were encouraged to participate and ask questions. Al and I expressed the need to create platforms for more voters’ voices to be heard, and argued that the current political environment favors partisanship over public duty. We also expressed the need for our democracy to evolve alongside its electorate in order to remain responsive to the needs of all voters.
Students were responsive to the idea of nonpartisan election reform as a step in the right direction to fixing these issues. The group was very engaged and asked questions about how Top Two would work in practice. There were several questions about voter turnout and moderation, and Al and I explained that Top Two is about access and empowerment, not turnout or moderation.
The end of our discussion signaled the next phase of the meeting--voting. The vote would determine S-PAC’s official policy position on Top Two and whether or not its members would partner with us in organizing voters around this issue. Members of S-PAC voted on three questions:
- Should Top Two be the standard across the nation?
- Should SPAC partner with Open Primaries on advocating for the Open our Democracy Act?
- Should SPAC endorse Open Primaries?
Overall, the students voted favorably to all three questions, and Open Primaries is now officially partnered with S-PAC.
Here’s an excerpt from their website on our official endorsement:
“Student PAC believes that every student at NYU should actively participate in the political arena. As such, Student PAC opposes closed primary elections as they currently exist in New York. Although over 40 percent of voters are registered as Independents, they are unable to vote in primary elections and decide which candidates are best fit to hold elected office.
We support the work of groups like Open Primaries as they lobby the State of New York to allow Independents to vote in primary elections. Student PAC believes that government best serves the people when the people control who serves in government. Therefore, primary elections should be open to all Americans of legal voting age regardless of their party affiliation.”
As Outreach Coordinator, I plan to organize this group around the Open our Democracy Act. We want every member of our local Congressional delegation to go on record on where they stand on this important reform bill, and with the help of these student activists we can show these members that we have the power of the voters behind us.