My Voice: Support non-partisan elections - Open Primaries
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Posted by Jesse Shayne on September 30, 2016 at 12:09 PM

My Voice: Support non-partisan elections

This article was written by Vernon Brown for the Argus Leader

When I served on the Sioux Falls City Council, we’d say, “There is no Republican or Democratic way to fix streets.”

We didn’t put our party label behind our names on ballots; we didn’t check party registration before listening to ideas; we never met in secret caucuses for party bosses to tell us how to vote. In fact, there are no secret meetings in city government, unlike the South Dakota Legislature. City leaders certainly disagree, but they do so publicly and do so, believing the debate and vote advance their community, not a political party.

Don’t you wish our legislature would take the same transparent approach?

Voting “yes” on Amendment V will change our elections to non-partisan primaries, force state legislators to focus on ideas instead of party, and create fairness for the 115,000 registered independents locked out of the Republican primary. It will also marginalize fringe lawmakers whose votes are out of step with the majority of us, their constituents.

Remember our last legislative session?

  • More than 70 percent of voters favored a half-cent sales tax increase for better teacher pay. The far right nearly highjacked the issue, going against constituent wishes and even their own Republican governor.
  • They passed the “Bathroom Bill,” a trumped-up legislative solution looking for a problem. The idea was shopped to lawmakers at a partisan conference. Thankfully, Gov. Dennis Daugaard had the courage to veto the ill-thought bill. North Carolina’s governor did not, and it is losing countless events, including the NCAA championships, not to mention millions of dollars in tourism and legal fees. That was nearly us.

Why would our lawmakers ignore the voters’ will? Because their loyalty to party exceeds loyalty to the people. Anymore, the rigged primaries stifle competitive elections. Argus Leader reporter Dana Ferguson spelled it out clearly in her series of stories demonstrating only eight of November’s 105 legislative races are even competitive.

Nationally and locally, party extremes are motivated primary voters. The disappointment in our presidential election picks highlight the flawed process. Similarly, South Dakota’s closed Republican primary combined with the party’s power to manipulate voting district boundaries in their own favor have created a recipe for rigged re-elections.

I am one of the independent voters making up 21 percent of S.D.’s registered voters. I’ve watched my District 13 get ridiculously gerrymandered. The Republican legislative super majority has successfully blocked Democrats and completely locked out independent voter voices.

Two years ago, only 22 percent of S.D.’s 18-to-30-year-olds actually voted. By comparison, 54 percent of Iowa, Minnesota and North Dakota’s young voters cast ballots. S.D. Secretary of State Shantel Krebs finds that troubling and regularly asks those young South Dakotans why they don’t vote. Their response?

  1. They don’t think their vote counts.
  2. They lack trust in government.

They are right on both counts.

We can fix that on Nov. 8. Vote “yes” on V, and we can bring fairness back for all voters and restore trust in state government.

MY VOICE

Vernon Brown, 48, was a Republican who re-registered as an independent. He served on the Sioux Falls City Council from 2004-2012. Brown began his career as a reporter for KELO-TV and now works as a marketing vice president at a telecommunications company.


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