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The latest from the movement

Interview with David Thornburg

Posted by Jonathan Richter on July 31, 2018 at 11:58 AM

David Thornburgh, president and CEO of the Committee of Seventy, poses for a portrait in his office in Philadelphia. | David Maialetti/Philly Inquirer


The issue of open primaries recently became front page news in Pennsylvania as some legislative leaders called for their adoption. We sat down with David Thornburgh, President of the Committee of 70 to get his take on combatting partisan gerrymandering in one of the most challenging political climates in the country. His battle plan? Addressing money in politics, redistricting reform, and opening up the primaries.

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Leaders of the Movement: Steve Hough

Posted by jesse shayne on December 18, 2017 at 9:00 AM

In an exciting victory for Floridians, a constitutional amendment was recently proposed to open the state’s primaries to the 3.4 million independent voters who are currently locked out of them. If the proposal gets the majority of the Commission’s support, it will go to the 2018 ballot—and then it’s up to the voters to decide.

One of the main people behind this grassroots effort was Steve Hough, director of the volunteer-based organization Florida Fair and Open Primaries (FFAOP).

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New survey reveals most Californians are satisfied with open primaries

Posted by jesse shayne on December 14, 2017 at 1:56 PM

Five years after adopting top-two, open primaries, California has seen its legislature transform from a state of dysfunction into a successful model for reform. Now, a new survey reveals that the people of California are noticing. Last month, the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) found that most voters in California are satisfied with the state’s top-two, open primary system, with 60% of likely voters in California saying it has “been mostly a good thing.”

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Spotlight: The Grassroots Movement for Open Primaries in Florida

Posted by jesse shayne on December 12, 2017 at 12:29 PM

Months of grassroots efforts recently paid off in Florida when a constitutional amendment was proposed to open the state’s primaries. After the people of Florida spoke out, Florida Constitution Revision Commissioner William Schifino put forth a proposal to establish partisan open primaries in Florida and allow the state’s 3.4 million independent voters to choose a party ballot to vote on during primary elections. If the proposal gets the majority of the Commission’s support, it will go to the 2018 ballot—and then it’s up to the voters to decide.

One of the driving forces behind this victory was Florida Fair and Open Primaries (FFAOP), a volunteer-based organization led by Steve Hough whose original goal was to get top-two open primaries on the ballot.

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Five “Early Successes” of California’s (Top-Two) Open Primaries

Posted by jesse shayne on October 24, 2017 at 4:22 PM

Americans everywhere are fed up with the state of politics. At the federal level, political paralysis and polarization prevent Congress from solving pressing issues every day. At the state level, it can be just as frustrating. Yet, while polarization and paralysis impede the progress of many state legislatures, one in particular seems to be heading in the right direction and actually getting things done -- California.

Earlier this year, California passed a bipartisan cap and trade emissions bill -- something virtually unthinkable for congress. The “bipartisan” component of this legislation is worth reiterating; stakeholders reached across party lines, came together, and compromised to pass this bill.

How was this possible? It’s simple: California’s voters and legislature recognized that a fundamentally flawed electoral system was the root source of paralysis and polarization. So they changed it.

In 2008, voters passed Prop 11, which handed redistricting over to an independent commission. In 2012, California passed Prop 14, which established nonpartisan, top-two primaries for all federal and state elections. This system allows California’s independent and unaffiliated voters -- that’s 24% of the state’s voting eligible population -- to participate in all congressional and state primaries, with the top two candidates advancing to the general election. The system has quickly propelled California from a symbol of legislative dysfunction to a blueprint for successful electoral reform.

How do we know the system working? Open Primaries answered this in a research study with political scientist Omar H. Ali on the “early successes” of California’s top-two, nonpartisan primary system. The study uncovered how California’s system has gradually been chipping away at polarization and paralysis. While it’s only been five years since California first began using top-two, open primaries, the benefits reaped from the system are already making themselves clear. Here are five of them.

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Colorado’s Open Primaries Are a Triumph of the People Over Parties

Posted by jesse shayne on October 10, 2017 at 4:25 PM

At long last, Colorado became the most recent state to open its primaries to Independent and unaffiliated voters. This is a huge milestone, made even more momentous by the party obstruction that voters ultimately overcame. In the end, Colorado’s success was more than a triumph of democracy -- it was one of the people over the parties.

It all started last November, when voters in Colorado successfully passed two statewide ballot measures. The first, Proposition 107, replaced Colorado’s presidential caucuses with open primaries. The second was Proposition 108, which opened the primaries for state and federal races to Colorado’s largest voting bloc -- the state’s 1.3 million (and counting) independent voters.

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New Harvard Business School Report Says Open Primaries Can Help Fix a Failing Political System

Posted by jesse shayne on October 07, 2017 at 4:23 PM

With Congress’ failure to pass bipartisan legislation on any pressing issue, from healthcare to immigration reform, it’s clearer than ever that gridlock and polarization are derailing our political system and obstructing progress. Pragmatic, bipartisan problem-solving has given way to political theatrics and partisan division, which oversimplify issues and rarely produce the solutions we need to move forward.

This problem is urgent, and was recently detailed by Harvard Business School in its insightful new report, “Why Competition in the Politics Industry is Failing America.” by Katherine M. Gehl and Michael E. Porter. The report compares the current political system to a failing “industry,” in which the two major parties function as a duopoly, thereby intentionally enforcing their differences and raising barriers to entry for new competition -- particularly more moderate candidates who might be more willing to compromise. These barriers include closed primary laws.

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New York Primary is Uncompetitive and Undemocratic

Posted by jesse shayne on September 26, 2017 at 9:55 AM

On September 12, New York held its primary elections, and once again, a quarter of the state’s voting population -- the 3.2 million Independent and unaffiliated voters who refuse to join a party -- were barred from participating. Unsurprisingly, multiple seats went uncontested, with no Republican primary for the mayoral election.

In the race for mayor, incumbent Bill de Blasio easily won the Democratic primary with 75% of the vote. He’ll go on to face Republican candidate Nicole Malliotakis, who ran uncontested and thus advanced to the general election. Not a single incumbent New York City Council member lost their seat, and the majority of Republican NYC Council candidates ran unopposed. The three non-Democratic candidates for Public Advocate ran uncontested, and in the race for Manhattan DA, the incumbent won uncontested.

Uncompetitive elections are nothing new for New York. In its 2016 State Senate election, about half the seats were uncontested or virtually uncontested. The 2016 State Assembly election was even less competitive, with 36% of seats going uncontested, and another 21% virtually uncontested.

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Election Reform Experts Gather in New Mexico

Posted by jesse shayne on September 25, 2017 at 2:29 PM

On September 9th, election reform experts from across New Mexico gathered in Las Cruces to discuss how New Mexico should reform its electoral system to increase competition and make elected officials more accountable to their constituents.

The event was organized by Abraham Sanchez, a board member of New Mexico Open Primaries who is employed by the Dona Ana County Clerk’s Bureau of Elections. Panelists included Dr. Christa Slaton of New Mexico State University, Dona Ana County Clerk Scott Krahling, New Mexico Open Primaries Founder Bob Perls, and New Mexico State Senator Jeff Steinborn of Las Cruces.

Over 50 people attended the event, and enjoyed a lively hour-long Q&A with the panelists, who generally agreed on a number of reforms that are crucial to New Mexico, including: Open primaries, free and fair ballot access, independent redistricting, consolidation of local and county elections, same-day voter registration, and automatic voter registration.

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New Jersey Voters Not Satisfied With Closed Primaries

Posted by jesse shayne on July 17, 2017 at 3:20 PM

As a born and bred Jersey girl, it’s only natural that I’m stubborn about my politics. My friends and I all have ideas about candidates, issues, and New Jersey government. However, when we turned 18 and we could finally express our opinions through voting, we were met by pollsters who told us that we had to affiliate with a party in order to vote. I remember being caught off guard and enraged at the fact that I had to join a party I did not align with just so I could vote. I’m still enraged. But I’m not alone.

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