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Voter Empowerment Leads to Rapid Decline in California Political Partisanship

Posted by Jeremy Gruber on August 10, 2015 at 3:24 PM

Graphic_Five2.jpgMeasured by self-identification, partisanship is actually declining — growing numbers of Americans describe themselves as independent (currently 43%), rather than loyal to one of the parties. But measured by actual voting behavior, the opposite seems to be happening: Straight ticket voting continues to grow.  

Why the paradox?

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Learn with the Intern: The Proof is in the California Pudding

Posted by Samantha Serrano on August 06, 2015 at 2:54 PM

OPFlorida.jpgThe Sunshine State has been making major headlines this week regarding the national movement to open primary elections. A bipartisan group of activists is pushing for a state constitutional amendment that would allow voters to vote for Republicans or Democrats no matter how you're registered to vote in Florida.  

Called the "All Voters Vote” Amendment, it's main goal is to open primaries, and therefore give a voice to the growing number of Floridians who are written out of the state's primary election system because they choose not to register with any political party.  

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Learn with the Intern: California is a Role Model

Posted by Samantha Serrano on August 06, 2015 at 10:35 AM

quietrevolutioncover.pngPrior to its use of Top Two nonpartisan primaries, the state of California was considered one of the most partisan political environments in the nation. Runaway deficits and gridlocked budgets were standard. Lawmakers brave enough to work across party lines found a system rigged against them.  Both California’s citizens and elected officials tried for years to reform their election system to reduce its ineffective design.  

Beginning in 1974, California voters enacted comprehensive campaign finance and disclosure regulations thanks to President Nixon and the Watergate scandal.   However, these regulations did not lesson or get rid of the overly partisan nature of the political and legislative environment. Until the 90’s, legislators still fancied high incumbency rates, a semi-closed primary system, and a complex system of gerrymandering to create “safe” districts.

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Independent does not mean uniformed

Posted by Hilary Forrest on August 05, 2015 at 1:28 PM

hilary_headshot_small.jpgPrior to this internship, I did not realize nearly how many independent voters are out there. I thought myself to be unique by stating that I am independent because I am ‘fiscally conservative and socially liberal’- but in fact a whole lot of people say this. The number one reason why voters identify as Independent is because he/she has values that align with both political parties.

As an intern at Open Primaries, I conduct phone banking each week, surveying active voters about nonpartisan primary elections. The intent is to gather data on how Americans feel about the movement toward an election system based on the candidates, not the parties.

On a call with a voter from Florida, I asked if he would support a top-two system where unaffiliated (not just Democrat and Republican) voters can vote in the primaries too. He responded, “Absolutely not. Independent means uneducated and uninformed and they don’t deserve the right to vote.” I started to question the truth behind this statement.

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Intern's Insight: Ready to Amend, Florida Fights for Fair Primaries

Posted by Caitlin Kelly on July 29, 2015 at 12:28 PM

Florida.gifAs one of the twelve states that follows a strict closed primary system, Florida looks to take a stand with the introduction of the All Voters Vote amendment. Florida’s current system allows its registered 4.2 million Republicans and 4.6 million Democrats to participate in primary elections, but denies the other 3.2 million that same right.

In the past ten years, the number of Florida voters who have decided not to affiliate with one of the two main parties has increased by 1 million, while Democrats have seen an increase of 300,000 and Republicans have seen a 200,000 increase.

So why is Florida silencing the fastest growing group of constituents? Not only in their state, but a trend that has been sweeping the nation.

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Learn with the Intern: New Jersey's Closed Primaries

Posted by Samantha Serrano on July 29, 2015 at 12:21 PM

New-Jersey.gifWithin the past few weeks, the mission of Open Primaries has been hitting close to home for me as the Independent Voter Project (IVP) is currently petitioning SCOTUS  for Writ of Certiorari to challenge the constitutionality of New Jersey’s closed primary system.

New Jersey utilizes a strictly closed primary process, in which the selection of a party's candidates in an election is limited to registered party members. In other words, independent and unaffiliated voters cannot vote in the primary elections in this state.  New Jersey exemplifies the exact system that Open Primaries is working so diligently to change to promote nonpartisan voter equality.

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Faces of Open Primaries: When I refuse to affiliate, I have no voice

Posted by Megan Gafford on July 24, 2015 at 10:37 AM

megan_headshot_small.jpgAfter a short melody of mouse clicks my transformation is complete. Now the state of Colorado thinks I'm a Democrat, but my loyalty is a ruse.  Despite my ease, this trick required sacrifice.  I had to swallow my ideological pride, disown my integrity, and align myself with an organization I neither trust nor respect.  In exchange I may vote for my candidate in the primaries; through a single dishonest act, I am permitted to engage in our democracy.

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Congressional Disconnect with the People

Posted by Griffin Kenny on July 21, 2015 at 12:12 PM

CongressBroken.jpgIn the days leading up to the 2008 Presidential Election it seemed as if America had reached a historic tipping point. With 3 out of every 4 Americans believing their country was headed down the wrong track, they were ready for dramatic change.

Americans were poised to elect a president who promised them just that. However, today, almost 7 years later, the American people are still waiting for that change. Despite several policy achievements by this Administration “politics as usual” still rules over Washington, crippling the hope for a better America. 

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Legal Corner: Laying Down Markers

Posted by Harry Kresky on July 20, 2015 at 3:22 PM

NJSTATEHOUSE.jpgFor Americans, it’s hard not to believe that winning is everything.  If you can’t win, why play the game? Recent developments in the effort to achieve nonpartisan primary elections have reminded me of what my mentor Fred Newman said about the subject of winning. "Not only isn’t winning everything, but losing advances the struggle."

On July 7th the U.S. Supreme Court received a petition asking it to hear a case challenging the constitutionality of New Jersey’s taxpayer funded closed primary system which bars 47 percent of the States’ voters, who have chosen not to affiliate with a political party, from participating in the first round of voting, the primary. 

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Philadelphia is Fed Up with it's Closed Primary

Posted by Adriana Espinoza on July 16, 2015 at 6:32 PM

In May of 2015, in response to a surge of articles and editorials expressing dissatisfaction with the closed primary system, the Open Primaries outreach team began calling voters in Philadelphia. We wanted to gain perspective on Independent and unaffiliated voters in the area, measure their satisfaction with the current primary system, and provide outreach about reform options.  

Our survey started with a set of general questions about primaries to gauge the voter’s understanding of and thoughts about the current system. What we discovered was contrary to how the media characterizes independent and unaffiliated voters. The voters we spoke to in Philadelphia were not apathetic and disengaged. By and large, these voters knew about the closed partisan system, and had been fed up with it for years. We spoke to many Philadelphia voters who were angry about being locked out of the first round of voting. In all, 73% said there are flaws in the current closed primary system.

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