A Letter from the President: more freedom and less control - Open Primaries
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Posted by John Opdycke on May 13, 2015 at 1:12 PM


A Letter from the President: more freedom and less control

The phrases “Republican controlled legislature” or “Democratic controlled statehouse” are used by most political pundits not simply as descriptions of what is, but descriptions of the only way things could possibly be. We have two parties. They compete. Whomever gains the most seats has control. Period. Common sense. End of story.

Not so fast. Take a look at Nebraska, as Associated Press author Anna Gronewold did last week.

Gronewold paints a fascinating portrait of the Nebraska political scene. There are more Republicans in the Nebraska legislature (35) than Democrats (13) or independents (1).  But that does not mean that the Republican Party “controls” the legislature. Far from it. Nebraskans elect their state legislators using a nonpartisan, Top Two system (and once elected they serve in a nonpartisan, unicameral legislature) which means that the parties do not control their legislators. There is much more fluidity, members vote their conscience, and unlikely, left/right coalitions are built on specific issues. In fact they are commonplace. 

Contrast Nebraska to New York, where closed partisan primaries and rigorously gerrymandered districts have contributed to a corrupt environment. Indicted politicians (a regular occurrence) merit front page news. But a vastly under-reported aspect of New York’s corruption is that the political parties completely control the political debate and the actions of the legislature.  

Let me state something simplistic but highly relevant: how we elect our representatives contributes significantly to how they govern and how “controllable” they are by the parties who help them get elected.    

In California, the legislature is still dominated by Democrats, just as it was under the old partisan system. Today, however, Democratic legislators are much less vulnerable to being told what to do by their party leaders. They read bills! They don’t just ask party leadership how to vote. They talk to their constituents and vote based on a variety of inputs. The change in the Sacramento governing culture is easy to trace. Californians got rid of partisan gerrymandering and partisan closed primaries in 2010. So while Democrats may constitute a super majority in the California legislature, the Democratic Party does not control it. That is a huge and consequential distinction for all Californians.  

The open primaries movement stands for two things: more freedom and less control. All voters should have the freedom to vote for whomever they want. You should not have to join a political party in order to vote in every election. The parties have every right to organize, to fundraise, to proselytize, and to recruit voters to their side. But their control of the system is extremely harmful to our country.  

There is an up swell of interest in our movement and our organization. Support for our cause is growing. Thank you for your support and involvement. I look forward to working with you to make things “uncontrollable” from coast to coast!



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published this page in Blog 2015-05-27 13:12:32 -0400