Posted by John Opdycke on August 13, 2015 at 10:59 AM
Letter from the President: State Legislators support open, nonpartisan primaries
Last week, Open Primaries leaders Al Beninghoff, Adriana Espinoza (NY), Patrick McWhortor (AZ) and Jason Olson (CA) spent four days at the National Conference of State Legislators talking with elected officials and their staff about the impact of “Top Two” in California.
You might think that the NCSL would be the last place on earth to recruit and educate. After all, primary reform is fundamentally about taking power from the political parties and giving it to the people. Democratic and Republican legislators would be the last people interested in radical structural reform.
You would be wrong.
The response to open primaries from legislators from coast to coast was enthusiastic.
“We most definitely need this in our state!” was a common refrain.
Hundreds of conference participants signed a petition urging NCSL leadership to convene a panel discussion on primary reform in 2016. Several legislators from Washington State (which already has the “Top Two” system in place) offered to “do whatever you need to spread the word that nonpartisan primaries work.”
One veteran lawmaker stood up during a panel discussion on redistricting and announced to the 200 people in the room,
“Top Two is a prime example of the positive, transformative effect ballot measures can have, and everyone here absolutely needs to sign the Open Primaries petition to host a discussion on that game-changing reform.”
It’s not just voters who are frustrated by the partisan system. The men and women we elect arrive in state houses completely controlled by the political parties. Some of them—the partisans—flourish. Many do not. They are required to play a game whose rules are written by and for the political parties, not the American people.
That’s why Congressman John Delaney introduced the Open our Democracy Act. That’s why State Representatives in Illinois, New Mexico, Maine, Alaska, Nevada, Pennsylvania, Oklahoma, Montana, and Utah have introduced legislation for nonpartisan primaries.
When you elect people in a system controlled by the parties, you disempower the voters and you hamstring elected representatives. It’s lose-lose.
The movement for primary reform is just that—a movement. Our leaders include progressive activists from inner city communities and conservative legislators from rural America.
What brings us together?
A recognition that for America to move forward, our democracy must evolve to allow the people, not the parties, to set the agenda and define the debate.
Thank you for your support and involvement.