Posted by Kellie Ryan on June 16, 2015 at 3:38 PM
Q&A: Meet Open Primaries Communications Associate Zach Handler
Zach Handler is a Communications Associate for Open Primaries. Zach also serves as a Development Associate for our friends at IndependentVoting.org. His past political work includes the campaign of U.S. Senator Jean Carnahan and NARAL Pro-Choice Missouri. Zach holds a B.A. in Politics and Theatre Arts from Brandeis University. Originally from St. Louis, he now calls New York City-specifically his bachelor pad in the East Village--home. Zach is also a professional actor and a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu enthusiast.
How did you get involved with Open Primaries?
I have been working as a Development Associate with IndependentVoting.org for the past few years with John Opdycke when he served there as Director of Development. When Open Primaries launched, John invited me to join the team as a communications associate.
Does the issue resonate with you? Why?
I have always considered myself to be very knowledgeable about politics. I majored in Politics in college, always followed the news very closely and have experience working on political campaigns. However, prior to my time working with this movement, I had no idea that independent voters, in most states, could not vote in the primary elections and that this was something supported by both parties. Throughout my time doing this work, I have met many people like myself who were both “knowledgeable about politics” and didn’t know primaries could be so exclusionary. The parties have done everything they can to bury this issue.
How has the movement grown since you started working with open primaries advocates?
When I started working within the structural political reform movement just a few years ago, we were viewed as being very much on the fringes. Most elected officials would not even take a position on open primaries, because they didn’t see it as a “real issue.” Now we have members of the political establishment like Senator Chuck Schumer voicing his support for Top-Two in the New York Times and federal legislation calling for open primaries. This issue has come a long way!
What is the problem with American politics?
Wow! Where do I start? For one, the way the game is set up is very sneaky. Partisanship has been structurally hardwired into the system while having the appearance of being accessible, open, and fair. Most people aren't paying any attention to primary election laws, legislative redistricting, ballot access requirements, debate eligibility rules etc., but it is in those decisions how much power the system is really giving to the voters.
How would you fix it?
Contrary to what many politicians might say, there is no “quick-fix” or “silver bullet” to remedy our political system. However, I would support any structural change that moves power away from the parties and into the hands of the voters. Of course, this includes moving to a nonpartisan primary system.
Where do you see open primaries the movement and the organization heading?
This movement is growing faster than ever. Organizations and individuals that were hesitant about working with us in the past are now looking to team up. We cannot and will not be ignored by the political establishment anymore. Americans are tired of saying “Okay.” When they hear: “Sorry, but that’s just the way it is…” I don’t know who penned this quote, “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.” We are building a coalition to win.
Some of Zach's work: