Posted on April 04, 2019 at 9:12 AM
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
January 10, 2018
Delegate Sam Rasoul Champions Bill to “Fix Virginia’s Politics”
Would Replace Partisan Elections with Open Primaries
Richmond, VA – January 10, 2018 – In response to growing voter dissatisfaction with the state of Virginia’s politics, Delegate Sam Rasoul (D-Roanoke) is introducing a bill in the Virginia House of Delegates today that would take Virginia’s primary elections out of the hands of both political parties and put them squarely in the hands of the voters.
Modeled after the successful implementation of “top two” open primaries in Washington, Nebraska and California, the legislation would eliminate the state’s partisan primaries and replace them with a public open primary where all the candidates would appear on a single ballot and all the state’s voters-including the third of all Virginia voters who identify as independent-would be free to vote for whoever they want. The two most popular candidates would on to the general election regardless of party. “Top two” open primaries have been credited with making politicians more responsive to the voters and more willing to work across party lines.
Currently in Virginia’s party run primary elections, often some of the most meaningful and determinative elections in the state, voters are required to select either a Democratic ballot or a Republican ballot. Many voters, especially independent voters, choose not to participate in the primaries because their choices are limited to the candidates of one party. In many races, less than 5 percent of voters are deciding who represents 100 percent of their district.
Partisan primaries have come under increasing ridicule at the national level after 26.3 million voters were shut out of the 2016 presidential elections in closed, taxpayer funded primaries and they have been identified as a key driver of the ever growing hyper-partisanship in politics today.
“Effective political change requires more than replacing individual politicians. In Virginia, we want to start a critical conversation about just how democratic our process is, especially when 90 percent of legislators are only concerned with the primary electorate and how that really alienates the vast majority of voters in the general electorate. Coupled with redistricting reform, a true public open primary not only improves our democracy but can help to encourage competition for office and cooperation in Richmond. Knowing this, and with laws making it difficult in Virginia for third parties to organize, the political system is built to drive away the voters of tomorrow. The Democratic Party should be a leader in this fight.”
-Delegate Sam Rasoul, Virginia House of Delegates
"Virginia is a lot better off than other states because we can pick a party ballot in the primary. But as long as taxpayers pay for the primary elections, voters shouldn't have our choices dictated by party ballots. Virginians want the freedom to vote for anyone, regardless of party. That was the intent of the founders, and that's why we're supporting Sam Rasoul's Open Primary bill."
-Steve Richardson, co-founder of the Virginia Independent Voter Association (VIVA)
Delegate Rasoul is starting a crucial conversation in Virginia about how to restore voter trust and confidence in the political process. Democracy only works when you have full consent of the governed, and the current party-run system of primaries distorts the will of the people in ways that are harmful to voters and policymakers alike. The national open primaries movement is fully behind this effort and will do everything we can to help him succeed.
-John Opdycke, President, Open Primaries
Available for Interview
Sam Rasoul, Virginia House of Delegates (based in Roanoke, VA.)
Steve Richardson, Virginia Independent Voter Association (based in Falls Church, VA.)
John Opdycke, Open Primaries (based in New York City)