Effort to Close Virginia’s Primary Elections Soundly Defeated - Open Primaries
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Posted on February 07, 2017 at 2:56 PM

Jeremy Gruber
Senior Vice President
[email protected]
(609) 610-1602

Effort to Close Virginia’s Primary Elections Soundly Defeated

New York – February 7, 2017 – – Open Primaries, a national organization dedicated to protecting and expanding voter choice in our primary elections, applauds Virginian voters who stood up and fought back against legislative efforts by State Senators Mark Obenshain (R-Harrisonburg) and John Cosgrove (R- Chesapeake) to enact closed partisan primaries in Virginia.

This is the second time in the last 12 months that political insiders have attempted and failed to curtail voter freedom in Virginia.

Senators Obershain and Cosgrove had introduced two bills -- SB 902 & SB 821 -- that would have required Virginians to join a political party upon registering to vote (Virginia currently has nonpartisan voter registration) and would have allowed the parties to close their primaries;, effectively shutting out millions of independent Virginia voters and restricting the choices of millions more.

Open Primaries, joined forces with VIVA—the Virginia Independent Voter Association— to mobilize broad public support against the legislation via radio commercials, social media, and direct voter outreach. Over the past month, thousands of letters and phone calls from Virginians across the state poured into Senators’ offices with strong statements of “keep Virginia primaries open to all!” In response to public pressure, Senator Obenshain pulled his bill from a vote in Committee and Senator Cosgrove’s bill was defeated on the Senate floor by a bipartisan vote of 29-11.

Their effort came in the shadow of a controversial effort by the Republican Party of Virginia to require that voters sign a loyalty oath if they wanted to vote in the 2016 Republican Presidential primary. That effort failed and provoked a backlash, including a strong public rebuke by then Presidential candidate Donald Trump.

“Independent voters are becoming a force, both in Virginia and around the country,” said Steve Richardson of Falls Church; co-founder of the Virginia Independent Voter Association (VIVA). “All registered voters should be free to choose among candidates for public office. Political party insiders should not be making those choices for us. We were dead set against these bills and we made our voices heard.”

Primary reform became part of the political conversation this past Presidential election cycle, when over 26 million voters were shut out of voting in primary elections that were paid for with taxpayer dollars. States with closed primaries across the country are experiencing the same dysfunction and polarization that has brought work in Congress to a grinding halt.

“Virginians just sent a powerful message to party leaders in Richmond: ‘don’t fence us in for your convenience!’ Our political culture has become deeply partisan and divisive. It doesn’t have to be that way. Americans of different beliefs and opinions are fully capable of working together to move the country forward, but not if our political system prevents us from coming together. Political insiders want to keep Americans in boxes and silos. The open primaries movement wants to bring us together in new ways.” said John Opdycke, President of Open Primaries.


Open Primaries is a national, nonprofit 501(c)(4) organization working to enact open and nonpartisan primary systems, counter efforts to impose closed primaries, educate voters, train and support spokespeople, and participate in the building of local, state and national open primaries coalitions. Open Primaries is a movement of diverse Americans who believe in a simple, yet radical idea: no American should be required to join a political party to exercise their right to vote.

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