The Faces of the Open Primaries Movement
Faces of Open Primaries: Julia Smucker -- New York
As an independent, I've become increasingly convinced that those of us who are most discouraged by our options in the voting booth ought most especially to vote, if we're to have any chance of interrupting the vicious cycle of the most polarized electorate putting the most polarized candidates in office.
In the 2016 election cycle, among a deeply flawed set of presidential candidates on both sides, I eventually settled on one I could vote for in reasonably good conscience: Ohio governor John Kasich. Living in Arizona at the time, where limited open primary laws do not extend to the presidential race, I considered registering Republican, weighing the ironic trade-off of a dishonest party affiliation for the ability to cast an honest vote, based not on the fear of victory for the "other side" but on who I actually thought would make a good president. Unfortunately, by the time I reconciled my conscience to this trade-off, it was no longer far enough in advance of that year's primaries for a change in registration to make me eligible to vote. Having determined not to give up on the democratic process, I found myself shut out of it.
Michelle Baumeister -- Ohio
Since we essentially only have a 2 (viable) party system, I feel my independent vote is worthless since I have to declare one or the other party in order to vote in the primaries. At least Ohio lets one change from primary to primary. I remember a college professor stating his belief that it was stupid not to vote 100% for a party. But the party lines keep changing until the label becomes meaningless. I'd rather look at all the information I can find about those who are running, and pick from what they purport to believe in or have actually done. I want to vote for those persons who appear to have values similar to mine and hope that person can help make changes in the party backing them.
Joseph Hanson -- New York
I’ve voted in every election since I was eligible, including primaries. I’ve always been registered as an Independent, or I registered same-day to vote in primaries and then went back to being an Independent for the general election. I’ve lived in New York City since 2000, but haven’t participated in the primaries due to the state’s strict party affiliation requirement. I was all in for Bernie by fall of 2015, and was actually excited to register as a Democrat so that I could cast my vote in the April primary. In November, I still thought that I had plenty of time, based on my previous experiences voting in primaries in other states that were either open or had same-day registration. After dutifully submitting my forms, I received notice from the Democratic Machine that I was a registered Democrat for the fall and could vote in the primary starting in 2017. I angrily called the local Board of Elections and expressed my displeasure, and was rebuffed. Apparently, registration had to be completed 193 days prior to the primary—that’s more than 6 months!
The system in NY isn’t just atrophied, it’s sclerotic, and it’s that way by design. There is no same-day registration for voting in NY, there’s also very restricted absentee (only with a doctor’s excuse or documented, unavoidable travel). After being frozen out of the party system (19.7% of eligible NY voters made the primary decision for the entire state), Independents are then courted to play nice with the limited choices proffered.
Kirsten Stade -- Maryland
I was very active in the Democratic presidential primary of 2016, and as I called to get out the vote in state after state I became aware that millions of voters were unable to cast a ballot for the candidate of their choice because of their state's closed primary. These citizens could not be a part of a process they paid for because they did not know about the deadlines to change party affiliation--which in some states, are months before the primary--until it was too late.
The complexity and variety of state primary arrangements--from closed, to semi-closed, semi-open, and open, and with endless permutations of registration deadlines and rules governing where and how to vote--confound volunteers and voters and are undemocratic as they disenfranchise millions. They depress voter turnout, and they result in the nomination of weak candidates who appeal only to a party's members and not to the largest and growing segment of voters-Independents.
Bob Croce -- Maine
Our political system is broken, has become more corrupt, and has led to an anti-establishment sentiment in Maine and across the country. Bickering and gridlock have become the flagbearers of Maine's Republican and Democratic parties, who use a closed primary system that excludes the 37% (365,795) of Maine voters who declare themselves Independents. Big money and party politics are driving decisions on policy matters and deciding who gets elected.
Is it any wonder that there are movements across the country to change the way in which our representatives are elected? Initiatives such as Open Primaries, getting big money out of politics, doing away with superdelegates and the electoral College, and creating more transparency in government, are signs that the public is fed up with partisan politics.
Michael Probst -- North Carolina
I was raised in a Republican household. Both sides of my family had been party members as long as anyone could remember. When I finally reached the age of eighteen, there was no question what I would register as. I reached political maturity watching the unfolding of the Watergate scandal and the aftermath.
Over time, I became more informed and critical of the party line. By the time of George H.W. Bush I was mistrustful of the conservative wing taking over the GOP. I was a moderate in the stamp of the by-now-disappearing Rockefeller Republican. I felt like a stranger in my own party. I registered as an independent for the first time in 1991. I am registered as an independent still.
Charles Young -- Oregon
Our closed primary system in Oregon essentially disenfranchises from meaningful participation in the primary elections some thirty per cent of Oregon voters (700,000 people) who do not identify with either the Republican or Democratic parties.
Independents like myself should not have to become party members in order to vote in these publicly funded primaries either here or in other closed primary states. Besides being fundamentally undemocratic, a closed primary’s typical consequence is that only some 20% of a state’s voters turn out to vote, and those that do are usually the most ideologically conservative or liberal.
I have signed the petition urging citizens to support the national movement to open up primaries across the U.S. and would like to urge others to also support this worthy political reform effort.
Nancy Hanks -- New York, NY
"While Congress, and most of our elected officials at every level—who are overwhelmingly elected in party-controlled primary elections, many of which exclude independents—continue their destructive undemocratic course, We the People are demanding democracy. I couldn’t be prouder of the American people and important organizations like Open Primaries who are speaking out and working for a more fully democratic electoral process. Congrats to all the grassroots leaders throughout the country who are leading the democracy movement. Keep on keepin’ on!"
Sneha Sinha -- New York, NY
"Not too far from New York City is Indian Point Lake. It’s been contaminated by nuclear waste and none of my local officials seem to have any sense of urgency to resolve this situation. Perhaps if New York was not 46th in voter turnout we would see a more lively and reactive democracy. We need to end voter suppression in all forms in New York and the whole United States."
Michael Sparks -- Indianapolis, IN
"Indiana has open primaries and I feel pretty well represented in my state. The officials generally listen to me on all the issues I care about. Nationally, our election system needs to be revamped. We need automatic registration at age 18, paid holidays for voting days, and possibly a social media tracker to have accurate real time polling. We also need to do away with closed primaries. It is a form of voter suppression and I will not support any party or elected official that supports closed primaries."
Maggie Wunderly -- DNC Rules Committee member
"“It was an honor to stand up for the 26.3 million registered voters who couldn’t vote in this presidential election. Too many were shut out, but they’ve learned how important the process is and they are paying attention. We need to throw open the doors and really be the party of the big tent; because if we shut people out we risk losing them forever.”
Maggie is a DNC Rules Committee member from Illinois. She introduced our resolution and petition for open presidential primaries in all 50 states at the 2016 Democratic National Convention Rules Committee meeting.
Jim Patnoudes -- US Navy
"How can we say we still live in a democracy when 3 million of our citizens were unable to participate in the New York primaries alone? How is it fair that these folks' hard-earned tax dollars went to pay for the primaries, and yet they didn't get to cast a ballot? That's taxation without representation! It's undemocratic, and it goes against the founding principles of our country; principles that I signed up to defend.
In the words of Martin Luther King Jr, "injustice anywhere is a threat to democracy everywhere." Having closed primaries is a form of voter disenfranchisement. IT IS AN INJUSTICE. We are sent to fight wars so that people can participate in democracy, and yet we don't practice what we preach? We must open up the primaries so we can help ensure a government in which all voters are represented fairly."
Lena -- Detroit, MI
"Our primaries have been a blow to the American people. Voter purges, six month deadlines, and registration changes. What is fair about any of this? We have a right to choose whom we prefer and it shouldn’t come down to arcane rules that no one is aware of.
I’m disillusioned by the whole process. The people’s agenda is not a priority anymore. We are run by the 1% and crony capitalists. We don’t’ care for the most vulnerable in our society. We are the richest country with the worst child poverty rates and more black people in jail than we ever had in slavery. We have water systems poisoning whole towns and yet we allow billionaires to get away with paying no taxes. It’s a disgrace."
New York, NY
"Our primaries have been a blow to the American people. Voter purges, six month deadlines, and registration changes. What is fair about any of this? We have a right to choose whom we prefer and it shouldn’t come down to arcane rules that no one is aware of. I hope everything about these primaries change. Perhaps then, my government will finally hear my voice."
Diane -- Silver Spring, MD
"I've resisted the urge to fall into despair when thinking about the extent to which our democracy is compromised. It has not been easy, but I am determined to do my part to chip away away at the systemic problems, one by one. I have found the call for Open Primaries to be a relatively easy place to start.
Occasionally, I will ask for a signature from a person who opposes the idea, but I resist the temptation to get into debate and move on. It's not my job to obtain agreement, just signatures, from those who recognize the severity of this problem. This is a non-partisan effort and we intend to persuade the rules committees at the conventions of both parties, to change their rules and enfranchise independent voters."
Chapel Hill, NC
"We have treated politics as a sporting event—behaving as if we are cheering for our favorite team instead of asking why we even have a situation where only one of two parties can be elected. In 2016, the United States ranked 41st in World Free Press Index, meaning that the American people are making important decisions based off limited points of views. We need cleaner, open elections where candidates receive the same amount of money and media coverage and ensure that established candidates don’t have overwhelming advantages."
Wilmington, North Carolina
"I live in North Carolina in a closed primary state. In no way should an individual be forced to choose either party—Democrat or Republican in order to participate in an election. I was a registered independent for years until Bernie Sanders came along and was forced to register as a Democrat to support him."
Steven Richardson -- Virginia
"Virginia voters: Do you believe legislators who want to limit your right to vote will represent your other interests? Me neither. The Republican Party of Virginia (RPV) has asked the State Board of Elections to administer a test in the March 1 primary – and they have agreed. Voters who select a red ballot will be required to sign a statement indicating they are Republicans.
Loyalty pledges are a RPV tradition. In 2008 and again in 2012, the party tried to impose a similar condition for participating in their primary – to vote for the GOP nominee in the general election – before withdrawing it under public pressure. They may go through with it this time. How should Independents – and other VA voters disturbed by this attack on democracy – respond?"
Jarrell Corley -- Illinois
"According to the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, African-Americans have been the least successful demographic in America in achieving policy outcomes since 1972. This is the result of a corrupted electoral system that puts private interest above the common good.
Open primaries mean voter mobility along with the ability to form broader coalitions to have an impact at the polls and hold elected officials accountable. African Americans can have a greater impact on legislative policy agendas only if they have the ability to organize new broad coalitions that actually have an impact at the polls."
Kevin Glover -- Arizona
"The work that Open Primaries is doing in Arizona is crucial for our citizens. From our efforts to open the Arizona Presidential Primaries to Independent voters, to our efforts pushing the top two system for our statewide and Congressional elections. "
Nebraska's State Legislature: A Local Perspective
"I’ve seen open primaries happen in action. And yes, they work.
As a high school student in suburban Columbus, Ohio, I was a bit of a social studies geek, and I entertained a bit of a dream of “studying abroad” in Nebraska when I was in college. This is because Nebraska is home to the only unicameral, nonpartisan legislature in the country."
Jim Morrison, Arizona
Why I'm Supporting Non-partisan Open Primaries
"I am volunteering to support the movement to establish nonpartisan open primaries because our political system is in serious need of reform. As an Arizona resident, I’m focused primarily on the political dysfunction apparent in my state, but the problem really is national in scope."
Why I Support Open Primaries
"I once read a book called “Getting to Yes.” Its premise was that if one enters a negotiation with the idea that there must be a winner and a loser, the reality is nobody wins. Now, consider the bell curve. The ends are quite small, the center much larger. In life, the ends represent ideological extremes, while the majority fall somewhere in the center of the curve.
In today’s partisan politics, it is those at either end of the bell curve – those who still negotiate with the winner-loser mentality who are making policy – and we are all losers in the end."
Buzz Sobel, Arizona
An Independent Voter
"I’m an independent voter in the State of Arizona. I recently voted early in the primary election. I choose to be an independent because I am not a soldier for either party. In the Arizona primary election, a registered independent must vote either on a Democratic or a Republican ballot."
Megan Gafford, Colorado
When I refuse to affiliate, I have no voice
"After a short melody of mouse clicks my transformation is complete. Now the state of Colorado thinks I'm a Democrat, but my loyalty is a ruse. Despite my ease, this trick required sacrifice. I had to swallow my ideological pride, disown my integrity, and align myself with an organization I neither trust nor respect.
In exchange I may vote for my candidate in the primaries; through a single dishonest act, I am permitted to engage in our democracy. When I refuse to affiliate I have no voice. Come election day, the bipartisan system has already selected a disappointing pair of hopefuls to choose between."
Meet the millennials working to enact open primaries in New York: Jason Martinez
Meet Jason Martinez, an independent activist for the Independence Party of New York City who worked on our campaign petition asking Senator Charles Schumer to urge the New York Democratic Party to open the 2016 Presidential Primary to independent voters. Jason is 34 years old and was raised in the small country town of Las Piedras, Puerto Rico. During his early teenage years he was relocated to Bronx, New York.
Anthony Del Signore
Meet the millennials working to enact open primaries in New York
Meet Anthony Del Signore, the campaign manager for our campaign petition to U.S. Senator Charles Schumer to urge the New York State Democratic Party to open the 2016 Presidential Primary to independent voters in New York. Anthony was born and raised in South Glens Falls, New York and graduated summa cum laude from Pace University in 2014 with a degree in Political Science. He is currently looking to obtain a Ph.D. in American Politics from Temple University and hopes to begin a career in academia and independent activism.
Professor Chuck Young, Oregon
Chuck Young, a professor of history and political science at Umpqua Community College and founding member of Independent Voters of Oregon, wrote an op-ed in Roseburg’s daily paper, the News-Review, outlining the reasons for his support of ballot measure 90, Oregon's 2014 ballot initiative for Top Two nonpartisan primaries.
Young believes measure 90 would provide “a governing system that compromises as needed, that respects the good, problem-solving intentions of those Americans serving on both sides of the aisle, and that never forgets that the bottom line is to serve the people in this government of the people rather than a government of the party.”