Posted by Russell Daniels on May 12, 2016 at 12:39 AM
Time to Open Our Nomination System to All Voters? (Pacifica Radio Network)
Then, I'm joined by John Opdycke, President of OpenPrimaries.org, for a fascinating discussion about the anti-democratic (small "d") problem of primary nomination contests that are closed to non-party affiliated voters. The conversation kicks off following concerns about Tuesday's primary in New York, where voters faced voter registration purges and other problems at the polling place, along with the nation's earliest voter deadline for changing party affiliation in order to be allowed to participate in the state's closed primary elections. (Voters had to change party affiliation by October 9th of last year to be able to vote in this year's Presidential Primary on April 19th!)
Opdycke explains why shutting non-party affiliated voters out of the process is of particular concern in primaries that are run with tax-payer funding and resources. But, he explains, the problem is larger than that. "This is a very serious question. Who does the political process belong to? Does the process itself belong to the people, or does it belong to the political parties? Right now, our democracy belongs lock, stock and barrel to the political parties, from top to bottom. And that is a very big problem and it is beginning to come to light."
"What the open primaries movement is pushing for is public primaries, not partisan primaries," he tells me, citing states like California, Nebraska and Washington that hold "Top Two" primaries (also known as "Cajun" or "Jungle" primaries) for many elected public offices, allowing candidates of all (or no) parties to compete against each other to run in the general election. "This is a fundamentally different conception of what a primary is. It's a public primary. Not a partisan primary."
While recognizing that political parties are private organizations with a First Amendment right to organize as they see fit, Opdycke explains how the result blocks people from the process and makes it nearly impossible to change the system. "They control the political process. They control the boards of elections. They control how redistricting is done. They control the primaries. They control voter registration. They control every aspect. They even control the Presidential debates. And we Americans, we've participated in that. We have in some ways ceded our power to these political organizations and I think the time has come to take that back. Not abolish political parties, but simply return them to an appropriate place."
He goes on to respond to various concerns and critiques of "Top Two" primary systems, as we have reported on them in years past (here and here, for example) at The BRAD BLOG, in what I hope is a very enlightening conversation and one that needs to be continued in the months and years ahead, all over the country.