Millions of New Yorkers Barred from Today’s Pivotal Election - Open Primaries
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Posted on April 20, 2016 at 10:32 AM

Millions of New Yorkers Barred from Today’s Pivotal Election

Jeremy Gruber
Senior Vice President
(609) 610-1602

New York’s Broken Primary System May Have Affected Election Outcome

And Prevents Meaningful Reform

New York – April 19, 2016 – Today’s primary in New York was one of the most important primary elections in a generation, with more delegates at stake than any other state left to vote outside California. Yet 3.2 million registered independents were barred from participating. 

New York joins a growing list of states across the country that have failed their citizens this primary season. 

33% of millennial voters, 33% of Asian voters, 20% of Latino voters and 15% of African-American voters were denied the right to vote on Tuesday. 

Equally egregious, Republicans and Democrats voters were not allowed the choice to vote for a candidate outside of their party. 

The disenfranchisement of New York’s independent voters likely swayed the outcome. 

Independents have been influential in states where they are allowed to vote.  Exit polling in Massachusetts primary found that independent voters—52% of the electorate—who participated in the Democratic primary chose Bernie Sanders by a nearly 2-1 margin.

In New Hampshire, where 4 in 10 voters are registered independent, exit polling found that independents voted overwhelmingly for Trump (38%), significantly increasing his margins over the next closest challenger Kasich (18%). The margin was even more overwhelming in the Democratic primary, where 72% of independent voters broke for Sanders.  Sanders's historic upset in Michigan is widely regarded as the result of the state’s open-primary system.

As many activists, civic leaders, elected officials, and good government organizations have noted, New York has the worst elections laws in the country.  New York has no early voting (unlike 37 states), no Election Day registration, a partisan board of elections, excuse-only absentee balloting (voters have to prove they’ll be out of town or have a disability) and holds multiple primary elections on different dates.  Independent voters had to change their party registrations by October 9, 2015 to vote in the presidential contest.  It’s no wonder New York has one of the lowest voter turnout rates in the country

New York’s election laws are specifically designed by the political parties to keep turnout low and results predictable, and a growing chorus is calling for change.   

Assemblyman Fred Thiele, the only independent in the New York State Assembly, has taken the mantle of reform in our state by introducing bills to open the Presidential Primaries to independents and for Top Two nonpartisan primaries in New York. As he noted, “All of us should have a voice in the nomination of candidates, and in the election of candidates, and the way to do that is with open primaries.  I hope we can make 2016 the last closed primary in New York.”[1]

Speaking on the morning of the primary, Bernie Sanders criticized the flawed system. “Today, 3 million people in the state of New York who are independents have lost their right to vote in the Democratic or Republican primary. That’s wrong.  You’re paying for this election. It’s administered by the state. You have a right to vote. And that’s a very unfortunate thing, which I hope will change in the future.”[2] 

John Opdycke, President of Open Primaries added “The American people—liberals, conservatives, and the millions of us who don’t like labels at all—want progress, innovation, development, new ideas and new approaches.  Closed primaries are defended by party insiders as a crucial component of the stability of the two party system.  But gridlock and partisanship wrapped up in a bow and sold to us as stability is a lie and a deception, and the people know it.  That’s why the open primaries movement is growing in New York and across the country.”

Primary reform is crucial for New York because a state legislature elected through a closed partisan primary system has no incentive to overhaul the system.  In Nebraska, which elects state representatives via an open, nonpartisan system, the state legislature just voted to create a nonpartisan redistricting commission.  Reform of this nature never happen in New York as long as the current primary system is in place. 

Open Primaries is committed to building a strong coalition of good government groups, independent voters and elected officials in New York to bring about this needed change.    

About 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. More information about Open Primaries, its mission and work, can be found at

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