- Samantha Serrano published Learn with the Intern: The Proof is in the California Pudding in Blog 2015-08-06 14:54:05 -0400
- Samantha Serrano published Learn with the Intern: New Jersey's Closed Primaries in Blog 2015-07-29 12:21:29 -0400
- Samantha Serrano published Learn with the Intern: The Inner Workings of a Presidential Primary in Blog 2015-07-09 11:47:03 -0400
- Samantha Serrano published Learn with the Intern: The History of the Independent Movement in Blog 2015-06-24 12:14:49 -0400
- Samantha Serrano published Learn with the Intern: How our political system became so "broken" in Blog 2015-06-15 09:53:23 -0400
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The Sunshine State has been making major headlines this week regarding the national movement to open primary elections. A bipartisan group of activists is pushing for a state constitutional amendment that would allow voters to vote for Republicans or Democrats no matter how you're registered to vote in Florida.
Called the "All Voters Vote” Amendment, it's main goal is to open primaries, and therefore give a voice to the growing number of Floridians who are written out of the state's primary election system because they choose not to register with any political party.
Prior to its use of Top Two nonpartisan primaries, the state of California was considered one of the most partisan political environments in the nation. Runaway deficits and gridlocked budgets were standard. Lawmakers brave enough to work across party lines found a system rigged against them. Both California’s citizens and elected officials tried for years to reform their election system to reduce its ineffective design.
Beginning in 1974, California voters enacted comprehensive campaign finance and disclosure regulations thanks to President Nixon and the Watergate scandal. However, these regulations did not lesson or get rid of the overly partisan nature of the political and legislative environment. Until the 90’s, legislators still fancied high incumbency rates, a semi-closed primary system, and a complex system of gerrymandering to create “safe” districts.
Within the past few weeks, the mission of Open Primaries has been hitting close to home for me as the Independent Voter Project (IVP) is currently petitioning SCOTUS for Writ of Certiorari to challenge the constitutionality of New Jersey’s closed primary system.
New Jersey utilizes a strictly closed primary process, in which the selection of a party's candidates in an election is limited to registered party members. In other words, independent and unaffiliated voters cannot vote in the primary elections in this state. New Jersey exemplifies the exact system that Open Primaries is working so diligently to change to promote nonpartisan voter equality.
While working on developing a Presidential Primaries data base for Open Primaries Inc., I have come to the realization that fully understanding the presidential election process is not as simple as one might believe. Paying attention to the media helps, but to comprehend the inner workings of how a candidate gets a party’s nomination to run for President of the United States, I recommend that the average American do some research on how the process works. Here is what I have found out thus far:
With political party polarization and gridlock on the rise in the United States, Congress now has an eighty percent disapproval rate from the American people. Over the past four years, Congress' approval ratings have been among the lowest Gallup has measured. Representative Democracy in our country appears to be falling apart, and citizens around the country are demanding change.
Republican Congressman John Delaney (MD-6) has a multi-step plan to fix our broken congressional system. Delaney has recently re-introduced the Open Our Democracy Act. If passed, this bill would benefit U.S. citizens in three major ways.
Unlike many other countries, in the United States, there are only two consistently competitive political parties that are noticed during elections—the Democratic Party and the Republican Party. The American system is commonly called a "two-party system" because there have historically been only two major political parties with candidates competing for offices. This system can be traced back to the first two emerging “parties” that disagreed over specific details contained within the Constitution; the Federalists and Anti-federalists.
However, after reading about the Independent Movement through political activist Jacqueline Salit’s book, Independents Rising, one can see that outsider movements, third parties, and the battle for a post-partisan country have been under way for years, trying to prove to Americans that they do not need to label themselves in one political party to see positive change occur.
Recently, the state of Nebraska passed new legislation that caught major attention in its political realm. The Midwestern state is known to be a very red, conservative area. However, with some debate and discussion, it has recently been producing a more liberal agenda. How is this possible? Nebraska has a very unique structure that devises its State Legislature.
Nebraska is both unicameral and nonpartisan. Instead of dividing primaries to select Republican, Democratic, and other partisan candidates, Nebraska uses a single, nonpartisan primary election, wherein the top two vote-getters advance to the general election. Nebraska’s Legislature has no formal party alignments or groups, and coalitions form issue by issue. It is currently the only state in the nation with this system.
As a first time intern, working with Open Primaries has been quite the eye opening experience. Despite the fact that I attend one of the most politically active universities in the country (GWU) and have taken multiple government and politics classes, never have I put serious thought into America’s problems regarding election reform until now.
I cannot count how many times I have heard individuals say the phrase, “The government is broken and America needs change.” This phrase is common at school, at home, and even on the five o’clock news. With so much frustration building in American citizens, I was curious to know what the root of political issues is and just how our system became so “broken”.
Through working with Open Primaries, I am able to say confidently that the problem begins with partisan-ism and unfair elections. One of the first things I learned once I joined this organization is that 40% of voters do not want to be affiliated with either major political party. This means that about every 4 in 10 Americans identify themselves as Independent. What does this have to do with unsatisfied constituents? Here’s where the problem becomes complex.