Posted by Jesse Shayne on March 31, 2017 at 1:10 PM
Why don’t Nevada Democrats want independents like me to vote in primaries?
On March 27, Nevada Democrats in the state Senate refused to hear a bill that would have opened up primary voting to all eligible voters. In one move, they effectively blocked 28 percent of Nevada’s voters — 413,000 people, including yours truly — from participating.
The concept behind open primaries is simple: Anybody can vote for anybody, whether you’re a member of the same party or not. In the bill proposed to the Senate, the top two vote-getters — regardless of their party — would have advanced to the national election.
I’m going to out myself here as a Bernie Sanders supporter; in fact, I was a delegate for him in 2016. But I’m not a Democrat. Before the primaries, I was registered No Party Preference, but decided to register Democrat so I could vote for the candidate I thought was best. I showed up to my neighborhood caucus and stood for Sanders; then I did the same for Washoe County and even paid my own way to Vegas. There, I witnessed firsthand the chaos of the Nevada Democratic Primary.
Afterward, a few hundred dollars poorer and greatly disillusioned with how the primary was run (not to mention, now being harassed on Twitter as some sort of anarchist chair-thrower), I changed my registration back to NPP. I just couldn’t be associated with the Democrats, despite all the liberal ideals we hold in common. There was too much disconnect between the party’s stated ideals and the actions of its leadership.
It’s never really a shock when political groups say one thing and do another, and I’m not surprised that the Democrats blocked open primary voting — despite their clear directive to make voting more accessible to all. Of course they don’t want independents to vote, because many independents in Nevada are conservatives — and many of us are wildcards, who might follow our consciences instead of the party line.
If primary voting had been open to all in 2016, who knows what might have happened? Looking at the voter turnout for both primaries and the general election, it seems Democrats and Republicans are more or less neck-in-neck, and independents are a huge bloc. If all voters had been able to participate, and any candidate could win regardless of party, it would likely have been a very different result.
Political parties are good ideas, but when the party’s fight for dominance becomes more important than representing the voters, that’s when people like myself drop out. It’s ironic that the Democrats actually got many of us independents to join, then lost us again.
For now, I’d rather vote my conscience — which, to Nevada Democrats, means I better not vote at all.