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Why Political Parties Control Elections

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The Changing Electorate: People are Rejecting Party Labels

The largest political designation of US voters is actually no designation at all. Over 40 percent of Americans self-identify as politically independent, and in some states like Massachusetts, more than half of voters have declined to register with a political party.

Millions Leave Major Parties

Few Participate in Party Primaries

Most elections are decided in partisan primaries where less than 10 percent of voters nationwide participate. As a result, candidates of the dominant party are forced to appeal only to an activist ‘base’ of voters that turn out in disproportionate numbers than the general electorate. Decreased participation leads to unpopular representatives who are often elected by less than 4 or 5 percent of the actual electorate.

Parties are Actively Discouraging or Preventing Nonpartisan Voters from Participating in Our Democracy

If the parties can agree on one thing, it’s that they don’t want to compete for the votes of nonpartisan voters. KentuckyHawaii, and South Carolina are only a few of the many states where the parties have tried to close the electoral process to nonpartisan voters.

The Republican Party, for example, led the challenge against Washington state’s nonpartisan primary system and has fought to close primary elections to nonpartisan voters in Idaho and Virginia.

The Democratic Party led a fight in the Hawaii’s courtrooms to end the state’s open primary system and argued that the party’s right of association trumps a voter’s individual right to participate in the seminal case: Democratic Party v. Jones.

Both parties teamed up with minor parties to challenge California’s new nonpartisan system, failing in 3 different attempts to reclaim primary elections as a private, rather than public exercise.

Major Parties Conduct State-by-State Effort to Limit Voter Participation

Taxpayers are Footing the Bill for Party Primaries

How Political Parties Rig Elections

Is our election process rigged?WATCH: What the two parties don't want you to know...

Posted by Independent Voter on Wednesday, September 30, 2015

These low-turnout party primaries not only encourage partisanship (a “run to the right or left” effect), but they are paid for with public taxpayer dollars.

Estimates suggest over $400 million was spent by taxpayers in 2012 to fund primary elections alone and $100 million spent on party conventions; tax dollars that come from voters who the parties actively prevent from participating in the process. In closed and semi-closed primary states, only voters who affiliate with a particular political party can vote in the primary.

This requirement stands in direct contrast with the freedom not to associate as guaranteed by the First Amendment. Political participation cannot be predicated on one’s membership to a private political party.

Parties Cost Taxpayers $400 Million

Consequences of Partisanship: Our Government is Not Representative

The consequences of institutionalized partisanship are very apparent. The 113th Congress holds the lowest approval rating of all time — 9 percent. Partisanship has stretched Congress to the point where accomplishing its primary function, passing a budget, is cause for national crisis.

Bipartisanship is Not Always the Answer

The phenomenon of gerrymandering, for example, is largely a consequence of bipartisanship. One party carves out a favorable district to secure safe elections for years on end and the other does the same. Party bosses can guarantee outcomes in uncompetitive districts where the party favorite has no real challenger.

Due in large part to gerrymandering, only 35 of 435 elections are projected to be competitive in 2014. This means in more than 90 percent of Congressional elections, the winner is actually decided during the primary, before the majority of voters can even participate.

Read About Gerrymandering

Nonpartisan Elections Create Electoral Competition

In 2010, California had the least competitive elections in the country. In 2012, the first year nonpartisan primaries were conducted in California, Ballotpedia found that the state had the most competitive elections in the nation.

Electoral Competition Levels the Playing Field

The goal of a representative government is to elect leaders beholden to their entire constituency, not just one party or powerful special interest. Yet, right now, the legal scales are tipped in the favor of Republicans and Democrats. To understand how the parties have taken hold of the electoral system, it is first important to understand how primary elections work.

How Primary Elections Work

Even Most Politicos Don't Understand the Legal Complexities of Primary Elections

Learn More

Political parties are using the publicly funded electoral system to insulate themselves from competition. This disenfranchises a large portion of the electorate, gives parties unfair access and control over our democracy, and forces legislators to be accountable only to their partisan base and not the whole electorate.

Repairing the Process Promotes A Constructive Political Discourse

The consequences of a dysfunctional and increasingly polarized government are far-reaching. It has bled into our political dialogue so deeply, issues are no longer debated on their own merits, but along carefully focus-grouped and scripted Republican or Democratic talking points. Substantive debate has taken a back seat to partisan gamesmanship. Candidates, who used to run campaigns of persuasion, now run campaigns of negativity and fear carefully targeted to mobilize their partisan bases.

If we can make our representatives accountable to all of us again, they will start talking to all of us.

The Independent Voter Project believes that democracy functions best when the most people participate. The goal of its open news platform, IVN.us, is to encourage participation in the public dialogue by the broader electorate. The goal of its coalition efforts at EndPartisanship.org is to make sure all voters can exercise their right to a meaningful vote.

Photo credit: Justin Ormont / Wikimedia Commons

Join the discussion Please be relevant and respectful.

The Independent Voter Network is dedicated to providing political analysis, unfiltered news, and rational commentary in an effort to elevate the level of our public discourse.


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1685 comments
Jane Matiella
Jane Matiella

There are complaints about Obama's $400 billion budget over 10 years for infrastructure, medical research, better fuel decisions. But corporations are a single person according to the Supreme Court and can put their billions where it ants.

Doug Cox
Doug Cox

BE IT GOP OR DNC --- THERE IS A PROBLEM WHEN POLITICAL PARTIES CONTROL WHO WINS THROUGH MEDIA CONTROL -- MY VOTE IS FOR TRUMP 2016 -- SCREW THE ESTABLISHMENTS.

Larry Clayton
Larry Clayton

the r and d parties need to disappear. One (legal) citizen One vote. candidate with most votes. wins. Another great idea all states vote on the same day. No primary only the main vote.

Karen Skiver
Karen Skiver

Why don't all 50 states have their primary on the same date! I am sick of Iowa picking! We get the leftovers!

Kathy Ann Prier Schuessler
Kathy Ann Prier Schuessler

This process eats up waaaaaay tooooooo much time and money! Just think for example, the current President spent at least 4 years out of 8 running for office! No wonder they can't really get anything done! It has gotten even worse as the years go by. Many elected officials are afraid to do what they were sent to Washington to do because there is always another election and they don't want to anger the voters! The cost for this continual campaigning is ridiculous!

James Woodard
James Woodard

So very true. Now what is America go to do about it?

Kathleen Bubenheim
Kathleen Bubenheim

So we the people (all parties) let's end Citizens United!! Think what that money could do to make America even greater and more beautiful!

Billye Martin
Billye Martin

Publicly fund and only give each candidate a certain equal amount. No pacs. No big donors. But in order to get ANY change we are going to have to stop voting for candidates that take big money and have super pacs.

Silvio Di Bartolomei
Silvio Di Bartolomei

I am a Republican and petitioned with everyone else who joined to end Citizens United. The dirty tricks abound on both sides.

Bridget Smith
Bridget Smith

These guys spend up to and over one half billion dollars to win the office. .that's a lot of favors owed down the line..

Dennis Engel
Dennis Engel

Trump has masterfully used the $$ greed of media demand for viewers (advertising $$) to his advantage. His strategy is detailed in his books. Media attacks Trump and his popularity and by doing so they "throw spinach at Popeye". Trump is effective and knows how to win. Being anti political correctness is enticing and refreshing. Self funding eliminates favors owed.

Ed Montero
Ed Montero

The parties don't represent us anymore

Dennis Engel
Dennis Engel

I was a union president for about 16 years. Mandatory dues that a portion of becomes automatic contributions to Democrat politicians was a contentious matter. It is Big money. Both sides have Big money. Individuals should not be coerced into funding candidates they dislike. Voluntarily giving is or should be an individual choice.

Lenny Bune
Lenny Bune

What are you all waiting for? Libertarians don't rape American tax money. Vote with your mind.

Anna Jerry Flynn
Anna Jerry Flynn

Rebecca Huff, would you still be voting for Bernie ,if he had run as an Independent instead of as a Democrat? ?

Solange Martinez
Solange Martinez

Illegal Aliens' Mafia Members Working at Public Storage and making false “records,” to deviate their Fraud and their stealing from Customers (and to steal some more): --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- December 25, 2015 Dear News Department Director, Editor, News Reporter, and Government Official: https://youtu.be/MWgfhX4B0-U Sincerely, SOCIAL JUSTICE ADVOCATES PROF. SOLANGE MARTINEZ 34 Highland Avenue, 2D Yonkers, NY 10705 [email protected] Tel. / Fax (347) 721- 9255 Cell (914) 619 - 8362 Email: [email protected] PROF. SOLANGE MARTINEZ City University of New York Professor Spanish Interpreter/Translator for the State and Federal Government Notary Public New York State Service Coordinator New York State Certified Mediator New York State Certified Public School Teacher (Kindergarten through College) New York Jersey Certified Public School Teacher (Kindergarten through College) --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- I REPORTED THIS TO ALL THE NYS-SENATORS (KIRSTEN GILLIBRAND and STEWART-COUSINS) AND REPRESENTATIVE ENGEL, THE NEW YORK STATE-OFFICE OF MEDICAID-INVESTIGATIONS (Case # MBF-126379)., US-OFFICE OF CIVIL RIGHTS DIVISION, NYC-MAYOR DE BLASIO, NEW YORK STATE DEPT. OF HEALTH-COMMISSIONER, THE INSPECTOR GENERAL’S OFFICE, THE INSPECTOR GENERAL’S OFFICE OF WELFARE, BUREAU OF MEDICAID, COUNCIL OF THE INSPECTORS, CONSUMER FINANCIAL PROTECTION BUREAU, GENERAL OFFICE ON INTEGRITY AND EFFICIENCY, USA ATTORNEY ERICK H. HOLDER, GOVERNOR ANDREW CUOMO, THE FBI, NEW YORK STATE DEPT. OF FINANCE, THE FBI-INTERNAL AFFAIRS, AND EVEN PRES. OBAMA’S OFFICE. And, NOTHING was ever done!

Solange Martinez
Solange Martinez

THIS IS WHAT TRUMP TRIES TO PROTECT OUR CITIZENS FROM & WHY THE ILLEGALS’ MAFIA HATES HIM! American Citizens are forced to file lawsuits against Illegal Aliens’ Mafia-Controlled-Businesses and Against Illegal Aliens’ Mafia Members who work as Government Employees [who steal and sell the citizens’ identities, State Pensions, Medical Insurances, and Government-Benefits and, then, assassinate them; so the Illegals’ keep their identities and Government Benefits with no problems]. https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B76efd1fQEaIbXl6cnNFODRXdUE/view?usp=sharing

Ben Hardin
Ben Hardin

I don't mind the fact that we pay the political parties a paltry $400 million to help them maintain their dog in the manger scam nearly so much as the scam itself or the fact that they exercise their right as private organizations to restrict who gets to vote in their closed primaries. The only official primaries should be nonpartisan and with an approval type voting method that supplies several viable candidates names for the general election ballot.

Yolanda Leija
Yolanda Leija

No more $ for political campaigns. If person wants to run, you pay for it with your own $....

Jim Walton
Jim Walton

Time to stop all waste of tax payer money period everything is out of control

C.j. Moran
C.j. Moran

And the NON thinking Voters who encompass the Sheep Voter, Party Voters etc. Wonder why the TRUMP VOTERS are voting for him?? If, you don't get it NOW!!!! you never will....WAKE UP PEOPLE!!! Change is a MUST now for this Country!!

Tj Graff
Tj Graff

Yes and the guy that wanted to stop this was voted out. And did the REP PARTY DO ANYTHING TO STOP IT. YA YES THEY PASSED A LAW THAT MAKES IT ALMOST IMPOSSIBLE TO FIND OUT HOW MUCH OF THE MONEY THEY TOOK. BUT. THEY DONT WANT BIG GOVERNMENT. MORE FOR THEM AND Nothing for the tax payers. Ps don't forget it's not all the big deals they give business it's well fare that's breaking the U.S.

Anna Jerry Flynn
Anna Jerry Flynn

Jim Webb is speaking today at the world affairs counsel in Dallas Texas today and at the Dallas Morning news editorial board on Friday.

Kathleen Bubenheim
Kathleen Bubenheim

Bridget Smith Well not exactly corrupt. If we allow the corporations to donate to them, they will take it. To say one party is guilty isn't right. We the People need to end Citizens United. And while we're at it, let's get rid of lobbyists!

Rebecca Huff
Rebecca Huff

Here is what I don't get. Why didn't he start sooner? If he in this thing to win, shouldn't he be campaigning now so that people who are dissatisfied with whoever the DNC picks know he is an option in the general election? If jest expect to show up at a debate and get talking time the same thing that happened to him in the debate for the party ticket will happen again. He is gong to be written off as a ralf Nader splitting the splitting the party vote and he will be ignored.

Rebecca Huff
Rebecca Huff

Most of it is a show to entertain the masses.

Lee Young Oursler
Lee Young Oursler

Embrace technology and quit wasting money. One citizen, one vote. No need for conventions or the electoral college.

Anatole Evans
Anatole Evans

Single Payer is the only way to effectively control costs! So both the RNC and DNC heard from the American people that they are no longer relevant or useful in New Hampshire!!!!!!!!!!Let's send Sanders to Washington and give Congress the same message!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!The American people finally see that the same six companies that own the press also own and control the DNC and RNC and most of Congress!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!Let the revolution begin! Look at the polling trajectory of where Sanders started and how far HRC has fallen! Amazing and totally missing from the discussion! Watch for it cause Sanders will soon be leading HRC nationally! The lying cheating fascists will be throwing kitchen sinks and all sorts of distractions to move the conversation away from economics and back to corporate talking points!!! Hillary Clinton is asking us to believe the corrupting influence of money does not change congressional bills and votes! She is asking us to believe the one percent are spending billions in lobbying for no reason! If you are buying this I got some things I would like to sell you!!! Yes the media blackout is in full effect! Check out Trump coverage Vs. Sanders!!! Guns and abortion! Keeping the people distracted and stuck on stupid! Divide and conquer! Only rich lives matter? Stand up to Hill first!! Trump is next! About as fair and balanced as the Corporate media! Feel the Bern! The two party system has been playing the same game for forty years! The only ones benefiting and getting what they want is the one percent! Just a trending news story brought to you by repetition creates reality inc. Also brought to you by just ignore Bernie Sanders inc. Not all that different from how Bill Cosby handled these questions! Bill Clinton is just a much better liar! Check out the list of allegations and the number of women making them! I believe victims and I don't trust the Clintons! Bill Clinton and Bill Cosby used power, intimidation, and a persona larger than life to silence a lot of women! Just wrong! Rape was part of the allegations and money was paid out! How many women need to come forward before we believe them? HRC is enabler in chief!

Dorthy Crabb
Dorthy Crabb

This is ridiculous. Let them run for office like they use to do. Maybe then we would hear what they stand for instead of running each other down

Johanna E Wegmann
Johanna E Wegmann

.....snow...winter season and elections, reminds me of a novel titled : "the winter which was a summer"" , dealt about the civil war in Pennsylvania..

Bridget Smith
Bridget Smith

Obama - $750M in the 2008 election. MUCH from external sources over the internet. It's all corrupt. Left/Right.

Chris Goosen
Chris Goosen

that sucks pay for your own convention we are tired of being abused

Roberta Gannon
Roberta Gannon

Taxpayers don't fund the conventions. Primary elections select the candidates so we have to fund them.

Kathleen Bubenheim
Kathleen Bubenheim

Dave Merry Yes he is part of the problem. As long as one party can spend large amount, the other party needs to also. is it right? Hell NO

Dave Merry
Dave Merry

George Soros doesn't contribute to the problem in your eyes right

Mona Rabin
Mona Rabin

#Trump2016 Thank you New Hampshire for coming out for Donald Trump. He is our last hope for "Making America Great Again". You have started the Trump Train rolling. On to South Carolina, we are counting on you to keep up the momentum. Our military needs Donald Trump. My husband is a Colonel (Retired) Vietnam Veteran and NC State Senator. I have never wavered for my support of Trump for President. I am asking you South Carolina to get out and Vote for Trump. I have met him and he is who America needs. Can't wait until our North Carolinians can Vote. Let's take all 50 states.