Will White House Respond to Calls for Nonpartisan Primaries?

Gerrymandering. Acrimonious partisan rhetoric. High-dollar campaign financing. Systematic barriers to full participation by minor political parties. Bipartisan support for international trade agreements, perpetual war, and the national security state. In such an environment, we sympathize with the disillusioned and voter apathy can be rationalized. We might even consider giving up on the process ourselves.

Although many have done just that, a growing number of citizens (especially among young people) have not yet become so jaded that they are ready to throw in the towel. They are registering to vote and, in increasing numbers, they are registering with no party affiliation.

If you are a regular reader of this site, you are well aware of the record number of Americans self-identifying as independents. In a Gallup Poll published in early 2015, 43 percent of respondents identified as independent of the major parties.

While registered Democrats and Republicans may claim to be independent-minded, the percentage of registered voters with no party affiliation continues to grow in my home state of Florida. According to numbers provided by the Florida Division of Elections, the percentage has increased to 23.3 percent from 19.5 percent between 2010 and 2014.

As encouraging as these numbers are, Florida remains a closed primary state for all practical purposes.

President Obama created the Presidential Commission on Election Administration (PCEA) by executive order on March 28, 2013. The hearings were held in 5 different cities, and independent activists attended each.

At the biannual conference of independents last month, Rick Robol, a long-time activist affiliated with IndependentVoting.org, recalled his experience appearing before the commission during its final hearing held in Cincinnati, Ohio. Included in his remarks was the following statement:

“For an entire day, we sat there as one Commission panelist after another talked about concerns of the Republican Party and concerns of the Democratic Party.  Not a single panelist said a single word about the rights of Independents—at least, not until all 5 of us arose and insisted on being heard.  And when the Commission issued its final written report months later, it again said nothing about the rights of Independents—in fact, it did not even acknowledge that we exist.” – Rick Robol

The independent movement may be our only hope for a near-term change in the dynamics of American politics. For that to become a reality, independents must be allowed a greater level of participation.

It is no longer acceptable that independents merely decide the election of a Democrat or Republican from among the candidates put forth by their respective closed primaries. It is time for independents to have a say in the nominating process.

As activists across the country continue working in their respective states to change state election laws, we also need this type of change at the federal level. HR 5334 was introduced in the House of Representatives on July 31, 2014, by U.S. Representative John Delaney of Maryland.

The bill summary is contained here.

Even though the bill died with the 113th Congress, and Delaney’s office cannot confirm that he will reintroduce the bill in the new Congress, my hope is that he will and that he will also pick up additional cosponsors.

Please consider contacting your representative to inquire about their position on this bill, and perhaps encourage them to become a cosponsor if or when it is reintroduced.

Additionally, given that the PCEA ignored independents during its hearings, perhaps it is time we hear directly from the president. There is a petition circulating urging the Obama administration to publicly support this bill — or some variant — allowing independents unrestricted access to congressional primaries.

The petition is here.  

Please, consider signing and sharing the petition, as it takes 100,000 signatures to generate an official response.