#ICYMI: A Roundup of Nonpartisan Voting Rights News - July 10, 2015
Hey there. Here’s my latest offering and take on a number of items related to nonpartisan issues and voter reform efforts from around the nation. From the Supreme Court ruling on redistricting commissions to the Independent Voter Project petitioning the same Supreme Court -- and everything in between -- it has been a busy couple of weeks.
Thanks for reading.
With so much of the national media attention focused on the GOP and the challenges posed from the right by the Tea Party, Calbuzz has posted an interesting and informative piece on a similar situation Democrats, particularly in California, are now facing from the left -- namely labor unions in general and public employee unions in particular.
My Take: The piece gives numerous examples of congressional Democrats with long-standing, 90+% pro-labor voting records being pounded. That’s because, as some point out, the Democratic Party needs to follow their rhetoric and put people ahead of their special interests -- especially when the people think those special interests have way more than their justifiable influence over policy.
An editorial from The Press of Atlantic City (NJ) complaining, on the one hand, about the cost of a statewide primary election that had a turnout of only 5% and then on the other, pointing out that the cost is a small price to pay for democracy. In looking at remedies for low turnout, the criticism is not so much with the proposals offered, but that they come from the Democrats only.
My Take: In a paragraph I find nothing less than stunning, the blame for the 5% turnout (lowest in nearly a century) is placed on the “fact” that voters are not wasting their time casting pointless votes in primary elections.
How about the average NJ primary turnout of 8% in the past 10 years? Seriously? And that’s the suggestion to fix the amount of spending in primary elections with pathetic turnouts?
How about we make the primary election serve the people and not the increasingly unrepresentative political parties? Maybe the people, including the 47% of New Jersey voters who are independent, would want to actually vote then?
Source: Editorial Board, Washington Post
A pretty straight forward editorial from The Washington Post in the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision in favor of Arizona’s Redistricting Commission. A victory for the voters who created it and as an extension, all voters.
My Take: Dismissing the legal issues, this editorial goes to the heart of what the decision means to voters -- that gerrymandering deprives them of genuine choice and encourages extreme partisanship and while in the hands of state legislatures, there is virtually nothing voters could do about it. The bottom line is that popular measures relative to election reform, including things like California’s top-two nonpartisan primary will be held constitutional.
“...reform is in the national interest and the Supreme Court has pointed the way forward.”
Source: Meet the Press, NBC
From the Meet the Press Nerdscreen with Chuck Todd, showing that by voter identification, polling shows that a plurality of voters, 45%, self-identify as independents. By contrast, 27% are Democrats and 20% Republicans. Todd took the key battleground state of Florida as an example to show that in the past 10 years, independents have grown by 1,000,000 voters vs. 300,000 Democrats and 200,000 Republicans.
My Take: Ohhhh … Mr. Todd, you are getting there but can’t quite grasp the issue. There is the clear recognition of the importance of independent voters but for purposes of voting rights, it must be pointed out that the poll doesn’t reflect actual numbers, just self-identification -- as in, I’m an independent, although a Republican. Independence is a mindset, not a party affiliation. It means I don’t solute to my team just because they're my team. Government is not a sporting match.
Todd is getting close to understanding the grip the parties have is loosening, but still, like most, fails to consider whether we need to change the election process so that the two parties don’t have complete control over it.
Source: John Opdycke, The Hill
This piece comes from The Hill and is authored by John Opdycke, founder and president of Open Primaries, a national member-supported organization that advocates for open and nonpartisan primaries. While a review of the Supreme Court decision about redistricting commissions, it gets a bit more into the weeds about what the ruling means for other voter-approved electoral reforms.
My Take: An insightful piece that illustrates the benefits of nonpartisan primaries by comparing our partisan political system to the business and consumer market worlds. What we have, for the most part, is a lack of consumer choice today. In closed primary systems, the Republican and Democratic parties are the oil barons of the early 1900s. California and Arizona are just two examples of people trying to break up the electoral monopoly.
Source: Independent Voter Project, IVN
From where I sit, the above headline from IVN is the story of the week. You may recall, if you follow these things, that the Independent Voter Project (IVP) and others took the State of New Jersey to federal court, challenging the constitutionality of their closed primary.
By law, 47% of the state’s voters are shut out of the most integral part of the election process simply because they refuse to join the Democratic or Republican Party. The Third Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a lower court ruling against the plaintiffs and we (yes “we” as I am a co-chair of IVP) have filed a petition for Writ of Certiorari with the United States Supreme Court.
My Take: To be clear, we’re not asking for any specific remedy as there are numerous ways to open the primary process to all voters. We’re seeking an injunction against the current closed primary system and that the State of New Jersey give every voter an equally meaningful vote at every stage of the process. This is an issue that will heat up and if the Court rules in our favor, the effect on voter rights will make the decision on reapportionment commissions look like, well, chump change.