Independent Voter Project and CA Fwd Host Summit to Discuss Future of Nonpartisan Reform

On August 19, the Independent Voter Project (IVP) and California Forward (CAFwd) will co-host the California Nonpartisan Primary Summit, a series of panel discussions on the effects of California’s nonpartisan primary system, voting rights, and the future of election reform.

“The summit will be an excellent opportunity for interested persons of all political stripes to both hear and learn from legislators, as well as political and public policy experts about the already demonstrated effects of California’s nonpartisan primary,” Jeff Marston, co-chair of IVP, explained.

The Wednesday summit will be held at the Citizen Hotel in Sacramento and will include three panel discussions comprised of California state representatives, voting rights experts, and academic and professional elections specialists.

Secretary of State Alex Padilla and California State Senator Steve Glazer will attend the event as special guest speakers. Other policymakers attending the summit include state Senator Anthony Cannella and Assemblymembers Brian Maienschein, Lorena Gonzalez, Kristin Olsen, Cheryl Brown, and Adam Gray.

“The [nonpartisan] top-two primary system is changing California politics for the better,” Glazer remarked. “As candidates and legislators reach across partisan boundaries to appeal to all voters of a district, you begin to see pragmatic policy making eroding the hyper-partisan power at the Capitol. This is about giving more voters a voice.”

The first panel will focus on the fundamental goals of California’s nonpartisan, top-two primary system and its effects on voter rights, policymaking, and political parties. More specifically, panelists will discuss if we can measure the short-term ‘success’ or ‘failure’ of the nonpartisan system with available data.

Confirmed panelists for “What is Top-Two Really About?” include: Assemblymember Brian Maienschein, Sacramento State University professor Kimberly Nalder, IVP attorney Chad Peace, and NYU assistant professor Andrew Sinclair.

The second panel will broaden the scope of discussion to national election reform efforts. Panelists will address the role of California in leading the national discourse on voting rights, how other state efforts are contributing to this discussion, and where future legislation on automatic voter registration and primary reform are heading.

Confirmed panelists for “The Future of Nonpartisan Reform” include: Assemblymembers Lorena Gonzalez and Kristin Olsen, Publisher of the California Target Book, Allen Hoffenblum, co-chair of IVP, Dan Howle, and director of Government Affairs at California Correctional Peace Officers Association, Stephen Walker.

The final panel will expound upon the consequences of the nonpartisan, top-two primary system on California’s elections. Critics often contend that nonpartisan primaries hurt third parties while some claim the new system disadvantages the two major parties.

Specifically, panelists will discuss if these claims can be substantiated and what direct implications the nonpartisan primary system has engendered for political campaigns in general.

Confirmed panelists for “Top-Two Effect on California Elections” include: State Senator Anthony Cannella, Assemblymembers Cheryl Brown and Adam Gray, California Business Roundtable President Rob Lapsley, executive vice president for the California Chamber of Commerce, Martin Wilson, and Keep California Golden IE coordinator Pam Woudstra.

The summit provides a place for policymakers, academic experts, and professionals to discuss the implications of nonpartisan election reform and what future steps are necessary to continue enhancing the quality of democracy for all voters and government accountability for every citizen.

The event starts at 9:30 am PDT. It is free and open to the public.