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Beyond the Echo Chamber: The Nonpartisan Voting Rights News You Likely Missed

by Jeff Marston, published

The latest headlines on nonpartisan voting rights are from California, Oregon, New Jersey, Florida, and more. Enjoy.


Groundbreaking Report Released on the Transformative Effects of Primary Reform

Source: Kellie Ryan, Business Wire

An article from Business Wire on a report by the election reform group, Open Primaries, discussing the impacts the changes in California election law under the Top Two Nonpartisan Primary have produced.

My Take: The results of this study were widely reported, including in the San Diego Union-Tribune and Sacramento Bee with Business Wire having a more national audience. The study focuses on the early successes of Prop. 14, including a “more functioning Legislature”-- something we heard commented about numerous times at last week’s first-ever California Nonpartisan Primary Summit in Sacramento.

Independent Party may gain major party status

Source: Jim Redden, Portland Tribune

An article written just prior to the Independent Party of Oregon’s official qualification as a major political party. The piece provides an interesting insight to the challenges the party is facing in the coming years, particularly as a motor voter law takes effect, possibly wiping out their gains.

My Take: This piece is a great synopsis of the challenges both of third parties in general and of the Independent Party in particular along with the controversy associated with the name “Independent.” Democratic and Republican leaders in Oregon are saying their numbers are inflated because people believe they are registering as independent voters vs. with an actual party. Independent Party leaders say it shows folks are simply dissatisfied with the two major parties--but it begs the question--what does the Independent Party actually stand for? This may shape up to be a big issue in California as well, as No Party Preference candidates are seeking to use the word “Independent” for ballot designation as opposed to NPP.

Political myths that I’d like to see crumble

Source: Jarell Corley, News-Press

From Fort Myers, Fla., Mr. Corley of Orlando discusses his attendance at the National Council of Independents Conference and the conversations about myths in the political process they’d like to see crumble. Examples include how the parties are in it for good public policy as opposed to power, when it is really the other way around, and that people who register as independents are either apathetic or ignorant as opposed to the reality of it being a way to describe themselves.

My Take: A very decent opinion piece from an independent voter activist who expresses a bit of frustration with many myths--such as his own top myth, that the American system is the most fair and open system in the free world. Corley bemoans how in his home state of Florida, independent voters have virtually no say in partisan primaries, in spite of having to pay for them as taxpayers. In other words, they’re actually funding their own disenfranchisement.

Poll finds support for changes to N.J. voting laws

Source: Samantha Marcus,

An article discussing poll results showing that roughly two-thirds of New Jersey voters favor a Democrat-backed package titled, The Democracy Act, relating to both increased voter registration and turnout. The bill was introduced on the heels of this year’s worst statewide primary turnout in history, a pathetic 5.1%.

My Take: As I’ve done before with my home state, I’m going to ding this effort and the article. For most NJ voters who favor higher turnout, it’s natural that they would support the bill--although 30% say they feel it will simply increase fraud, the most common argument from the opposition, including Governor Christie. What’s missing, as always, is any definition as to how turnout is to be increased. Increasing registration but doing nothing about turnout will certainly produce a bigger universe of voters--but then watch your turnout figures go from 5.1% to 3.6%, AND, of course, there’s the detail of 47% of NJ’s voters having no party affiliation and being prevented, by law, from even participating in the primary. Allowing them to vote? Now THAT might increase voter turnout. You’d think SOMEONE in the NJ media might think to point this out.

Independent Party becomes Oregon’s third, newest major party

Source: Taylor Anderson, Bend Bulletin

From Bend, Oregon, a bit of a follow-up to the article I posted above about the Independent Party qualifying as a major political party in Oregon.  The news from this article is that the party HAS NOW qualified for major party status and their possible challenges are now realities.

My Take: In addition to the aforementioned name confusion and ability to stay major with motor voter going into effect in 2017, this article gets into the political weeds of Oregon election law, making it difficult to field candidates. With a 250-day registration rule, the deadline to register with the party--or any party for that matter--and be qualified for the 2016 primary election is September 10. Not much of a window, although party leaders say they’re finding great interest--including from a former Republican state senator who may run as an independent, for state treasurer.

Bernie Sanders Should Embrace Political Reform

Source: John Opdycke, Newsweek

John Opdycke, president of the electoral reform group, Open Primaries, and Dr. Jessie Fields, a founder of the Independent Party of New York City co-authored an editorial about Senator Bernie Sanders (I/D-VT), an Independent running for the Democratic nomination for president. In the authors’ views, he has abandoned his long history of standing up for political reform in order to more conform with party “structure,” and they see a great opportunity here.

My Take: This is really a must read. While Senator Sanders’ actions relative to this issue may be understandable within a party structure, the authors believe he is missing a golden opportunity in what many believe to be a long-shot campaign, to buck the establishment and give the voters what they really want. By not doing so, by telling independents to simply re-register as Democrats so they can vote for him, he’s blowing the chance to--in a state like New Hampshire where independents can vote--take full advantage of the independent wave sweeping the nation.

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