The independent and nonpartisan reform movements have never seen the momentum they are seeing today. Voters are ditching the Republican and Democratic Parties in droves. A record number of independent and third party candidates are running. And, powerful coalitions are forming to transform the US political system into one that is more representative of the diverse political landscape in America.
We are witnessing history in the making. Here are the 15 biggest developments in the independent movement:
1. Nearly Half of Voters Don't Want to Identify with the Parties
Gallup has found that as many as 45 percent of Americans self-identify as independent of the Republican and Democratic Parties. The number has remained fairly consistent over the last few years and only tends to drop around election time, when people are told they only have two options in the elections going on.
2. Independents Outnumber Major Party Voters in Several States
It is not just that a plurality of Americans self-identify as independent, but millions of voters are choosing to register outside the political parties. Independents outnumber registered members of at least one of the two major parties in approximately half the states that register voters by party.
One of the most recent developments in this comes out of California, were No Party Preference voters outnumber registered Republicans. And the number of new registered No Party Preference voters dwarfs new party registration for the Republican and Democratic Parties.
3. Americans Want a Third Major Party
A Gallup poll in late 2017 found that nearly two-thirds of Americans believe there needs to be a competitive third party in the US, a task that is difficult with campaign and election laws that make it difficult for another party to gain traction. Nearly 80 percent of independents say we need a third major party.
4. There Is More Independent, Third Party Representation
With the national media focused on the ongoing partisan bickering between the Republican and Democratic Parties, most people don't see that there are more independent and third party lawmakers in state legislators than at any point in modern history.
In fact, according to research published in December, third party and independent representation is up 40% since 2014. Most of these lawmakers switched parties while in office, which shows that not only are voters fed up with party-first politics, but some politicians are as well.
5. Independent Candidates Get Strong Support
The 2018 midterms have been a historic moment for independent and third party candidates who are offering voters an alternative choice in greater numbers. Unite America launched in February with a historic slate of independents running for statewide offices. These candidates are united under a banner of shared principles (called the "Declaration of Independents"), and are getting support to run competitive campaigns from Unite America.
There are also state-based organizations, like Unite Colorado and Unite New Mexico, that have brought together independent candidates for state legislature in their respective states. These candidates are out-raising their major party opponents and changing the conversation.
6. Powerful Coalition Is Bridging America's Biggest Divides
Another major organization to break out in 2018 is the Bridge Alliance, which has formed a coalition of over 85 civic action groups from across the political spectrum. These groups are united by the understanding that we need to work together to address the myriad of problems that plague the US political system -- from how we talk to and treat each other to the quality of representation to the fairness of elections.
7. A National Association of Nonpartisan Reformers Emerges
The nation's leading election reform organizations are combining their strengths, skills, and experience to increase voter participation and competition in elections. The National Association of Nonpartisan Reformers launched in January. The coalition was founded with the Independent Voter Project, Bridge Alliance, Chamberlain Project, FairVote Action, Open Primaries, Unite America, California Forward, and Let Colorado Vote.
Katherine Gehl and Michael Porter, co-authors of the widely-praised research study, Why Competition in the Politics Industry is Failing America published by the Harvard Business School are honorary co-chairs.
8. Reform Leaders Gather to Unrig the System
The nation's largest anti-corruption grassroots organization, Represent.us, organized the Unrig the System Summit in New Orleans, the largest event of its kind. Top reformers gathered together at Tulane University to discuss efforts currently underway to unrig the two-party system. Over 1,500 concerned citizens participated in the event.
IVN was there to cover it live:
9. Ballot Measures Surface to Give ALL Voters an Equal Voice
While the parties try to close primary elections or keep them closed, more and more voters want to give ALL voters an equal say in the entire electoral process. The most recent effort to open the primaries by giving all voters and candidates access to a single ballot launched in Florida.
10. Record Breaking Turnout in CO Open Primary
Colorado held its first open primaries since Proposition 108 passed in 2016. The turnout reached record numbers as nearly 35% of registered voters participated. Election officials also report that the implementation of open primaries exceeded all expectations as far fewer ballots were rejected than they anticipated.
11. Historic Election Reform Used in Maine
Maine voters approved ranked choice voting's use for state and non-presidential federal elections in 2016. State politicians tried to kill it in 2017, and Maine voters fought back in 2018. In June, Maine became the first state in the nation to use ranked choice voting, and it was independent voters who drove its success at the ballot box.
12. The Momentum for Election Reform is Growing
Using local municipalities and states as laboratories for better democratic systems, other alternative voting methods are also getting attention. STAR Voting is being proposed in Lane County, Oregon. There is also a push for Approval Voting in Fargo, North Dakota.
13. Grassroots Campaigns Are Challenging Partisan Gerrymandering
While the Supreme Court continues to punt on the issue of partisan gerrymandering, grassroots campaigns are taking on the issue themselves and giving voters a choice. In Michigan, for instance, a single Facebook post turned into a campaign for nonpartisan redistricting backed by over 400,000 voters.
Check out Open Primaries President and IVN Editorial Voice John Opdycke's podcast on this monumental effort.
14. Taking on the Two-Party Debate Commission
There is a lawsuit before the courts challenging the exclusionary rules of the Commission on Presidential Debates, which block viable third party campaigns from getting the exposure they need to be competitive on the national stage.
Federal regulations require the debate commission to be nonpartisan and use objective material, yet most of the board members of the CPD are high-powered Republicans and Democrats. Plaintiffs assert that the FEC has allowed the debate commission to exercise “unchecked power to decide who may participate in the presidential debates.”
“[The CPD] has abused that power by erecting insurmountable obstacles that ensure only Republican and Democratic candidates will be invited.”
15. Anti-Corruption Movement Gaining Ground
Foreign influence on elections has been a major concern for a while, but especially since 2016. Voters are also fed up with lawmakers who put their own interests first -- pushing legislation that benefits them or members of their family financially or accepting gifts from moneyed interests. Many people believe special interest groups have too much power over lawmakers.
But independents and nonpartisan groups are leading the charge for reform. Read about the strong anti-corruption law that was just signed into law in Alaska here.