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As the 2024 Election Draws Closer, Independent Voters Defy Partisan Expectations

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Photo by Nicholas Green on Unsplash
Created: 04 June, 2024
Updated: 06 June, 2024
2 min read

Photo by Nicholas Green on Unsplash

 

Gallup has found that even as the US gets closer to November, the percentage of Americans that identify as independent has remained unchanged – at around 45%

Historically, the number drops by this time in an election year as voters are told to pick between the major parties. But discontent with the two-party duopoly has never been higher.

The latest numbers show independent ID at 45%, up from the previous month’s 41% and exactly where the number was at in January. 

Though the number fluctuates between 40 and 50 percent, it is not uncommon to see a period of time within an election year when the number drops below 40%.

For example, in October 2022, the number dropped sharply to 35%.

But 2024 may be the year when voters buck all historical trends. It started going into the year when the independent voter ID average for 2023 tied a record high of 43%. 

Party-aligned political pundits and partisans like to say that independent voters are a myth. They assert that independents are closet partisans or party “leaners."

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Independent Voting President Jackie Salit says this narrative serves a specific purpose:

One, it regurgitates an idea ingrained in US politics that “there are only two things that a voter can be.” Voters are either Republicans or Democrats. They can't be anything else. 

Two, when an electoral system reinforces this party entitlement at every level of the process, it is used to suppress independent voters. 

There is no greater evidence of this than party leaders in closed primary states like New Jersey who say if voters want the right to vote, they have to join a party.

And, as the number of independent voters rises, more states are moving to close their primaries.

Louisiana ditched its nonpartisan electoral system in many of its elections earlier this year for closed primaries to give party leaders more control over electoral outcomes.

West Virginia followed soon after, and Texas is on the verge of moving to closed primaries as well. These examples only account for primary changes in 2024. 

In 2023, Tennessee made it a criminal offense to vote in a party primary if a voter is not a "bona fide" member of that party. Wyoming also removed the option to change party declaration at the polls. 

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But the rise in independent voters also coincides with exponential growth in nonpartisan electoral reform. These voters are a driving force behind efforts to create fairer, more competitive, and more accountable elections. 

Parties would not desperately cling to their power over elections and voters wouldn’t revolt against electoral and political processes that serve two private political corporations if independent voters were a myth.

These voters are real, they are fed up with the two-party duopoly, and they are not going anywhere. 

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