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LetUsVote: New Campaign Launches to End Discrimination Against Independent Voters

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Created: 27 February, 2024
4 min read

Photo Credit: Christopher BurnsUnsplash

 

Open Primaries, in partnership with Unite America, announced the launch of LetUsVote Wednesday, a nationwide initiative that aims to mobilize and empower independent voters, who make up the largest voting bloc in the US but are treated like second-class voters.

The campaign's launch coincides with record-high independent voter registration. In many states, registered independents outnumber at least one of the two major parties, and in nearly all the top states for independent voter registration they outnumber both parties.

And yet, tens of millions of these voters are marginalized or disenfranchised across the country. LetUsVote's primary objective is to address this issue and advocate for reforms that would give these voters equal and meaningful voices in elections.

“Independents want a different political culture” said LetUsVote Campaign Director Will Conway.

“But millions of them are prevented from voting in taxpayer funded primary elections across our country, because they don’t buy what the two parties are selling. It’s been allowed to persist for years because independents haven’t built a strong movement. LetUsVote offers community and hope for the record number of independents who feel increasingly pushed aside.”

Partisan primaries are a major factor in how the voices of independent voters are suppressed. Nearly half of US states (24) bar independents from voting in presidential primaries, and 15 states deny independents access to state and federal primary elections.

In a presidential election year, the number of independent voters shut out of the most critical stage of the elections process totals nearly 24 million. And this does not fully examine how many voters are party members just so they can vote in primary elections.

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Primary elections are taxpayer-funded and decide approximately 83% of congressional races each election cycle because the electoral demographics in most districts make them safe for one party or the other. These elections should be accessible to all voters. 

To make matters more challenging, there is now a greater push from party leaders to move to closed primaries in more states, like Alaska (which just approved a nonpartisan system), Colorado, Louisiana, Mississippi, Texas, West Virginia, and more.

The parties have already seen success in some of these states, including Louisiana and West Virginia. Tennessee added a criminal penalty for voters who participate in a party's primary who are not "bona fide" members of that party -- in some cases making it a felony.

That's right, a state's legislature passed a law that threatens criminal charges against people simply for exercising their right to vote in a state that by law has open partisan primaries.

Fortunately, there are also states that have led the way in advancing nonpartisan primary reform through voter-approved initiatives, like California and AlaskaMore campaigns have emerged in the last couple of years in cities and states across the country to give all voters and candidates access to primary elections.  

Discrimination against independent voters does not end with the primaries. In some states it is illegal for registered independents to work as poll workers, registrars, election judges, and on boards of election. They are also dismissed by party leaders, politicians, and the media.

When the media and pollsters talk about independent voters, they treat them as closet partisans -- or "party leaners" as they like to put it. LetUsVote says it is time to end the war on independent voters. 

“This is not a liberal thing or a conservative thing - it’s a ‘we don’t like how the parties divide and conquer while the problems facing our country go unsolved’ thing.,” said Open Primaries Founder and President John Opdycke.

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"Independents have a vision of America that is based on the values of fairness, inclusion, diversity of opinion, honest debate and pragmatic growth and innovation. We need to unleash the power of independents! The country needs us in a big way.”

Unite America Institute released a new report that shows that independent voters across 22 states challenge the pervasive media narrative that independent voters are just partisans in disguise. This segment of the voting population is not a monolith. They cannot be forced into partisan boxes. They are socially and intellectually diverse. 

Independents have the potential to redefine the electoral landscape in the US, but in order to do so they have to be treated as more than second-class voters. Their rights must be respected, and they must be treated equally in US elections.

LetUsVote encourages anyone passionate about improving democracy in the US or concerned over the state of elections to join the movement to make this happen. 

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