Ben Swann explains how the new coalition of EndPartisanship.org is working to break the 2 party hold on primary elections, which currently lock around 50% of voters out of the process. Plus, Ben details a lawsuit that has now been filed in the state of New Jersey to break that hold.
To learn more about the effort visit Endpartisanship.org
America is in a very tough place. Our economy is struggling. The value of our dollar, shrinking. Our debt, skyrocketing.
We continue to let a mentality of aggression and suspicion interrupt the confidence we claim to have in our freedom. There seems to be no vision for utilizing the tools we have today to produce a future that is better for everyone; the rich, the poor, women, men, Christians, Muslims, Atheists… heterosexuals,homosexuals, Black, Hispanic, in short… individual people.
The only thing bigger than these, and many more problems seems to be the fact that America’s two major parties, Republicans and Democrats, don’t have answers. No matter which party is in power, the problems only get worse.
So what if I told you, the real problem at root of many of these others, is with the two party hold on the election process and that if we want to fix the biggest issues of our time, we just first correct the primary election system.
If you are a mainstream news watcher, you may have never seen this video before. It is from the 2012 Republican primary. This particular scene is from Missouri at the state convention. Republican leadership in the state didn’t like the way registered Republicans were voting, so they shut down their convention and changed the rules on the spot.
That was a pretty wild scene. If you haven’t seen it before then you likely don’t know the biggest mostly untold story of the 2012 election. That this crazy scene where Republican voters were attempting to vote for their candidate were shut out of the process. It didn’t happen only 1 time, and it didn’t happen in only 1 state. This was Arizona.
In Oklahoma, the lights were turned off and Republican voters attempted to reconvene the convention in the parking lot.
Over and over across the nation, from one state to another, from county to another, Republican voters were locked out of their own party’s process because party leadership didn’t like who they were voting for.
In Louisiana, the voters were so angry about the way they were being treated by the state Republican leadership, they picked up their chairs and turned their backs on an appointed chairman in this convention because the party rules were being violated.
When confronted about these issues, the Republican Party took the position that they are a private club and therefore have the right to change the rules however and whenever they like. That is very important so we will come back to that in a minute.
Throughout this program, we are going to give you quite a few numbers. But lets start with these. The number 2…in the United States, as you know, we have only 2 major parties: the Republican and the Democratic parties. If you watch most national media you would think that the country is fairly divided when it comes to politics. That there is almost a cosmic battle between the so-called left and right. In theory, about 50% of the nation is blue (Democrat) and about 50% is red (Republican). But that is not true. In fact, about 40% of voters in the United
States now say they are “independent” voters.
Voters like Jackie Salit, president of IndependentVoting.org who says:
“First of all, I’m an independent like about 40% of the country and I feel very strongly that the system is rigged in the direction of the political parties and I feel that making membership in a party a condition for full voting rights is unconstitutional but is also counter to what American democracy really is supposed to be about.”
Jackie isn’t alone. Nearly half of all voters in the United States are not affiliated with either the Republican or Democratic parties. And yet there are only two options available to them? Why is that? Much of it comes back to the primary system. A system that has crippled the American electorate. Crippled how? Consider this… In just about any congressional district in the country, you have either a majority of Republican or Democratic voters. That happens because of either community values or because of redistricting where parties carve out a state to make sure they have an advantage.
Within that district, on average only 9% of voters will take part in a primary election. Now remember, congressional and state legislative districts have been carved and re-carved and re-carved to make sure that candidates only have to win primaries in order to win the general election.
Crunch some numbers and it doesn’t take long to figure out that a candidate only has to pull a little more than 3% of the vote in a major party’s primary in order to win the at-large seat. 3% of the vote in order to represent 100% of the constituency. How is that representative government?
Dan Howle, a board member with the Independent Voter Project says this is core of what is wrong with American partisanship.
“Politicians in Washington and in state capitals across the country go back to their districts and they have to appeal to a very small segment of voters in the primary elections. Generally speaking this small segment of the voters are the most partisan voters. Until politicians are accountable to every voter in their district, you are going to end up with the same kind of partisanship that we have now.” says Hall.
So under our current political system, we find ourselves with political parties and politicians who should represent everyone, but are incentivized to represent a small and strident portion of the electorate.
“Politicians who are in office want to get reelected and when they only have to appeal to a very small swath of the electorate, they act accordingly but when they have to appeal to everyone across the political spectrum, their behavior changes.” says Hall.
That is why Dan and Jackie and representatives from a number of other political organizations have come together to form a new coalition that’s called End Partisanship. The goal: to break the two party hold on primary elections by making their candidates stronger, and leveling the playing field for those with a third party affiliation, or none at all.
“We want to end partisanship. The dominant approach which has been to regulate campaign finance is an ineffective and outdated mode of reforming politics.”
So what specifically is End Partisanship attempting to do? Number one, they believe that the right to vote is fundamental and that means…
“Fighting for the rights of all Americans whether they are in a political party or not to have full access to the political process.”
Of course, the Republican and Democratic parties would have no problem with that at face value.
Both parties would say they believe in the fundamental right to vote. And they want involvement of every American in the process.
Number 2, End Partisanship believes the right to vote cannot be abridged by a requirement to join any organization.
“What things, what kinds of actions can we take that will get independent voters equal opportunity and equal access to the ballot as partisan voters?”
That second point is very important. Across the nation, both Republicans and Democrats have closed primaries meaning that you must be a registered voter within their party to be allowed to vote in a primary.
So remember what I told you about 40% of voters being Independents and still others are registered Green Party, Libertarian party, Constitution party, Justice party, etc. That means, at least half of all voters are locked out of participating in the primary vote that ultimately decides their representatives. And yet according to Chad Peace with the Independent Voter Project, that is exactly what is happening.
“My right to participate in our democracy should not be conditioned. I should not have to join a party.”
Now you might say… tough. If you want to change that, then don’t be an Independent. Don’t be a Libertarian or Green Party member. Join the republican and democratic party and make your vote count in the primary. Glad you brought that up…
Remember the video we started with, the video that demonstrates what happened in 2012. That is exactly the problem. Over 2 million Republican primary voters attempted to do that in 2012. But state after state, the rules were changed, sometimes in the middle of a convention. And remember why? Because the Republican Party insisted it could do so, claiming that it is a private club.
That brings us to the third principle of the End Partisanship coalition. Public funds should not be used to subsidize activities of political parties that abridge a voter’s right to meaningful participation in the election process.
“They say we have the right to tell people they can’t vote in our primaries because we are private organizations. So the second cause of action is very simple. If you are a private organization, start acting like one, meaning you shouldn’t be accepting taxpayer dollars and tax payers shouldn’t have to fund primaries if you aren’t going to let everybody vote in them.”
You see, while Republicans were saying they are a private club, they are at the same time accepting hundreds of millions in taxpayer dollars to subsidize these primary elections.
According to a report by IVN or the Independent Voter Network, taxpayers across the nation spent approximately $400 million to administer party elections in 2012.
The study compiled data from nine states which was then projected across the country:
The nine states: Texas, New York, North Dakota, Idaho, Tennessee, Indiana, Oklahoma, South Carolina, and Rhode Island.
• Texas $15,883,428.32 $1.57
• Indiana $6,969,771.96 $2.24
• Tennessee $4,577,041.57 $1.57
• Oklahoma $2,933,104.00 $1.63
• Idaho $2,840,471.00 $3.93
• North Dakota $1,352,114.00 $3.39
Now to be clear, the costs of the primary varied from $1.32 to almost $4 per voter in some states. And then there are other examples. For instance, New York’s 2012 primaries cost $11 per voter. Rhode Island and South Carolina’s primaries were approximated by their elections commissions at $750,000 and $3,500,000, respectively.
So to be clear, only 9% of the population on average is taking part in primary elections that are costing taxpayers $400 million dollars?
If the Republican and Democratic parties are private clubs, why aren’t they paying for their private primaries themselves? If taxpayers are forced to pay for the primaries, why isn’t anyone and everyone allowed to participate? So how to fix this?
As with many things, one of the first steps of the End Partisanship coalition is a lawsuit. “We have developed a state by state legal strategy defending the rights of individual independent voters in the courtroom.” State by state…taking on unconstitutional and unlawful control of the political process. End Partisanship has filed their first lawsuit as a blueprint in New Jersey.
In New Jersey, 47.6% of registered voters, nearly one half, were registered in 2013 as unaffiliated voters. And yet, New Jersey requires that a voter affiliate with a political party approved by the State as a precondition to participating in the primary process. The suit seeks to protect the fundamental right to vote under the New Jersey and United States Constitutions, which have no requirement that a voter forfeit their First Amendment right not to associate with a political party.
By denying over 2.6 million New Jersey voters the right to cast a vote in the primary election, the State has disenfranchised nearly half of its electorate, and thereby, given private political parties and partisan voters a greater and unequal access to the voting franchise.
Additionally, under the New Jersey Constitution, neither the state nor a county may appropriate money for use of any private association.
“What the lawsuit is doing is asserting for the first time, asserting the rights of Independent voters. Not on behalf of a group whether its race based or gender or have the same rights as everyone else to have a meaningful vote in the political process.”
What you need to know is that a concerted effort to spread the End Partisanship lawsuit to every state in the nation is underway. But one important point should be made here. This effort is not about ending political parties. It is about protecting the voter and the taxpayer from a scheme put into law by politicians who answer to their party bosses and not to the people they claim to represent.
This effort is about opening up the political process. After all… Wouldn’t the “Democratic” position advocate for an electoral process where the most people have an opportunity to have a meaningful vote?
Wouldn’t the “Republican” position have candidates run to represent the people of the district, not members of their party’s central committee?
Wouldn’t the “Libertarian” position provide the individual with a superior right to ballot access than that of any party?
Wouldn’t the “individual” right to vote in our democratic republic, for the people, by the people, derive from the individual person?
Of course it does because the founders and framers knew that the individual’s rights always trump politics.
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