With nearly half a million registered members, the American Independent Party is bigger than all of California’s other minor parties combined. The ultraconservative party’s platform opposes abortion rights and same sex marriage, and calls for building a fence along the entire United States border. Based in the Solano County home of one of its leaders, the AIP bills itself as “The Fastest Growing Political Party in California.” But a Times investigation has found that a majority of its members have registered with the party in error. Nearly three in four people did not realize they had joined the party, a survey of registered AIP voters conducted for The Times found. That mistake could prevent people from casting votes in the June 7 presidential primary, California’s most competitive in decades. Voters from all walks of life were confused by the use of the word “independent” in the party’s name, according to The Times analysis. Residents of rural and urban communities, students and business owners and top Hollywood celebrities with known Democratic leanings — including Sugar Ray Leonard, Demi Moore and Emma Stone — were among those who believed they were declaring that they preferred no party affiliation when they checked the box for the American Independent Party.
Maybe they want to vote for Donald Trump. Maybe they want to vote for Bernie Sanders. This much is for sure: They want to vote. Tens of thousands of voters with no party affiliation are rushing to beat Tuesday’s voter registration deadline so they can cast ballots in Florida’s presidential preference primary. County elections supervisors see a surge of NPA voters who are becoming overnight Republicans or Democrats. The League of Women Voters of Florida sees it as a hopeful sign of growing interest in the Florida primary. “We’re pleased that they’re doing this,” League President Pamela Goodman of Palm Beach told the Times/Herald Tuesday. “We want voters to do everything they can to be enfranchised to vote.”
The Idaho Legislature is considering another primary election bill which, for voters who plan to vote Republican, further complicates this spring’s two primary elections. The new bill, SB 1195, proposes to move the deadline for switching party affiliation prior to voting in the upcoming May 17 primary election. The bill would move the current deadline for affiliating with the Republican Party from March 12 to Feb 12. Those voters who are officially affiliated with a party other than the Republican Party have already missed the Dec. 9, 2015, deadline to affiliate and participate in the Republican presidential primary race. The Idaho Legislature voted last year to separate the Republican presidential primary elections from all of the other statewide and local primary races that are set for May 17 this year.
Poll after poll shows Americans are dissatisfied with government. Last year, Congress’s job approval rating was at a near-record low of just 15 percent. In fact, dissatisfaction with government was named as the most important problem facing the country. And partisan gridlock was the number-one reason why. All this displeasure led to the lowest voter turnout in 72 years for the 2014 midterm election. It may also be why more and more Americans are calling themselves Independents.
A deputy attorney general will no longer be defending the state in a Republican challenge to the state’s open primary elections after the party accused him of misconduct. Deputy Attorney General Jon Bennion, a Republican, filed a motion Friday to withdraw as counsel from the case. “I submit this notice of withdrawal in order to prevent future misunderstandings with the Montana Republican Party and to facilitate future communications,” Bennion said in court documents. Two other attorneys from Attorney General Tim Fox’s office will continue to defend the state in the case calling for primaries in which voters can only cast ballots for candidates in their own party.
Armed with data showing the fastest growing segment of Florida’s electorate is choosing no party affiliation, a bipartisan group of activists is pushing for a constitutional amendment to open Florida’s closed primary system to all voters. The All Voters Vote amendment will be delivered Wednesday to the Florida Division of Elections with the hope of getting enough signatures to place it on the 2016 ballot. Miami lawyer Gene Stearns, who is leading the effort, said the goal is to encourage elected officials to listen to a broader swath of voters by giving voice to the growing number of Floridians who are written out of the state’s primary election system because they choose not to register with any political party.
Armed with data showing that the fastest growing segment of Florida’s electorate is choosing no party affiliation, a bipartisan group of activists is pushing for a constitutional amendment to open Florida’s closed primary system to all voters. The All Voters Vote amendment will be delivered Wednesday to the Florida Division of Elections with the hope of getting enough signatures to place it on the 2016 ballot. Miami lawyer Gene Stearns, who is leading the effort, said the goal is to encourage elected officials to listen to a broader swath of voters by giving voice to the growing number of Floridians who are written out of the state’s primary election system because they choose not to register with any political party. “The two parties are becoming increasingly extreme and increasingly shrill because the people who control the outcomes dictate what you have to do to be nominated to a particular party,” said Stearns, who served as chief of staff to former House Speaker Dick Pettigrew and campaign manager to former Gov. Reubin Askew, both Democrats.
House Majority Leader Val Hoyle wants to figure out how to give the growing number of non-affiliated voters a voice in the state’s partisan primaries. The Eugene Democrat said it’s an issue that is gaining urgency. The percentage of voters who don’t register by party has more than doubled since 1990, with 24.5 percent now registered as non-affiliated. In addition, under Oregon’s new motor voter law – which automatically registers people using driver’s license data – the number of unaffiliated voters is expected to rapidly climb in the next several years.
This past August the United States District Court in New Jersey dismissed a complaint brought by voters and independent interest groups to open state primaries and prevent the state from funding closed primaries. The coalition, formed by Endpartisanship.org, is appealing to the Third Circuit to end state funded primaries for the two major parties. Their complaint alleges that the New Jersey statute impermissibly funds closed primaries to the detriment of unaffiliated candidates and voters generally. Endpartisanship.org is a coalition of various groups that believe the two party system has been unfairly supported by the states and that the taxpayer funds supporting the parties creates an unfair advantage to the detriment of independent candidates. This is their first lawsuit as a coalition and it seems that they may have hit a major roadblock.
Two political scientists at Colorado College made the case in The Sunday Denver Post that lawmakers should open up the next presidential primary in this state to wider voter participation. But Thomas E. Cronin and Robert D. Loevy aren’t just lonely voices in the wilderness in this belief. Others have raised similar questions over the years about the wisdom of relying on a low-turnout caucus system to select the parties’ presidential favorites. Indeed, a group known as Colorado Open Voting is hoping to reform the caucus system this year through legislation, according to spokesman Curtis Hubbard — if sponsors can be found at the Capitol. Let’s hope lawmakers step up and a resulting bill reflects some of the principles espoused by Cronin and Loevy. The present system in which a relatively small slice of activists attend local caucuses to determine the presidential candidate that each party supports has the effect of limiting both public interest and participation — as well as the influence of Colorado in the presidential selection process.
Where primary elections are concerned, there’s more than one way to skin a cat. And for years, political thinkers have debated what effect the design of a state’s primary has on electoral results. In this age of sharp partisan polarization—when primaries often determine who occupies the seat more than the general election does—the question of how primaries can shape results has become increasingly urgent. High-profile congressional upsets in recent primaries—House Majority Leader Eric Cantor in Virginia and Senator Thad Cochran of Mississippi (although he later squeaked out a win in the runoff)—have also drawn attention to the debate over which type of primary best reflects the will of the voters. Some political reformers see opening up primaries as a way to curb the influence of the parties’ ideological extremes, which tend to dominate in closed primaries that are open only to registered party members. But does wresting primaries from the control of only registered party members actually result in the election of candidates with more moderate views? Research suggests it’s, at best, an open question. Those who have studied the phenomenon say the hard evidence is under-whelming.
Attorney Matthew Monforton of Bozeman filed a federal lawsuit Monday, in District Court on behalf of the Ravalli County Republican Central Committee. It names Montana Secretary of State Linda McCulloch and Ravalli County’s election administrator as defendants. Monforton is a State House candidate who successfully pushed the state Republican Party this spring to add support of closed primaries to its platform. Monforton said he filed the lawsuit with the 2016 elections in mind. He said he expects other county political committees to join it. McCullouch declined to comment, as did Ravalli County Elections Supervisor Regina Plettenberg. Ravalli County Republican Chairman Terry Nelson referred questions to Monforton.
A federal judge has turned back an effort led by independent voters to scrap New Jersey’s system for choosing its political candidates through primaries. U.S. District Court Judge Stanley Chesler, in a decision issued Friday, upheld the current system, which limits participation in primaries to registered voters of a particular party. In a lawsuit filed in March, two independent voter groups joined seven New Jersey residents in urging Chesler to end a system that they said prevents nearly half of the state’s 2.6 million registered voters — affiliated with neither the Republican nor Democratic parties — from participating in primaries.
A judge in Tallahassee disqualified a write-in candidate in the Florida House District 64 race Thursday because the write-in didn’t live in the district. As a result, what was a closed primary election between two Republicans scheduled for Aug. 26 now will be open to all voters in November — as it should be. District 64, which runs from Safety Harbor in Pinellas County to Carrollwood in Hillsborough, is set up to lean Republican, so much so that Democrats didn’t even bother to field a candidate to challenge incumbent Rep. Jamie Grant, R-Tampa. Grant did manage to draw a Republican challenger, however, in Miriam Steinberg, a Tampa engineer. Still, at that time all voters in the district were eligible to vote in the primary. Florida mandates an open primary if members of only one party are on the ballot and there are no other candidates running in the general election because the winner of the primary automatically wins the general election.
Ronald Bray submitted all the required paperwork to qualify as a write-in candidate on the Nov. 4 general election for the seat of state House District 96. Two candidates from the Democratic Party qualified to have their names printed on the ballot. Article VI, §5(b) of the Florida Constitution provides that primaries are open to all voters regardless of party affiliation where the winner of the primary “will have no opposition in the general election.” In the Fourth District Court of Appeal, any opposition, even write-in candidates, precludes the application of the clause, and keeps the primary closed. Telli v. Snipes, 98 So.3d 1284 (Fla. 4th DCA 2012). Bray, as a write-in candidate, is the only opposition candidate for the general election for House District 96. Because Bray is an opposition candidate, the Democratic primary in the district was going to be held as a closed primary.
Irked at what they believe is Democrats interfering in their primary elections, state Republican Party delegates on Saturday called for closing their primaries and allowing only registered Republicans to vote in them. Delegates also voted to support a second measure calling for quick runoff elections in general elections between the two candidates with the most votes. Runoffs would take place if no one in the general election won the majority of the votes. Neither resolution will take effect unless the Legislature passes laws to implement them or a court orders them. They simply reflect the viewpoints of a majority of the 207 convention Republican delegates present. The resolution for a closed Republican primary sparked a debate.
Long opposed to changing New Mexico’s closed primary system, top Democrats are starting to flirt with the idea of allowing independents to vote in partisan primaries. “I’ve originally been in the position that I was not in favor of opening primaries, but I’m reconsidering,” says Sam Bregman, chairman of the Democratic Party of New Mexico. New Mexico is one of 11 states that does not allow registered independents, most of whom are known here as “declined to state voters,” to cast ballots in either Democratic or Republican party primary elections. But just 20 percent of the state’s eligible voters showed up to the polls to vote in the primary last week, which critics cite as a reason the current system isn’t working. Statewide, voters who decline to affiliate with a party make up 19 percent of the electorate, or about 238,500 people, according to Secretary of State figures as of Dec. 31, 2013. In Santa Fe County, that proportion is even greater at 20 percent of registered voters, or 20,589 people.
For decades independent voters have been complaining about being left out of New Mexico’s closed primary elections – now somebody is doing something about it. Lawyers plan to slap election officials with a lawsuit in Bernalillo County District Court next Tuesday, June 3: Election Day. It won’t stop the primary election, but they hope it will let more New Mexicans vote next time around. You know how this thing works: Republicans get to vote in the Republican primary, Democrats vote in the Democratic primary. Independents and minor party members don’t get to vote in the primaries, even though their tax dollars will help to pick up the $3 million for next week’s election. David Crum is an independent voter who moved to New Mexico about 20 years ago.
Utah Republican Party leaders tell UtahPolicy that they are considering suing the state over SB54, the Count My Vote citizen initiative petition compromise that provides a dual-track process to candidate nominations. It’s not the dual-track that state party chair James Evans finds illegal. Rather, it is the requirement in SB54 that political parties have an open primary. The state GOP has a closed primary today. Several court cases, including one in Idaho, rule that the government can’t force a political party to open its primaries, says Evans. Thus, there are legal problems with SB54 from the get-go, Evans believes. That may be the case if the compromise law, sponsored by Sen. Curt Bramble, R-Provo, forced all political parties to have open primaries.
Two Spartanburg County legislators plan to pick up the fight for closed primaries when they reconvene with their colleagues in January. Rep. Bill Chumley, R-Woodruff, and Sen. Lee Bright, R-Roebuck, said they plan to pre-file legislation that would close the primaries. South Carolina voters would have to register by party and vote only in their own party’s primary. “I think Republican-minded people should choose our candidate and not have it part of a partisan strategy of who the other party would like to run against,” Chumley said. Such legislation has died in the Legislature before, but the lawmakers said they are undeterred and are optimistic this year could be different. “It’s something the party’s been pushing for a while,” Bright said. “I’m starting to hear it from people outside the establishment.”