Posted by Jim Morrison on September 02, 2015 at 1:44 PM
Supporter Spotlight: Why I'm Supporting Non-partisan Open Primaries
I am volunteering to support the movement to establish nonpartisan open primaries because our political system is in serious need of reform. As an Arizona resident, I’m focused primarily on the political dysfunction apparent in my state, but the problem really is national in scope.
At every level, the political process is paralyzed by extreme partisanship. As ever increasing numbers of voters reject the partisan rancor and decide not to affiliate with a political party, our elected officials are chosen by an ever smaller number of partisans in each party. Increasingly, the primary election is all that matters, as very few general election contests are truly competitive.
Officials, once elected, remain responsive to the ideological concerns of the partisans who turn out in primaries rather than to the interests of the broader electorate. Compromise across party lines is not only discouraged but essentially forbidden lest a more ideologically “pure” primary challenger emerge. Add the effects of gerrymandering and anonymous campaign contributions to the problem of partisan primary elections and the reasons for political paralysis are obvious.
In Arizona, as in many other jurisdictions, Independents and other non-affiliated voters now account for more than 40 per cent of the electorate. Yet, we are required to request a ballot from one of the established political parties in order to vote in a primary election. So, essentially we are forced to vote for a party, rather than the individual we believe to be the best qualified. Our ability to make an informed choice is restricted and our decision to not affiliate is demeaned. Adding insult to injury, the tax dollars of Independents and unaffiliated voters, together with those of party regulars, are used to fund these partisan primaries. This is an egregious form of political corruption.
A fundamental principle of fairness is at stake here: No person should be compelled to join a political party in order to vote.
Nonpartisan open primaries are a critical first step toward returning balance to our political process and, frankly, toward preserving our democracy. We should embrace a system that would permit every legitimate voter to vote in every election for the candidate he or she believes to be most qualified. And if Independents and other non affiliated voters are allowed to participate freely, we stand a much better chance of electing politicians who will respect the interests of a broader constituency rather than the narrow partisan concerns of party activists.
Some think that non affiliated voters are apathetic or otherwise disinterested in voting. I would not presume to speak for all, but I believe most of us are simply not as ideologically driven as the partisan primary filters demand. And we are tired of voting for the least bad choice. We want very much to vote for the best interests of our children, our communities and our country.
It’s time for Independents and voters who have not declared a party affiliation to come off the sidelines and mobilize to change the primary system in Arizona and elsewhere.
Jim Morrison, a Tucson resident, is a former federal government administrator and retired government relations consultant.