News. Debate. Community. Levers for a better democracy.

Open Primaries

Open Primaries is a movement of diverse Americans who believe in a simple, yet radical idea: no American should be required to join a political party to exercise their right to vote. The mission of Open Primaries is to advocate for open and nonpartisan primary systems, counter efforts to impose closed primaries, educate voters and policymakers, advance litigation, train spokespeople, conduct and support research, and participate in the building of local, state and national open primaries coalitions. We provide information to the public about open and nonpartisan primaries. We engage all sectors—voters, policy makers, good government and civic organizations, business leaders, community activists—to educate, build bridges and develop the primary reform movement.
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Signatures in hand, system-fix measures on track in two states

Bids to get a revamp of redistricting in Arkansas and expanded election reforms in North Dakota on statewide ballots have concluded after a difficult but apparently successful season of signature gathering.

The Covid-19 pandemic's stay-at-home orders and social distancing have made collecting signatures for ballot petitions especially challenging this year. Many groups have sued to relax petitioning rules, but the campaigns in both states were rebuffed in their efforts to get permission to use electronic signatures.

Organizers of both nonetheless got several thousand more handwritten signatures than required. They turned in their piles of paperwork to state officials Monday — confident they had beaten the odds to join other prominent democracy reform initiatives where voters will have the final say in November.

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Alaskans will decide this fall on switching to open primaries and ranked-choice voting. The state's tradition of rewarding political independence includes re-electing Lisa Murkowski to the Senate as a write-in after she lost the GOP primary.

Alaskans will decide on sweeping election reform plan in November

Note: The article was corrected to reflect that the referendum would not impact presidential elections.

A measure that would revamp Alaska's elections will be put to a statewide vote in November.

The package cleared the last remaining hurdle to getting on the ballot Friday, when the state Supreme Court ruled unanimously that it met the requirement that referendums all relate to a single topic.

Adoption of the initiative would on a single day push Alaska to the forefront of states adopting central goals of the mainstream democracy reform movement. The proposal would replace traditional partisan primaries with a single contest open to all candidates; allow the top four finishers to advance to the November ballot; use ranked-choice voting to choose the winner; and bolster state campaign finance rules with strict new disclosure requirements.

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In Baltimore, winning the Democratic primary is tantamount to winning the election. Catherine Pugh won the 2016 primary with just 37 percent of the vote.

Solution for one big city's blue monopoly? Open primaries, study says.

Griffiths is the editor of Independent Voter News.

Baltimore is a one-party town. It hasn't had a Republican mayor since 1967. Registered Democrats vastly outnumber any other party registration, having a tenfold advantage over the GOP. It's as blue as a city can get.

The consequence is that November elections are inconsequential. The winner of the closed Democratic mayoral primary, for instance, might as well be sworn in the next day, and he or she can win with a marginal share of the total registered voting population. Voters outside the Democratic Party have no voice in the process.

A new study says that, to strengthen political competition and improve city elections, Baltimore should implement nonpartisan reform. Specifically, George Washington University political scientist Christopher Warshaw says, a "'top-two primary' is the reform most likely to improve Baltimore's mayoral elections. This reform would increase turnout and electoral competition."

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John Opdyke

Meet the reformer: John Opdycke, hoping to put voters in a new kind of open mind

After six years as president of Open Primaries, John Opdyke is a few months from the biggest test of strength in the group's history: Floridians will vote in November on a referendum to permit all voters (including 3.7 million not registered as Republican or Democrat) to participate in state primaries — which proponents see as transformative for promoting more consensus-building candidates and breaking the two-party hold on almost all political power. Opdycke's career has been spent helping outsiders compete in elections since the 1990s, when he first raised money for the small-party Rainbow Lobby and then the forerunner organization of the National Reform Party. He then spent 15 years on the senior staff of Independent Voting. His answers have been edited for clarity and length.

What's democracy's biggest challenge?

Over many years, and for complicated reasons, the role of the people and the position of the political parties has gotten out of whack. Voters are too often seen as merely the consumers of a political product, not the creators of it. The parties have morphed from private associations into quasi-governmental monopolies. This is a formula for gridlocked incompetence at best and broad social decline at worst.

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