Why Does This Matter?

42% of Americans – including over 50% of millennials and Gen Z’ers – now identify as independent voters and not as Republicans or Democrats. In many states they are the largest or second largest group of registered voters.

Many states bar independents from voting in primary elections. Primary elections are often the elections that matter most. In America today, 40% of legislators run unopposed in the general election. Unopposed! Only 15% of general elections are even competitive. The real choices, the real decision-making happens in the primaries.  

But not everyone is allowed to participate, including large and growing numbers of young people.  Only a small number of hyper-partisans get to vote in the primaries, and that is a prime reason why our politics have become so partisan and dysfunctional. Our politicians are not accountable to ALL of us-just the partisan few.

Primaries are funded by the public. But the parties – private organizations– decide who can and cannot vote. That’s wrong. It’s unfair. And it’s taxation without representation. 

There is a solution: open primaries.

In an open primary, all voters vote. It’s that simple. Politicians can no longer ignore the largest and fastest growing group of voters in the country. 

Alaska, California, Nebraska and Washington have gone even further and enacted open non-partisan primaries. All the candidates appear on the same ballot. All voters are able to participate and vote for who they want. The most popular candidates – regardless of party – advance to the general election. In these states, elections are highly competitive and legislators work across party lines and govern productively. 

It’s up to us, the next generation of voters, to fight for equality and real choice and make our elections and our political system as a whole work for us, not the politicians and special interests.

Over the course of our history, voter discrimination has taken many forms. The way we do our elections is broken, and many states have instituted modern-day voter discrimination through a closed primary system. Today, many organizations have engaged themselves in getting voters to vote, but rarely do we ask fundamental questions about the process itself, like why do our representatives seem to serve their party over the people?

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