Each year in November, California and Texas lawmakers from across the political spectrum, industry leaders, and policy experts come together in Hawaii to discuss the biggest issues affecting voters, businesses, and policymakers during the Independent Voter Project’s (IVP) Business and Leadership Policy Conference.
Legislators from the two most populous states in the country with nearly identical demographics, economies, immigration issues but polar opposite on politics issues come together to compare how each state chooses to govern. California has a full time legislature, meeting for nine months every year, while Texas has a part time legislature that meets for only 140 days every other year.
The conference has been attacked by members of the press in the past for its location. IVP has long held its conference in Hawaii for the explicit purpose of removing attendees from the partisan-focused media and political machines that would otherwise discourage open dialogue from the people responsible for shaping policy.
Lawmakers from both parties sit down and have real conversations on energy, education, health care, economic development, technology, and for the first time in 2022, cannabis. The discussions dive deeper than they would under each state’s capital culture, which rewards partisanship and political grandstanding.
If members of the press were allowed to sit in on the panel discussions, it would be impossible to have honest conversations because the substance would be lost in favor of cherry-picked quotes or snipped sound clips for “gotcha” moments.
The IVP conference offers an environment that fosters lasting cooperation and solution-oriented discussions across ideological and geographical divides. The feedback the organization regularly receives following each year’s conference is how productive each day’s sessions are and how positive the experience is for public policy.
The Independent Voter Project, which sponsors the IVN Network, exists to engage independent voters in the political process, and to pursue nonpartisan election reform in the US.
IVP is well-known for authoring California’s nonpartisan, top-two primary which gave millions of voters a seat at the table to determine their state’s future that they were previously denied under a closed primary system. The organization is also responsible for Measure K in San Diego, which implemented fairer nonpartisan elections by ensuring all city elections are decided in the general election when the most voters participate.
In contrast, Texas holds semi-open partisan primaries that give voters the option of a Republican or Democratic ballot in the primary, and limits voters to candidates of a single party while all voters and candidates participate on a single ballot in California.
“Because the Independent Voter Project changed the elections process, there are a lot more independent voters voting in primary elections,” said IVP Executive Director Dan Howle in an interview with Dr. Leroy Brady.
“Bottom line, the best elections are the elections in which the most people vote.”
Dr. Brady attended the Hawaii conference and was a part of IVP’s first-ever panel on cannabis policy. He hosts his own podcast titled Cannabis Enlightened, which is one of a handful of podcasts hosted by industry experts present at the conference.
IVP’s electoral reform changed California’s political structure. It went from one of the least competitive states politically in the US to one of the most competitive. Candidates in many districts can no longer get by with just appealing to their party’s base. Winning requires earning the vote of people outside a candidate’s party –- especially independent voters.
And as millions of independents re-engage with elections, they are tipping the scale on several issues, from how elections are conducted to vital legislative policy.
The influence independent voters have on elections and policy is not lost on IVP conference attendees. They understand that even in states with partisan primary systems the tremendous growth in voters registered and affiliated outside the major parties is a sign that policymakers need a better approach.
Voters want long-term solutions that get to the heart of their state’s most pressing issues – and this requires Republicans, Democrats, independents, policy experts, and business leaders to come to the table.
The pressures from party leaders and media opportunism often prevent the people who need to be in the same room to shape better policy from coming together.
IVP has long demonstrated – from its election reform efforts to its annual conference – that the only way to have true nuance in policy discussions and lasting change is within a nonpartisan space.
The full interview between Brady and Howle will soon be available on Olas Media, along with podcasts from law enforcement veteran Stephen Walker, the National Association of Nonpartisan Reformers, and Howle’s upcoming podcast, Political Delicatessen, which will premiere in early 2023.