Virtual Discussion: Fighting For Open Primaries in Democratic Strongholds

When the subject of voting rights is brought up on the national stage, the Democratic Party is portrayed as the party that expands access to the ballot and fights voter suppression tactics on all fronts. Yet Democratic strongholds are often home to the most exclusionary and restrictive taxpayer-funded primary election systems in the country.

What's more, Democratic leadership has often led the charge against primary reform as they refuse to acknowledge the rights of independent voters. 

Open Primaries hosted a virtual discussion on October 24 titled, "Fighting for Open Primaries in Democratic Party Strongholds: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly." The event, moderated by Open Primaries President John Opdycke, featured Bob Perls of New Mexico Open Elections, Lisa Rice of Make All Votes Count DC, Sondra Cosgrove of Vote Nevada, and Open Primaries National Spokesperson Dr. Jessie Fields.

All of these leaders in the open primaries movement are fighting to end independent voter suppression in the most critical stage of the election process in deep blue territories. Some of these reformers, like Perls and Dr. Fields, have pushed for fairer and equal primary elections for many years.

READ: Is New Mexico Ready to End Closed Primaries?

These leaders understand how difficult it can be to seek equal treatment for independent voters within a system designed to benefit the interests of private political parties. Perls' group, New Mexico Open Primaries, has sought a legislative remedy for nearly a decade. The Democratic Party in DC is currently suing to remove an open primaries ballot measure from Make All Votes Count DC from the ballot.

But these reformers have also seen avenues for success. Nevada voters said 'Yes' to a nonpartisan top-five voting system in 2022. In an interview for IVN earlier this year, Perls said open primaries legislation has made historic progress in the legislature. And, Lisa Rice was able to garner enough signatures to get an open primaries measure on the District of Columbia's ballot.

The fight for equal voting rights for independent voters has had its highs and lows over the years. But one thing reformers have learned is that it doesn't matter what party is in charge, if something threatens their control over elections, they will fight it by any means necessary -- including denying huge segments of the voting population an equal vote.

Check out the full conversation from the Open Primaries event above.