Thursday, March 24, 2016

It's time to include closed primaries and caucuses as forms of voter suppression

Here are the poll results for Idaho, Utah and Arizona:

State:                         Clinton                       Sanders

Arizona                        57%                            39%   (could change with pending provisional ballots)

Idaho                            21%                            78%

Utah                             19%                            79%

As some of you may know, Arizona is a Red State that has implemented voter suppression laws. The primary in Arizona seems like a good example of what voter suppression looks like. Now to be fair, Sanders won in Kansas, another state with voter suppression laws. But Kansas didn't get in the news the same way Arizona did.

Most of the trouble is in Maricopa County, the biggest county in Arizona and home to Phoenix. USUncut has documented 5 examples of voter suppression in that state. The most glaring example is how the state cut funding for polling stations. While every other county had one polling station per 2500 people, Maricopa had one polling station for every 25,000 people. The Sanders campaign and the DNC are investigating this as there is potential for additional damage come November.

In addition to the lack of polling stations, many people were denied the right to vote in Arizona because they were not identified in voter registration records as Democrats. That's because Arizona has a closed primary election. Note here that Republicans did not report the same problems.

Many people waited more than 4 hours in line only to find that they were not registered as a Democrat. Polling places handed out provisional ballots to be cast for those who were denied and complain about it, but it is not clear if these votes will count. Apparently, even lifelong Democrats were told they were not eligible to vote. From another article covering the same event, by USUncut:
“We’ve been getting calls all day from lifelong Democrats who have been registered as independents,” Enrique Gutierrez, communications director for the Arizona Democratic Party, told US Uncut. “One woman even said she’d been registered as a Libertarian.”
Perhaps now is the time to expand what we consider as voter suppression: the closed primary and caucus. In closed primaries and caucuses, the independent voter is left out. Independents now make up more than 45% of the US electorate and are a bigger demographic than either major party alone. You know, it's a sad state of affairs when 45% of eligible voters believe that the two major parties do not represent their interests.

While researching this article, I came upon this meme:

The reason Sanders won by such overwhelming margins in Utah and Idaho is because the Democrats allowed open primaries in those states. They didn't require people to exchange party registration for a vote. The Democratic Party of Utah clearly shows a sense of pride on their website in allowing any registered voter, regardless of affiliation, to vote in their open caucus.

The Independent Voter Project has amassed a wealth of information regarding open primaries and why the two dominant parties may want to keep them closed. Voter turnout in recent elections have been at all time lows, and when voter turnout is low, elections become less competitive. Requiring open primaries in all states for all elections, regardless of who funds the election, is the best way to keep elections competitive.

Closed primaries and caucuses are a form of voter suppression. Once we accept that fact, its easier to move on and fix it by opening all primary elections. it's time for independent voters to reclaim their right of nomination.
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