Top Notes – This Week in Presidential Politics (April 26 – May 2, 2019)

Each week I curate a set of “Top Notes” of media coverage on the 2020 presidential elections. Read it to keep up to date on latest developments.
– Sarah Lyons, Director of Communications, Independent Voting

April 26 – May 2, 2019

Independent Voter Rights

  • FL – “Will This Critical Battleground State Open Its Presidential Primaries in 2020?” Eyes on 2020 is a national campaign mobilizing independents to call for full access to every stage of the presidential election process in every state. In phase one, independents are pressuring the Democratic and Republican parties to commit to opening all 2020 presidential primaries and caucuses to independent voters. They have the power to do so! We are excited that one of our supporters, Dr. Jeffrey Solomon, shepherded a resolution to open Florida’s Democratic primaries to independent voters through the Miami-Dade Democratic Executive Committee. His success was replicated the following week in Brevard County. The Hillsborough County Democratic Executive Committee is scheduled to take it up on May 16. (Steve Hough for IVN, 4/30/19)
  • PA – These two party bosses used to oppose open primaries. Now, they’re all in – lawmakers considered a suite of election reform measures, including a bill that would open Pennsylvania’s closed primaries to independent voters. Rooney and Novak both told senators they probably would have opposed the proposal when they were party bosses. But now that they’re not in charge of collecting votes, they support it. Both men said Tuesday that open primaries would encourage more Pennsylvanians to vote and lead to more competitive elections… Gruber told the Senate committeethat half of all millennials in the U.S., including more than a third of black and Hispanic millennials, consider themselves independents. Half of the veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are also independent voters, he said.If independent voter registration continues to keep pace with past trends, barring such voters from state primary elections is “simply unsustainable,” Gruber said. (Pennsylvania Capital Star, 5/1/19)
  • NE / NY – One of us (Kleeb) believes that the Democratic Party benefits by the inclusion of independent voters — now 21% of the Nebraska electorate — and recognizes that independents have personal reasons why they do not affiliate with a party and also understands that by embracing independents some may change their view of the Democratic Party. The other (Stewart) believes that no American should be forced to join a political party in order to be able to vote and recognizes that independent voters, now the fastest growing community of voters in the country, are a new force for revitalizing our democracy. Based on these beliefs, we have found a common cause. (Omaha World Tribune, 4/24/19)
  • ME – Several efforts are underway to bring more voters into the process, and one that I am enthusiastically supporting is legislation that would open Maine’s primary elections to unenrolled voters, through D. 211, “An Act to Open Maine’s Primaries and Permit Unenrolled Voters to Cast Ballots in Primary Elections.” Momentum for this important reform is moving in the right direction, and there is significant statewide support from Democrats, Republicans and independents. (OpEd by Portland City Council Member, Press Herald, 4/29/19)
  • CO – Colorado state Sen. Stephen Fenberg, D-Boulder, and Rep. Susan Lontine, D-Denver, introduced legislative bill House Bill 1278, “Modifications to Uniform Election Code,” in late March. One section of the bill requires double or triple the signatures for independent candidates to run for office in Colorado. These legislators are rigging the election system. These Democrats and maybe a few others have already forgotten that thousands of independent voters elected Democrats to the legislature as well as Congress. There would not have been a “Blue Wave” in the 2018 election without independent voters. (Randy Fricke LTE, Denver Post,  4/30/19 )

Voting Rights

  • Cory Booker on Monday called out Sen. Bernie Sanders over his support for restoring voting rights to convicted felons still serving prison time, drawing a rare explicit contrast with one of his 2020 rivals.  In an interview with PBS Newshour, Booker called the debate over voting rights for incarcerated felons “frustrating” and suggested it distracts from the larger, more urgent question of mass incarceration, which has been a policy focus of Booker’s campaign. (CNN, 4/30/19)
  • Bernard Sandershas doubled down on his call for prison inmates to cast ballots in elections, an idea that got a cool reception from Democratic Party leaders, voters and his rivals in the presidential race.  But the idea has caught fire with dozens of liberal groups that signed on to a letter pressuring 2020 presidential candidates to endorse in-prison voting. So far there have been no takers among the more than 20 other Democrats in the race.  In response to criticism about letting terrorists and killers vote, Mr. Sanders issued a series of tweets this week and wrote an op-ed in USA Today saying he would even want felons such as President Trump’s former colleagues Paul Manafort and Michael Cohen to vote while behind bars. “Even if Trump’s former campaign manager and personal lawyer end up in jail, they should still be able to vote — regardless of who they cast their vote for,” he wrote in the op-ed. “This should not devolve into a debate about whether certain people are ‘good enough’ to have the right to vote. Voting is not a privilege. It is a right.” (Washington Times, 5/1/19)
  • The Obamas’ production company will be backing a nonfiction series based on a Michael Lewis book, “The Fifth Risk: Undoing Democracy,” as part of a programming slate for Netflix Inc. After announcing their partnership with Netflix a year ago, the former president and first lady unveiled a lineup of films and shows on Tuesday. Their firm, called Higher Ground, is being run by filmmakers Priya Swaminathan and Tonia Davis. Netflix’s deal with Barack and Michelle Obama drew controversy when it was announced in May, with some conservatives threatening to boycott the streaming platform. But the service has continued to grow. Netflix signed up 9.6 million subscribers in the first quarter, a record number. “Touching on issues of race and class, democracy and civil rights, and much more, we believe each of these productions won’t just entertain, but will educate, connect and inspire us all,” Barack Obama said in a statement. The series from Lewis, the author of “The Big Short” and “Moneyball,” will depict “the unheralded work done by everyday heroes guiding our government and safeguarding our nation,” according to the statement.

Independent voters / candidates

  • CA – City Councilman Mark Kersey Shifts From Republican to Independent.  “Make no mistake: both parties have plenty of good and decent members. But today’s political climate rewards ideologues, not problem-solvers. I ran for office to rebuild San Diego, not localize the debate over federal and state partisan malice. For these reasons I have decided to disconnect from the polarized prism of partisan politics and become an independent. My decision is based not on a single issue or vote but something I have been wrestling with for some time. 4/5  (IVN, 4/30/19)
  • Hispanic voters now make up well over a quarter of all registered voters in California, after a surge of interest in the 2018 election, new data released Tuesday by Univision and political data company L2 shows. Their research, unveiled at an event in Washington, D.C. on Tuesday, reveals that nearly 1.2 million Hispanic citizens registered to vote in the state between 2014 and 2018, an increase of 29 percent. That’s more than double the rate of increase among non-Hispanics in California, which was 13 percent for the same time period. Another way of putting it: 2 in 5 new registered voters in California were Hispanic. Along with Texas, that represents the largest proportion of new voters of any of the six states the research covered. The spike in both registration and turnout in 2018 was particularly pronounced among Hispanic millennials those between the ages of 18 and 34  and those Hispanics who registered as “no party preference.” With one election under their belts, these new, young, independent voters are now positioned to be kingmakers in California’s high-stakes 2020 elections. (McClathcy, 5/1/19)
  • Independent swing voters who could decide the 2020 presidential election are losing patience with Democrats’ push to impeach President Trump, according to a new poll released Thursday. The Quinnipiac University National Poll found that 70% of independents oppose impeachment. That’s up from 60% of independents opposing impeachment in the same survey on March 5, before the release of special counsel Robert Mueller’s report that found no collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia. (Washington Times, 5/2/19)


  • Former Attorney General Eric Holder says a shock loss in Wisconsin earlier this month should be “a wake-up call” for Democrats that the Midwest hasn’t abandoned President Donald Trump’s GOP despite the midterm election results — and that the party needs to refocus on redistricting or risk crippling the next Democratic administration. Holder is considering launching a pledge for Democratic presidential candidates to sign, promising to focus on redistricting and building the party up and down the ballot. The pledge is still in its early stages: The NDRC is still conducting research and surveying voters to gauge their feelings about redistricting and its role in the next campaign cycle. (Politico, 5/1/19)

Weld – Republican senators who have been vocal supporters of former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld won’t say if they are open to backing his insurgent run for the Republican presidential nomination against President Donald Trump. The silence by Republican Sens. Susan Collins of Maine and Mitt Romney of Utah is an indication of the political tight rope GOP critics of the President must walk as he runs for re-election next year. They must decide to back his campaign and satisfy Trump supporters in their states or oppose the President and potentially draw his anger and their electoral wrath.  For now, Collins and Romney are exercising a third option: Staying mum. (CNN, 4/30/19)

Newly Announced – Colorado Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet officially announced he’s running for president in 2020 on Thursday morning. The 54-year-old Democrat was diagnosed with prostate cancer last month and underwent successful surgery. He has represented Colorado in the Senate since 2009. Bennet has long-hinted at running for president in 2020 before making it official Thursday morning. He is the 21st democratic candidate to enter the primary race.

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