Independent Voters Urge Reforms to Limit Partisan Political Power

Independent Voters Urge Reforms to Limit Partisan Political Power
Cynthia Carpathios

According to a recent New York Times/CBS News poll, Americans’ distrust of government is at its highest level, with 89 percent of Americans saying they distrust our government. Another 74 percent say the country is on the wrong track, and 84 percent disapprove of Congress.

It’s easy to blame elected officials for the dysfunction in government. And each election cycle hope is raised that if we just elect the right person, the political gridlock that characterizes our current situation will be reversed.

But what if it’s not an issue of voting in the right people? What if the parties’ control over the political process is a structural problem that has made it impossible for elected officials to govern because party interests trump every other concern?

Voters are increasingly showing their lack of support for partisan politics. According to a recent Gallup poll, 40 percent of Americans identify as independents. Independents have become a permanent fixture in America’s political landscape. We are a plurality of voters, but we have no representation.

I’ve identified as an independent most of my adult life. But in Ohio, by voting for candidates in a primary election, I automatically become a party member and can be forced to sign a loyalty oath if I want to change which party primary I vote in for the next election. If I want to remain an independent, I’m excluded from voting for candidates in primary elections altogether, though expected to fund these elections as a taxpayer. That’s just one example of how party privilege trumps voter rights in this day and age.

Independents are starting to get organized and address the need for structural reforms. In Ohio, independents have formed a group called Independent Ohio and are participating in a national campaign led by to pressure Congress for hearings on the second-class status of independents. The purpose of the hearings is to shine a spotlight on the biases independents face as a way of laying the foundation for change.

Independents want reforms that can prevent government from functioning exclusively on a partisan basis: open primaries, nonpartisan elections, nonpartisan redistricting reform, putting independents on the Federal Election Commission and reducing the domination of the parties over the people.

These reforms open up the process and empower the American people. Without structural changes to our political process, the people we elect — regardless of how much we support their program goals and no matter how committed or competent they are — will not be able to accomplish much. In a system based on self-preservation for the parties, taking care of the business of America takes a back seat. Independents are working to open up the political dialogue and transform the political landscape — so that the work of America can move ahead.

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