Electoral Innovation Lab

Update - Feb. 17, 2021

Our partners at the Open Primaries Education Fund recently released a groundbreaking report, “The Next Great Migration: The Rise of Independent Voters.” In today's newsletter, we focus on these unaffiliated voters, a growing sector of American politics.

“Unaffiliated” is the fastest-growing political identification. In the aftermath of the U.S. Capitol insurrection, tens of thousands of Republican voters changed their party registration, with most registering as independents or with a minor political party. According to Gallup, 50% of all U.S. adults now identify as political independents, the highest percentage ever recorded by the organization. Party membership is declining in almost every state in the country.

At the same time, our electoral framework rewards party membership. This is most obvious in closed primaries, where only party members have a say in the outcome. More broadly, partisanship shapes all aspects of politics, including redistricting, campaign finance, election administration, and even who serves as a poll worker or certifies the votes. 

With unaffiliated voters on the rise, a party-focused election system does not reflect America. To shape those parties to look more like America - or to create a new way that does not involve the major parties - requires a better understanding of why so many Americans are identifying as independents. This can lead to a new path forward, and political reformers, journalists, candidates, and elected officials all have critical roles to play.

On February 24th, Open Primaries and the Electoral Innovation Lab at Princeton University will be hosting a virtual discussion on The Rise of Independent Voters in the United States. The forum will pair John Opdycke, President of Open Primaries, and Jeremy Gruber, Senior Vice President of Open Primaries, with leading political figures for an engaging conversation on how to dismantle the partisan barriers that are keeping Americans apart. Amber Ivey, a government-performance management professional and former independent candidate for Maryland’s 7th Congressional District, will moderate the event. Registration for this virtual forum is now open and we encourage all audiences interested in democracy and election reform to attend.

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