The disenfranchisment of two-party systems
By Kaitlin Lembo
The New York presidential primaries are happening today, yet many potential voters will be out of luck. The reason: New York has a closed primary and it’s against the law for independent voters to vote in closed elections.
According to OpenPrimaries, 25 percent of registered New York voters are either registered as “no party” or with the Independent Party. Nationwide, this number has risen to 39 percent over time, according to a Pew Research Center survey conducted for NPR.
While the two-party system works in favor of partisan politics, it also disenfranchises the core of our democracy— the voters. Independent voters do not align with a party for many reasons. According to the Pew Research Center survey, most do not align with a party because they are fed up with the constant “partisan wars” that dominate politics.
However, one quarter of the electorate, a huge chunk of voters, do not get a say in who goes on their ballot, resulting in a skewed representation.
Millennial voters, a generation of people aged 18 to 35, make up a good portion of independent voters. This generation is larger than the baby boomers, and they are instantly disenfranchised, which creates a huge problem.
By not allowing these people to vote, they are unable to make a distinct difference to the results of the ballot. Millennials are known for being a very opinionated generation, and they could make or break a campaign.
Even if millennials are discounted, a portion of independent voters are baby boomers or older, which tend to be veteran voters. These people could also make a difference, and yet New York does not allow them to have a voice by having a closed primary.
What happens to these voters? They can not vote until November, when they’re stuck with candidates that the majority voted for. They have to vote for what other people voted for. This only emphasizes that there is an unequal representation of what the voters want.
On the 2016 ballot, we have some of the most diverse candidates in history. For the Democrats, we have former first lady Hillary Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), a self-proclaimed democratic socialist who was relatively unknown until his presidential run. On the Republican ticket, we have controversial business mogul Donald J. Trump, along with evangelical Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas and Gov. John Kasich of Ohio, who recently made headlines for eating pizza with a fork.
All five candidates have a lot of different ideas to offer the citizens. But 25 percent of New York will be unable to vote in the primary and will not have a say on the final ballot.
New York needs to change to an open primary system. This would maximize the voting potential New York has, enabling more people to get a chance to have their voice heard. Erasing disenfranchisement increases the power to the people, the very body of democracy.