Dear Chairman Perez,
I write on behalf of the 34 million independent voters who cast their ballots on Election Day. I am the President of Independent Voting, the country’s largest organization of independent voters. I am joined in this outreach by leaders and activists from our network. We represent America’s growing community of independents, now 44% of the electorate. We come from across the country and from all walks of life, from diverse backgrounds and communities.
Exit polling in the midterms shows that independent voters supported House Democratic candidates over Republicans at a rate of 54% to 42%. This support gave the Democratic Party control of the House for the first time in ten years. That means approximately 18 million independents voted for Democratic congressional candidates. Furthermore, more independents came out to vote in the midterms than did in 2014, resulting in a 38% increase in our participation in the November 6th election. It is also worth noting that the political reforms enacted through popular initiatives in Michigan, Colorado, Missouri, Maryland, Florida and Utah had huge levels of support from independent voters.
Our numbers are growing, and, increasingly, we are making the difference in the outcome of elections, while also charting a path for democratic reform. But we are a misunderstood and under-recognized force in the electorate. Contrary to media and pundit spin, we are not “leaners” and we have no interest in becoming either Democrats or Republicans. We wish to remain as independents and we wish to be recognized and respected as such.
In 2016, independent voters were locked out or otherwise restricted in the presidential primaries in 27 states. This meant that over 26 million Americans could not fully participate in the process of electing the President. As you no doubt recall, there was public outcry over this exclusion, particularly from young voters unfamiliar with the closed systems. They were stunned on primary day when they could not vote. In some states—like Arizona where 41% of Latinos are registered as independents, or Florida, where recent surveys indicate 39% of Latinos and 31% of African Americans identify as independents—this exclusion negatively impacts the voting rights of minorities.
We do not want to experience this kind of exclusion again in 2020, and we are reaching out to pursue ways to remedy this problem. Based on the estimated number of independents who voted for the Democrats in the midterms, and the number who were excluded in 2016, we surmise that your party could attract as many as 14 million additional independent voters in the 2020 primaries, if those elections were open to non-aligned voters. In 2016, your state party organizations in Oklahoma, Alaska, California, South Dakota and Nebraska changed their party rules to allow independents to vote. No judicial or legislative action was required. Every state party should do this in 2020.
While we, the undersigned, make no pledge or commitment with regard to supporting any particular 2020 presidential candidate—Democratic, Republican, minor party or independent—we believe the time has come for both governing parties, and for the Democratic Party in particular, to take the decisive step of opening the 2020 presidential primaries to independents. Your party has announced that its first order of business in the new Congress will be the introduction of HB1, a political reform bill. However, to be a truly inclusive democracy, non-aligned voters must have full access to the electoral process, which HB1 does not address.
We, the undersigned, represent thousands of activists across the country who are working towards achieving full voting rights for all Americans. We hope that you will be available to discuss these issues at the soonest possible moment.