Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Independent Voters are Independent for a Reason

What does it mean to be a Democrat of Republican (or a member of any political party)? It means you get to play a part, via primary elections, in choosing your party's candidates to run against opposing party candidates in general elections.

What does it meant to be "unaffiliated"? It means you do not belong to any political party, commonly known as an Independent. Not being a member of any political party, you don't get a vote on which candidates political parties run in general elections.

Considering that every registered voter can choose his party affiliation, this would seem uncontroversial and fair. 

But, apparently, there are some Independents who don't know what "independent" means. Jaime (“Jim”) Martinez, a member Independent­, and Rebecca Feldman, president, Morristown Town Council published a letter in the New Jersey Star-Ledger highlighting and supporting a federal lawsuit that "demands that every voter have an equal vote at every stage of the state-funded election process." They write:

    Primary elections are a critical juncture in the democratic process. But in New Jersey, independents — who are 47 percent of registered voters — are forced to join a party in order to vote. This is the independent’s plight: We are first-class taxpayers when it comes to funding elections, but second-class voters.     A change is clearly needed, so the voices of millions of independent voters who do not now have full voting rights can be heard.

I left these comments:

This letter brings to mind the old saying about eating one's cake and having it, too.

I'm a former Republican who registered as an Independent in 2006 because neither [major] party any longer substantially represented my principles and viewpoints. When I did so, I willingly gave up the ability to vote in primaries. I did not give up "full voting rights." What business does an Independent have to help choose candidates of parties he chose not to belong to?

The idea that Independents are "first-class taxpayers when it comes to funding elections, but second-class voters" is absurd on its face. We are not "second-class voters." We are voters who exercised a particular choice with full knowledge of the consequences. (Taxpayer funding of candidates is a problem, and should be abolished. But that is another issue.)

If this ridiculous and juvenile lawsuit succeeds, and non-party members are allowed to pollute the primary process, then any ideological distinction between the parties would likely be diluted and washed away. If that happens, there will be no truly independent political parties, and no real ideological choice in many contests. We might as well have one-party rule.

It's true that the rights of Independents are violated by being forced to fund "public matching funds" to political candidates. But everyone's rights are violated by government funding laws. Taxpayer funding of elections is what should be challenged.

No comments: