Watch Past Virtual Discussions
February 2024: Change of Heart: from “No Way” to “Yes Sir!” A Conversation with Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum
Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum, a Republican, is one of the leaders of a growing movement to open up the state’s primaries, called Oklahoma United. But a decade earlier, he campaigned against open, nonpartisan primaries!
Bynum, then a member of the city council, opposed the citizen-led ballot question that made Tulsa’s municipal elections nonpartisan. He felt it interfered with the proper role of the parties and feared voter interest would wane in a nonpartisan process.
What inspired Bynum’s change of heart? Come find out!
In a groundbreaking expose by Lee Enterprises Public Service Journalism Team, their analysis of publicly available voter data for the 2022 midterm primary illustrates how OK’s partially closed system — and others like it — stifles voter participation: “-In districts with contested U.S. House races, about 49% of registered voters — or 889,880 eligible Oklahomans — were shut out from casting a ballot in them. -About 45% of registered voters — or 350,669 eligible Oklahomans — in contested State House races and about 40% — or 252,197 — in contested State Senate races were blocked from voting in them. -31 of those 52 contested state and federal seats — about 60% — were decided outright by the primary and not the general election, meaning hundreds of thousands of registered voters who were disallowed a primary voice had no vote at all for who would represent them in public office.”
Mayor Bynum says he hears from many other elected officials who feel the same way about open primaries but won’t be vocal about it. He’s taking a public stand because he believes nonpartisan primaries work better for the people.
January 2024: Coronation or Competition: A Conversation w/ Congressman & Presidential Candidate Dean Phillips
In poll after poll, a majority of voters—including loyal Democrats—say they’re frustrated with a Biden-Trump rematch and want more options. Enter Dean Phillips, a three-term Congressman from Minnesota who announced his campaign for the Democratic nomination in late 2023. In 2022, Phillips was one of the first Democratic officials to call for Biden not to run for re-election. For more than a year, he urged someone—anyone!—to mount a primary challenge to a vulnerable President. Now he’s starting the primary season as the only Democrat on the New Hampshire primary ballot. On Tuesday January 16th at 2pm, Open Primaries President John Opdycke welcomes Rep. Phillips to the Open Primaries virtual discussion series. They will explore a wide variety of topics including why he’s challenging Biden in the Democratic primaries, why competition in politics matters and how he came to be an advocate for political reform.
December 2023: Can Arizona Lead the Way on Democratic Reform?
Paul Johnson is an independent voter. He’s also the former Mayor of Phoenix, Arizona. And he has been working tirelessly to bring open primaries to Arizona since 2012. He’s been pushed and bullied, attacked and derailed by political hacks of all stripes, but he continues to be one of the most passionate and articulate spokespeople for letting ALL VOTERS VOTE in the country. And he’s got some big news. The coalition that he, Chuck Coughlin and Sara Smallhouse assembled over the last two years – Save Democracy AZ – has come up with a novel way to democratize state, federal AND presidential primaries…all at the same time! It’s a hand-crafted-for-Arizona approach that promises to put the state’s largest group of voters-independents-on equal footing with party voters and offer real choice to EVERYONE.
November 2023: Young Voters Stand Up for Open Primaries
October 2023: Fighting for Open Primaries in Democratic Party Strongholds: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly
Fighting to open primaries and let all voters vote is a complicated task–it breaks all the conventional rules and challenges the partisan lens that we often view issues through. For some time, the national narrative has been that the Democratic Party is the party of expanded access to the ballot box and the end of voter suppression in all its forms. But, it’s often been the Democratic Party and its leadership that has taken the lead in opposing primary reform and refused to acknowledge, let alone champion, the rights of independent voters.
Featuring: Lisa Rice (Make All Votes Count DC), Sondra Cosgrove (Vote Nevada), Bob Perls (New Mexico Open Elections) & Dr. Jessie Fields (Open Primaries Board Member & Spokesperson, NYC)
September 2023: California’s Top Two Primary-A Successful Reform
A new report from the Unite America Institute on top-two nonpartisan primaries in California finds that the reform (enacted in 2010) has had widespread positive impacts on electoral politics and governance. While the vast majority of states across the country have experienced a decline in electoral competition and a rise in polarization in recent years, California has trended in a different direction since reforming its primaries. Analyzing the state across several criteria, the report presents evidence that the Top Two system in California has decreased polarization, improved voter participation, and increased electoral competition.
Featuring: Dr. Richard Barton, Unite America Institute
Hosted by John Opdycke (President of Open Primaries) & Christian Grose (Professor & Academic Director of USC Schwarzenegger Institute)
July 2023: What it Takes to Deliver Fair Representation for the American People: A Conversation with Kent Thiry
Kent Thiry wears many hats: business leader, political independent, patriot, consensus builder and political reform innovator are just a few. He has waged four successful election-reform ballot-initiative campaigns in Colorado: Opening primaries to unaffiliated voters (Prop 107 in 2016), restoring the state’s presidential primary (Prop 108 in 2016), banning political gerrymandering and establishing independent redistricting commissions for the state’s political maps (Amendments Y&Z in 2018). Colorado’s open primary has led to 8 times more voters participating in primaries in 2020 compared to 2016. Prior to his work in Colorado, he co-authored the legislative redistricting measure in California. Kent is not one to rest on his accomplishments. He continues to advocate for pro-democracy reform in Colorado and across the country as Co-Chair of Unite America. He has learned how to build reform coalitions that span the ideological spectrum, activate independent voters, connect with the grassroots – and win!
June 2023: Taking on “Political Bribery” in the Wake of CItizens United–A conversation with Jeff Clements
Every national poll shows that a vast majority of Americans are concerned about the billions of dollars that flow through the political industry every year.
But can we take on “political bribery” in the wake of the Supreme Court Decision in Citizens United? Can Americans from across the political spectrum really be organized to challenge the influence of well-heeled corporations and special interests? Is reform even possible?
Jeff Clements—lawyer, author and former Massachusetts Assistant Attorney General—is taking on these very questions. Following the ruling, he co-founded American Promise–a national, non-profit, nonpartisan, grassroots organization that is taking on state campaign finance rules and advocating for a 28th “For Our Freedom” Amendment to the United States Constitution that would allow the U.S. Congress and states to set reasonable limits on campaign spending.
May 2023: An Inside Look at the Campaign to Repeal Pennsylvania’s Closed Primaries
One million independent voters in Pennsylvania are locked out of voting in primaries. Recent years have seen a consistent drumbeat from local actors on the ground to reform the system and open it up to all voters with bills that have languished in house committees.
But something different is brewing in Pennsylvania…and we’re not talking about Yuengling or Rolling Rock!
Opdycke and Thornburgh will co-host a discussion featuring former Senator Joe Scarnatti (an early champion of open primaries in PA), the Director of Independent Pennsylvanians Jennifer Bullock (who’s been speaking up for the rights of independent voters for years) and some special guests. We’ll be hearing directly from the team on the ground why this new push to open PA’s primaries feels different this time around and how they plan on capitalizing on the oversized role PA plays in American politics. You will learn about ways to help, no matter where you live.
Hosted by: John Opdycke, President Open Primaries, & David Thornburgh, Chair of Ballot PA
March 2023: Can Bipartisanship Survive the Rise of the Independent Voter? A Conversation w/ Dr. Ben Chavis
America is going independent. Both major parties are hemorrhaging members as voters-including growing numbers of people of color-increasingly see both parties as self interested and self perpetuating, not as engines for progress and policy innovation.
Can traditional notions of bipartisanship be restored in this environment, or does the growing dissatisfaction with “traditional politics” demand something new?
Dr. Benjamin Chavis is a long-time civil rights leader, entrepreneur, businessman, educator, and author. He began his career in 1963 as a statewide youth coordinator for Dr. Reverend Martin Luther King Jr, and has been fighting racial injustice and wrongful imprisonment across the country ever since.
As the newly appointed Co-Chair of No Labels, Dr. Chavis is championing bipartisan cooperation and new political tactics in case the 2024 Presidential Election offers the country a choice of extreme candidates. Some political actors and journalists, particularly on the left, are questioning the wisdom of this approach. Other thought leaders see a possible path forward for the country to get back to what it’s lost.
Can we look backwards to move ahead? Can bipartisanship be restored? Should it be restored?
Join the conversation to explore these & other questions with one of the most important civil rights leaders of our generation.
Featuring: Dr. Ben Chavis
Hosted by John Opdycke & Dr. Jessie Fields
February 2023: On the Front Lines of Democracy: Arizona Secretary of State Adrian Fontes
Open Primaries is thrilled to welcome AZ Secretary of State Adrian Fontes to our next Virtual Discussion.
Newly-elected SOS, Adrian Fontes is on the front lines of so many of the core issues of the democracy movement: election integrity and denialism, the de-partisanization of the election process, the exclusion of independents, the rise of Latino voters–the list goes on!
Secretary Fontes has been a “people power” champion for years and has his finger on the pulse of American politics-where we are, and where we should be going.
Featuring: Arizona Secretary of State, Adrian Fontes
Hosted by: John Opdycke and Danny Ortega
Co-Sponsored by The Center for an Independent & Sustainable Democracy at ASU and Save Democracy AZ
January 2023: Meet the Citizen Activists Championing Primary Reform
After a major year of progress, where we saw Maine adopt open primaries and Nevada vote to enact nonpartisan open primaries, over a dozen states are birthing local movements grounded in reforming the primaries. Several will likely be on the ballot in 2024. The strength of this explosion in activity is that it is organic, decentralized, and powered by very different types of Americans with diverse politics, concerns, and solutions.
We have a chance to sit down with some of these leaders.
Featuring: Margaret Kobos (Oklahoma United for Progress), Michael Calcagno (All Oregon Votes), Joe Kirby (South Dakota Open Primaries) and Steve Goldstein (Save Democracy AZ).
Hosted by John Opdycke