University of Southern California
ASU Morrison Institute for Public Policy
On December 15, 2017, a consortium of ASU Morrison Institute for Public Policy, the USC Schwarzenegger Institute for State and Global Policy and Independent Voting, a national organizing center, hosted a daylong national forum and roundtable on the topic of open primaries.
The event was convened at the downtown Phoenix campus at Arizona State University via sponsorship by the Open Primaries Education Fund to review current research, scholarship and on-the-ground experience with open primaries and their impact on voters and governance. The roundtable brought together leading researchers, frontline thought leaders and activists, creating a dynamic opportunity for academic researchers and political front liners to explore each other’s work and perspectives.
With broad public and academic concern growing about the structural bias of the electoral process, developing a renewed and reframed understanding of how differing primary systems work is becoming vital. Long-held assumptions in the political arena are being questioned. Should political parties be permitted to control access to primaries – a right of private associations – and still receive taxpayer funding for those primaries? Do closed primaries discourage voter participation in general elections? How is the behavior of elected officials shaped by the primary process in their state?
Does the fact that 43 percent of Americans identify as independents warrant a possible change in the rules governing primary elections? And what about data indicating that 75 percent of millennials do not identify with any political party and do not seek a party alignment of any kind? Do the systems of closed and semi-open primaries work in light of these new features of the U.S. electorate?
What is the relationship between having a more collaborative legislature and a more open primary? And do these variations have an impact beyond the outcome of any given election to the social and cultural fabric of a community?
These questions are not merely abstract concerns, but will be posed for policy makers in very practical ways in the years to come. Thus, it is critical that researchers are asking the right questions now and preparing to answer these questions as circumstances dictate. The particular success of the OPEF Roundtable was that frontliners and thought leaders in this arena were able to help the leading researchers in the field develop a more current and relevant understanding of the questions at hand and of the methodology necessary to exploring them. If “mutuality” between researchers and practitioners is becoming the gold standard for innovation and demonstrable impact in fields like education and youth development, the mutuality that was manifest at the Phoenix Roundtable was truly significant.
The interdisciplinary day of analysis and discussion allowed participants to identify and explore gaps in knowledge and to prioritize a set of research questions for further inquiry. The forum centered around a series of facilitated roundtable discussions.
The first discussion was moderated by Christian Grose and Andrea Whitsett and was motivated with a series of seven reports from leading researchers presenting relevant work looking at open primaries.
Jackie Salit and Conyers Davis facilitated the second discussion, “Views from the Frontlines.” They interviewed a panel of attorneys, elected and former elected officials and civil rights leaders, exploring their views on: how primary systems impact the behavior of elected officials; whether open primaries are a fundamental issue of voting rights and fairness; and how the structure of primaries impacts voter mobility and the empowerment of communities of color. This was followed by a discussion among all participants.
During his lunchtime keynote, Jonathan Koppell asked participants to discuss the underlying philosophical premises of the role of elections.
After hearing a review of the current research and reports from the front lines, the afternoon was spent drawing out the gaps in knowledge; examining the rationales for open primaries and examining the issue of fairness in the election process; the legislative and representation outcomes produced with open primaries; and new questions for research. Christian Grose, Thom Reilly and Cathy Stewart facilitated a discussion of research directions for the future.
Reilly kicked off the conversation by asking what are the appropriate metrics to use in evaluating the impact and effectiveness of open primaries and other primary systems. This was a theme that ran throughout the day as researchers and frontline leaders explored the differing rationales for advocating for open primaries and how that impacts on research design. Many of the frontline leaders raised the fundamentality of fairness, while many researchers have looked at representation or legislative moderation.
The day finished with a session facilitated by John Opdycke and Joseph Garcia, with participants asked to share their key takeaways. There was a strong consensus for future forums and the opportunity to engage with one another. Participants said they found the day’s proceedings stimulating, thought provoking and leading to new questions and opportunities.
GENERAL TOPICS OF DISCUSSION What are our gaps in knowledge?
What is the current research on the impact of different primary systems?
- How do open primaries impact on voter mobility, voter turnout?
- How do differing primary systems impact on the behavior of elected officials and how they relate to constituents?
- What is the relationship between legislative functionality and culture and differing forms of electoral systems?
- Does state government function differently under an open primary system and how?
- How does a closed primary system impact on voter’s confidence? On representation?
What are the appropriate metrics to use in evaluating the impact and effectiveness of open primaries and other primary systems?
- What are the different outcomes front line activists are looking for in working to advance open primaries? How do these outcomes differ from the outcomes researchers have studied to date?
- How do open primaries impact on cross racial, cross ideological coalition building?
- Are open primaries a voting rights issue?
- Is the issue of open primaries a fundamental issue of fairness? How do you measure voter’s perception of fairness?
- Is the consent of the governed in question today? How is the consent of the governed impacted on by closed primary systems at a time when 42 percent of Americans consider themselves independent?
The controversy surrounding the independent voter?
• Is this a genuine new constituency in American politics, or are independents really closet Democrats or Republicans?
Are there methodological issues? What is the role of qualitative research?
- How do we evaluate same party general elections?
- How do we look at the subjectivity of the voter when we look at reforming the system? Do open primaries give voters more of the subjective experience of “people like me have a say in what government does”?
- Can you isolate the open primary phenomenon from the other electoral and cultural factors?
Are there ways that the research community and the frontline activist community can collaborate to better understand how voters think about structural issues?
Next Steps: Research
What do scholars already know about open primaries?
During the OPEF forum, a number of academics and researchers identified what we know in regards to the effects of primary type (open, closed, open top-two, hybrid) on outcomes. The morning session led with presentations by the scholars about their recently published research or works-in-progress related to open primaries, top-two primaries, or primary systems.
The research presented showed that open and top-two primaries led to greater responsiveness to independent and different-party voters and that in same-party general elections in the top-two, voters evaluate candidates on dimensions other than party (Christian Grose, Betsy Sinclair, and Andrew Sinclair); that legislators were less extreme in California, but not in Washington after the top-two (Eric McGhee, Christian Grose); that candidate ideological positions were no different under the top-two and that voters in the primary stage had not changed their behavior (Thad Kousser); that partisan polarization is increasing in the United States among elected officials and that the electoral “rules of the game” such as primaries need to be investigated as a potential cause (Antoine Yoshinaka); the role that race and the top-two primary type played in Ro Khanna’s congressional victory over another Democrat (Sara Sadhwani); whether North Carolina young voters embrace the label independent (Omar Ali); and incumbent success rates under top-two and runoff systems (Charles Bullock, Andrew Sinclair). Scholars Jonathan Nagler and Nancy Shank raised criticism and issues about the research, and this began a discussion identifying areas in which more research is needed or where there are gaps in the existing works-in-progress presented by academic panelists.
Themes that emerged from the academic research
Following the presentation of research, the academics and practitioners engaged in a lively exchange of ideas, sometimes with significant, though polite, disagreement over concepts and outcomes. This exchange allowed for new ideas to emerge from the collaborative debate that took place in the room. More than one academic after the event remarked that they had participated in events with both practitioners and academics in the past where the two groups talked past one another, but in this case the discussion was robust and collaborative. During the event as well as in conversations after the event, a number of new research questions, research concepts and measures and new methodologies were identified.
In general, scholars and practitioners felt that political science and allied social sciences need additional research on:
- The theoretical role of primary institutions
- More clarity on the metrics that would be used to evaluate primary systems–what do scholars and practitioners value in a primary system?
- More systematic, causal and field or survey experimental methods used to assess primary systems
- Education and information–how can voters be informed of primary laws, and once informed, how does voter behavior change?
- An emphasis on how both voters and elites respond to different primary systems
- More research examining access to the vote by independent voters was important, as well as studies examining mobilization of independent voters under open primary systems
- The “consent of the governed”–do independent and other voters feel greater efficacy in open primary systems? Are voters more satisfied with the democratic process in open and top-two primary systems?
- Are those who vote for losing candidates more empowered under open primary systems? Are there permanent losers under certain primary systems?
- New measures and metrics for outcomes regarding the effect of primaries on voters, non-voters, elected officials, candidates, interest groups and other political elites
- Attempts to examine what messages work for influencing voters to support or oppose ballot referenda supporting open primaries or changes to electoral systems more broadly
There was a robust discussion over the nature of primary systems, and defining what scholars have traditionally studied in the past. There was near-consensus among scholars and practitioners to move toward studying new and different outcomes of primary systems. A very robust discussion was had over the nature and definition of an independent voter with some academics suggesting we go beyond a simple count of who identifies as an independent voter and instead probe more deeply.
Other academics pointed to data showing that we are in a partisan era and that many independent voters lean toward one party or another even while stating they are independent. At least one scholar (Betsy Sinclair) suggested more research is needed to identify which voters are “independent minded” or open to new ideas as much as defining and counting the number of independent voters.
Others suggested more research to assess partisan identity. How many independent voters have an independent identity? How many voters registered with the two major parties also have an independent identity? This question of partisan identity has been studied with Democrats and Republicans, but less with independent voters. Others pointed to the need to study partisan polarization at the elite level among elected officials.
Below are a number of the specific research questions scholars identified as worthy of future study. These are research questions that came out of the conversation that day, or from conversations among academic participants following the convening. This is only a selection of some of the possible new directions for academic research on primaries:
• More field experiments and survey experiments needed. Scholars noted that most of the work on primary systems and political behavior of voters and elected officials has been observational. This means that outcome variables – such as candidate or legislator ideology – have been associated with primary type. This observational research looks at associations between primaries and candidate or voter behavior. However, it is unable to assess whether the primary has caused candidates to change their behavior. Many of the scholars concluded that more experiments and RCTs examining the effect of primaries are needed. Given that most past research has been based on observational data (exceptions include the research presented by Christian Grose), future research on primaries should involve RCTs and experiments.
• Replications and extensions of existing work are needed. There is only one published study that involves a randomized control trial mobilizing independent voters (work presented by Thad Kousser). Betsy Sinclair suggested a replication and extension of this past study. In this replication, a get-out-the-vote study to mobilize independent voters would be conducted. The point of the study will be to educate voters about the rules of their primary system and in states where they can participate in primaries, remind them to vote. A post-treatment survey will be conducted analyzing how the voters in the GOTV treatment group felt about being told they have access to the ballot on political efficacy, their loosening of partisan attachment to one of the two major parties, their independent mindedness, and other attitudes that the effect of being told about primary ballot access has on voters. The effect of GOTV mobilization in open and top-two primary settings has been examined once, and should be replicated. Further, additional citizen attitudes following the experiment should also be examined. Another replication and extension would be to replicate Grose’s responsiveness experiment but use candidates’ or incumbents’ Facebook and social media pages as platforms instead of email contacting. Do candidates in open and top-two systems (relative to closed systems) respond more to voters who present themselves as “independent minded” or as partisans?
• Electoral competition. Survey experiments examining “competition deserts” where the general election has no serious opposition and candidates of one party almost always win (suggested by Andrew Sinclair). The survey experiments would be in states with different primary systems and gauge citizen satisfaction and priorities about the public policy process. Surveys would also examine what citizens think about political reforms, particularly different primary types. Data on the frequency of these “competition deserts” would also be collected across states and legislative districts.
• Studies of framing to assess when voters who identify as independent, Democratic or Republican are more likely to be persuaded by messages about open primaries yielding greater access beyond the parties. Examinations of ballot access arguments for open primaries versus other policy effects advocates claim it achieves should be conducted. This could be studied with surveys, survey experiments, and embedded field experiments within ballot initiative and referenda campaigns in localities and states considering the adoption of open primaries. More broadly, more research on how citizens change their attitudes toward primary systems is needed.
• Wider geographic reach. Research needs to continue to take place in California given its size and influence in the country. However, more research in other states is also required. Scholars and practitioners noted that research on other states such as Washington, Louisiana, and Nebraska (in the case of the top-two primary) is needed. Other states with open, semi-open, and semi-closed primaries also need to be studied more extensively, with RCTs, survey experiments, and surveys. Sample size issues in the smaller states should be noted.
• Advocacy field experiments. Advocacy field experiments are extremely uncommon in political science, but could yield fruitful academic-practitioner partnerships in the area of open primaries. Grose offered to advise on randomization and design of experiments for organizations interested in embedding RCTs in their messaging campaigns (and other participating scholars likely would be interested). Scholars can also independently test different messages to voters in survey experiments in states where ballot initiatives to move toward more open primary systems are possible; or in states where open systems face the potential for repeal. Field experiments are also possible in states when the ballot initiative is on the ballot.
• Policy diffusion and elite persuasion. Grose suggested that field experiments to assess how ideas spread across political elites could be conducted. Are legislators more open to consider hearing arguments that could eventually lead to sponsoring legislation in their states when other legislators in other states present them with arguments? Which messages and legislators cause this policy diffusion? How can elected officials and other influential political elites be persuaded to be more open to changes in primary systems? What prohibits this persuasion?
• Consent of the governed. Research questions related to the consent of the governed focused on voter feelings, attitudes and mobilization: How do voters feel about different primary systems? Is primary type linked with voter efficacy, satisfaction, and other voter attitudes and opinions? The outcomes worth studying are not simply the votes of legislators or voter turnout, but also attitudes and greater feelings of being involved in the democratic process under different primary systems.
• Ballot access versus ballot participation. While independent voters can participate in open and top-two primaries, past research has suggested that voter turnout has not increased substantially. More research is needed to address this question, but one emergent hypothesis was that changes in participation in an open versus closed primary system may be less important than the opportunity to participate. What is the result of the opportunity to participate on legislator behavior, citizen attitudes, and other outcomes?
• Which voters lose and which voters win most frequently under different primary systems? Yoshinaka suggested that there is a small literature in political science that examines whether voters are frequently on the winning or losing side of elections. In a competitive and pluralistic polity, few voters should regularly lose in all elections. A system in which the same groups regularly vote for candidates who lose could lead to greater disaffection with the democratic process. Bullock’s presentation also touched on this question. One possible research question offered by Yoshinaka would be to ask: How often do different types of voters choose the losing candidate or the winning candidate over time in different types of primary systems? In general elections, do independent voters more frequently vote for the winning candidate in open, top-two, or closed primary systems? Past work has examined the frequency in which Democrats, Republicans and independents have been on the losing side of general elections, as well as other social groups (e.g., African Americans, Latino/as, Asian Americans, women, men). This work has never examined the frequency by which independents and other voters are on the losing and winning sides; nor has it looked at the frequency of certain voter groups being on the losing or winning side in open versus closed primary systems. How do the losers in different systems feel in terms of efficacy and involvement with the democratic process?
- Developing a theory of independence among elected officials and candidates. How can scholars identify the independent-thinking candidate? Even with constraints from the major parties over elected officials, some elected officials may be more likely to cosponsor or sponsor legislation with members of the other party. Which legislators and elected officials – even if often voting with their party – are more likely to work with members of other parties? Which legislators and elected officials respond to constituents of other parties? Which elected officials present themselves as independent-minded and eschew partisanship in communications with constituents versus those elected officials that emphasize party in their constituent communications?
- What are the incentives for elected officials to not change primary systems and electoral systems? Under what conditions are elected officials less likely to block electoral or primary system change? What are the incentives and conditions for change? What are the constraints that lead to little change in primary and electoral systems?
- Legislative functionality and effectiveness. Moving beyond legislator moderation or extremity toward other measures of legislative and government accountability was suggested. Kousser and Koppell suggested that scholars should develop measures of legislative functionality and assess the effect of primary type of legislative functionality and effectiveness. Further, the responsiveness and accountability of elected officials to voters – the key question of representation – should be studied more.
- Fairness. How do voters evaluate the fairness of different primary systems? Voters in surveys or in randomized laboratory experiments are presented with different scenarios (randomly assigned to be an independent who cannot participate in a closed primary, randomly assigned to be a Democrat who can participate in a closed primary, randomly assigned to be an independent who can participate in an open primary, and so on) and then asked about their evaluations of the fairness and their political efficacy under each system and scenario. Similar questions regarding fairness should also be asked in regards to race, ethnicity, and gender of voters, candidates and elected officials.
Perhaps not surprisingly, the Open Primaries National Forum & Roundtable provided more questions than answers, since primaries around the nation vary by state, some are under recent reform, and primaries are anything but a one-size-fits-all exercise in democracy. Research, analysis, presentations and testimony presented throughout the day aptly pointed out those facts. However, it may not be too far of a reach to say the No. 1 question of the day was answered resoundingly with virtual consensus.
The initial query: “What if researchers, practitioners, advocates, lawyers, educators, communicators and organizers were brought together with no predetermined outcome or agenda other than for them to respectfully but frankly share their expertise and experience regarding primaries, what would happen?”
The result: Bridges were created and extended to provide unique access to usually provincial realms of individuals and institutions that deal with primary elections in their own respective and separate ways as if in a bubble. After a daylong discussion of presentations and open discussion, a new connection seemingly was established and a new appreciation of the connectivity in how data, research, analysis, practice and a call to action are intrinsically linked (albeit from distinct different points of origin due to a necessary independence for untethered operation and/or scientific credibility).
In some respect, the forum’s hosting consortium – ASU Morrison Institute for Public Policy, the USC Schwarzenegger Institute for State and Global Policy and Independent Voting — is an example in and by itself of how definitive lines between separate entities and interests do not have to be blurred or compromised in order to seek a clearer vision and better understanding of something so nebulous, dynamic and complex as primary elections. After all, a myopic viewpoint is limited in scope, depth and distance and, thereby, hardly an accurate portrayal of the overall landscape or big picture; it takes two eyes for 20/20 vision and many more for a true 360-degree view.
The shared insight from the forum and roundtable, which brought together individuals and entities from throughout the United States, is a first but important step in advancing this goal of mutual respect and understanding. The research and data were impressive in their own right but were made even stronger collectively. Although attendees may play necessarily different and distinct roles, there was a universal issue regarding primary elections that emerged and requires additional research and greater public attention: fairness and access – two essential ingredients to a functioning democracy.
The question of how to get there remains yet unanswered, as do the aforementioned questions detailed in this review, along with the following reiterations:
- Are voters more satisfied with the democratic process in open and top-two primary systems?
- Are there permanent losers and winners under certain primary systems?
- Do closed primaries discourage voter participation in general elections?
- How is the behavior of elected officials shaped by the primary process in their state?
- Should political parties be permitted to control access to primaries and still receive taxpayer funding for those primaries?
- Does the fact that 43 percent of Americans identify as independents warrant a possible change in the rules governing primary elections?
- Are primary elections providing a fair platform for voters and candidates of underrepresented populations regarding gender, race, ethnicity and economic backgrounds?
- What changes in primary elections could possibly lead to less partisanship and polarization in politics and governance?
- What are the incentives and disincentives for election officials to change/not change primary and electoral systems?
- How often do different types of voters choose the losing candidate or the winning candidate over time in different types of primary systems?
- Should voter participation in primaries be a top goal without also including a plan for improved voter education? As noted throughout this review of the forum, despite impressive research presented and analysis already done on certain aspects of primary elections, there are many more questions to be explored and asked. But that was a given, going into the OPEF forum. The initial question, however, of whether additional efforts such as the Phoenix event are needed to further the collective understanding and perhaps improving the role of primary elections in a healthy democracy was answered at and by the forum.
Omar Ali is the Dean of Lloyd International Honors College and Professor of Global and Comparative African Diaspora History at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. Ali received his Ph.D. in history from Columbia University in 2003. A board member of Independent Voting, Ali is also a community organizer who led a team of four researchers from UNCG conducting a face-to-face poll of students at 16 college campuses across North Carolina. The results were published in “College Independents Poll: The Emergence of Non- Partisan Politics?” in 2012.
Jason Altmire is a former U.S. Representative (PA, 4th CD) serving from 2007- 2013. Prior to running for office, Altmire was a business executive and nationally recognized expert on health care policy, working as a senior executive for major corporations in the hospital and health insurance industries. He has been an adjunct professor at George Washington University, focusing on politics and policy. He is the author of Dead Center: How Political Polarization Divided America and What We Can Do About it, released on October 3, 2017.
Art Babbott, elected as an independent, is in his second term on the Coconino County Board of Supervisors. He previously served six years on the Flagstaff City Council. Babbott has started and operated multiple small businesses, currently operating the Flagstaff Community Markets. He is an outspoken advocate for structural political reforms including open primaries and ranked choice voting. He has served on the Coconino County Planning and Zoning Commission, the County Public Health Services District Advisory Board, the Flagstaff Metropolitan Planning Organization and co-chaired the Coconino Plateau Water Advisory Council.
Mebus Behrle is Chief Deputy at the USC Schwarzenegger Institute, where she oversees the organization’s financial reporting, strategic partnerships, website maintenance, brand promotion, community outreach and event production. She is an experienced project manager and external affairs liaison. Prior to joining the Schwarzenegger Institute, she specialized in communications and business development support. Behrle graduated from the University of Southern California in 2010 with a degree in Journalism from the Annenberg School of Communications and a degree in Entrepreneurship from the Marshal School of Business.
Charles Bullock III holds the Richard B. Russell Chair in Political Science and is Josiah Meigs Distinguished Teaching Professor and university professor at the University of Georgia. He has been at the University of Georgia since 1968 with the exception of one year when he served as legislative assistant to Congressman Bill Stuckey and two years when he was Professor of Political Science at the University of Houston. In 2005 and 2009 Bullock was a senior fellow at Oxford University’s Rothermere American Institute.
Patrick Christmas is the Policy Program Manager for the Committee of Seventy in Philadelphia. A graduate of Swarthmore College in 2008, he taught biology and forensic science in Philadelphia for five years and began studies at the University of Pennsylvania’s Fels Institute of Government. He joined the Committee of Seventy in August 2013 and is responsible for managing Seventy’s policy analysis, advocacy campaigns and civic-related programming, including the Election Ambassador Corps and Better Philadelphia Elections Coalition.
Conyers Davis has a degree in International Relations from the University of St. Andrews, Scotland. He manages communications, special projects and external relations for the USC Schwarzenegger Institute for State and Global Policy. Davis has worked for British Prime Minister David Cameron, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, Simon & Schuster, Lionsgate Films and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Additionally, he managed projects for the 2004 G8 Summit and the 2005 Hurricane Katrina recovery effort.
Jessie Fields is an attending physician in Internal Medicine affiliated with the Mount Sinai Hospital and has a primary care general medical practice in the Harlem community. She is on the faculty of the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai and an adjunct faculty member at the Touro College of Osteopathic Medicine. Fields is on the boards of Open Primaries and Independent Voting and is a longtime political organizer focused on independent options for the African American community.
Joseph Garcia is Director of Communication and Community Impact at Morrison Institute for Public Policy Institute, as well as Director of its Latino Public Policy Center. He joined Arizona State University in 2009 after a career in journalism that included experience as a top editor, columnist and news reporter at The Arizona Republic, The Daily Times (Farmington, N.M.), Tucson Citizen, USA Today and The Associated Press. Garcia earned his bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Arizona and his master’s degree in nonprofit leadership and management from ASU, where he also teaches journalism.
Christian Grose is an Associate Professor of Political Science in Dornsife College at the
University of Southern California, Associate Professor in the Price School of Public Policy (by
courtesy) and Director of the Political Science & International Relations (POIR) Ph.D.
program. He is in the midst of writing a book with Michael Alvarez, Betsy Sinclair, and
Andrew Sinclair entitled The Politics of the Primary and is also author of Evaluating California’s Top-two Primary: Candidates are More Bipartisan and More Responsive to Independent Voters in Top-two Primaries than in Closed Primaries. He has also written many journal articles and the book Congress in Black and White (2011, Cambridge University Press).
Jeremy Gruber is the Senior Vice President at Open Primaries. He is a lawyer and public policy advocate who has co-authored three books on the intersection of civil rights and biotechnology. Previously, he worked as field director for the ACLU’s Workplace Rights Project, then as legal director for the National Workrights Institute and more recently as President of the Council for Responsible Genetics, a public interest organization focusing on bioethics. Gruber received his Juris Doctor (J.D.) from St. John’s University School of Law and a B.A. in Politics from Brandeis University.
Michael Hardy is a founder of the National Action Network along with Rev. Al Sharpton. A practicing attorney since 1988, he serves as NAN’s Executive Vice President and General Counsel. Hardy has been at the forefront of the nation’s fight for social justice since 1981 and is a longtime supporter of the rights of all voters. He identifies the effort to achieve full voting rights for independent voters as an important civil rights issue of our time.
Julie Knutson is the President and CEO of the Oklahoma Academy, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to improving Oklahoma by engaging citizens in every step of the public policy process. Founded by former OK governor and U.S. Senator Henry Bellmon in 1967 to create a public policy organization that was independent, nonpartisan and inclusive, the Oklahoma Academy was revitalized in 1985 and has been led by Knutson since 1987. The Academy has used a traditional conference format to form recommendations addressing critical public policy issues facing the state.
Jonathan Koppell is Dean of the Arizona State University College of Public Service and Community Solutions. He is the Lattie and Elva Coor Presidential Chair in the ASU School of Public Affairs. His focus is preparing students for community engagement and public service while promoting use-inspired research by faculty and research centers. He seeks to make communities more prosperous, healthy and resilient via the college’s schools of criminal justice, community development, public administration and policy, and social work. Koppell holds a doctorate in political science from University of California, Berkeley, and an A.B. from Harvard College.
Thad Kousser is a Professor of Political Science, UC San Diego. His research focus is on state and national politics, government reform, direct democracy, interest group influence, and how politicians use social media. He has authored, co-authored or edited numerous
books including: The Logic of American Politics, 8th Edition (CQ/Sage, forthcoming), Politics in the American States, 11th Edition (CQ/Sage, forthcoming), The Power of American
Governors (Cambridge University Press, 2012), The New Political Geography of California (Berkeley Public Policy Press, 2008), and Term Limits and the Dismantling of State Legislative Professionalism (Cambridge University Press, 2005).
Harry Kresky is General Counsel at Independent Voting. He is one of the country’s foremost legal authorities on issues relating to political reform as well as on concerns of independent voters, candidates and parties. He was appointed by Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg to the 2002 New York City Charter Revision Commission and served as Chair of the Election Law Committee of the New York County Lawyers Association from 2010 to 2013. Kresky has participated in litigation in defense of open primaries and in support of independent candidates in multiple states.
Sarah Lyons is Director of Communications at Independent Voting.Since 1995, she has played a leading role in making IV recognizable as the premier advocacy center for independent voters. Lyons has made thousands of media placements on behalf of independent parties, candidates, voters and independent voter associations. She leads a training program that has developed over 400 independent voter activists from diverse backgrounds to act as spokespersons for issues of concern to independents. Lyons holds a BA in International Studies from the University of Oregon.
Eric McGhee is a research fellow at the Public Policy Institute of California, a nonprofit, nonpartisan think tank. His research focuses on: elections, legislative behavior, political reform, and surveys and polling. His research on elections and electoral reform has appeared in numerous academic journals, and his work has been profiled on National Public Radio, the Washington Post, the New York Times, and The Economist. McGhee was assistant professor of political science at the University of Oregon and served as a Congressional Fellow through the American Political Science Association.
Jonathan Nagler is a Professor of Politics at New York University, as well as the Director of the Politics Data Center. His research focus is on methodology, voting behavior, social-media, turnout, Latino voting, the economy and campaigns and elections. He is the author of Who Votes Now? Demographics, Issues, Inequality, and Turnout in the United States (Princeton University Press, 2014). He is also co-PI of the NYU Social Media and Political Participation (SMAPP) Lab.
John Opdycke is the President of Open Primaries. He is an activist and strategist with more than 25 years of experience working in independent, alternative and reform politics. He has appeared on Fox News, MSNBC, Al Jazeera, and NBC and his written commentary on the subject of independent politics and electoral reform has appeared in USA Today, Newsweek, The Hill, and dozens of local publications. Opdycke began his career as a fundraiser and researcher for the Rainbow Lobby, which advocated for ballot access and debate reform in the United States.
Danny Ortega is an attorney in private practice and a community activist. He serves on the Board of Directors of the Cesar Chavez Foundation and is the immediate past Chair of the Board of Directors of National Council of La Raza, the largest Hispanic civil rights and advocacy organization in the United States. He has previously served on the Board of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund, Los Abogados Hispanic Bar Association and Chicanos Por La Causa Inc. Ortega has been an outspoken advocate for open primaries.
Thom Reilly is the Chancellor of the Nevada System of Higher Education. Previously, he served as director of Morrison Institute for Public Policy at Arizona State University, where he was also a professor in the School of Public Affairs. Reilly has authored numerous published works on public pay and benefits, governance, HIV, and child welfare. He received his Master’s and Doctorate of Public Administration from the University of Southern California, his Master of Social Work at ASU and a Bachelor in Social Work from the University of Memphis.
Carl Roell is the Legislative Strategist Fellow at Action Now Initiative. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in Theatre from the University of Florida, as well as a Juris Doctorate from Baylor University. Prior to his fellowship with Action Now Initiative, he was a public policy intern for Texas State Representative Ryan Guillen, specializing in Texas taxation and healthcare issues as well as a legislative intern for the Garcia Group Government Relations Firm focusing on bill analysis and legislative drafting.
Sara Sadhwani is a doctoral candidate in the Political Science and International Relations programs at the University of Southern California. Her research and teaching interests span American politics including: elections, voting behavior, public opinion and interest groups with an emphasis on the representation of racial, ethnic and immigrant communities. Her work includes the analysis of voter data, survey research and field experiments. Her dissertation examines cross-racial voting behavior in congressional elections and the implications of vote coalitions on descriptive representation.
Jacqueline Salit is an advocate for independent voters, 44 percent of the American electorate. As President of Independent Voting, she has built the largest network of independent activists in the country. Her firsthand account of this growing and influential movement, Independents Rising, was published by Palgrave Macmillan (2012). Salit was the architect of Michael Bloomberg’s link-up with the independent movement in New York and ran his three mayoral campaigns on the Independence Party line. She speaks around the country on the impact of the trend towards political independence at universities, civic organizations, nonprofits and conferences.
Nancy Shank is the Associate Director at the University of Nebraska Public Policy Center since 1998. Much of Shank’s research focuses on technology adoption, interoperability for information sharing between organizations, information and referral, economic and community development, organizational systems and behavior, and human services systems. In addition to her work at the Center, he also holds a Research Associate Professorship at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, has served on multiple grant review panels, and provided strategic facilitation for a wide variety of groups both locally and nationally.
Betsy Sinclair is an Associate Professor of Political Science at Washington University in St. Louis. Her research interests are American politics and political methodology with an emphasis on individual political behavior. She focuses on the social foundations of participatory democracy and the ways in which social networks influence voting, donating, choosing a candidate or identifying with a particular party. Additional interests involving voting and elections range from evaluating the consequences of different voting technologies to developing techniques to draw causal inferences from social network data.
John Andrew Sinclair is a Clinical Assistant Professor of Public Service at the NYU Wagner Graduate School of Public Service. Prior to joining NYU, Sinclair spent time as Visiting Assistant Professor of Government at Claremont McKenna College and most recently was Research Associate at the University of Southern California. His fields of specialization are in American Politics and Political Methodology. He is currently in the final stages of completing a book with Cambridge University Press on California’s new “top-two” nonpartisan primary called Nonpartisan Primary Election Reform: Mitigating Mischief.
Cathy Stewart is the Vice President for National Development at Independent Voting and has been a community organizer and strategist in the independent political movement since the early 1980’s. In 1994, she helped found the Independence Party of New York. In 2001, 2005 and 2009, she ran the Party’s voter-pull operations for Michael Bloomberg’s winning mayoral campaigns. Stewart founded a popular education series for independent voter (Politics for the People) in 2002. Stewart holds an MS degree in nursing from Simmons College, and worked in the community health arena for over a decade.
Andrea Whitsett is Interim Director at Morrison Institute for Public Policy. She is a member of the Arizona Hispanic Chamber of Commerce’s DATOS Research Committee and The Arizona We Want Research Advisory Committee. Whitsett belongs to the Arizona Cultural Data Project Taskforce and recently co-edited two background reports for Arizona Town Hall. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in American studies from Yale University, where she was awarded an Amy Rossborough Fellowship through the Yale Women’s Center. She graduated from Arizona State University with a Master’s degree in Nonprofit Studies.
Antoine Yoshinaka is an Associate Professor of Political Science at the University at Buffalo. He is the author of a new book, Crossing the Aisle, published by Cambridge University Press. The book is the first-ever systematic study of the causes and consequences of legislative party switching in the United States. It combines the statistical analysis of electoral data and legislative careers in the U.S. Congress and state legislatures with interviews of party switchers, non-switchers and a party leader. Open Primaries National Forum & Roundtable underwritten by