Independent Voter Project
About the Independent Voter Project
The Independent Voter Project (“IVP”) launched in 2006 with a $1 million grant from John Moores and a directive to identify and execute a strategy to reverse the trend toward dysfunction bred by an increasingly polarized political environment.
IVP conducted large scale, in-election studies during the 2006 and 2008 California elections, in which a broad spectrum of common political communication strategies were tested against alternative approaches in an effort to learn how to increase voter participation amongst independent and “non base” partisan voters. In doing so, IVP identified 3 million “non-base” voters in California as “high-value” communication targets.
But, perhaps the most important lesson learned through this process was that political consultants were severely hampered by a tendency to look at non-base voters through their own partisan lens. In one experiment, IVP took identical information and transcripts from two focus groups and asked a Republican pollster and a Democratic pollster to analyze the data and write a summary. The pollsters reached opposite conclusions from the exact same information, conclusions that matched their respective political preferences.
At the conclusion of the 2008 election, IVP initiated a plan to place a Nonpartisan Open Primary proposal on the 2010 primary ballot. IVP hired the law firm of Nielsen Merksemer, two litigation specialists, and two Constitutional Law experts to draft the measure. IVP Co-chairs Dan Howle and Steve Peace directly supervised this effort.
The work product, which was placed on the June ballot by the Legislature as Proposition 14, was a derivative of the State of Washington’s “Top-Two” primary system. Ironically, the most serious threat to the initiative’s success came from the Governor’s own political advisors who argued to put the measure on the November ballot. While this view was consistent with conventional political wisdom, it was wrong. IVP’s Steve Peace was able to convince the Governor’s chief of staff, Susan Kennedy, to ignore this advice, in part because of the research and turnout data IVP developed in the previous election cycles.
Similar measures failed in Arizona in 2012, in Oregon in 2008 and 2014, and in California earlier, largely because proponents underestimated or misunderstood the challenge and because political consultants were ill-equipped to take on both major parties at once. Just as importantly, California had seen a previous Open Primary system struck down by the Supreme Court a decade earlier.
Proposition 14 survived, politically and legally, in California for two reasons:
- Painstakingly careful drafting that reconciled Constitutional language imperatives with practical political consequences; and
- Four years of preparation that laid the bedrock for a $3 million 2010 voter education program. This low-profile, targeted outreach program increased independent voter turnout by more than 80% over the previous election cycle, generating more than 487,000 “new” primary voters (more than the 375,000 margin of victory).
IVP continued its research during California’s first nonpartisan primary election in 2012. This work included understanding under what conditions voters will cross party lines, how voters approach “same-party” contests in the general election and the challenges for independent candidates. Perhaps the most interesting takeaway from this work was the fact that 40% of partisan voters were inclined to vote for a preferred candidate of the opposite party in the primary when they understood that their own party’s candidate would have no chance of winning in the general election.
In 2013, IVP began the development of a legal strategy designed to challenge closed partisan primary systems nationwide. This coalition has two goals: (1) force a discussion about how we conduct elections into the national political dialogue by the 2016 presidential election; and (2) bring a meaningful and practical challenge to the closed partisan primary system based upon precedent already established by the Supreme Court.
IVP has succeeded where others have failed by being systematic in our approach and by keeping focused on the simple premise that the best way to make any system work is to make it more competitive.
This is more challenging than it may sound because those with political experience are generally so steeped in the binary political environment in which they compete that they often have difficulty seeing past their own experience. By contrast, those without political experience invariably underestimate the difficulty of applying lessons learned outside the political world to the sometimes-strange physics of politics.
At its core, our mission is to fundamentally reverse a political trend that is the inevitable consequence of an election system that elects over 90% of its politicians in very low turnout, party-controlled primaries. The Independent Voter Project solution is premised upon the notion that all voters, even those who choose not to join a political party, are entitled to equal access to the ballot box and an equal opportunity to vote for whomever they please.
Meet the IVP Board
The Independent Voter Project (IVP) is a non-profit, non-partisan (501(c)4) organization dedicated to better informing voters about important public policy issues and to encouraging non-partisan voters to participate in the electoral process.
IVP was founded in 2006 by a group lead by its former Co-Chairman, Steve Peace. Peace was also a former member of the legislature and as the State’s Finance Director, Mr. Peace saw the increased polarization of public policy debate and decisions and imagined a process by which those voters and citizens who had become increasingly disenfranchised and disillusioned by the public decision-making process could again become active participants. The result was the California Independent Voter Project.
V. Manuel Pérez
Bob Foster's career spans more than 40 years, beginning with his tenure as Chief Consultant to the California State Senate Energy Committee, advancing to division head and Deputy Director of the California Energy Commission, culminating with his serving as President of Southern California Edison. He has been at the forefront of energy efficiency and renewables; pioneering the first energy standards for buildings in the nation in 1972 and leading Edison's renewable policy for a voluntary 20 percent of its energy portfolio well before it was mandated. He has been one of the leading policy developers in the energy space. He also entered the political arena, serving two terms as the Mayor of Long Beach until his retirement in July 2014. As Mayor, Bob championed and implemented across the board pension reform (the only large California city to do so) saving his city over $250 million over the next decade. He launched the massive infrastructure improvements at the Port of Long Beach, more than $5 billion over the next decade, and initiated the green port policy, which has now reduced pollution at the port by over 80 percent. His hallmark as Mayor was the fiscal discipline he imposed, allowing Long Beach to exit the financial crisis with a AA credit rating, no new taxes, and a budget surplus for the first time in a decade. He currently serves as a director on the Boards of S Power, Epcor, and TTSI, and serves on the Advisory Board of Philips Electronics, and Gridco. He recently stepped down as Chairman of the California Independent System Operator. He has served on the California State University Board of Trustees for eight years. Bob is married to Nancy Foster his wife of 47 years and has two sons and three Grandchildren. In 1983 he coached the Pacific Little Team from Sacramento to the Little League World Series in Williamsport Penn. He splits his time between Long Beach and La Quinta California.
Floyd is currently the President and CEO of the Asian Pacific American Institute for Congressional Studies (APAICS) in Washington, D.C. He retired as National Executive Director/CEO of the Japanese American Citizens League (JACL) in June of 2012. He is a past mayor of the City of Pleasanton, California, and a past California State Assemblyman. He has done extensive work in venture capital work and with international business, primarily with Japanese companies. He taught Economics at Chabot College in Hayward, California, for ten years.
Ms. Mitrovich is President and co-founder of Solution Strategies. A former City Councilwoman and Deputy Mayor, Ms. Mitrovich has an in-depth understanding of public policy at the community, regional, and state levels, as well as the impact national policies have on these entities, including Sovereign Tribal Nations. Ms. Mitrovich has extensive business experience and a unique capability to balance the interests of diverse and often conflicting stakeholders. She is widely recognized as a specialist in policy negotiations, strategy development, and dispute resolution.
Dan is a lifelong political advocate and businessman, hailing from the East Coast and currently residing in Austin, Texas. Dan served as a staff member and consultant in the state legislature from 1974-1981 and 1991-2003, acting as Chief of Staff for FIVE’s own Steve Peace for several of those years. He also founded what is now C & L Stairs and Millwork, a millwork company located in Sacramento, California. He currently serves as Director of State Government Relations for the pharmaceutical company, Lilly USA. He also serves on the Board of Directors of the Independent Voter Project.
V. Manuel Pérez
Victor Manuel Perez served three terms as an Assemblymember in the California legislature from 2008 to 2014. While he was in the Assembly, Perez served as the Majority Floor Leader of the California State Assembly. Before graduating from Harvard University with a Master's degree in Education, he graduated from U.C. Riverside. He has been a teacher, a student organizer, and a member of the Coachella Valley School Board.
Jeff Marston brings nearly forty years of community relations and public policy expertise and a proven track record of working with people of very diverse opinions throughout a given decision making process. For seventeen years, Marston was president and co-owner of Marston+Marston, Inc., a full service public, governmental and community relations firm and before that, was senior vice president of another San Diego-based public relations firm where he spent nearly four years serving as the lobbyist for the City of San Diego in Sacramento. Before his employment there, Marston was a member of the California State Assembly representing San Diego’s 78th District. While in the State Assembly, Marston served on the Committees on Education, Housing and Community Development and Revenue and Taxation.
Native Californian grew up on a family farm in Otay, California. Graduate of San Diego State University and University of San Diego Law School. Active in California public affairs since 1977 in Sacramento working for the California Legislature and Governor Gray Davis. Worked in the private sector as manager of Public Affairs for Southern California Edison and Pacific Gas and Electric. Currently, the Manager of State and Federal Government Affairs for the City and County of San Francisco working for Mayor Ed Lee. Assisted in the drafting of California's Top 2 primary election law in 2010.
Laiza Garcia currently serves as the PAC Director with the California Association of REALTORS® handling the political resources for one of the top trade associations in the state. Before joining C.A.R. Laiza worked for the New York State Assembly and the Council of State Governments, Western Office. While in New York, Laiza Garcia worked with the Independence Party of New York in their advocacy effort to open up New York’s primary elections. Laiza has been selected for CalNewsroom's list of the "Capitol's 100 Best & Brightest" (2014). She is a graduate of Cal State Sacramento where she earned a degree in Government. Laiza Garcia lives in Sacramento and spends her personal time looking at the California state archives compiling a history of California’s political action committees.
To create a political environment where non-partisan voters can participate actively and effectively in local, regional, state and federal public policy decisions, regardless of party affiliation.
To provide voters with politically neutral, accurate, and reliable information about important public policy issues and to encourage non-partisan voters to vote and to participate in the democratic process.
- To establish broad public awareness about voters’ non-partisan rights.
- To create a climate for otherwise disenfranchised voters to engage in the process.
- To be innovative in the use of new technologies to share information.
- To seek improvement in public dialogue.
- To find balance between populist causes and practical public policy management.
- To be non-partisan and equitable in bringing information and ideas to the public.
- To be willing to be wrong and to correct information in an open and honest manner.
Expanding Non-Partisan Voter Turnout
IVP conducted extensive research and experimental voter education programs targeted at independent voters in 2006, 2008, and 2010. From the 2006 to 2010 midterm elections, IVP increased independent voter turnout by 419,917 voters. In 2012, the independent voter education program successfully focused on increasing turnout of independent latino voters in the Central Valley.
Proposition 14 was a critical victory in voter rights. IVP will continue to seek reform in the election process that will provide additional voting rights and advancement of non-partisan decision-making both in California and elsewhere. IVP’s work, including the extensive use of focus groups consisting of independent voters and swing partisan voters, has provided a unique understanding of the emerging electorate that will assist efforts to enact much needed government reforms. As interest groups grapple with controversial plans to reform the tax structure, independent voters will be the key to passing any reform initiatives. IVP believes increasing independent voter turnout, driven by IVP’s voter education programs, will have a profound effect on future reform initiatives.
Extending the Reach
To extend the California experience across the nation, IVP is reaching out to those concerned with the status of our electoral system all across the country. IVP recognizes that national programs to extend voter rights to disenfranchised voters have historically begun in one state and then spread to others before those changes become institutionalized by federal law. A key example is the federal law giving women the right to vote. In 1890, Wyoming became the first state to constitutionally allow women to vote. Thirty years later, in 1920, the 19thamendment was passed giving the right to vote to all women in the U.S.
As the author of Proposition 14, which created California's nonpartisan primary system, IVP is working with organizations across the country to advance nonpartisan election reforms.
Reaching Out to Voters
Latino voters are one of the fastest growing communities in California. In 2012 IVP ran a voter outreach campaign, targeting voters who were less likely to know the primary rules had changed. Radio spots targeting Latino voters informed them that their vote still matters in a general election regardless of party affiliation.
Mailing Address:PO Box 34431
San Diego, CA 92163
Phone: (619) 207-4618