Independent Voter Project
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 is best known for authoring California's nonpartisan top-two primary ("Proposition 14" - passed in 2010). A nonpartisan system changes the purpose of the primary from a private one (to select a party nominee), to a public one (to narrow the candidate field). Both major parties viewed (and some still do) Proposition 14 as an attack on the two-party system. Third party advocates often view Proposition 14 as an insulation of the two-party system. IVP simply views Proposition 14 as a defense of democracy; a democracy in which parties must be accountable to the entire electorate -- not just their members.
Since that time, IVP has been working to change election systems that disenfranchise the growing number of independent-minded voters. This has become increasingly important with the rise in voters nationwide who choose not to affiliate with a political party, of which, minority voters are the fastest growing numbers. IVP has directed successful voter education programs aimed at increasing voter participation, including programs targeted at non-English speaking voters, in every election since 2006.
IVP also conducted large-scale, in-election studies during the 2006 and 2008 California elections, in which a broad spectrum of common political communication strategies was tested against alternative approaches in an effort to learn how to increase voter participation amongst independent and “non-base” partisan voters.
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. IVP also ran Spanish language radio spots to increase awareness of the new nonpartisan rules.
In 2013, IVP began the development of a legal strategy designed to challenge closed partisan primary systems nationwide. They had 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.
In 2016, IVP authored San Diego’s Measure K, which aimed to replace the city’s electoral system in which a candidate could win outright at the primary stage with 50% of the vote. Measure K proposed a system in which the top two vote-getters in the primary would move to a runoff in the November general election. This change was important because the number of registered voters who participate in San Diego elections is around twice as high in the general election versus the primary. The measure passed successfully in November 2016.
Building on this success, IVP continues to look toward the future with an eye toward legislative and legal actions to expand access to our electoral process. 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.
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 the candidates of their choice.
Today, IVP's goal is to educate voters about the election process, both through their own work, as a co-publisher of IVN.us, and as a founding member of the National Association of Nonpartisan Reformers. We aim to facilitate a discussion among other election law reformers, and to challenge exclusive election processes that disenfranchise unaffiliated and low-propensity voters.
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.
National Association of Nonpartisan Reformers.
IVP is a founding board member of the National Association of Nonpartisan Reformers.
IVP is a proud member of the Bridge Alliance.
Mailing Address:PO Box 34431
San Diego, CA 92163
Phone: (619) 207-4618