Dr. King And The Meaning Of Voting Rights

This article was written by Open Primaries (National) Board Member Dr. Jessie Fields for the Daily Caller

The fight for voting rights for African Americans produced a historic outcome, the Voting Rights Act, but party politics continues to cut short the potential of the movement to fully empower the African American community and to sustain an ongoing process involving the American people.

The hard fought battles and sacrifices, the marches and protests of the nonviolent civil rights movement of the mid twentieth century has enshrined in the American soul the doctrine of equal voting rights, but the vision of the movement that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. gave voice to did not end in the passage of legislation. He often spoke of the central role of voting rights in addressing racial segregation, “Our whole campaign in Alabama has been centered around the right to vote. In focusing the attention of the nation and the world today on the flagrant denial of the right to vote, we are exposing the very origin, the root cause, of racial segregation in the Southland.”

The Voting Rights Act which the movement in Selma produced was a critical achievement, extending the franchise to many more blacks and other minorities and resulting in more people of color getting elected to public office. But black voters were quickly consolidated into the Democratic Party and thus into a two party system that divided the American people for partisan political gain. The Democratic Party came to dominate the black community.

That the black community would become a foregone conclusion as the constituency of any political party was not the mission of those who marched for voting rights. Closed party primaries and partisan redistricting continue to segregate black communities and today many African Americans feel taken for granted by the Democratic Party and rejected by the Republican Party. The 2016 presidential election starkly demonstrated the effects of this reality. Two million independent black voters were excluded from voting in the presidential primary and over one million African American voters did not participate in the general election because they felt that given the choices, their vote could not be meaningful.

In a New York Times article 11 days before the successful completion of the Selma to Montgomery march Dr. King wrote, “When the full power of the ballot is available to my people, it will not be exercised merely to advance our cause alone. We have learned in the course of our freedom struggle that the needs of twenty million Negroes are not truly separable from those of the nearly two hundred million whites and Negroes in America”.

This view, that the vote for African Americans was to be a tool for the political empowerment of the black community and for the growth and development of the entire country is a view not focused on who gets elected or which party wins but on fulfilling the needs and aspirations of ordinary people. And it was moving and historic, a developmental moment when people all over the country from all walks of life responded to Dr. King’s call and came to march in Selma. This was Black leadership bringing the people of Selma, from the sharecroppers to the students, the old and the young together with other Americans to change the country.

That fight for the political power of minority communities is far from over. Take a tour of black communities across America, communities that still suffer from disproportionately high poverty, poor schools, violence, police killings and mass incarceration and in 2008 were hit hard by the recession and home foreclosures and you will see the results of these communities being politically marginalized and abandoned.

To fully realize the vision Dr. King had for America and for the black community, we need to continue to develop new ways of coming together across racial and political divides, we must envision new types of coalitions and new conversations. We can no longer restrict our aspirations to the rising and falling fortunes of any political party. We must once again provide the leadership to build a more open political system and for the free and equal right to vote for all voters without restrictions of party affiliation.

Opening the primaries and independent redistricting are key to true minority enfranchisement because they give all voters, including the millions of minority voters who are independent, equal voting rights, the actual freedom to vote for who they choose to rather than the party dictating the choices, and the political mobility to build new kinds of on the ground coalitions.

At the conclusion of the Selma to Montgomery march, Dr. King spoke about the effect of post reconstruction segregation at the ballot box, “…the threat of the free exercise of the ballot by the Negro and white masses alike resulted in the establishment of a segregated society…That’s what happened when the Negro and white masses of the South threatened to unite and build a great society..”

We must continue to lead the country. To do that, the black community cannot be reduced to a special interest. We are a people who have forged the fight for equality and full voting rights in America with our blood and sweat and often our lives. When Dr. King was assassinated he had not reached the age of 40, yet he continues to reach beyond the time in which he lived. We can listen to hear his voice today to carry us forward.

Dr. Jessie Fields is on the board of Open Primaries, a national election-reform group. She is also a founding member of the Independence Party in New York City and a Harlem-based primary care physician.

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America needs to get rid of closed primaries

This editorial was published by The Independent Florida Alligator

As we’re sure you are aware, Florida is a closed primary state. This means that in order to vote in a primary election, Florida residents must be registered with a political party. It also means in the primaries, they are only be able to vote for candidates running for a position within their registered party. In general elections, however, they are able to vote for any candidate in any party.

In our opinion, closed primary states need to be brought to an end. Not only are they restrictive and suppressive, but they further divide our nation by strengthening party identification.

When voters are forced to decide on a party to affiliate themselves with, they become attached to that party. Of course, they do have the free will to vote for whoever they chose to in the general election, but registering as one party or another does tend to cause most voters to develop a mentality that influences the way that they vote. This bond people start to feel with their party has the power to influence voting patterns and impact overall election results.

Many people who are voting for the first time don’t know much about politics. Thus, they often don’t know much about political parties or which one aligns most with their beliefs. A lot of the time they end up choosing a party for the wrong reasons. It might be because their parents, significant other or friend support that party. Either way, these voters are commonly not thinking independently.

When a young person is just starting to explore the world of politics, they should be able to do so free of ties and regulations. They should be able to consider themselves an independent or bipartisan and still have the right to vote in a primary election. By forcing them to identify with a particular party, they lose the right to vote for candidates across the board they may want to support. Instead, they vote only from the percentage of candidates they are allowed to vote for.

What’s more is sometimes even voting veterans, young people and adults who are well versed in politics, still aren’t exactly sure where they lie on the political spectrum. For many people, casting a vote is about a person, not a party. Plenty of well-educated voters find themselves falling somewhere in the middle. Denying these holistic thinkers the right to vote for candidates they wish to support in the primary election is not only suppressive but unjust.

In addition to these restrictions closed primaries put on voting freedoms, these regulations also further divide our already disconnected nation.

As mentioned before, when voters are forced to identify with a specific party, they often become more attached to that party. They think of themselves as a Republican, a Democrat or a third party. Not as an independent thinker.

Even if you are registered with a party that you don't feel strong ties to, you often can’t help but get offended when you see a social media post calling your party ignorant. You can’t help but become angry when your distant relative rants about your party at the Thanksgiving dinner table. No matter the strength of your ties, you still become upset when someone challenges a part of who you are.

Especially after this last election cycle, people have been clinging to their party ties. Americans become more divided every day and closed primaries are only working to further separate us from our fellow citizens.

While seeing an end to closed primaries is not the only solution our country needs to come together again, it is certainly a good start toward a more connected and tolerant country.

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Join NMOP On CivNet

Dear New Mexico Open Primary Supporters,

We’re excited to announce that we’re going to be using CivNet, a New Mexico-based online network for community action, for a lot of our ongoing communication. One of NMOP’s values is to strive for a dialogue from every political persuasion. In that vein, CivNet provides an open platform for community members to connect with diverse individuals who come together on these important political process reform issues, find opportunities to get involved, and organize to take action.  We are going to be leading A LOT of action over the next 6 months as we approach the next legislative session.

This will also allow us to better assess who wants to be active with our organization and who wants just occasional updates.  We will continue to send out email through this list, but if you’d like to get engaged on a more regular basis and learn more about what NMOP is working on regularly, please sign up for CivNet and join the NM Open Primaries Project on CivNet. If you have any questions, feel free to email [email protected] or you can learn more at www.civnet.com

Best regards,

The NMOP Board


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NMOP Media Update for May 2017


New Mexico Open Primaries continues to attract state-wide,and national, media attention with the progress we have made - educating New Mexicans and our leaders about the need for structural political reform:

Please take a moment to read the pieces linked below and share these them through email and social media:spread the word - we're making progress and change is coming

From the Independent Voter Network: Upcoming Lawsuit: New Mexico Closed Primaries Violate State Constitution

This piece published by Now Associations: How One Advocacy Group Is Making The Case For Open Primaries in New Mexico

Make sure to Click on this link for this piece - Nonprofit Group Pushes for Open Primary Elections - which appeared in the Farmington Daily Times above the fold. 

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Call To Action SB205

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Candidate Responses to Election Reform

Dear New Mexico Open Primary Supporters:

The NMOP Board is pleased to announce the results of our first general election survey.  We asked all candidates in this 2016 general election running for the State Senate, the State House, the Secretary of State and Congress to complete a short on-line survey.  Twenty-one candidates responded.

Things you can do:

  • VOTE

  • Use this information to help you decide who to vote for

  • Share this information with other voters

  • Contact your candidates to let them know the importance of these issues to you


Click HERE for a table containing the complete survey results.

Thank you for your support of NMOP.  We welcome your input and suggestions and of course your financial support. You can find us here.

Bob Perls and the NMOP Board

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Independent Candidate Ballot Access Challenge Update

The court date for our independent candidate ballot access challenge is September 2 at 3 pm in District Court in Santa Fe. Founder Bob Perls will be there and if allowed, will testify.
Thanks so much to Rod Frechette for filing and being the attorney, all pro bono!
Court challenges are not exciting, but in a state without citizen ballot initiative and referendum, we must rely on the courts to push the legislature forward so that we have competitive elections. Making ballot access fair to all candidates is just one of a number of reforms New Mexico Open Primaries is dedicated to.

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NMOP Mission & Goals

New Mexico Open Primaries updated 2016-2017 MISSION and Goal statement


To ensure that every voter has equal protection and opportunity under the law to vote in every election.




1) Adopt Open Primaries where all voters can vote in all elections without joining a political party;

2) Create competitive elections all the time through the adoption of independent re-districting commissions as well as fair and equal ballot access requirements for all candidates;

3) Instigate court challenges to force the legislature to end closed primaries and discriminatory ballot access practices

4) Execute a state-wide education campaign highlighting the advantages of non-partisan, inclusive politics that rewards coalition-building and problem-solving

5) Increase voter engagement and confidence in our government by educating voters how these reforms improve legislative performance.

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Rejected PRC hopeful: NM ballot rules unfair

NMOP believes that we must reduce the discriminatory ballot access requirements of independent and third party candidates to offer more choices for NM voters. With the help of a dozen or so volunteers, Bob Perls turned in 1350 signatures for the PRC District 1 race to the Secretary of State’s office last Thursday so that he has standing to sue in state District Court so that future non-aligned candidates can run and NOT have to collect 3-10 times the number of signatures as major party candidates to get on the ballot. To qualify Bob would have had to turn in 3650 signatures. Rod Frechette is handling the case and we are deeply appreciative of this pro bono work.

NMOP will continue to offer financial and people power to help all independent candidates in an effort to make all elections more competitive. 70 percent of all NM elections have NO competition and democracy suffers. Court challenges will be an ongoing part of our strategy.

Please donate to support the ongoing cost of this court challenge. We file July 15 and the case should be heard in August.


Here is a link to the PDF of the following Albuquerque Journal Article:

9 Jul 2016 - Albuquerque Journal - DEBORAH BAKER

Rejected PRC hopeful: NM ballot rules unfair

Former state Rep. Bob Perls was rejected this week by the secretary of state as an independent candidate for the Public Regulation Commission and says he’s going to challenge it.

Perls will ask a state District Court to strike down New Mexico’s “unfair and discriminatory” requirements for independent and minor party candidates to get on the ballot.

The Corrales businessman and former foreign service officer with the U.S. Department of State says he turned in about 1,350 voters’ signatures to qualify for the Nov. 8 general election ballot. The requirement for an independent, however, is 3,650.

Perls says that if he were a Democrat (which he was when he served in the House in the ’90s), he would have had to submit about 750 signatures, and if he were a Republican, about 450.

“Since all voters are supposed to have equal access to the ballot box, does this protection extend to candidates who should have equal access to the ballot?” he said in a news release.

Right now, there is only one candidate on the ballot in Albuquerque’s PRC District 1, Democrat Cynthia Hall.

MINOR PARTIES: The secretary of state, following last week’s filing deadline, has qualified a couple of new minor political parties that could nominate presidential candidates for the Nov. 8 ballot.

The Party for Socialism and Liberation is running Gloria La Riva of San Francisco, who was born and raised in Albuquerque, as its presidential candidate. La Riva has previously been the party’s presidential nominee and has run for governor in California on the Peace and Freedom Party ticket.

Minor parties have until Sept. 13 to submit their nominees to the secretary of state.

Also qualified this week as a minor party was the American Delta Party, which according to Ballot Access News was founded by San Diego businessman Roque “Rocky” De La Fuente as a vehicle for a possible independent presidential bid. De La Fuente ran in some states in the Democratic presidential primaries.

Four other minor parties already were qualified in New Mexico, including the Constitution Party, whose presidential nominee, Darrell Castle, is on the ballot in November. Former Gov. Gary Johnson is expected to be on the ballot for the Libertarian Party. LEGISLATURE: On the legislative side, Fran Gallegos was disqualified as a Green Party candidate in Senate District 39, where Republican incumbent Ted Barela faces Democratic challenger Liz Stefanics. The secretary of state said she hadn’t been properly nominated by the party. In House District 54, independent Freddie Joe Nichols is newly on the ballot, challenging Republican incumbent James Townsend.

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2016 NMOP Candidate Survey Results

Our Board sent out surveys (download link here)  to all state rep, state senate and congressional candidates with primary election opposition and a summary of the results is posted below.  Please review the results and we hope you vote accordingly.  Many candidates did not respond and if they did not we have to assume they are not supportive of our agenda.  We will do so again for the general election in November.   The results so far are as follows (to download as a spreadsheet click the link here):

Candidate summary:
NAME House/Senate District Rating Phone Address Email address
Anaya, Mike SD 39 AA 505 490-2338 4 El Tanque Viejo  Galisto, NM 87540 mike [email protected],com
Berkeimer, Chris HD 25 AA 505 280-7693 2721 Indiana NE Albuquerque, NM 871100 [email protected]
Dodson, Matt SD 1 AA 505 325-2159 620 Gladeiew Dr.  Farmington, NM 87401 [email protected]
Morgan, Rebecca SD 1 AAA 505 327-3658 800 W30th St. Farmington, NM 87401 [email protected]
Jaramillo, Ray HD 35 AAA 575 612-3205 1213 Osage Ct.  Las Cruces, NM 88005 [email protected]
Sherman, Frederick HD 32 AA 575 546-8846 210 S. Silver  Deming, NM 88030 [email protected]
Thompson, Elizabeth HD 24 AA 505 239-1781 1216 Westerfield dr  Albuquerque, NM 87112 [email protected] 
Whitlock, Karen HD 38 O 575 574-5221 P.O. Box 516  Mimbres, NM 88049 [email protected]
Wilder, James SD 19 A 505 281-2357 P.O. Box 1162  Tivezias, NM 7059 [email protected]
KEY:       For those answering all questions:  
        23 - 30 points ---  AAA rating  
        15 - 22 Points --    AA rating  
          8-  14 Points --      A rating  
          0 -  13 Points -     0 rating  
        For those answering only the state-related questions:  
        19 - 24 points -- AAA  
        14 - 18 points --   AA  
         8 -  13 points --     A  
         0 -  12 points -0 rating  
        Yes answers - 2 points  
        Maybe answers - 1 point  
        No answers -no points 
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