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Other View: Shutting out independent voters sends bad message

Every vote counts.

That phrase is tossed about whenever an election is so close, a single vote can determine the outcome.

It rarely happens, but that doesn't diminish the value of each vote cast in every election.

Candidates spend millions on campaigns designed to persuade people to give them their votes.

Political parties encourage their members to go to the polls.

Not that long ago, women and minorities were denied the right to vote, making the privilege that much more important to them.

One man, one vote is the backbone of our democracy.

If you buy all of that, Ben Nesselhuf has a message for you.

The Democratic challenger for Secretary of State wants South Dakota to allow independents to vote in primary elections.

This spring, the Democratic party allowed independents to vote in its primaries for the first time.

Republicans haven't joined them for reasons that seem obvious. Why upset a balance of power that has given them a firm grip on most of South Dakota's political offices.

The issue is greater than that. The more people participate in elections, the more representative the government becomes.

The process shouldn't involve manipulation. It shouldn't involve disenfranchising anyone who doesn't embrace a party line.

It should encourage an outcome that represents the will of the people, all of the people -- or at least as many as possible -- not a small minority that bothers to get out and vote.

Nesselhuf rightly observes that allowing independents to vote in either the Democratic or Republican primaries would provide needed balance.

"More and more South Dakotans identify themselves as independent voters and right now they are shut out of the primaries," Nesselhuf said. "This is a bad thing for our state's political process."

It's hard to argue with that.

If independents were allowed to vote in primaries, perhaps both political parties would soften some of their extreme positions.

Under the present system, their polarized views have alienated a lot of independent thinkers who don't bother to vote anymore.

Their critics call it apathy. The folks sitting it out don't see the point when their voices tend to be ignored.

Shutting out independent voters sends a message no one wants to hear: We don't care about your vote. We don't care what you think. We aren't here to represent you.

That's a terrible message politicians of all persuasions should do their best to change.

Rapid City Journal