You Shouldn't Have to Lie to Vote in America

Today's stories include a clip from Thien-Nam Dinh, an independent voter in New Mexico. If you'd like to share your own thoughts and be featured in a future Wednesday release, click here to share your story.

A few days ago, I was reviewing interview footage from our recent conversation series in New Mexico, and I came across a video clip that stopped me in my tracks.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. So let's ponder this: should you have to lie about what you believe in order to vote?

The answer should be an obvious, unequivocal no, right? Voting is for every American citizen regardless of their politics, after all.

Unfortunately, for about 24 million Americans - very likely including you - the answer is yes.

Which brings me to that video clip. In this week's story segment, independent voters in the LetUsVote community explain why their voting rights come with strings - strings that force us to publicly call ourselves something we're not.

If you want to be featured in next week's release highlighting the stories and thoughts of independents just like you, click the big button:

Share: Why Are You an Independent Voter?

Okay, back to that New Mexico independent voter, Thien-Nam Dinh, who blew me away.

He made a point about independent voters that stopped me in my tracks. Watch his remark below. It's quick - 44 seconds, but I've included the relevant quote below if you're not feeling a video right now:



"When I go to the polls to exercise this almost sacred right [to vote] and the first thing I have to do is, 'Oh, by the way, can you just lie a little bit about what you stand for, just so we can make this count?' There's something that seems really off about that, right?"

-Thien-Nam Dinh, New Mexico

What's he talking about?

To vote in primaries in many states - including both Dinh's home state of New Mexico and my home state of New York - you can't vote in the primary unless you're registered with a political party. You can see if this is true in your state right here.

In many districts across the country - nearly 85% - the primary is the whole election. That means, in order to cast a meaningful ballot, you need to vote in the primary.

That's a problem in itself, of course: your right to vote shouldn't be contingent on joining a political party. But, as Thien-Nam explains, it gets even worse.

In order to vote for a candidate he likes to represent his community, Dinh has to publicly join a party he doesn't like. He has to put his name on an official, public, governmentally controlled list of registered Republicans and Democrats, even though he isn't a Republican or a Democrat.

Dinh isn't alone. Let's do some math:

  • As of 2022, there are 161.4 million registered voters in the United States (source for the political dorks).
  • According to Gallup, 43% of Americans identify as independent voters.
  • But only 28% actually are registered independent voters.
  • That delta - the number of people who see themselves as independents who are actually registered with a party - is what we're after. And it's huge: 24,210,000 million Americans.

There's a part of Dinh's quote I left out above:

"Voting is an expression of who we are and what we stand for."

So we're compelled - by the millions - to lie about who we are, just so we can participate in that most important, sacred and universally-promised ritual as citizens: voting.

This isn't just a problem for independent voters. Millions of Republicans live in Democrat-controlled districts, and millions of Democrats live in Republican-controlled districts.

I just came from South Dakota, where I heard this refrain over and over again: I lean progressive, or I'm an independent, but I have to be a Republican to vote, because it's the only game in town.

It's happening everywhere, to all kinds of voters. But you know who it isn't happening to? The people in the party that happens to run a certain community.

So next time you're talking to a happily-registered Republican or Democrat and they're concerned about open primaries and voting rights for independents, ask them this question:

How would you feel if you had to change your registration to the opposite party just to earn your constitutional right to vote?

See what happens. And if you're one of those people who is registered with a party you don't believe in, I want to hear from you. Click this button to tell your story:

Share: Are You Unhappily Registered With a Party?

Alright, Will. That's what I have for you right now.

My homework for you this week? Watch Thien-Nam Dinh's video above, and share it with two or three independent voters. See what they have to say about it.

On Monday, you'll hear about an incredible and egregious act of voter suppression in Tennessee. You won't want to miss it. See you then.

If you support what we're doing here at LetUsVote, please know that any contribution - big or small - helps us keep up the work of building a unique and totally new community for independent voters. It would mean the world if you can contribute.

Thank you for all you do.


Will Conway

Campaign Director - LetUsVote