Event Details
January 11, 2022

Speaker: David Thomburgh, Jeremy Gruber, Ned Foley, Daniella Ballou-Aares, Jason Green, Peter Siris, Michael Otten




The Practicalities of Fighting Hyper-Partisanship in Our Government

Extreme partisanship is crippling our government and challenging the very values of our society. One of the greatest contributors to this partisanship is the electoral process itself. If you want to understand what’s really involved in saving our democracy from partisan paralysis and truly rigged elections, please attend this presentation.

Because of the way districts are drawn, few elections are competitive. In most instances, the elected candidate will be the person who wins the primary of the dominant party, making the primary more important than the final general election. However, in primaries, the rules are set by the parties, not by the government, and in many instances the parties have created ways of restricting votes by independents, often the largest voting group. As a result, independents are often disenfranchised in the election process and parties end up electing candidates who cater mostly to their loyal and often more extreme base.

Reform Elections Now and Open Primaries, two nonprofit election reform organizations, have identified voting rules established by each party that disenfranchise independents and create this partisan gridlock. In this presentation, you will learn how some states have overcome this disenfranchisement by opening their primaries. We will look at the experience of Maine, which successfully passed electoral change this last year, with bi-partisan and independent voter support. Lessons learned can be applied to the current electoral reform efforts to affect actions for the 2022 midterm elections.

The Program
Reform Elections Now Director of Research, Peter Siris, will provide a snapshot of how primary elections in different states currently favor or disfavor the selection of highly partisan candidates.

Open Primaries Senior Vice President, Jeremy Gruber, will discuss his recent report, “Success Story: What it Took to Bring Open Primaries to Maine”, and the universal lessons learned that can, and should, be applied to every reform campaign looking to improve the health of our democracy.

Leadership Now Founder and CEO, Daniella Ballou-Aares, will moderate a panel to include Peter, Jeremy and David Thornburgh from the state of Pennsylvania, along with a representative from Alaska, where they recently implemented a Top 4 Primaries, with a Ranked Choice Final Election process. An opportunity for questions, answers and discussion will follow.



Peter Siris

Research Director, Reform Elections Now

Peter Siris is the Research Director for Reform Elections Now. Peter had an extensive career on Wall Street, in industry, and in academia. He was a financial columnist for the N.Y. Daily News and has published three best-selling books. Peter received a B.A. with Honors from Brandeis University and an MBA with Distinction from Harvard Business School, where he also continued his doctoral studies. Peter was named 2019 “Volunteer of the Year” by the HBS Club of N.Y. for his work with Community Partners, HBSNY Angels, and the daytime programming committee.



Jeremy Gruber

Senior Vice President, Open Primaries

Jeremy Gruber is a lawyer, writer, and public policy advocate. Previously, he worked for the American Civil Liberties Union’s National Taskforce on Civil Liberties in the Workplace, then as legal director for the National Workrights Institute and more recently Executive Director of the Council for Responsible Genetics, a public interest organization focusing on bioethics. Gruber received his Juris Doctor (J.D.) from St. John’s University School of Law and a B.A. in Politics from Brandeis University.



David B. Thornburgh

Senior Advisor, Pennsylvania Committee of Seventy

David Thornburgh is a nationally recognized “civic entrepreneur” who throughout his career has created and led high impact initiatives to promote economic development, political reform, and good government in Pennsylvania. He was named a Senior Advisor for the Committee of Seventy in January 2022 after serving as its President and CEO since November, 2014. Seventy is Pennsylvania’s oldest and largest good government group, which has championed measures to limit the role of money in politics, make government more accountable and transparent, and educate and engage citizens in the political process. He serves as Chair of Open Primaries PA, an effort that seeks to open primary elections to the nearly 1 million unaffiliated PA voters who currently can’t vote for candidates in primary elections. Thornburgh was for seven years the Executive Director of the University of Pennsylvania’s Fels Institute of Government. In 2006 he was recognized as one of the 101 most trusted and respected civic “connectors” in the Philadelphia area by LEADERSHIP Philadelphia. He has taught graduate courses in politics, leadership, and economic development at Penn, Drexel, Temple, and Franklin and Marshall.



Jason Grenn

Executive Director, Alaskans for Better Elections Former State Representative

Jason Grenn is the Executive Director for Alaskans for Better Elections. A fourth generation Alaskan, Jason was born and raised in Anchorage and recently served as an independent State Representative in the Alaska State House where he led the fight on legislative ethics reform and championed economic development for Alaska. He and his wife Jana have been married 17 years and are raising three small children in the same neighborhood he grew up in.



Daniella Ballou-Aares

Founder and CEO of Leadership Now Project

Daniella Ballou-Aares is the Founder and CEO of the Leadership Now Project, a national membership organization of business and thought leaders committed to fixing American democracy. Daniela began her career at Bain & Company, working across the firm’s offices in the US, South Africa and the UK. From there she became a founding Partner of Dalberg, where she led the Americas business and transformed the startup into the largest social impact strategy firm with 25 offices worldwide. She spent five years in the Obama administration as the Senior Advisor for Development to the Secretary of State, serving under Secretaries Clinton and Kerry. Daniella’s perspectives have been featured in the Harvard Business Review, The New York Times, Fast Company, POLITICO, and the World Economic Forum, among others. Daniella is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and was a 2014 World Economic Forum Young Global Leader. She holds an MBA from Harvard Business School, an MPA from the Kennedy School and graduated cum laude from Cornell with a BS in Operations Research and Industrial Engineering.



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