Politicians with Different Points of View Should be Competing for Votes. Fundamental to Democracy, But in Our System, Most Competition Has Been Eliminated.
Here are some reforms Reform Elections Now is pursuing to restore competition to our politics.
- Gerrymandering is one of the biggest threats to democracy. Through gerrymandering politicians can pick their voters and cram all the partisans together. Because of Gerrymandering, the Cook Political Report reports that 94% of Congressional races are non-competitive. With no meaningful opposition from another party, these seats tend to appeal more and more to the most extreme voters.
- Making polarization even worse, our system for nominating candidates further precludes competition. REN recommends
- Open, non-partisan primaries (in many states only those registered to a party can vote in primaries)
- Better yet (as Alaska is now doing), primaries in which voters choose the top 4 choices regardless of party then rank the candidates in the general election
- Ranked choice voting allows for more choice when there are more than two candidates
- REN further recommends eliminating sore loser laws. Sore loser laws prohibit the loser of a partisan primary from running in the general election.
- Instead of debating issues, Congress is obscuring issues through lack of debate and large omnibus bills. Legislators should be forced to defend or reject issues their voters care about.
See Our Work and Resources for More
“Ending Gerrymandering” White Paper
“Incumbent Gerrymandering” White Paper
“Prison-Gerrymandering Is a Thing” White Paper
“Gerrymandering Run Amok” White Paper
“Ugly as Sin Gerrymandering” White Paper
“Redistricting and Gerrymandering” Presentation
The End of One-Man-One Vote with Winner-Take-All
Political Polarization, Race, and Geography
People in urban areas have always been at a disadvantage in Senate and the Electoral College because of the way those elections are structured. Less well recognized, but perhaps even more significant is the fact that they are at an even greater disadvantage in elections for the House of Representative and State Assemblies, which are supposed to be based on one-man-one-vote.
The reason for this disadvantage is our system is not one-man-one vote, as many believe. Rather it is winner-take-all. Democrats, especially minorities, tend to live in urban areas. In these areas, in part because of geography as well as racial gerrymandering, they tend to win elections by huge majorities. Yet in terms of representation, with winner-take-all, it does not matter if you win by 5 votes or 5,000,000 votes. You still have one winner.
This means that Democrats can win landslide elections in cities, gain a majority of the popular vote, and still have a minority of the representatives in the House or State Assemblies. With landslide elections, both parties move towards their bases, creating increased polarization. Further, with control of the House and State Assemblies, that party can gerrymander, enact voting restrictions, and take other steps to further restrict the other party.
The Founding Fathers could not have envisioned a country in which the winner of the popular vote was consistently in the minority. However, because of race and geography, that is now frequently occurring. The winner-take-all system of elections coupled with geographic concentration is creating an increasingly polarized political system.
REN Presentations and White Papers on Equitable Representation
“End of One Person One Vote” White Paper
“Omnibus Bills Increase Polarization, Alienate Voters, and Hurt Democracy!” White Paper
“How to Unite the Un-United States of America” Presentation
Ranked Choice Voting
Ranked Choice Voting (RCV) is an enhanced system of voting that allows voters to rank the candidates for office in order oftheir most desired to their least desired- #1, #2, #3, etc. The system uses these rankings to select the candidates with the broadest appeal.
RCV, which is gaining increased acceptance, has many advantages: It eliminates ‘spoilers,’ may promote cooperation between candidates, can reduce negative campaigning, reduces the leverage of polarizing candidates, eliminates costly run-offs, and can lead to higher voter turnout. Numerous U.S. cities and the states of Maine and Alaska currently use RCV. New York City voters approved RCV for the primaries.
REN Presentations and White Papers on Ranked Choice Voting
REN Presentations and White Papers on Ranked Choice Voting
Ranked Choice Voting
Top 4 or 5 Nonpartisan Primary – Ranked Choice Voting Final
The Top 4 or 5 Nonpartisan Primary with a Ranked Choice Voting Final has been eloquently presented by Katherine Gehl, a successful businesswoman, and Professor Michael Porter of Harvard Business School. In this system: Primary elections would be nonpartisan, open to any ‘qualified’ candidate. (Qualifying candidates will require balancing the desire to facilitate multiple candidates, tempered by the risk that a large number makes it difficult for voters to familiarize themselves with the choices.) The top 4 or 5 vote-getters, regardless of party, would move to the general election. The general election would be decided by Ranked Choice Voting (RCV).
This system utilizes the advantages of both Nonpartisan primaries and Ranked Choice Voting while minimizing their disadvantages. With Nonpartisan primaries, independents and moderates would be encouraged to run, turnout can improve, with negative campaigning possibly reduced. Making it easier to enter in early stages of the process can reduce the influence of big money. With RCV for 4 or 5 candidates in the final election, moderates and those who can build coalitions will better survive the process leading to a final election.
Alaska is the first state to change its voting system to Top 4 Nonpartisan Primary-RCV Final Election. Katherine Gehl’s “Democracy Found” is working to convince voters that this could be the best of all systems.
REN Presentations and White Papers on Top 4 or 5 Non-Partisan Primary
Ideal Solution – Top Four Nonpartisan Followed by Ranked Choice Voting White Paper
Sore Loser Laws
Sore Loser Laws prevent a candidate who has lost a primary from entering the general election as an independent of a candidate of another party. These laws, which exist in 47 or the 50 states significantly contribute to the polarization of U.S. politics. Candidates understand that if they lose their party’s primary, their career could be over. In recent years, this has happened to moderates of both parties, sending a clear signal to others who might want to work across the aisle—Pander to your party’s base or the Sore Loser Laws will force you into retirement.
REN Presentations and White Papers on Sore Loser Laws
Eliminate Sore Loser Laws White Paper
Opening the Primary Election Process
Most elections are decided in the primaries, because there are few competitive districts. Parties control the primaries, often blocking independents, who pay their share of election costs. Parties nominate candidates that hew to their bases and avoid candidates who are bipartisan or moderate. As a result, primaries are major contributors to polarization.
There are many different forms of primaries. The worst are Closed Primaries, that bar independents from voting. Partially open and partially closed primaries also serve to discourage independent. Of the current primary forms, we advocate Primaries open to unaffiliated voters, which let independents select the primary in which they want to participate, as well as Nonpartisan primaries, which allow all candidates, regardless of party, and all voters to participate in the same primary.
REN Presentations and White Papers on Opening the Primary Elections
“Open the Primary Process” White Paper
Nonpartisan – Top Two Primaries: A Good Step Forward
Nonpartisan-Top Primaries are an innovative system used in California, Washington, Louisiana, and Nebraska (for state offices only). In this system, any candidate, regardless of party, can run. The two candidates receiving the most votes advance to the general election.
These primaries reduce the power of the parties and their bases, enfranchise moderates and independents, promote extremely high turnout, offer competitive final elections, even if the candidates are from the same party, limit the power of dark pools of money, and generally receive very high levels of approvals from voters in their states.
REN Presentations and White Papers on Non-Partisan Top Two
“Nonpartisan Top Two” White Paper
Independent Voters in Closed Primary States Are Disenfranchising Themselves and Forcing Parties Towards Their Bases
Almost 10 million voters in closed primary states are registered as independents. By doing so, these voters cannot participate in the primaries that often decide the elections. While many like to think of themselves as independents, 82% of all independents “lean” to one party or the other. These independents behave like moderates in their parties.
By registering as independents, these voters help to push the party to which they lean towards its base. If these independents chose to register in the party to which they lean, they would have a moderating impact on the parties and would not give up their right to vote in the most important elections. Until the parties agree to open the primary process, independents can act on their own by registering and voting.
REN Presentations and White Papers on Disenfranchised Independent Voters
“Enfranchise Independents” White Paper