Why do voters keep re-electing incumbents in a system they hate? Because election rules are set up to preclude genuine competition. If we want to change these rules, we need to open up competition within the DNC and RNC. We also need to allow independents to compete on a level playing field. Here are four tactics we believe will open competition in our elections.
Open Competition Tactic #1: End Extreme Partisan Gerrymandering
When partisan state legislators redraw the congressional maps every 10 years, the bias can be extreme. For example, an independent study found that Republicans won as many as 22 additional U.S. House seats over what would have been expected in 2016. These results are based on the average vote share in congressional districts across the country. This is not just a Republican issue.
One Campaign Legal Center (CLC) attorney argued that modern gerrymandering is fueled by computers, new kinds of voter data and a polarized electorate. He said, “if you let this go without judicial oversight for the outliers, in 2020 you’re going to have a festival of copycat gerrymandering the likes of which this country has never seen.” Ironically, if the Democrats take the house in 2018, they would benefit from these excesses. This is a great example of how structural issues are a feature of the system, not simply the practices of one party.
Beyond the legal challenges, there are active citizen-lead initiatives in seven states (Connecticut, Illinois, Michigan, Missouri, Ohio, Oregon and Pennsylvania) to create non-partisan methods for creating assembly districts.
Open Competition Tactics #2: Institute Rank Voting at the State & Federal Levels
Since 2013, 15 cities have passed ranked choice voting ( RCV). Research confirms that the process promotes majority support and reduces negative campaigning.
On June 12, 2018, Maine voters were the first in the nation to rank their choices in primary elections for U.S. Senator, U.S. Representative, Governor, State Senator and State Representative. As the benefits of RCV become more widely appreciated, momentum is building toward the goal of 10 governors elected in 2020 with ranked choice voting.
Open Competition Tactic #3: Adopt California’s Top-Two Primary System
In 2010, California implemented the Top-Two (Jungle primary) system, where all voters can vote for any candidate. In this system, the top two vote getters advance to the general election. Candidates may state their party affiliation or chose not to state a party preference.
The change to Top-Two Primaries, combined with a non-partisan approach to redistricting, has resulting in a much healthier political structure in California.
- California now has the most competitive elections in America
- A record number of incumbents have been defeated in California
- California legislatures have broken with their parties on key votes
- Public approval ratings for the California state legislature moved from 14 to 42 percent (while congressional approval rating remain stuck in the national range of 17-18 percent)
Open Competition Tactic #4: Open Presidential Debates to a Third-Party Candidate
There is ample evidence that the current 15 percent polling hurdle (established by a private organization called the Commission on Presidential Debates) is designed to exclude qualified third-party candidates. In fact, in one poll, 62 percent of Americans said they would have voted for an independent for president in 2016.
Changetherule.org (singular) was unsuccessful in opening up the 2016 presidential debates, but remains in litigation with the Federal Election Commission. If successful, in a single stroke it would create a viable national platform for an independent third-party candidate.
How You Can Help
At Change the Rules, we have identified a set of non-profit organizations that are currently implementing a set of strategies to implement these shifts. To be included in the CTR portfolio, organizations must meet our strict criteria
- The organization must be a non-partisan, non-profit (and not endorse specific candidates).
- The organization must have strong leadership and demonstrated results.
- The reforms must hit the sweet spot of changes that are meaningful, yet achievable.
- The reforms in our portfolio must complement one other.
Donate to the Portfolio to help us open competition in our political system.
Author: Tom Curren, Founder and Manager of Change the Rules