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Nonpartisan Primaries

5 Key Takeaways from Nick Troiano and Lawrence Lessig

Another Way Podcast Recap

Alana Persson
Digital Marketing Associate
November 27, 2023

Nick Troiano, Executive Director of Unite America, recently joined Another Way’s Lawrence Lessig for a conversation on  Troiano’s forthcoming book, "The Primary Solution," out Feb. 27. \

Below are five key takeaways from their discussion: 

  1. America has a "Primary Problem": Troiano sheds light on a crucial issue in the U.S. political system: the dysfunction and extremism fueled by party primaries. He emphasizes how partisan primaries, with their exclusionary rules and low voter turnout, allow a minor fraction of the electorate to decide most elections. This leads to a Congress representing the fringes of both major parties rather than the majority of American voters. He explains how "The Primary Solution" offers a practical roadmap to address this problem by creating a more representative and functional democracy.
  2. Troiano's Congressional Campaign Informed his Advocacy: Following his unsuccessful congressional campaign in a gerrymandered district, Troiano was inspired to dedicate himself to solving electoral and systemic problems. He points out that 83% of House seats are considered safe for one party. Because of this, party primaries, rather than general elections, are where the real battles are fought. This dynamic overwhelmingly benefits the candidates with the most partisan, extreme views.​​
  3. There are Two Key Principles for Electoral Reform: Troiano articulates two principles as solutions to the Primary Problem: 1) every voter should be able to vote for any candidate in every election, and 2) winners should secure a majority of the vote. He argues that these principles, agreed upon by more than 70% of Americans, are only true in the four states with nonpartisan primaries.
  4. Closed Party Primaries Exclude Independents: Closed party primaries, like in Pennsylvania, exclude voters from participating in primary elections if they are not affiliated with a specific party. This closed system effectively bars a large segment of the electorate from participating in the selection of candidates, thus undermining democratic inclusiveness​​.
  5. Nonpartisan Primaries are a Solution to Political Dysfunction: Troiano advocates for abolishing the bifurcated system of partisan primaries, citing the success of nonpartisan primaries in states like Nebraska, Washington, California, and Alaska. Systems such as top-two or top-four models allow all voters to participate — regardless of political affiliation — and require candidates to appeal to a broad spectrum of constituents, not just a tiny, partisan segment. He explains that nonpartisan primaries have led to increased voter turnout and have shown promise in depolarizing politics, with new Congressional members from these states being significantly less extreme. This approach is a key to unlocking a more representative government that mirrors the views of a majority of Americans, rather than just the political extremes.