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Looking Back to Leap Forward: 2023's Achievements and 2024's Aspirations to put Voters First

Charting the movement's progress

Carlo Macomber
Research Assistant
December 20, 2023

While 2023 was an off-cycle year, it was the perfect time to build momentum ahead of a critical election year in 2024. Below, we highlight the wins and progress made by the Voters First Movement in 2023, and preview some of the big campaigns Unite America is focused on in 2024. If these campaigns are successful, millions of voters will have a stronger voice in who represents them.

2023 in Review

Victories

  • Oregon: Thanks to the advocacy of Oregon Ranked Choice Voting, the state legislature referred a ranked choice voting (also known as instant runoff voting) ballot question to voters, which will appear on the November 2024 ballot. Legislative champions and advocates overcame incredible gridlock in the capitol — including a six-week walkout — to give Oregon voters the opportunity to ensure that candidates must earn majority support to take office.
  • Local Victories: In November, 21 cities across seven states used instant runoffs in their local elections to ensure majority winners, including the largest cities in Maine, Minnesota, and Utah. Boulder, Colo. also used an instant runoff for the first time in its mayoral election. Further, three municipalities in Michigan approved ballot initiatives to implement instant runoffs in future elections.

Legislative Progress

  • New Mexico & Pennsylvania: Two state campaigns, New Mexico Open Elections and Ballot PA, made progress toward opening their states’ closed primaries to independent voters. New Mexico’s “semi-open” primaries bill passed in the state senate and Pennsylvania’s passed in a state house committees, increasing the likelihood of future success.
  • Minnesota & Vermont: Campaigns in these states made progress toward expanding the use of instant runoffs. Due to consistent advocacy from FairVote Minnesota, the legislature passed a bill that establishes a commission to examine how instant runoffs could be implemented in local and statewide elections. Meanwhile, the Vermont Public Interest Research Group supported a bill to use instant runoffs in presidential primaries, beginning in 2028. The bill easily passed in the state senate but stalled in the state house. Supporters plan to continue to advocate for the bill in the next session in order to build on the momentum gained in 2023. 

2024 Preview

Campaigns to Watch

  • Oregon — Instant Runoff Voting: Oregon voters will decide in November whether or not to adopt instant runoffs for federal and statewide elections. If passed, the policy will go into effect in 2028.
  • Nevada — Final-Five Voting: Nevada Voters First led the charge to qualify a Final-Five Voting — top-five nonpartisan primaries with instant runoff general elections — amendment for the ballot. In November 2022, it passed with 53% voter support. However, Nevada law requires initiated constitutional amendments to pass during consecutive even-year elections, so Nevada voters will be asked again to approve the Final-Five Voting initiative in 2024. If they do so, it will go into effect in 2026.
  • Additionally, there are advocates in several other states working to qualify nonpartisan reforms for the ballot, while others are working in state legislatures to promote legislation that puts voters first. From defending wins, to advancing nonpartisan primary reform, to repealing closed primaries, and expanding instant runoffs, reform advocates will be working hard next year to win both at the ballot box and in legislatures.

As a reminder, there are still 15 states with closed primaries for state and congressional offices. In these states, there are roughly 15.7 million registered independent voters who do not have a guaranteed right to vote in primary elections. Due to the “Primary Problem,” in the vast majority of congressional districts, the primary election is the only contest that matters. This means that many voters — including independents in closed primary states — effectively have no voice at all.

Winning big in 2024 would not only build significant momentum for the movement, it would also provide better representation to millions of voters across the country. Thanks to the great work in 2023, the Voters First Movement is primed to win in 2024!