Alaska’s proof of concept, Nevada’s major step to follow suit, more cities, and new champions — all this year.
Nevada has put the exclamation point on one of the country’s most significant political stories in 2022: the successful and momentum-filled movement to ensure that American elections put voters first.
The Nevada Independent called a ballot question to advance nonpartisan primaries and ranked choice general elections in favor of the yeses on Friday night, with those in favor at 52% with an estimated 93% of the vote reporting. The measure now moves to the 2024 ballot, when the state’s electorate will vote up or down to make Nevada the second state in the country, after Alaska, to adopt the voting model.
“The headline going into this weekend is that the Silver State took a major step toward giving every Nevada voter, including the 600,000 independents currently shut out of the process, the right to participate in primary elections,” said Nick Troiano, executive director of Unite America. “The headline from this year is that voters across the U.S., from red states to blue states, are continuing to demand an electoral system that provides them with better choices and more representation from their government — and they’re winning.”
The evidence is growing:
- Alaska became the first state in the country to use a nonpartisan primary + ranked choice election model this year, after a majority of Alaskans voted for it in 2020. Election administrators successfully implemented the system on an expedited basis, and the results have proved the concept: In a state with such political diversity that more than 60 percent of voters are either third-party, nonpartisan, or undeclared, the likelihood is that the gubernatorial, Senate, and House races will be won by two Republicans and a Democrat, respectively — debunking the false claim that Alaska-style reform “favors” one party or ideology more than another.
- Alaska, California, and Washington all have instituted nonpartisan primaries within the last 18 years. Nevada would make it a fourth in a two-decade span and the second in four years, if a majority of its voters approve the ballot measure a second time in 2024, as required by state law to amend the Nevada constitution. The Nevada reform, like Alaska’s, would introduce nonpartisan primaries + ranked choice voting.
- As of Friday, majorities of voters in six more cities / counties had voted on Election Day to adopt ranked choice voting: Ojai, CA; Ft. Collins, CO; Evanston, IL; Portland, ME; Multnomah County, OR; and Portland, OR. Sixty-one jurisdictions with a total of 15 million Americans have now approved it, reports FairVote.
- New data are demonstrating the widespread appeal of these reforms. An exit poll of Alaska special election voters in August found that nonpartisan primaries had 62-percent support, and 85 percent said that ranking their choices was “simple.” Large majorities of voters in red and blue areas alike — from municipalities in Utah to New York City — have also said that their experience with ranked choice was easy. Commentators and politicians who say instead that the reform is “too complicated” for people are either misinformed or lying.
- New champions are coming into the fold, as well. In a year when “candidate quality” was on the lips of many politicians, the Virginia Republican Party touted its use of ranked choice as a way to advance candidates who have broad public appeal. “Using ranked-choice voting in party-run nomination contests in Virginia has dramatically improved the precision and quality of Republican campaigns,” the commonwealth’s GOP chairman told Governing magazine.
Other reform champions in Virginia include former Republican governor and senator George Allen and Democratic congressman Don Beyer, who helped launch the organization UpVote Virginia.
This movement is gathering steam at a moment when the country absolutely needs it.
As new research from Unite America shows, fewer voters are deciding an even larger percentage of Congress. In 2022, just 8 percent of eligible voters participated in primary elections in “safe” congressional districts that ultimately decided 83 percent of the House. In 2020, 10 percent decided the same amount.
This is not a government of, by, and for the people, but a sliver of the people. The trend points not only toward a Congress that is more out of touch with the average voter — but toward a Congress that is the most undemocratic in memory.
The developments in Alaska and Nevada are major parts of the solution. And news outlets from MSNBC to Fox News are taking notice. On the morning of Election Day, Axios called it the “Midterm’s untold truth.”