All blogs
All three things
All news
Independent Redistricting
Nonpartisan Primaries
Instant Runoff Voting

Elections are for the elected?

Primary reform comes to Missouri; why gerrymandering is only part of the problem; how do we fix politics? Three Things Thursday from Unite America

Brett Maney
Sr. Communications Manager
March 31, 2022

In 2021, more money was spent on lobbying than ever before. $3.7 billion to be precise. 

Why so much? 

Between the pandemic relief bill and the infrastructure deal, Congress had a lot of money at their disposal. And every industry wanted to make sure they got some of it.

But with $3.7B being spent on lobbying, who’s lobbying for you, the American voter? Who makes sure that your interests are being heard in front of Congress? 

It’s part of the reason that reforms that put voters first are so critical. At the end of the day, corporations can’t vote. But you can. Reforms like ranked choice voting and nonpartisan primaries make it so that your voice can be heard more clearly.

Here are three things to think about this week: 

  1. Elections are for the elected — not the electorate.

With practices like closed primaries, partisan gerrymandering, and rules and laws that limit access to the ballot, it’s not a crazy idea to think that elections may not serve voters at all. What if instead of serving the electorate, they’re actually designed to serve the electeds? This is the question that Eric Schulzke attempts to get to the bottom of this week in Deseret News, interviewing everyone from Democracy Found’s Katherine Gehl to our very own Executive Director, Nick Troiano, in the process. 

In 2020, just 10% of voters elected 83% of Congress — a figure that’s reflective of partisan gerrymandering and closed party primaries that limit who and how people vote. If we want elected leaders who actually represent us, we have to make sure it’s us, not them, who are calling the shots. Final Four voting — the combination of nonpartisan primaries and ranked choice voting that will be used in Alaska this summer — demonstrates how voters can take their party back. Check out Schulzke’s piece here.

  1. Caustic cousins, pt II

In a recent New York Times piece, gerrymandering was cited as a major way in which the political parties were killing competition. Through the creation of safe districts, politicians ensure victory for their parties, guaranteeing themselves an easy victory. 

Of course, that’s not the whole story. Rather than eliminating competition, gerrymandering — in most states — limits who has a say in the races that are competitive. Instead of competitive generals, with one red candidate and one blue candidate, the race that’s actually competitive is the primary, where candidates who are different shades of blue, or different shades of red, face off. The practice of gerrymandering limits whose voice actually matters. In a new blog, Unite America Democracy Scholar Richard Barton weighs in. Read his thoughts here.

  1. Primary reform is sprouting in Missouri

Finally, take a look at what’s happening in Missouri, where a new wave of reformers are pushing for a ballot initiative that would establish ranked choice voting and nonpartisan primaries — similar to the successful initiative in Alaska. Led by Better Elections Missouri, reformers want to ensure that every vote in every election matters.

Check out the incredible work the team in Missouri is doing, and learn more about how you can get involved with the Better Elections team by visiting their website.