Three things to think about this April 20th
Tax Day rolled around yet again this week, and if you remember what was on your 1040, you probably remember seeing this question: “Do you want $3 of your federal tax to go to the Presidential Election Campaign Fund?” This public funding program was authorized many decades ago, and taxpayers have been opting into it less and less. In 1977, it was 28.6 percent of filers — but it’s been fewer than 9 percent of them since 2007, and is approaching 3 percent today. CNN wrote about the lessening participation in the fund in 2014: “Another possible reason for dwindling contributions: growing frustration with Washington politics. ‘People are sick of politics and saying, Why should I throw $3 in the pot?,’” said Roberton Williams, an economist and senior fellow with the Urban Institute’s Tax Policy Center.
That’s a pretty appropriate comment to revisit not just during the week of Tax Day, but during a week that political commentators have been analyzing this finding from Gallup: 49 percent of voters consider themselves independent, nearing the previous high of 50 percent in January 2021.
With that in mind, here are three things to consider this week:
Last week, Unite America fellow and Syracuse University professor Richard Barton gathered some of the smartest minds in election reform for a discussion at the Midwest Political Science Association’s Annual Conference. The panelists considered the academic viewpoints on Top-Two primaries, with some suggesting that prior attempts to break party power through primary reform have fallen short. However, other panelists pointed out that more variety in the type of primaries available, such as nonpartisan top-tour primaries or Final-Five Voting, may be necessary to address the country’s widening polarization.
One standout comment came from Dr. Seth Masket, a professor of political science and the director of the Center on American Politics at the University of Denver. Initially, Dr. Masket thought that Top-Two primaries would have no impact on California elections, but has since changed his tune over the last 12 years. To his surprise, the reform appears to have had a noticeable impact on moderating governing behavior in California.
Check out our blog to learn more about the conferences our staff attended last week and the various topics that were covered!
You may recall our recent highlighting of the push for ranked choice voting in Minnesota — Politico published a deep dive this week about the in-state efforts. Its story highlights Jeanne Massey, who leads FairVote Minnesota, and the attempt to pass an RCV bill that would extend the system to all state and federal elections, and give all municipalities the option of adopting the reform:
As a technical intervention in the mechanics of elections, ranked choice voting hardly feels like the antidote to the democratic erosion that afflicts the United States, not to mention democracies around the world. Some political scientists regard it as the kind of bauble that entrances reformers desperate for easy solutions to hard problems.
That is not, however, the way it looks on the ground in Minnesota.
Jeanne Massey, the executive director of FairVote Minnesota, is the maestro behind the elaborate political campaign to pass the bill. She has spent almost 15 years persuading Minnesotans of the merits of ranked choice voting and wearing down the resistance of legislators; her efforts culminated in a massive get-out-the-vote drive for ranked choice voting-friendly candidates in the 2022 midterms. Should the bill pass this year — hardly a certainty — Massey and FairVote and their statehouse allies will lift ranked choice voting from a darling of democracy nerds to the most potent of the proposed reforms to the American electoral system.
The piece also drops in this nugget: “Larry Diamond, a prominent political scientist and democracy scholar at Stanford, argues that in the ideal case, ranked choice voting would be paired with nonpartisan primaries, as is the case in Alaska. But unlike Alaska, Minnesota doesn’t allow for voter referendums; the need to pass a bill effectively ruled out nonpartisan primaries, which are anathema to all but the most high-minded lawmakers.”
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