Three Things Thursday from Unite America featuring Utah Democrat's big decision, a new study on ranked choice voting in New York City, and how recent supreme court decisions impact racial gerrymandering
Free speech seems to be the subject on everyone’s minds — at least everyone who pays attention to Twitter. As the social media app — tragically, one of the “public squares” of modern politics — undergoes an ownership change, opinions about the future of the site and around our modern expectation of free speech abound.
Fundamentally though, what you see on Twitter is a result of who you follow, what channels you engage with, and the digital echo chamber that surrounds your 240 characters. A new owner will not change the amplification effects of Twitter, nor its use by some bad actors as a carrier of fake news.
And no matter the debate (legal or otherwise) about Twitter’s role as the platform for political dialogue, resolving it alone won’t address our dysfunctional politics. Twitter is a little blue bird in a coal mine: It’s evidence of a brokenness in the country (such as broken electoral institutions) that originates outside the app. At the turn of the 20th century, reformers took on political corruption and robber barons. As we like to say, history repeats.
Here are three things to think about this week.
The twice-named city held its first ranked choice voting election last year to help elect a new mayor, among other municipal positions. It was the largest expansion yet for ranked choice voting, more than tripling the number of Americans using the system elsewhere. In a new white paper from the Unite America Institute, Daemen University academics Dr. Erin Carman and Dr. Jay Wendland synthesized exit polling data and found that the majority of voters would use the system again.
Additionally, voters across the board found ranked choice voting simple to understand and to use; the majority of voters took advantage of the system and ranked multiple candidates, and the majority of voters said they’d like to use the system again. For a new election system in one of the world’s most diverse — and populous — cities, such rave reviews are excellent news for reformers looking to bring the reform to their communities. Read the full report here.
Utah Democrats made a bold decision this week, opting not to nominate their own candidate in the race to beat embattled Senator Mike Lee, and instead throwing their support behind independent candidate (and former presidential hopeful) Evan McMullin. It’s an unprecedented move that inspires hope but also points to massive problems with our political system.
The good: Utah Democrats are giving Utahans the chance to make their voices heard, free to vote for an independent without a Democrat playing spoiler in the ruby-red state. The problem: In a healthy democracy, it’s not a choice that a voter — or a party — should be forced to make. The Utah Democrats should be lauded for putting people over party in this case, but Utahans should also note that reforms such as ranked choice voting (which they already have some familiarity with!) and nonpartisan primaries could improve political representation and give every voter and every party a chance on the ballot.
Finally, check out a blog from Unite America Senior Fellow Terrance Carroll, who writes about the Supreme Court’s recent decisions that may have a big impact on the future of gerrymandering and racial representation in our country. As Congress has repeatedly failed to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Act, decisions about maps and about representation are largely being left up to the court — and their recent decisions have said it’s a matter left to the same self-interested legislators who are gerrymandering in the first place.
As Terrance points out, the solution comes in the form of independent redistricting commissions, which take power out of the hands of self-interested politicians and puts it back in the hands of the people. Independent redistricting commissions have proven to be a more fair place to leave the mapmaking process, and one that better protects the interests of racial minorities. Check out his full piece here.