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Border woes and broken politics

Three things to think about this May 18th

Alana Persson
Digital Marketing Associate
May 18, 2023

The U.S.-Mexico border has been in the spotlight lately due to the expiration of Title 42, a COVID-era policy that allowed authorities to expel asylum seekers under the rationale of public health. In the days leading up to the policy’s expiration, thousands of migrants seeking asylum arrived at the border, prompting President Biden's administration to deploy additional resources. However, despite these recent efforts to process asylum applications, many individuals, including young children and their families, remain in limbo.

It's a frustrating situation that has become all too familiar. For decades, our nation has failed to develop solutions on immigration policy along the U.S.-Mexico border. Last fall, Nick Troiano, Executive Director of Unite America, spoke about this dysfunction on the Bipartisan Policy Center's podcast, noting: "The issue of immigration is a case study about how our political system isn't representing most Americans because, on various dimensions of immigration, you can get large majorities of Americans to agree. Why can't our Congress?"

The details of immigration policy might be complicated. Still, the bottom line is pretty simple: our election system is a root cause of the political dysfunction preventing Congress from acting on immigration policies. If we want politicians who are incentivized to work together on issues the majority of Americans care about, we need to start by fixing the election system.

1. The Presidential Primary Problem: Vermont Explores a Possible Solution!

When we discuss the Primary Problem, we often focus on state legislature races and U.S. House elections. But today, we're shifting our spotlight to a different Primary Problem battleground: presidential races. Presidential races are not immune to the symptoms of partisan primaries. And perhaps, few states know this as well as the state of Vermont. This year, their legislature has explored ranked choice voting as the potential cure to their own presidential primary problem (fingers crossed it passes sometime in the near future!)

So, what exactly does Vermont’s presidential primary problem look like? Let's rewind to the 2020 Democratic primary. According to research from the Unite America Institute, Bernie Sanders triumphed with 50.7% of the vote in his home state, while Joe Biden got 22%. But here's the kicker: All other candidates fell short of the 15% threshold required to win a proportional share of delegates, including Elizabeth Warren, who came up just short at 12.55%. As a result, a whopping 27% of the total votes cast in that Vermont primary were wasted on candidates who didn’t meet the threshold.

With ranked-choice voting in presidential primaries, by contrast, all Vermont voters would have their voices heard loud and clear. No more wasted votes or disregarded opinions.

2. Pennsylvania's Closed Primaries Face an Epic Shake-Up

The movement to open Pennsylvania's closed primaries to independent voters is gaining serious traction! It's a remarkable turnaround after years of resistance to this reform from the parties. So, what caused this change of heart? Well, one big reason is the fear of getting "primaried,” as Open Primaries’ John Opdycke and Ballot PA’s David Thornburgh write in RealClearPennsylvania. “Some 50 new legislators in the state capitol … realize they’re now vulnerable to being ‘primaried’ by ideologues; adding less partisan independent voters to the primary mix might appeal as a bit of an insurance policy to some of these legislators,” they explain.

But it's not just the newcomers who are on board. Mainstream Republicans have reached their breaking point with closed primaries, which arguably have cost them major victories, like the governor's office, a U.S. Senate seat, and control of the state House, Opdycke and Thornburgh continue. As the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette wisely put it in their recent endorsement, "Pennsylvania's closed primary system disenfranchises independents and polarizes the political process." And they're absolutely right!

If you want to dive deeper into the efforts to open up Pennsylvania's primaries, you won't want to miss the seminar hosted by Open Primaries and Ballot PA!

3. Voting Rights Lab releases a new report titled “Another Change-Making Year”

Lawmakers across various U.S. states have been super busy with election policy over the last three years — we're talking about nearly 4,000 election-related bills in 46 states and D.C. And while there has been a lot of hype in the media over bills restricting voting rights, it turns out that more than half of all the introduced election-related bills would expand voting access and support nonpartisan election administration.

The Voting Rights Lab has dropped a report called "Another Change-Making Year," a first-of-its-kind study that takes a deep dive into election-related legislation introduced in the first quarter of states over the post-2020 period. It gives us an idea of where voting rights policy at the state level is headed based on current projections, which is pretty nifty.

Check out the full report to learn more!