Three things to think about this May 25th
You’re not imagining things — there is indeed a different name on the Three Things Thursday email this week. Ross Sherman here, I’m the new Unite America Press Director. I’ve been in the democracy reform space for the last two years with RepresentUs, and I’m excited to join this team and continue working in this movement to achieve reforms that put voters first and make our government work better.
Going forward, I’ll be the author of Three Things (with help from the great Alana Persson and the rest of the team). Please don’t hesitate to reach out and say hello. But enough about me, let’s get into your regularly-scheduled programming.
Memorial Day is this upcoming Monday. It’s a time to pause and reflect on the enormous sacrifice that our brave fellow patriots in uniform have made in service of our country and our democracy. We owe them not only our gratitude, but also our collective commitment to uphold freedom and democracy here at home. This Memorial Day, I hope you’ll join us in redoubling that commitment to set aside our differences and put country over party, just as millions of Americans have done while marching into battle.
In order to protect our democracy in 2023, we’re focused on fixing the gridlock and polarization that unfortunately has come to define our politics. That means tackling the Primary Problem by eliminating partisan primaries and allowing all voters to participate in the primary process. This is especially important to the veteran community, because nearly half of them identify as unaffiliated voters, and, as a result, are too often locked out of our political system. With over 80 percent of general elections for the U.S. House being noncompetitive, too many of their voices aren’t heard. Learn more about how veterans are playing a key role in this movement from our partners at Veterans for Political Innovation (VPI). Todd Connor and Eric Bronner, Navy veterans and co-founders of VPI, published an op-ed in the Anchorage Daily News detailing how “Alaska veterans can transform national politics.
We’ve just updated our State of Reform report for 2023, which tracks the progress of four political reforms: nonpartisan primaries (our North Star reform here at Unite America), ranked choice voting, vote at home, and independent commissions. It also grades each state on its progress toward implementing these key policies. All four political reforms have gained momentum in recent years, especially since the 2018 midterm elections. Since 2010, voters across the country have approved nearly 80 percent of ballot measures that advance one of the four reforms. Clearly, this is a movement that is gaining momentum.
As more states begin holding elections under these new and improved systems, we’re starting to get compelling data that they deliver on their promise of putting voters first. See the map below for a clear picture of where election reforms have been implemented. ⬇️
You can check out other key findings from the 2023 State of Reform report in our Tweet thread.
Speaking of better election systems, South Dakota voters could have the opportunity to pass open primaries in 2024. Right now, nearly 150,000 South Dakota voters are barred from participating in primaries because they’re not affiliated with either major party. To fix that, South Dakota Open Primaries (SDOP) launched a petition drive last week to qualify a top-two open primary initiative for the 2024 ballot. Under this system, every South Dakota voter would be allowed to participate in the primary, and the top two vote-getters would advance to the general election.
What South Dakota is trying to do with top-two primaries isn’t some new untested idea. California and Washington already use a top-two system, and Louisiana has ditched party primaries altogether (see our Tweet thread if you’re interested in a deeper dive on the Pelican State). Our research shows that these kinds of systems give more voters the chance to cast meaningful votes and, moreover, they result in elected officials who are less extreme and who better represent their constituents. Stay tuned: We’ll have much more on the proven benefits of these reforms in the coming months as we continue to roll out our Solutions Series!
Since Alaska’s historic top-four election in 2022, there have been a lot of claims from supporters and opponents alike about how the new system affected voter turnout. To help us understand what really happened, we dove into the numbers.
According to the latest research from Unite America and a report from our partners at the Bipartisan Policy Center, Alaska’s primary turnout increased in 2022 while its general election turnout stayed more or less the same. Why, you ask? Well, while it’s hard to give one definitive reason, the reform gave independent voters better access and better choices in the primary. Instead of having to choose which partisan primary to vote in, the 350,000 independent Alaska voters had the option to vote for all candidates and choose the one who most aligned with their values. The results speak for themselves: Another new report this week from Sightline Institute found that the Alaska reform helped level the playing field for independents, as they won more representation than ever before.
If you want more detail and analysis, read our latest blog!