Three things to think about this August 3rd
We are at a defining moment in America’s political history: the federal indictment of a former president for allegedly using "unlawful means" to attempt to subvert an election.
The indictment itself is a stark reminder of the fragility of our democracy and the threats to free and fair elections –– but also the courage of those who put principle over party.
Part of the charges invoke President Trump’s actions on January 6th to pressure Congress and the Vice President to reject electoral votes. It’s also worth recalling a specific weapon Trump employed in this pursuit: partisan primaries. As he told his supporters on the National Mall that morning: “You have to get your people to fight … We have to primary the hell out of the ones that don’t fight. You primary them.”
Accountability and reform must go hand in hand.
Next Tuesday, Ohio voters will weigh in on a ballot initiative that has significant implications for democracy. If passed on August 8, Issue 1 would make it much harder for Ohioans to pass ballot initiatives. Specifically, it would raise the threshold for citizens to pass ballot initiatives from a simple majority (more than 50%) to a supermajority (60%). The 50% requirement has been in place for over a century.
The ballot initiative process, sometimes called “direct democracy,” is a critical tool voters have to pass popular policy when politicians fail to act. This process is especially important when it comes to election reform, since politicians can be reluctant to make changes to the system that put them in office — even if it’s better for voters.
In recent years, there’s been an uptick in attacks on this process. According to our national partner RepresentUs, as of late last year, politicians in 11 states have proposed at least 64 bills that would make it harder for voters to pass ballot initiatives. Last year, voters in South Dakota and Arkansas rejected attacks on direct democracy.
On Tuesday, Ohio voters have a chance to do the same. Our local partner No on Issue 1, One Person One Vote has been leading the in-state opposition to Issue 1. For more information about the campaign and how you can get involved in the final days, check out their website.
Alaska’s Republican senator recently appeared on PBS’ Firing Line with Margaret Hoover to talk about the state of politics in 2023. A good chunk of the interview was focused on Alaska’s top-four nonpartisan primary, which was music to our ears. When asked if she thought Alaska’s top-four nonpartisan primary could be a good model for the country, Sen. Murkowski was crystal clear: “Yes.”
“I said during our election last year we want to make sure that how Alaska proceeds with ranked choice is demonstrated as a good model, one that other states will look at and say, we like, we like the voice that ranked choice gave. We like the fact that candidates were actually perhaps a little bit more civil to their opponents, when I knew that I needed to get Margaret’s second place vote. So I’m not going to trash talk her in our debates or in my public encounters because I want to pick up some of that support, too. ... But I think what we demonstrated in Alaska was the possibility that electoral reform can happen and it can deliver outcomes that are less partisan and perhaps less politically rancorous.”
Alaska is one of four states that has solved the Primary Problem by ditching partisan primaries in favor of a nonpartisan primary system. Over the past year, we’ve published research on the impact of reform in Louisiana and California. In both cases, nonpartisan primaries have had positive impacts for voters in both states, including a decrease in polarization and an increase in meaningful voter participation. We’ll soon publish the third installation of the Primary Solutions Series focused on Alaska. Stay tuned!
In our previous edition of Three Things, we gave you our thoughts on the simmering drama around No Labels — a bipartisan group exploring a run for president in 2024. Last week, our Executive Director Nick Troiano penned an article in The Hill that explains why we need to focus on building an election system that gives voters better choices.
The whole piece is well worth a read, but I want to direct your attention to this passage in particular:
“On one thing, both sides should agree: Our presidential election system is broken. No Labels would not face such daunting odds, nor would their opponents have as much reason for concern, if we had a level playing field that facilitated more competitive elections capable of producing more representative outcomes.”