All blogs
All three things
All news
Independent Redistricting

Are we facing an illegitimate election? | Three Things Thursday

A four things Friday covering gerrymandering in Virginia, Ranked Choice Voting in MA, and the consequences of an illegitimate election

Brett Maney
Sr. Communications Manager
September 4, 2020

I could come up with a reason. I could come up with an excuse. 

I have none. 

So guess what? In place of Three Things Thursday, you get a bonus Thing for a Four Things Friday: 

  1. Naked partisanship

Politicians shouldn’t choose their voters. Period. Whether it’s Republicans or Democrats, when you have self-interested legislators drawing maps that concern their own jobs, odds are they’re going to draw maps that favor them, not maps that favor voters. In Virginia this year, citizens have the chance to reform the process for their state so that voters -- not politicians -- come first. 

When Democrats in Virginia were in the minority, they supported redistricting reform that would give citizens a say in how their maps are drawn. But in 2019, following a landmark election that saw Democrats take control of the House and the Senate, suddenly the Democrats were singing a different tune…

This week, check out an editorial from the Washington Post, who spend no time mincing their words to tell readers what’s really going on in Virginia. “In a poll last December, nearly three-quarters of registered voters surveyed said they backed the new system as described in the constitutional amendment,” they write. “They are likely to see the Democratic Party’s newfound antipathy to reform for what it is: naked partisanship.”

  1. When the majority of voters voted for someone else

As often happens in our election system, the crowded race for Massachusetts’s fourth congressional district is a nail-biter to the end, the race to determine who represents voters in Congress could be decided. By tenths of a percentage. Yet in a field of six candidates, the two candidates currently leading the vote tally represent just a fraction of the voters overall. How is it, then, that we can call ourselves a representative democracy?

We can’t, really. Voter preference is so often left behind in our Republic, as the majority of voters are ignored in the final vote tallies in crowded primary elections. But Ranked Choice Voting could change that. RCV would allow voters to express their full range of opinions on a field of candidates, rather than voting for whom they find most stomachable. 

This could be the last time Massachusetts has to face these problems; there is a ballot initiative this November that would institute ranked choice voting across the state on all elections -- meaning that next time, when a politician says he earned the vote of his constituents, he can actually mean it. 

  1. What happens with an illegitimate election?

In your #longread for the week, David Litt for the Atlantic breaks down what a truly illegitimate election might look like this November. This is bigger than just a question of whether the president will actually leave office: as the president works to sow doubt about the integrity of our elections, he breaks down the trust American have in the results and in the process. 

It’s setting up to be a nightmare scenario. With the looming threats from President Trump, combined with the expected second-wind “blue wave” caused by delays in counting absentee ballots, no one knows quite what to expect in November. 

I don’t have the answers but here’s what I do know: election results will not be available on election night, as states continue to count absentee ballots into later weeks. The best thing Americans can do is prepare themselves for a long wait before hitting the panic button. 

  1. Finally: find common ground

As we leave into this long weekend, I’ll leave you on a positive note from Unite America team member Emily Baller. Much of the time -- hell, even in this email -- we focus our energy on the space between us. Instead of unity, our default is to look at dysfunction. A new report from the University of Maryland dares to ask “why?”.

Part of the problem, they find, is with the way in which pollsters ask questions. When you ask respondents a simple yes or no question, their answers, it turns out, will be a lot more simple. They do agree or they don’t agree. The divide between Americans looks expansive. 

But as researchers pointed out, when they engaged with respondents in a meaningful, though conversational, discussion on the various policy issues, they found that a lot more unites us than divides us. They found over 150 areas in which Americans had overlapping views, suggesting that we may be closer to unity than we think.