Congress is great at kicking the can🥫
We hope you all had a safe and healthy Thanksgiving holiday. Here at Unite America, we enjoyed a week away from our desks, allowing us to spend quality time with friends and loved ones. Now, we’re back — rested and ready to hit the ground running in the final sprint of the year. The midterm election might be over (well … almost — we see you, Georgia!), but the work to advance election reform continues. And, we’re not the only ones jumping straight into the necessary work keeping our democracy functioning: so, too, is our Congress … well, sort of.
Here are three things to consider this week:
1. Georgia taxpayers can save 75 million dollars in an instant (runoff)
As early voting kicks off this week for Georgia’s second high-profile Senate runoff election in two years, “there's a growing movement afoot to get rid of them” altogether, writes Axios. Georgia law mandates that a candidate receive a majority of the vote. If the threshold is not met in the general election (it wasn’t this midterm), then the two top candidates must face off a second time in a runoff. Thus, Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock and Republican challenger Herschel Walker are back on the campaign trail, making their final appeal to voters ahead of the December 6th runoff election.
Keeping this in mind, here’s what you should know ahead of Georgia’s runoff:
- More than 75 million taxpayer dollars were spent on Georgia’s 2021 runoff elections. This is the second consecutive year the Georgia U.S. Senate race has gone to a runoff, so considering the combined cost of the 2021 and 2022 runoffs, you’re looking in the neighborhood of 150 million taxpayer dollars!
- Ad dollars for the Georgia Senate runoff are expected to reach 125 million! The amount of money pouring into Georgia’s runoff is downright gobsmacking, especially considering it comes on top of the 200 million dollars in political ads spent in the general election. Even before the runoff, Georgia ranked first in the nation for the most expensive Senatorial race of 2022.
- Georgia shortened the gap between the general election and runoffs. Last year, the Georgia legislature passed a voting law that, among other changes, shortened the gap between the general election and runoff from nine weeks to 28 days — but runoffs still remain.
We know there’s a better way to produce majority winners AND simultaneously save millions of dollars: it’s as simple as passing election reforms that make instant runoff voting — popularly known as ranked choice voting — the go-to. So, if this money-suck in Georgia wasn’t enough to convince you that there’s a better way to conduct elections, check out our blog underscoring why it’s time to give runoffs the boot.
2. Election reform in Alaska has passed its second test with flying colors
Thanksgiving Eve marked a historic moment for the election reform movement: Alaska certified the results of its first general election using a top-four nonpartisan primary and ranked choice voting general election system. The outcome can be summed up as a resounding win for voters.
Alaska’s nonpartisan election system produced higher voter participation and gave voters more choices on the ballot, as reflected in the results of the House, Senate, and gubernatorial races. Let’s break down why this race was so notable.
- A moderate Republican was re-elected to the U.S. Senate. After multiple rounds of tabulation using the instant runoff system, Sen. Murkowski crossed the required threshold of 50 percent of the vote because more than 20,500 Democratic voters ranked her second on their ballots.
- A conservative Republican was re-elected as Governor. Alaskans voted to reelect Republican Governor Mike Dunleavey outright with more than 50% of votes in the first round of tabulation, meaning that the gubernatorial race did not go to ranked choice tabulation.
- A moderate Democrat was re-elected to the U.S. House. Congresswoman Mary Peltola (D) held onto her seat, prevailing over Sarah Palin for a second time this year with a much larger margin of votes. (Peltola won in August during a Special Election race to fill the vacant seat of former Rep. Don Young.)
The bottom line? It’s not the political parties that benefit from election reform — it’s the voters who do. So, while this system is still in its nascent stages, it’s already proved to be producing the sorts of representative outcomes it’s encouraged to incentivize. Hopefully, more states will follow in Alaska’s footsteps.
3. Congress is great at kicking the can
This week, lawmakers returned to Washington to address the final to-do list before the holiday season recess. Needless to say, they (unsurprisingly) haven’t made much progress. An updated government funding bill, which just so happens to have a 16-day deadline, is at the top of the agenda. A bipartisan full-year appropriations deal may or may not be within reach. Partisan bickering may again result in Congress “kicking the can down the road” to next year.
Sadly, annual stalemates around government spending have become a norm, almost a new albeit awful American tradition. However, moments like these also remind us why passing nonpartisan election reforms are crucial. If we wish to have lawmakers incentivized to work side-by-side on important issues, such as government spending, then we must change the way our elections are conducted to foster a more functional government that better serves all voters.
Lastly, if you’re interested in helping advance the Voter’s First movement, Unite America is accepting applications for a Partnership Director position. The candidate selected to fill this role will engage in a diversified strategy to win reforms at all levels of government with legislation, ballot measures, litigation, and partners who believe in putting voters first.