submitted by Rich Leffler; photo by Mike Engelberger
Sara Eskrich, Executive Director of Democracy Found, spoke to us this week. She has herself been in electoral politics, as a Madison alder, and she is concerned that policy decisions are often stymied by politics. There is an inability to get anything done, even when a large percentage of the electorate favors a particular policy. Elected officeholders believe that there is no connection between acting in the public interest and getting reelected. One of the major problems lies in the two-party system today, which, in business terms is a duopoly, able to eliminate third-party and independent competition. This is done through legislation that makes it very hard to offer substantial money to independent candidates. This makes it extremely important for officeholders to ask themselves not whether a policy is good but rather whether support for that policy will lead to opposition in their partisan primary. Another practice that hinders effective governance is plurality voting, in which the candidate with the highest number of votes is the winner, even if the vote total is less than a majority.
Ms. Eskrich’s preferred solution to this situation is two-fold: a top-four primary election and non-partisan-ranked choice voting in the general election. This will allow voters to vote for candidates they really prefer, even if they are not from the major parties. Officeholders will now be beholden to larger constituencies, rather than just their partisans. Democracy Found is working on the state level to get this system adopted. She feels it is not a silver bullet, but it will make a difference.
If you missed our meeting this week, you can watch the video here.
This proposal is a radical change in the electoral system that has worked well for the American Republic. What will be the unintended consequences? Might it be a solution to the wrong problem: which is not the electoral system but the ignorance, apathy, and tribalism of the current electorate?