The Party’s Over

Rethinking Our Elections

In 1800, there was no such thing as a political party.

Today, the two major parties are all-controlling, as Liz Cheney’s efforts to keep her leadership post (and even her seat in Congress) amply illustrate.

I recently wrote about ranked choice voting and its potential to push candidates toward the center and away from their party’s extreme edges.

I’ve also noted that candidates at every level should HAVE to be supported by an outright majority of those casting ballots, with run-offs if needed.

Each of these ideas are intended to ensure at least modestly broad support for those chosen to represent all of us, regardless of party affiliation.

There are other ways to accomplish the same goals, and no shortage of experiments by states eager to ensure the perpetuation of democracy. One of those states, it might surprise you to learn, is Alaska.  

Alaska – a state where unaffiliated voters (56%) handily outnumber Democrats and Republicans combined – has embraced two electoral reforms that will debut with the 2022 mid-term elections.

First up is a “jungle primary” – known more formally as a non-partisan blanket primary. Under this system (already in use in California and Washington states), all the candidates for a given race appear on the same ballot, regardless of party affiliation, and all primary voters choose from among them, with the top two advancing to the general election.

Alaska’s wrinkle is that the top four candidates will advance, with ranked-choice voting used to choose among them in the general election.

Louisiana, among the quirkiest of states – and I say that as a fan – does much the same thing, but forsakes the primary entirely, with all candidates vying in the general election. If no candidate receives an outright majority, the top-two finishers compete in a subsequent run-off.

But presidential politics remains a holdout, in part because primaries don’t directly select presidential candidates, conventions do. No state, to my knowledge, uses run-offs in general elections for President. Georgia, the only state to use run-offs in races for the U.S. Senate, recently gave Democrats control of that chamber when that party won both Georgia Senate seats in run-offs.

Whatever the particulars, blanket primaries ensure that in the general election there will always be two people to choose between — not based on their party affiliation but entirely on their popularity among the voting public.

However, they are structured, blanket primaries are another tool, alongside or in combination with ranked choice voting and run-offs to reclaim elections from the political parties and put the power of democracy back where it was always intended: with the voters themselves.

We need to pick the best candidates, not those who were best at kissing rich fat partisan fannies!


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