Debriefing Democracy: Nonpartisan Movements Score Major Victories in November

Created: 12 December, 2016
Updated: 17 October, 2022
5 min read

Keep up with the reform efforts building on the post-election momentum. Big change starts small, and these organizations have been hard at work to fix our broken system, little by little.

With so much negativity in the media, it is nice to catch up on some of the encouraging efforts of hardworking Americans, fighting for reform. The following summaries have been provided by the organizations themselves:

Open Primaries

Open Primaries launched a new petition asking the incoming chairs of the Republican and Democratic National Committees to recognize the frustration expressed by voters during the 2016 election by passing open primaries in all 50 states.

READ MORE: New Petition Calls on Party Leaders to Open Primaries in All States

This is the first time in recent history that the chair seats of both parties are simultaneously vacant -- a result of the pushback against establishment politics this year, and a sign that both parties recognize their problems with connecting to the electorate. As the share of independent voters in the electorate continues to grow, the parties must look for ways to bring more voters into their folds, and open primaries are a great first step.

In New York, Open Primaries is working with activist Mark Moody to open up the system to the 3.2 million independent and unaffiliated voters who are left out of the primaries there. On December 6th, the New York State Supreme Court will hear a challenge, filed by Mark, to the constitutionality of closed primaries. Open Primaries is organizing to support Mark at the hearing and recently sent Senator Bernie Sanders a sign-on letter, with 3,500 signatures, requesting his attendance at it.


Represent.Us is the nation’s largest grassroots anti-corruption campaign, with more than 600,000 members across the country. The campaign brings together conservatives, progressives, and everyone in between to fix America’s corrupt political system by going around Congress and passing Anti-Corruption Acts in cities and states.

On Election Day, Represent.Us’ 600,000 members supported 13 successful anti-corruption and election reform measures.

Of particular note is South Dakota Initiated Measure 22 (IM-22), the South Dakota Anti-Corruption Act. South Dakota voters approved IM-22 despite a last-minute advertising blitz from an opposition campaign funded by Virginia-based Americans for Prosperity, an advocacy organization bankrolled by billionaire industrialists Charles and David Koch.

IM-22 makes several changes to South Dakota ethics and election laws and is the most sweeping anti-corruption reform ever passed at the ballot:

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  • Stops secret, unlimited gifts from lobbyists to politicians.
  • Ends the revolving door of officials taking jobs as lobbyists as soon as they leave office.
  • Requires more transparency so you know who's trying to buy influence in South Dakota.
  • Toughens ethics enforcement to investigate lobbyists and politicians for breaking the rules.
  • Provides $100 in publicly funded “Democracy Credits” for voters to support qualified candidates.

To learn more about the 13 successful ballot measures supported by Represent.Us members, click here.

United To Amend

On Tuesday, November 8, Wisconsin residents in eighteen communities voted to amend the U.S. Constitution to clarify that only human beings should have inalienable human rights and money is not the same thing as free speech.

That brings the total to 95 Wisconsin communities that have called for an amendment. In total, 2.7 million people (46% of Wisconsinites) live in these jurisdictions. Across the country, 18 state legislatures have voted for an amendment, as well as over 700 towns, villages, cities, and counties.

Jeanette Kelty, a leader in Green County, said: “We are extremely pleased that these referenda passed by such high margins. This clearly demonstrates the will of the people. It is time for our state representatives to put this resolution to a statewide vote, and to move towards sending a resolution from Wisconsin to the U.S. Congress.”


Jacqueline Salit, president of IndependentVoting.org, and Rick Robol, president of Independent Ohio, have sent President-elect Donald Trump a letter recommending immediate steps to “drain the swamp” and attend to the problem of partisanship in government. Over 350 independent voter activists from 40 states signed onto the letter.

The letter was sent in November to the Donald J.Trump Presidential Transition Office, to the president-elect's three children who are members of the transition team (Eric Trump, Donald Trump Jr. and Ivanka Trump) and to the vice president-elect and chair of the transition team, Mike Pence.

Specifically the letter requests that President-elect Trump:

“...appoint a Special Presidential Commission on Election Reform to study how to reform the electoral and political infrastructure of the United States to put more direct power into the hands of the American people; again, it is essential that the membership of the Commission consist of ample representation from Independents. From the persistence of closed primaries which lock out millions of younger and other non-aligned voters, to systems of partisan redistricting, to the electoral college itself, the barriers to popular self-governance are deeply entrenched.”


It's been a big year for FairVote and its goal of seeking more accountable and responsive government through election reforms that give more voice to voters. Although we've been working to advance reforms like ranked choice voting since former presidential candidate John Anderson helped start the group in 1992, we have tripled our number of donors this year, are working with new and inspired activists around the country, and have a new FairVote California office. Our year-end communication to supporters and highlighted media clips tell more.

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We were thrilled to find ways to support the great in-state work that won ranked choice voting statewide in Maine and in Benton County, Oregon, and to support its ongoing use in about a dozen cities, including four in the Bay Area this year.

Now we see indications of movement by allies to put RCV on mix city ballots in 2017 and potential state ballots in 2018, and a number of state legislators are planning to update and expand on what was done in 2016. We're planning national and local trainings for activists this spring, and updating our extensive research sources.

Our director Rob Richie had the lead essay in a series of ranked choice voting for Cato Unbound and was a guest on NPR's On the Media to address other reform ideas, including the National Popular Vote plan and changes to primaries.

Centrist Project

Following the election, the Centrist Project launched a new petition calling on President-elect Trump and newly elected members of Congress to #SeekTheCenter by prioritizing a piece of legislation in their first 100 days that can win majority support from both parties.

Photo Source: Represent.us