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Debriefing Democracy: Election Reformers Carry 2016 Victories into New Year

by Kendall Shain, published

In the wake of a highly contentious 2016 election, reformers continue to make use of America's general dissatisfaction with the political status quo in order to mend our broken electoral system.

From fighting for ranked choice voting, to opening primaries, and even hosting small forums to ease divides and encourage involvement in politics, many are hard at work to improve the way elections operate. The following updates have been provided by the organizations themselves:


Last year, FairVote supported local advocates to boost two major wins for ranked choice voting (RCV), including an historic win in Maine, which in 2018 will become the first state in the nation to use RCV for all its U.S Senate, U.S. House, governor, and state legislative elections. Now we’re working with allies to create similar opportunities to expand voter choice across the country, preparing for trailblazing legislation on the Fair Representation Act in Congress and providing support to the advocates at National Popular Vote.


  • Nearly 2,500 people have signed FairVote’s petition supporting ranked choice voting in American elections.
  • More than 300 people have joined FairVote’s google group to connect and collaborate on ways to bring RCV to their communities. New Groups like Voter Choice Massachusetts and Ranked Choice Voting for Colorado are developing strategies to advance RCV in their states and communities, and allied groups like are strategizing about statewide action for forms of RCV. FairVote has an updated activist toolkit and are updating a web-app that allows users to create and participate in RCV elections.
  • Last year, bills to advance RCV were introduced in 13 states and FairVote anticipates even more bills this year, along with city initiatives. The FairVote California team has ambitious plans for expanding RCV from its current four cities with nearly 1.5 million people, and are working closely with Maine allies on introducing RCV in more California cities for the 2018 elections.
  • FairVote supports a team of retired election officials who have created to help communities learn the nuts and bolts of how to implement RCV effectively.

Open Primaries

Last week, Governor John Hickenlooper signed Propositions 107 & 108 into law, officially giving 1.3 million independent Colorado voters the right to vote in the primaries after both propositions passed on the ballot last fall.

The campaign that backed both propositions was Let Colorado Vote, a group "dedicated to pursuing policies to increase voter engagement and participation in Colorado." On election night, Props 107 and 108 received 64% and 53%, respectively.

Open Primaries supports efforts to pass open primary reform nationwide.

Open Primaries is now petitioning the incoming DNC and RNC chairs -- who will be elected next month -- to recognize that 70 percent of Americans support a more open electoral system and make the necessary changes to embolden our democracy. Open Primaries will deliver the petition to the candidates shortly before the elections take place, to influence the conversation around their appointment. You can support the campaign by signing the petition or donating.

Open Primaries President John Opdycke also published a new op-ed exploring how the Democratic Party could realign with its base following a divisive primary season. Opdycke suggests that Democrats look to defend democracy and focus on grassroots over establishment politics, to strengthen both the party and the country.

Dr. Jessie Fields -- Open Primaries spokesperson and board member -- also published an op-ed, in which she highlights the correlation between open political processes and increased voter turnout.

The major parties are now reeling from major league conflicts within their respective camps. As Donald Trump assembles a government, as the Democrats' liberal coalition regroups after its shattering loss, the fault lines inside those parties are more visible than ever. How should independents respond to and organize off of these conflicts? Where do the political and social interests of African Americans, Latinos, and other communities of color lie in the post-Obama era? These questions, and others, will shape the agenda for’s National Conference on March 18th.

Historically, these national conferences have provided a context for independent activists to connect with one another. They have developed tactics and strategies for transferring power from the establishment -- most especially the parties -- to the people. They have looked at ways to grow the movement and train our leaders.

This conference will do all of that and more in March. But, this upcoming conference takes place in the midst of more political uncertainty and more political opportunity than we've had since the independent voter rebellions of the 1990's.

This mission -- and how to pursue it -- is the subject of our bi-annual National Conference of Independents to be held on March 18, 2017 in New York City. You can join the conference today.

Level the Playing Field

The U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C. heard oral arguments today in the lawsuit filed by Level the Playing Field (LPF) challenging the nonprofit status of the Commission on Presidential Debates, just under two weeks before President-elect Donald Trump will be sworn into office.

Specifically, LPF takes issue with the 15% rule that requires candidates outside the Republican and Democratic Parties to poll at 15% in 5 national polls selected by the debate commission to gain entry into the debates.

The judge seemed open to the plaintiffs’ case. However, she did not let either the plaintiffs or the FEC (the defendant) off easy. The FEC suggested that the federal commission is the expert on these matters and the plaintiffs, judge, and the American people should simply accept that, a defense that was met with rebuke by Judge Chutnik.

Continue Reading: Federal Judge Doesn’t Let Debate Commission Off Easy

Also Read: Court to FEC: You Can’t Ignore Evidence against Debate Commission

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