Partisan Lawmakers Nationwide Desperately Move to Deny Voters Better Elections
It is no coincidence that as the nation witnesses an explosion in pro-voter reform successes, partisan state lawmakers across the country are trying to undermine citizen initiatives, and block nonpartisan primary reform and new voting methods designed to give people more choice.
In 2023, governors in Idaho and South Dakota have signed laws that prohibit the use of ranked choice voting (RCV) in their states. HB 598 in Montana, which seeks to do the same thing, has passed the legislature, while an RCV ban in Texas has been approved by the state Senate and will be considered in the House.
These legislative efforts follow Florida and Tennessee, which have already passed RCV prohibitions. But wait. There's more. According to Ballotpedia, the number of ranked choice voting bans introduced in the 2023 legislative year nearly doubled the previous year's total.
Arizona lawmakers approved House Concurrent Resolution 2033 in March, which they hope will block future campaigns to enact ranked choice voting and nonpartisan primaries. The resolution, which will go before voters, would prohibit cities, counties, and the state from using anything other than the primary system in place for partisan offices at every level.
Arizona Governor Katie Hobbs vetoed HB 2552, which prohibits any form of voting that allows voters to rank or designate approval of multiple candidates or tabulates votes in any manner that would eliminate candidates. It is a broad way for the legislature to cover popular alternative voting methods.
The North Dakota legislature has the numbers to override Governor Doug Burgum veto of a bill (HB 1273) to ban approval voting and ranked choice voting. Burgum called it a blatant infringement on local control, while the sponsor of the bill, Rep. Ben Koppelman, said it would "protect American standards."
And that is precisely the goal. To protect the status quo, which benefits the people in power by upholding a system that produces zero competition, zero accountability, and a severe lack of representation which has left voters feeling frustrated and unheard.
This is the American standard. It's a tough pill to swallow, but more Americans are coming to terms with the reality that the system is not there to serve them, but two private political parties and their associated interests.
Fargo, North Dakota became the first city in the country to adopt approval voting, which allows voters to select as many candidates on the ballot as they want, and the person with the most votes is declared the winner. HB 1273 would take a voting method voters overwhelmingly wanted away from them.
The partisan nature of our election system has emboldened public officials to suppress and undermine the will of the very people who put them in office -- because they can.
The timing of these bills is not surprising. Nonpartisan electoral reforms have gained substantial ground with voters across the political spectrum in the last decade and continue to stack more wins each election cycle in red and blue states.
Ranked choice voting alone has expanded to 63 jurisdictions in the US, including two states (Alaska and Maine). These are the homes of 16 million Americans, and most of these adoptions came from overwhelming support from voters at the ballot box.
The cities included also represent some of America's largest populated jurisdictions, including New York City and Seattle (which approved RCV's use in 2022).
Alaska became the first state in the US to adopt a nonpartisan primary system -- in which all voters and candidates participate on a single ballot -- that advances 4 candidates to the general election, regardless of party, and an RCV ballot is used in the general election to determine the winner.
Nevada is one election closer to adopting Final Five Voting, which combines a nonpartisan primary that advances the top 5 vote-getters, regardless of party, to the general election where -- just like in Alaska -- RCV would be used to determine the winner of each race.
This doesn't even get into reforms on independent redistricting, changes to campaign finance, anti-corruption initiatives, and more that are designed to enfranchise all voters, foster transparency and accountability, and give citizens a system that serves their interests first.
There is a tremendous demand for change in how the US elects its representatives. Voters see the deteriorating state of public discourse as a result of a system that rewards partisanship, and inevitably punishes people who would put people above party.
Voters see a system that seeks only to divide Americans to serve the private interests of those in power. They feel the disenfranchisement that has left them without a voice and without meaningful representation.
This is the system partisan lawmakers desperately want to keep in place. Even it means suppressing the will of voters completely.
About the Author
Shawn is an election reform expert and National Editor of IVN.us. He studied history and philosophy at the University of North Texas. He joined the IVN team in 2012.