|By Megan Caska
Interim Director of Political Programs, RepresentUs
October 26, 2022
The 2022 midterms are less than two weeks away. Not surprisingly, much of the national attention has been focused on the two-party horserace: who will win control of Congress, governor’s mansions, state houses, and so on.
But on November 8, Americans also have a chance to reject corruption and bring power back to the voters. From passing Ranked Choice Voting to combating dark money, voters have a golden opportunity to make their government work better.
Here are three ways voters are fighting to reclaim power from politicians, and where they’re doing it.
1. Passing Ranked Choice Voting
One state and at least four other cities have the chance to pass RCV: Nevada; Seattle; Portland, Ore.; Fort Collins, Colo.; and Evanston, Ill.
RCV is a simple change to elections that gives voters better choices at the ballot box and better representation in government. In RCV elections, voters have the opportunity to rank candidates in order of preference, rather than choosing between the lesser of two evils. If a candidate gets more than 50% of first-choice votes they win – just like in our current electoral system.
But if no one gets 50% of first choice votes, it heads to an instant runoff. The candidate with the fewest first-choice votes is eliminated, and their second-choice votes are redistributed to other candidates. This process continues until someone wins a majority. Unlike the current system, it ensures that most voters support the winning candidate.
In Nevada, Ballot Question 3 would allow all Nevada voters to have a say in who represents them. Right now, Nevada has closed primaries, meaning only voters registered with a major party can participate. If passed, Question 3 would scrap that system. Instead, Nevada would hold a Top-Five Primary and Ranked Choice Voting general election – allowing nonpartisan- and third-party-registered voters to participate.
More than one-third of Nevada voters aren’t registered with either major party. In the current system, those 651,000-plus voters don’t have a choice in who represents them. That means politicians don’t have to be responsive and accountable to the needs of all Nevadans. Adopting nonpartisan primaries and RCV would allow every Nevada voter to have a voice. It would also give voters better choices at the ballot box because candidates would be forced to appeal to all voters, rather than a loud minority.
Seattle is the largest city with RCV on the ballot. Seattle currently uses a Top Two Primary, where the two candidates with the most votes advance to the general election. If Proposition 1B passes, the city’s primary elections would use RCV instead. That way, voters would be able to rank all the candidates rather than being forced to pick just one. The RCV instant runoff process would continue until two candidates were left, and both would advance to the general election.
Portland’s proposed ballot measure would update the city’s century-old charter. These changes include implementing Proportional Ranked Choice Voting, increasing the size of city council, and creating new geographic districts. If passed, Portland voters can expect the city council to be more representative, responsive, and accountable to them. This proposal was developed by the Portland Charter Review Commission – a group of Portlanders who spent months coming up with a solution that truly reflected the needs of the city.
Measure 2C in Fort Collins would bring RCV to the fourth-largest city in Colorado. Under the current election system, candidates can win even if they receive less than 50% of the vote. While this may seem like a rare occurrence, it’s actually happened in Fort Collins seven different times since 1999. Measure 2C would ensure that every winning candidate has a majority of the city’s support.
Finally, voters in Evanston have the opportunity to replace the current winner-take-all elections with RCV for city elections. This would provide residents better choices and better representation.
While the details of each RCV policy vary, they all have the same goal: Giving voters better choices, and forcing politicians to be more accountable to their constituents. Already, 11 million voters in 56 cities, counties and states use RCV. In 2022, the movement has a chance to add nearly four million more people to that total.
2. Fighting attacks on the ballot initiative process
Ballot initiatives are a cornerstone of American democracy. Throughout history, voters have used direct democracy to create positive change when politicians fail to act. States across the country have utilized this process to ban indoor smoking, implement automatic voter registration, and even legalize gay marriage.
In recent years, self-interested politicians have been working to take away this right. Through state legislatures and the courts, they’re scheming to take away voters’ power to pass popular laws.
Amendment 2 in Arkansas is one example. State legislators introduced this measure to make passing ballot initiatives more difficult. If it passes, the threshold to pass a ballot initiative would increase from a simple majority (50% plus one) to 60%. This is a transparent power grab by politicians hoping to curb the power of voters.
Arizona has a similar measure on the ballot, Prop 132, which would raise the threshold to pass some ballot measures to 60%.
3. Cracking down on dark money
No one should be able to spend unlimited dark money to buy elections. In both Arizona and Oakland, California, voters have the chance to fight back against deep-pocketed donors and curb big money in politics.
In Arizona, Prop. 211 would require campaigns to disclose the identity of donors who give more than $5,000. Recent polls show this measure has broad bipartisan support, with 80-85% of Arizonans in favor. This measure would increase transparency and let voters know who is trying to influence elections.
In Oakland, Measure W would give all voters the freedom to support candidates financially. If passed, each voter would receive “Democracy Dollars.” Each voter would get four $25 vouchers that they can contribute to candidates of their choice. This proposal would also lower campaign contribution limits, restrict lobbying by former elected officials, and increase contribution transparency.
If these ballot measures pass, voters in Arizona and Oakland will take power away from dark-money interests and put it back in the hands of voters, where it belongs.
How to get involved
Even if you don’t live in these locations, you can still take a stand, get involved, and help make our government fairer and more functional. Volunteer to support one of the campaigns above and support the nationwide anti-corruption movement. Write a letter to the editor to help raise awareness of these crucial issues, no matter where you live. Finally, stay informed by signing up for the RepresentUs newsletter. That will ensure you’re up-to-date on all the crucial breaking news this election season.
Despite the many threats free and fair elections face, there’s a real chance for progress this midterm season. We need your help to fight back against the deep-pocketed special interests who want to tilt elections in their favor. It’s crunch time – let’s get this done.
Contributors: Adam DuBard, RepresentUs Writer; Anh-Linh Kearney, RepresentUs Research Analyst