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Opinion
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"When people are unaware that convictions can seem principled while actually being blind, they are helpless in the face of the conviction machine," writes Michael Patrick Lynch.

‘Always sticking to your convictions’ sounds like a good thing – but it isn’t

Lynch is a professor of philosophy at the University of Connecticut.

There is nothing wrong with strong opinions. They are healthy in a democracy – an apathetic electorate is an ineffective electorate.

But a curious fact about American society's supercharged political culture is that even the most humble debates (think: Which fried chicken sandwiches are best?) turn a tweet into matters of conviction.

The result is that many of us come to see criticism as intolerable and disagreement with our opinions as a mark of moral inferiority.

That's a problem not just because it can lead to incivility; it's a problem because it can lead to dogmatism, and when it comes to matters like climate change or immigration, even violent fanaticism.

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Big Picture
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Katie Fahey

Katie Fahey and Michigan volunteers in 2018.

Making government more responsive is a task for Americans of all stripes

Fahey, who organized the grassroots movement that ended Michigan's politicized gerrymandering, is now executive director of The People, which is forming statewide citizen networks to promote government accountability. She will be interviewing another democracy reformer each month for our Opinion section.

Everyday people are the backbone of the democracy reform movement. As executive director of The People, a new national effort to find common ground and make non-partisan changes to fix our broken democracy, I am most inspired by those who volunteer their time and energy to make sure their government hears not just their voices, but their neighbors' voices, too.

In the coming months, I have the opportunity to introduce you to some of the men and women from across the country whose powerful stories of civic engagement are bettering their communities and repairing America's torn social fabric. Before we kick off this series, I wanted to take a moment to share with you my own journey working toward democracy reform.

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Voting
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"To the casual observer, having the ability to rank all candidates from best to worst may seem like a good thing, on the surface," writes Mike Shannon.

Here’s why political independents should hate ranked-choice voting

Shannon is the founder of Negative.vote, which is promoting statewide ballot initiatives to allow voters to register firm opposition to one candidate in each race.

Many reformers are partisans in disguise. Here's one way you can tell: If someone advocates for something called ranked-choice voting, they either intend to disempower independent voters by eliminating pesky independent or reform candidates to the benefit of the two-party system, or they don't fully understand how RCV works.

Many professors advocate for ranked-choice voting, which is decoy reform at best. We could just as well prohibit all independent or opposition candidates from getting on the ballot in the first place, as Russia itself has done, because that is the ultimate effect of RCV. It is designed to eliminate independent candidates.

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Voting
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"Today, Mississippi is one of only two states where the winner of the popular vote does not automatically become governor," writes Gideon Cohn-Postar.

How one Southern state’s election rules perpetuate a racist past

Cohn-Postar is a graduate student in history at Northwestern University.

A lawsuit over a Mississippi election law could change the way that state elects its governor.

Four African-Americans filed the federal civil rights lawsuit in May, charging that the way their state elects its statewide officials violates the Voting Rights Act, the 14th Amendment and the principle of "one-person, one-vote."

To win election, a candidate for governor has to win an outright majority of the popular vote – and win a majority of Mississippi's 122 House districts.

If no candidate does both, the state House selects the governor, regardless of who got the most votes. No African American has been elected statewide since 1890.

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