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Civic Ed
Common Ground Committee

Bruce Bond (left) and Erik Olsen at their headquarters in Wilton, Conn.

Meet the reformers: Bruce Bond and Erik Olsen, buddies who argued until they hit on a common idea

Bruce Bond and Erik Olsen have been friends since middle school in New Canaan, a tiny Connecticut suburb of New York, where they indulged their shared passion for debating politics, economics and other current events. Bond was a distance runner at Princeton and then spent 30 years as an information technology entrepreneur, software developer and industry analyst. Olsen went to Principia College and got an MBA from UCLA before launching his career in investment management, fund management and real estate investment.

On a joint family vacation in 2009, while bemoaning the angry tenor of public discourse, they landed on the concept for their organization. Common Ground Committee's main work is hosting public forums where prominent figures from opposing ends of the political spectrum reveal their shared areas of agreement on an often polarizing public policy issue. Their answers have been edited for clarity and length.

What's democracy's biggest challenge, in 10 words or less?

Both: The inability of elected officials to overcome emotion with reason.

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Big Picture

10 states where party planners can host (and avoid) representative primaries

Illinois should host the first presidential primaries if the goal is to pick a state that most closely matches the demographics of the country.

And Vermont, the home state of Democratic front-runner Bernie Sanders, should have minimal influence over the process because its makeup is least similar to the entire United States — meaning the results from that state would be hardly at all predictive of the nation's views.

Those are among the conclusions out Thursday from the personal financial services website Wallet Hub, which has been churning out a series of reports this winter hoping to point political leaders toward helpful data for picking candidates in a more democratically sustainable way.

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Amber McReynolds

Amber McReynolds and her children, Klara and Kenton, were on this year's Rose Bowl parade float celebrating the centennial of women's suffrage.

Meet the Reformer: Amber McReynolds, crusading for voting in our pajamas

After 13 years in Denver's Office of the Clerk and Recorder — more than half the time as elections director, earning a reputation for bringing innovation and simplicity to the conduct of the city's contests — Amber McReynolds switched sides 18 months ago. She is now among the most prominent champions of conducting elections by mail as CEO of the nonpartisan National Vote at Home Institute. She is also co-author, with Stephanie Donner, of the recently published "When Women Vote" (Alden-Swain Press), which promotes ways to combat barriers to the ballot box based not only on gender but also race, disability and more. She has a master's from the London School of Economics and graduated from the University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana. Her answers have been edited for length and clarity.

What's democracy's biggest challenge, in 10 words or less?

Honoring its promise to equally include all voices.

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