Skip to content

Latest Stories

Top Stories

Kennedy should have been in the debate – and states need ranked voting

Robert F. Kennedy Jr.

Voters should be able to take the measure of Robert F. Kennedy Jr., since he is poised to win millions of votes in November.

Andrew Lichtenstein/Getty Images

Richie is co-founder and senior advisor of FairVote.

CNN’s presidential debate coincided with a fresh batch of swing-state snapshots that make one thing perfectly clear: Robert F. Kennedy Jr. may be a longshot to be our 47th president and faces his own controversies, yet the 10 percent he’s often achieving in Arizona, Michigan, Nevada and other battlegrounds could easily tilt the presidency.

Why did CNN keep him out with impossible-to-meet requirements? The performances, mistruths and misstatements by Joe Biden and Donald Trump would have shocked Abraham Lincoln and Stephen Douglas, who managed to debate seven times without any discussion of golf handicaps — a subject better fit for a “Grumpy Old Men” outtake than one of the year’s two scheduled debates.

Voters should be able to take the measure of someone poised to get millions of votes that could decide the race, and it’s not like Kennedy’s presence could have made the debate less substantive. Indeed, he might have filled in the debate’s gaps on issues like climate change, poverty and foreign policy.

The major parties can’t wish Kennedy — nor his impact — away. Even earning 5 percent of votes could shift the election. In every state but Alaska and Maine, candidates can win every electoral vote without a majority. A string of states could be won with barely 40 percent of the vote.

Sign up for The Fulcrum newsletter

The major parties generally take one of two approaches to minor parties. They either cynically boost them when expected to hurt their opponent, as Donald Trump did when praising Cornel West and Jill Stein last month, or try to knock them off debate stages and ballots while shaming their supporters.

It’s playing with anti-democratic fire to simply write off Kennedy and other candidates. Imagine the rancor if the Electoral College is decided by a single state’s quirk – Georgia free-market backers leaving Trump for Libertarian Chase Oliver, or Arab Americans in Michigan abandoning Biden for Stein or West over the war in Gaza.

There’s a middle ground for 2024 debates — and a permanent solution offered by ranked-choice voting, which is being pioneered at the state level in Alaska and Maine.

Debates offer unique opportunities to educate voters, not just play to major-party campaign interests. Kennedy should have his shot at the September debate if he’s on the ballot in most states and polling in double digits. Trying to marginalize him will only feed his populist appeal. Biden and Trump should explain why they’re the better choice — not just against each other, but as compared to Kennedy and other candidates likely to earn millions of votes this November. Sunshine is always better for democracy than darkness.

Longer-term, the voters — and frankly the parties — should embrace our nation’s values of choice and majority rule. Increasingly proven in state and local elections, ranked-choice voting enables voter choice while upholding majority rule. If more states adopted RCV, there would be no reason to fear more choices on the ballot — which voters so clearly desire and, even moreso after this debacle of a debate. And there would be no reason to deny a podium to a candidate supported by one in every 10 voters.

RCV is simple. Voters get to rank the candidates in order — for example, Kennedy first and Trump second, or Kennedy first and Biden second. If someone wins over 50 percent of first choice votes, they’re the winner. But if no one claims a majority, the lowest candidates are dropped and an instant runoff ensues. If you ranked one of the top candidates first, your vote stays with them. If your candidate is eliminated, your ballot goes to your second choice.

Maine and Alaska will vote for president with RCV, ensuring a head-to-head final “instant runoff” no matter how many candidates make their ballots. In those states’ recent House and Senate races, third parties were welcome. The “spoiler” claim melted away.

The time has come for the rest of the nation to join them. Spoiler fears are hardly new — and given the widespread dissatisfaction and frustration in our system, it’s only likely to increase as a feature of our system in 2028 and beyond.

While so much of what ails our democracy feels hard to fix, we can cure the spoiler problem with common sense. Kennedy can debate and people can see him for themselves. And with ranked-choice voting, we can embrace greater choice and make this the last time “spoiler math” decides the White House.

Read More

Trump and Biden at the debate

Our political dysfunction was on display during the debate in the simple fact of the binary choice on stage: Trump vs Biden.

Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images

The debate, the political duopoly and the future of American democracy

Johnson is the executive director of the Election Reformers Network, a national nonpartisan organization advancing common-sense reforms to protect elections from polarization.

The talk is all about President Joe Biden’s recent debate performance, whether he’ll be replaced at the top of the ticket and what it all means for the very concerning likelihood of another Trump presidency. These are critical questions.

But Donald Trump is also a symptom of broader dysfunction in our political system. That dysfunction has two key sources: a toxic polarization that elevates cultural warfare over policymaking, and a set of rules that protects the major parties from competition and allows them too much control over elections. These rules entrench the major-party duopoly and preclude the emergence of any alternative political leadership, giving polarization in this country its increasingly existential character.

Keep ReadingShow less
I Voted stickers

Veterans for All Voters advocates for election reforms that enable more people to participate in primaries.

BackyardProduction/Getty Images

Veterans are working to make democracy more representative

Proctor, a Navy veteran, is a volunteer with Veterans for All Voters.

Imagine this: A general election with no negative campaigning and four or five viable candidates (regardless of party affiliation) competing based on their own personal ideas and actions — not simply their level of obstruction or how well they demonize their opponents. In this reformed election process, the candidate with the best ideas and the broadest appeal will win. The result: The exhausted majority will finally be well-represented again.

Keep ReadingShow less
Person voting at a dropbox in Washington, D.C.

A bill moving through Congress would only allow U.S. citizens to vote in D.C. municipal eletions.

Chen Mengtong/China News Service via Getty Images

The battle over noncitizen voting in America's capital

Rogers is the “data wrangler” at BillTrack50. He previously worked on policy in several government departments.

Should you be allowed to vote if you aren’t an American citizen? Or according to the adage ‘No taxation without representation’, if you pay taxes should you get to choose the representatives who help spend those tax dollars? Those questions are at the heart of the debate over a bill to restrict voting to U.S. citizens.

Keep ReadingShow less
people walking through a polling place

Election workers monitor a little-used polling place in Sandy Springs, Ga., during the state's 2022 primary.

Nathan Posner/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

What November election? Half of the U.S. House is already decided.

Troiano is the executive director ofUnite America, a philanthropic venture fund that invests in nonpartisan election reform to foster a more representative and functional government. He’s also the author of “The Primary Solution.”

Last month, Americans were treated to an embarrassing spectacle: Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) and Jasmine Crockett (D-Texas) tradingpersonal insults related to “fake eyelashes” and a “bleach blonde bad built butch body” during a late-night committee hearing. Some likened it to Bravo’s “Real Housewives” reality TV series, and wondered how it was possible that elected officials could act that way and still be elected to Congress by the voters.

The truth is, the vast majority of us don’t actually elect our House members — not even close. Less than 10 percent of voters in Crockett’s district participated in her 2024 Democratic primary, which all but guaranteed her re-election in the safe blue district. Greene ran unopposed in her GOP primary — meaning she was re-elected without needing to win a single vote. The nearly 600,000 voters in her overwhelmingly red district were denied any meaningful choice. Both contests were decided well before most voters participate in the general election.

Keep ReadingShow less
USA map with flags
FotografiaBasica/Getty Images

Eight needed steps to save democracy and our future

Fellmeth is the Price Professor of Public Interest Law at the University of San Diego School of Law and the founder and executive director of the Children’s Advocacy Institute.

Democracies in decline rarely come to an abrupt end. They usually unravel — slowly and subtly — over a period of time; the rot slowly reveals itself until the endgame becomes obvious. Threats to democracy are now out in the open and very real, but there are some steps we can take to help preserve governance by informed people who are concerned about our children and the Earth we leave behind.

Keep ReadingShow less