The democracy reform movement is full of scores of ideas for improving the American political system, many of them compatible with one another. But we have challenged readers of The Fulcrum to pick their favorites from among a field of 64, narrowing the options as we go. And now we're down to the Final Four.
It's time now to vote in the two semi-final matchups of the Democracy Madness tournament, which features the winners of our "regional" brackets: Voting, Money in Politics, Elections and the Best of the Rest.
On one side of the brackets, we have a matchup between the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact (which won upset after upset to rise from the 11th seed in the Elections region to Final Four participant) versus always using paper ballots, which was seeded No. 1 in Best of the Rest. The compact is an agreement among states to cast their electoral votes for the winner of the national popular vote, regardless of each in-state winner. Paper ballots are widely seen as the premier method of guarding against election hacking.
The other half of the bracket features another top seed, undoing Citizens United as the best way to fix Money in Politics, facing off against ranked-choice elections (No. 2 seed), which made a dominating run through the Voting region. The Supreme Court's 2010 ruling in Citizens United vs. FEC opened the door to unlimited campaign spending by corporations, unions and wealthy individuals and has since become a premier cause among campaign finance reformers. Ranked-choice voting is the most popular form of alternative voting among change advocates. It uses an instant runoff system to guarantee majority support for the winner of an election.
The final round begins Wednesday.
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The first round of the Elections "regional" bracket is in the books, and there were quite a few upsets.
While our top three seeds in this quarter of our Democracy Madness draw made it through unscathed, there were four early upsets among the matchups of 16 proposals for restructuring and reforming election rules.
Our 13th-ranked idea, limiting the tenure of Supreme Court justices, took out the idea of expanding the fall presidential debates to more candidates, which we seeded No. 4. Now court term limits will have the chance to take down the No. 5 seed — having all-candidate primaries where the top two advance to November, regardless of party. If it prevails, it will be the lowest seed to make it to a regional Final Four.
Three other proposals bested higher-seeded ideas in the Elections first round: Having multi-member U.S. House districts, setting congressional term limits and minimizing the Electoral College's importance by switching to the so-called National Popular Vote Compact.
Second-round voting is open until Sunday. So don't forget to press the Vote Now button and make all four choices. You can also click the matchups, then each label, for more about the surviving proposals.
This competition is designed to learn what readers think is the single best of 64 ideas for reforming our governing systems and putting voters back at the center of things. (A reminder that No. 2 ranked-choice voting triumphed last week in our Voting region, which squared off first.)
This month we kicked off our Democracy Madness competition with the Voting "region," which ranked-choice voting won by rolling over competing proposals for bettering democracy by altering voting rules. Now we're one to the second region: Elections.
The aim here is to have some good-natured competitive fun — and also learning what readers think are the best ideas for reforming our governing systems and putting voters back at the center of things.
By the end of our 64-idea tournament in a few weeks, you will have told us what you think would be the single most transformational change.
Similar to the NCAA's March Madness, not every "team" fits the regional description perfectly.
But most of these 16 contenders are related to structural aspects of local, state and federal elections. The top seed is both a popular cause and a long-shot to actually happen — eliminating the Electoral College in favor of electing presidents by simple popular vote. You'll also find a couple of alternative ways to weaken the Electoral College without having to amend the Constitution.
The No. 2 seed is using independent commissions to draw electoral districts. This way of combating partisan gerrymandering comes into the tournament on a roll, having just won a big court victory in Michigan and going before Virginia's voters this fall after approval by the General Assembly.
The third seed is making primaries open to all voters ( a big issue in Florida right now). In the No. 4 slot is giving third-party and independent candidates a real shot at being in the fall presidential debates.
First-round voting closes Wednesday night, with an Elite Eight round kicking off Thursday morning.
You can click the matchups, then each label, for more about the proposals. Click the Vote Now button to get started.
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Civic engagement and progressive groups this week launched their campaign in Colorado to defeat one of the hottest ballot measures in the world of democracy reform this year.
The proposal would make the state quit a deal it made just a year ago: It pledged to award all its electoral votes to the winner of the national popular vote, as soon as states with 270 votes in the Electoral College (a majority) do likewise.
Fifteen other states and Washington, D.C., with a combined 187 votes, have joined the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact. All of them are more deeply blue than Colorado, which has tilted increasingly that way — and is the first place where a grassroots campaign to exit the compact has gained significant traction.
For those alarmed at how two of the past three presidents, George W. Bush and Donald Trump, got elected while finishing second in the popular vote, the compact has gained steam as the leading alternative to outright abandoning the Electoral College. That's a near impossibility because it would require amending the Constitution and smaller states would never agree.
The campaign kicked off on Tuesday with a tele-town hall featuring organizers and state officials. The groups will be hosting a series of virtual discussions over the next several weeks, hoping to build momentum for defeating a repeal referendum that has already earned a spot on the ballot in November.
The Democratic General Assembly passed and Democratic Gov. Jared Polis signed the measure joining the compact in March 2019. The effort to revere that decision by popular votes started soon thereafter.
It was led by two Republicans, Commissioner Rose Pugliese of Mesa County, centered on Grand Junction, and Mayor Don Wilson of Monument, a suburb of Colorado Springs.
They gathered more than 125,000 signatures to get their challenge on the ballot. Their main argument is that the pact will give the big cities unfair control over the presidency at the expense of suburbs and rural areas.
Their position put them at odds with their party's leader, Trump, who has said he supports doing away with the Electoral College.
Three committees have been formed in support of staying in the pact: Coloradans for a National Popular Vote, Yes on National Popular Vote and Conservatives for Yes on National Popular Vote. The Colorado chapters of the League of Women Voters, the NAACP and Common Cause, along with more than a dozen other civic engagement organizations, are also backing the initiative.
A "yes" vote is for staying in the compact, which is still years away from being joined by enough purple and deep red states to take effect.
A "no" vote is to get out, and if that side wins the state will stick with the current system of awarding its electoral votes to the candidate who wins the most votes in Colorado.
Colorado has nine electoral votes now, but is projected to gain a 10th starting in 2024, because of population gains reflected in the census that will also award the state an additional House seat.
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