States will get $400 million to make voting in the coronavirus presidential election easier and safer, but with almost no strings attached, under the massive economic recovery package unveiled Wednesday.
The pot of money in the nearly $2 trillion stimulus deal, on a fast track to pass the Senate by day's end with the House vote timetable uncertain, is the result of an unusually intense and coordinated lobbying campaign by some of the major players in the democracy reform movement.
While celebrating a rare victory for one of their causes, some groups nonetheless said they would seek much more money in what's likely to be another pandemic response package from Congress this spring. These groups warned the initial infusion of cash will prove insufficient to prevent justifiable anxiety about voting this fall, and that an absence of any legislative mandates will allow too much of the grant money to get spent unwisely.
The growth in early voting has exploded in recent years with more opportunities to cast ballots in person or by mail, and thereby avoid lines on Election Day.
But a downside to the convenience has been exposed by this year's Democratic presidential contest, where an ocean of votes have been cast for candidates who dropped out by the time primary day arrived.
FairVote, a nonpartisan group that champions ranked-choice voting, is highlighting these "wasted" or "lost" votes — saying most of them would not really be squandered if the alternative election method was embraced, allowing Democrats to signal support for several candidates including the two who remain viable.
Fisher is deputy director of reforms and partnerships at Unite America, a nonpartisan organization dedicated to "enacting structural political reforms and electing candidates who put people over party."
More than 1 million ballots were spoiled on candidates who had already left the presidential race when 14 states voted on Super Tuesday. Three major candidates had ended their bids following the South Carolina primary that was held three days earlier — but early voters and those participating by mail had no way to change their vote in most states.
In-person early voting and vote by mail are common sense reforms that increase voter turnout, especially in primary elections; we encourage these types of reforms that expand the electorate by reducing barriers to participation -- but we can make the system better.
The answer is a simple change to how we vote: ranked-choice voting.
A ballot measure to create nonpartisan primaries and ranked-choice voting in Alaska appears set to go before voters this fall.
Former state Rep. Jason Grenn, an independent and co-chairman of Alaskans for Better Elections, which led the ballot drive, told Alaska Public Media that as of last week his group had enough signatures to submit the measure for certification.
The initiative would create a primary system in which all candidates for each office appear on a single ballot and the top four vote-getters advance regardless of party affiliation. In the general election, voters would rank the four in order of preference, with an instant runoff determining the winner by factoring in second and third choices if no candidate garnered a majority of top-choice votes.