Our goal is to have a voting system that facilitates the greatest possible voter participation and is secure from fraud or abuse. We support open non-partisan primaries, instant runoff elections or ranked-choice-voting, voter ID laws, early voting, and on request, no excuse necessary absentee mail-in voting with reasonable restrictions to prevent fraud and allow the votes to be counted in a timely manner. We also support publicly funded efforts to ensure that government issued photo ID’s are free and easy to obtain. We oppose state legislatures giving themselves the power to reverse the outcomes of elections. We support the use of non-partisan commissions for redistricting congressional districts.
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Approximately 40% of voters identify themselves as independents. We believe that the majority of these self-described independents are centrists. They, along with moderates in the Democratic and Republican Parties constitute a huge voting block that is under-represented at both the federal and state levels. We support voting reforms that will enable this group to have a stronger and proportional voice in government.
Despite their differences, independent voters share a common interest in opening up states with closed primaries (over half of the states) to participation from independents. Until all states open their primaries to independents, we recommend that independents strategically choose the party which dominates elections in their jurisdiction and vote in that party’s primaries even if it means registering as a member of a party with which you are uncomfortable.
Instant Runoff Elections/Ranked Choice Voting
Independents generally support, as we do, the concept of instant runoff elections or ranked choice voting. Under this approach, voters rank the candidates from first to last. The ballots are counted by first eliminating the candidate with the least support and then recalculating until a majority candidate is elected. This approach makes it possible for voters to express their true preferences without fear that their vote will be “wasted” or help elect the candidate that they like the least. New York City conducted an instant runoff election for the Democratic primary for mayor recently. Opponents of the concept complained about the process, but despite its novelty, it seemed to work as intended.
Final Five Voting
One interesting way of combining truly open primaries with ranked choice voting, called Final Five Voting, is promoted by the Institute for Political Innovation. In this system you start off with a primary open to all candidates and voters regardless of party. From this, presumably large field, the five highest voter getters run in a general election using ranked choice voting.
Bias Against Endorsing Third Party Candidates
While we support, in principle, changes in public policy, like those above, that will make it easier for third party candidates to run and be elected, we realize that this is an uphill battle. The two-party system is entrenched and it is unlikely to lose its hold on American politics for the foreseeable future. We are, therefore, generally opposed to endorsing third party candidates when their presence is likely to pull votes from centrist major party candidates. Instead, we hope to influence the positions taken by the candidates of the major parties and increase support for centrist candidates and policy positions among the voting public.
Voter ID, Early Voting, and “No Excuse” Absentee Voting
We support reasonable voter ID laws. We believe that a requirement for a government issued photo ID is reasonable. Voter IDs should be free and easily obtainable. We support the use of federal, state, and local funds to subsidize programs to seek out eligible voters who lack government issued photo IDs and provide them. We also see no reason why an expired, but recognizable, government issued photo ID should not be acceptable. Federal and state programs like SNAP (Food Stamps) should be used to increase the availability of government issued photo IDs.
We also support the widespread availability of early voting and on request, no excuse necessary absentee mail-in voting. In 2005, the Carter-Baker Commission (Chaired by former President Jimmy Carter (D) and former Secretary of State James Baker (R)) warned that voting by mail opened up significant opportunities for fraud and abuse.(1) One reason why mail in voting is a concern is because it weakens the secret ballot aspect of voting since there is no voting booth to hide the voter’s decision. Nevertheless, we believe that on request, no-excuse necessary, absentee voting by mail is one of the best vehicles possible to expand voter participation. In order to get widespread acceptance for voting by mail, we believe that it is essential that we embrace voter photo ID laws. If absentee mail in ballots are requested by the voter and accompanied by a copy of a valid photo ID, the potential pitfalls of mail in voting can be avoided or minimized.
Those who oppose voter ID laws should redirect their efforts to making sure that everyone gets a voter ID. With secure voter IDs, far fewer people would object to making on request, no excuse necessary, mail-in voting universally available. Having to stand in line for hours on election day should not be a modern day poll tax.
The Role of the State Legislatures
We oppose legislatures giving themselves the power to invalidate the outcomes of elections. The Constitution states that “The Times, Places and Manner of holding Elections for Senators and Representatives, shall be prescribed in each State by the Legislature thereof; but the Congress may at any time by Law make or alter such Regulations” (Article I, section 4). (1) The state legislatures can and have delegated this power to various officials and even to the general public through referendum. The time to object to whether a state official has the authority to modify an election procedure is before the election. Waiting until after the election puts the courts in the position of having to nullify the votes of citizens who acted in good faith.
Reapportionment and Gerrymandering
We support the use of non-partisan commissions in the process of establishing congressional voting districts. The goal of this process should be political neutrality. It should not be to create safe districts for Democrats, Republicans, or various ethnic groups. Black voters, in particular, may be ill served by attempts to create safe districts for Black members of Congress. The process of doing this may deny Black voters a significant voice in multiple districts, diluting their influence on policy outcomes. All Americans are ill served by safe districts that tend over time to drift toward the political extremes, because safe districts empower the political base of the favored party.
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