“In a time of national division, polarizing primaries are part of the problem”

Ron Elving of NPR adds his voice to those of us who’ve been singing this tune. Like Larry Diamond, Rick Pildes, and me (just to list a few), Elving specifically cites the new Alaska system as worthy of further examination as a potential model of reform for other states. Here’s how Elving concludes his own analysis:

“[I]t is also understandable that party officials would have doubts about a system that lessens the importance of party. Candidates who have to face primary voters from outside their own party will campaign differently from those facing only their own partisans. Their need for top-choice rankings would compete with the need to minimize their last-choice rankings.

Whether or not something of this kind could ever work for November elections on a national level, it is not hard to see it making a difference state by state and in elections at the local level – including Eric Adams’ mayoral victory in New York City last year.

Whether or not ranked choice discourages negative campaigning, as some have claimed, it certainly changes the incentives for emphasizing one’s party or ideological credentials. It should encourage candidates of all kinds to move away from their base of support to compete for voters between the bases.

It may be too much of a change or too much of a challenge. But it is surely no more radical than the original idea of democracy itself – or the expansions of access to voting that created the body politic as we know it.

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