America’s Constitution revolutionized the very notion of government, and has inspired peoples around the world to realize their freedom and achieve self-rule. But even our Founders knew that they could not design a perfect, unchanging system. Instead, they established sturdy checks and balances as guardrails for liberty and justice in America, leaving the task of further improving our self-government to the people themselves, legislatures across the country, and future generations.
This power for change enabled us to banish the scourge of slavery, recognize the equal rights of all, and build new institutions for transparency and accountability. But we should not declare our evolution complete, or rest on our laurels as new challenges pose new risks to governance structures.
In election laws and practices in particular, we’ve fallen short of realizing our full democratic potential. That’s why, since its inception, Stand Up Republic has led the charge to reform our electoral systems. In furtherance of that mission, we are proud to announce our new 2021 electoral reform agenda. From innovative ideas to time-tested practices, these reforms will enhance the voice of all Americans, while inspiring more unifying, accountable and effective leadership. These reforms represent another step towards fulfilling the promise of American democracy.
In the coming months and years, Stand Up Republic and its state-level organizations will work in cooperation with other reform-minded organizations and citizens to advance these reforms.
We invite all to join us in the cause!
Ranked-choice voting allows voters to rank their candidates by preference, reallocating votes for the losing candidates to second and third choices in an instant run-off system. Ranking candidates incentives politicians to appeal to all voters and offer more unifying, accountable, and effective leadership rather than catering solely to narrow portions of their partisan base. Whether in primary or general elections, at the local, state or national level, ranked-choice voting empowers voters to more fully express their preferences and rewards leaders who build broad constituent coalitions.
The nation’s interests are not well served by partisan-drawn electoral districts intended to guarantee parties easier election wins and to limit their accountability to the people. States should institute independent commissions, whether bipartisan or nonpartisan, to ensure that districts are drawn impartially to enhance competition, accountability and representation of all voters.
Closed primaries exclude participation of unaffiliated voters and limit the choices of party members, while favoring hardcore partisans over more unifying leaders. This encourages extremism, division, and the failure of our system of self-government.
Open primaries enable greater voter participation, while incentivizing leaders and parties to offer more effective leadership. They may come in the form of unified primaries, in which all candidates appear in one singular contest with a number advancing to the general election, or by simply allowing people to participate in the partisan primary of their choosing, regardless of their affiliation or lack thereof. Either form is best executed in combination with ranked-choice voting.
Voting from Home
Eligible citizens should be able to vote securely and easily. Voting from home is already an option in every state in the form of absentee ballots, with some states holding elections almost entirely by mail. Voting from home with a mail-in ballot should be an option for every eligible voter. Ballot integrity should be maintained through well-maintained voter rolls, signature matching and other means, and voters should have an opportunity to cure their ballots when issues are detected.
Early In-Person Voting
Enabling greater voter participation requires flexibility in the electoral system, especially in the time, manner, and place of casting one’s vote. States should afford all eligible voters a minimum of two weeks of early voting time, including some days with extended hours to accommodate demanding schedules that can otherwise be a barrier to exercising the franchise. Early in-person voting, especially when coupled with other reforms like voting from home, makes voting more accessible for all eligible citizens without compromising election integrity or security.
Automatic Voter Registration
Voting is the most important civic activity in our system of self-government and it should not be difficult for eligible citizens to participate. Automatic voter registration facilitates participation by allowing citizens to receive their registration automatically through a range of other interactions with the state government, such as obtaining a driver’s license or paying taxes.
Additionally, states should make it easier for residents to obtain official identification, whether it be a driver’s license or another type. There are often hurdles to obtaining an identification that disproportionately impact lower income and minority communities, effectively disenfranchising some eligible voters.
More Open Ballot Access
Ballot access rules too often make it nearly impossible for citizens to run for office without significant financial resources or major party support. While there is a legitimate need for states to set standards in order to ensure candidates’ basic viability, reasonable ballot access laws should allow third-party and independent candidates to participate in the electoral process.
Paper Records for All Votes
Electronic voting machines are common in our digital era and provide important benefits, but they are vulnerable to increasing cyber threats and other tampering. Paper records for all votes help ensure the auditability of our elections and contribute to the legitimacy of their outcomes.