A legislature should reflect all of the voters who elect them. For this to be the case, voters must be able to elect representatives in proportion to their number. Fair representation voting describes American, candidate-based forms of voting that respect this principle of proportional representation. Instead of adopting voting methods that would lead to more fair representation, most elections in North Dakota are winner-take-all. That means that instead of reflecting all of the voters, our legislators only reflect the one biggest or strongest group of voters that elected them, while leaving all others unrepresented.
The results of winner-take-all voting systems often result in either partisan gridlock or a legislature that fails to represent its population. This are the conditions we see at our federal level and at our state legislative level. A supermajority can infringe on the rights of women or minority groups or concerns that a substantial – just not quite a voting majority – have, and frequently lack accountability because these same elected officers can gerrymander themselves into power. Having politicians face the voters in a truly meaningful election makes a better representative democracy.
Under our current State Constitution, each North Dakota Legislative District sends two house members to Bismarck from their district. There are 47 districts and in most situations we send either two Dem-NPL’ers or two Republicans. It rarely happens where enough people split their votes (for example, one Republican and one Democrat) such that there is a split decision within the legislative district. Of the 47, there are currently six with a 'split delegation.' It can be argued the system we’ve constructed has an unnecessary redundancy that presents as disproportionate representation, such as that we currently see in the North Dakota legislature.
Sending two people of the same party will occur less often under this new system. I believe if we implemented a Ranked Choice voting system, half of the districts could send one Republican and one Dem-NPL'er, nearly every election. That's not a certainty, but it provides a variety of choices for voters. Even districts where one party is more heavily favored, there is a reduced likelihood of sending two people from the same party in this scheme. While it's assumed the two major political parties will continue to solicit or endorse two candidates for their election, it is possible in this scheme they bid only one candidate.
Maybe, but if doesn't have to be that way. A central concern of the two-party system and the current winner-take-all system is that it forces party affiliation when many of the views on issues by people within the same party are not compatible. On a national level, we see that Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is in the same party as Colin Peterson or Joe Manchin. Both are welcome in the party – we’re a big tent, but their priorities are vastly divergent. The same diversity occurs in the Republican party, right?
While the limited use of RCV in North Dakota won’t fix the two-party national system, it does permit some interesting possibilities in our state. This could help people who believe the Republican Party is too moderate and needs to have a harder right-wing line – it will help these voters coalesce to elect someone with that perspective even outside of the control of the formal ND Republican Party. Similarly, this could allow for people who believe Democrats are too meek and should seek and work to elect more progressive candidates to run - citizens with such a belief could support a candidate in their district that more closely matches their outlook. This increases the voices going into an election and ideally will give us a more diverse House while simultaneously moving decisions to a moderate and moderated middle.
Fringe ideas can still be considered, and good ideas are good ideas. But the vetting process will always be better if we can have a more equal balance in one part of the legislature.
I don’t know. My off-the-cuff answer is: let them all in for the general. Everyone who qualifies gets on the general ballot in November. It’s not clear if they need to file in April like we currently do, or if that date gets moved back. Reducing the number of voices who want to be part of the decision-making process is exactly NOT the goal.
Some will argue that dropping this race from the primary ticket creates chaos, but – I say this with love to the Kennedy and Reagan Centers – I don’t care. Taking power away from the people – whether by the party or by members of the government – is always a bad idea.
RCV is a process that can work with single-winner races, and there are other modern voting concepts that could work, as well. This proposal doesn't include it because there is no specific need and we're already asking a lot of "the other party." To be honest, I'm not certain we need a Senate, and as we work on the Constitutional changes RCV would require, that can be a point of discussion.
RCV doesn't advantage either party. The Governor of Virginia (a Republican) and the mayor of New York City (a Democrat) recently won office on the second-choice part of the ballot. Rather than favoring either party, it brings in voters who believe their vote won't matter, and it ensures whoever is elected has broader support.
RCV works. It's worth noting that allowing voters to cast ballots identifying their second and third choices (and so on) rewards candidates who work to broaden their appeal while weeding out polarizing figures. Consequently, officials elected through this system have a greater band of people to whom they should feel accountable.
Any taxpayer cost associated with this is nil or miminal. We're talking about adding a few extra names to a ballot and reprogramming already purchased counting machines to accept a new method of counting.
There is absolutely a financial benefit, what Dr. Powell identities as prosperity from the Secretary of State race. A central problem with supermajority party states – especially given the current national climate – is that laws that are considered discriminatory (abortion restriction, trans-athlete restriction, etc.) are easier to pass. These laws do two things: they chase our best and most driven young people to places where they or their friends will be better accepted; and these laws prevent or dissuade monied organizations looking for a new branch division from locating in North Dakota.
We do a lot of things well here, but we can’t project an image of intolerance and be surprised when no one wants to live here. RCV will give us a more diverse House, which will moderate the laws that are passed. If the supermajority in the House is broken, then it will force coalitions AND negotiated agreements between these diverse parties and that is always in the best interest of We The People.
So, Republicans should willingly give up control of one of the chambers?
Yes, but with an asterisk. It’s a near certainty Republicans keep the Senate and most likely Republicans will continue to be the majority party in the House for the foreseeable future. Even this Democrat acknowledges that this will not change the party-in-power. It will reduce the margin of the number of seats they hold. By lessening that margin of power, and by distributing it to other parties, this action gives power back to the people.
The central question every North Dakotan needs to ask is:
Do Republicans care about their own power, or do they care about the future of the state?
They cannot prioritize both.
Enacting this change will help North Dakota look like a modern democracy and will help us appear more favorable to other red states where less democracy – rather than more – is a turn off. Our state can become more attractive to a blue-state investor who might want to move a company or part of a company here. Once we eliminate the supermajority structure, other red state politics that derail robust economic development will be decreased.
The most urgent question we need to ask is how will the Republicans work to return to the people and share with other parties– in ways that are meaningful and beneficial to the people of the state – a piece of their decision-making power?
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