.The Key to Ending Minority Rule

In 2022, most congressional elections were decided before Election Day because, as the Cook Political Report had predicted, only 40 House and Senate seats were competitive.

Of the 430 races, only 17% of House races and 26% of Senate races were decided by less than 10 percentage points. The general election was an afterthought. According to Unite America, a pro-democracy watchdog group, 83% of the House was elected by 8% of the American electorate.

Let’s give examples. Andy Ogles of Tennessee’s “safely red” 4th congressional district, population 850,000, needed just 21,000 votes to put him in Congress. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez first won her “safely blue” seat in 2018 with just under 17,000 votes out of 30,000 votes cast (in a district with 215,000 registered Democratic voters) to represent 670,000 New Yorkers.

Primary elections are sending us straight to hell as we cede power to the most negative, partisan, polarized voters. Our system looks just like sports rivalries, in which members of the two major parties cooperate in hatred of the other “team” rather than seek common purpose. Members of Congress elected in low-turnout primaries have only one lame-ass job to pursue: Bash the opposing party, promise results they know will never follow and put public displays of boorishness ahead of legislative accomplishment.

The way to change all this is to build choice and competition into every election. One method is called Final Five Voting, which requires two changes:

One is to eliminate party primaries, which are replaced by preliminary elections open to all candidates and all voters, free from the tyranny of party affiliation. The top five finishers then qualify for the general election.

The second is eliminating non-majority winners by inserting an instant run-off process to determine who among the top five has majority support in a district. An instant run-off is like a series of run-offs, except voters don’t have to return to the polls because they have cast their votes using a ranked ballot. After the polls close, three rounds of automatic run-offs narrow the field to the final two, one of whom will have a majority.

Competition and choice encourage elected officials to do something almost none of today’s candidates are required to do: better serve their “customers,” the electorate. The confederacy of dunces has to go.

Craig J. Corsini lives in San Rafael.

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