Citizen Reformers

Fighting Polarization in American Politics—through Ranked-Choice Voting

Polarization in the United States is nearing crisis levels and Ranked-Choice Voting presents an intriguing solution.

Although Republican and Democratic leaders have been at partisan odds for years, hostility recently has grown within each party toward anyone willing to make a deal with the other side. And research now shows that bitter partisan divides reach into state and local politics as well. 1/   More and more people feel politically homeless, alienated from both parties and without any say in how the country is run.

Polarization is worsened by the way the United States runs elections – as winner-take-all contests, district-by-district, state-by-state. By just needing to win more votes than the other person, each candidate has incentives to paint their main rival in the worst possible light and do the same thing to any other competitor who might appeal to their voter base.

The good news, as David Brooks argues, is that we don’t have to live with this system. Over the last few decades, a lot of work has been done to fight gerrymandering, a reform that would have only a marginal effect on our politics. But now the attention seems to be shifting to ranked-choice voting (RCV), a change that would have much bigger and better effects.

A recent Economist article explains that while RCV may be unable to force liberals and conservatives to like each other, it could at least blunt the electoral effects of hyperpartisanship.

In an RCV election, voters rank the field by preference, from first to last (though they can always choose to vote for just one candidate). If one candidate gathers a majority of first-place votes when all votes are in, he or she wins. If not, the candidate with the smallest number of first-choice votes is eliminated, and his/her secondary, tertiary and so forth votes are redistributed. That process continues until one candidate eventually has a majority.

As the Economist article explains, RCV boosters say it changes campaigns and elections in three laudable ways. First, it encourages voter turnout. A study of 79 elections in 26 American cities found that RCV was associated with a 10% increase in turnout compared with non-RCV primary and run-off elections. Voters turned off by the front-runners have less incentive to stay home.

Second, it shifts incentives away from negative campaigning. Candidates try not just to turn out their base, but also to win as many second- and third-choice votes as possible. Finally, boosters argue that introducing RCV limits the efficacy, and therefore the amount, of money spent by single-issue campaign groups, because they often finance negative ads.

In theory, RCV elections will more often be won by candidates broadly acceptable to most voters.

On June 12th Maine conducted the first-ever statewide election using ranked-choice voting, and a ballot to retain RCV was approved.

Ranked-Choice Voting makes a lot of sense (and there’s nothing in the Constitution that says there have to be only two parties. There’s nothing in the Constitution about parties at all.) If you want to learn more about RCV, check out the Scholars Strategy Network, a one-stop resource that connects journalists, policymakers, and civic leaders to America’s top scholars and their research.

Consider supporting efforts to approve Ranked-Choice Voting nationally as well as in your state and municipality. One organization actively supporting the RCV approach is FairVote, a nonpartisan champion of electoral reforms. FairVote has a proven record since 1992 advancing and winning electoral reforms at the local, state, and national level through strategic research, communications and collaboration.

1/ The Scholars Strategy Network (

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Dark Money in American Politics

Watch the Dark Money Trailer


DARK MONEY, a political thriller, examines one of the greatest present threats to American democracy: the influence of untraceable corporate money on our elections and elected officials. The film takes viewers to Montana—a frontline in the fight to preserve fair elections nationwide—to follow an intrepid local journalist working to expose the real-life impacts of the US Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision. Through this gripping story, DARK MONEY uncovers the shocking and vital truth of how American elections are bought and sold. This Sundance award-winning documentary is directed/produced by Kimberly Reed (PRODIGAL SONS) and produced by Katy Chevigny (E-TEAM).

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Is Congress For The People Possible?

Apathy, outrage and frustration about America’s democracy are increasingly fueled by historic low approval ratings of Congress. Rather than representing the people, Congress is perceived to be more and more beholding to corporate and special interests. Throwing pillows at the TV or ranting on social media reflect the reactions of many, while others just tune out and say the situation is hopeless.

A new poll from the AP-NORC Center found that 85 percent of Americans, including 89 percent of Democrats and 82 percent of Republicans, disapprove of the job Congress is doing.  (AP News, Feb. 26, 2018).

A new study by researchers at Stanford University and the University of California-Santa Barbara with the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research finds that only about 2 in 10 said they think Congress pays much attention to their own constituents or Americans as a whole, or even give much consideration to the best interests of those people. Instead, most said Congress does listen to lobbyists, donors and the wealthy.

Congress has rarely been especially popular in polls conducted over the past several decades, but approval of the House and Senate’s performance has been particularly low over the past several years, as noted by Laurie Kellman and Emily Swanson of AP News. In polling by Gallup, Congress’ approval rating has been below 20 percent for eight straight years.

Encouraging signs are emerging that people are prepared to exercise their rights as citizens to make Congress more accountable.   A growing number of citizens, particularly women, are throwing their hats into the ring and running for Congress. In the wake of the shooting at Parkland High School in Florida, a massive youth voter registration campaign has emerged and more attention is being focused on holding accountable those Congressmen who have accepted campaign contributions from the NRA and are resisting any common sense gun control initiatives.

Individuals may feel powerless to change the way Congress works. wants to change that by empowering ordinary citizens to take action. is dedicated to highlighting the ways ordinary citizens can make a difference in protecting our democratic values and making our government more responsive to the will of the people.

The main way citizens can make a difference is at the ballot box. Once elected, you can write or call your representatives to let them know your views. 

Organizations like Open (a non-partisan, independent and not-for-profit organization), are available to help you track the voting records of your representatives in Congress and how you can contact them.   Find your representative  is the nation’s premier website tracking the influence of money on U.S. politics, and how that money affects policy and citizens’ lives.

You can also take action by supporting organizations like and Common Cause, another non-partisan, not for profit public interest organization, which has an initiative to hold the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) accountable. Through ALEC, some of the nation’s largest and richest companies invest millions of dollars each year to pass state laws putting corporate interests ahead of the interests of ordinary Americans. Due to controversies about ALEC’s secretive operations, controversial agenda, and public pressure from Common Cause and its allies, over 100 major companies have left ALEC since 2011, including Coca-Cola, Procter & Gamble, Kraft, Johnson & Johnson, McDonalds, Walmart, Bank of America, Visa, Microsoft, Google, Facebook, Yahoo, eBay, BP, and T-Mobile. Learn more about ALEC here. Common Cause also has corporate accountability, lobbying, and campaign finance programs which you may want to consider supporting.

A number of other organizations dedicated to holding Congress accountable are deserving of your support. Check out the Take Action section of this website for other ways that you can get engaged on issues that may be of concern to you. Let us know about other organizations or initiatives so that we can make this website more useful to readers seeking to take action to make Congress responsive to citizens and not to lobbyists and the wealthy.

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From 2009-2016 in the U.S., there have been 156 mass shootings—incidents in which four or more people were shot and killed, not including the shooter. These incidents resulted in 1,187 victims shot: 848 people were shot and killed, and 339 people were shot and injured. 

  • 95% of Americans support requiring a background check on all gun sales
  • 93 Americans are killed with guns every day
  • 94% of gun owners believe in background checks for all gun sales

Learn More

Check Out Organizations Dedicated to this Issue

Make a Difference

  • Vote
  • Write your representatives in Congress
  • Contribute to non-partisan organizations dedicated to promoting concrete solutions
  • Sign petitions for concrete solutions
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