Our democratic elections are not working for the majority of Americans because they are not holding elected officials accountable. Why? The main reasons are 1) most Americans don’t vote in most elections and 2) legislative districts are gerrymandered to enable the majority party to win elections. As a result, most politicians get re-elected term after term after term.
There are several ways to make our elections work better for the majority. We can limit campaign spending, eliminate gerrymandering, or eliminate the electoral college (for presidential elections). We can also change the voting process from a majority vote wins to ranked choice voting. But nearly all voting changes require rule changes which takes us full circle – we can’t change the rules until we change the rule makers. There is one strategy, however, that doesn’t require a rule change – voting in primary elections.
Many voters don’t vote because they feel their vote doesn’t count. In general elections, there is considerable truth in that belief because the districts set aside for local legislators are laid out (gerrymandered) by state legislators to ensure that the majority party wins most of the districts. This, in turn, ensures that the majority party retains a majority in the states’ legislatures and in the Congress.
Primary elections, however, are not affected by gerrymandering because they are strictly party elections. As a result, every vote counts. They are, in fact, the most powerful tool voters have. They are used to determine the finalists by eliminating most of the contenders. But that’s where voters have more choices. Instead of just two candidates, they can have any number of candidates. As such, primary elections can be used effectively to get rid of incumbent politicians who are not serving their constituents. An excellent example of the power of the primary election was the defeat of Congressman Eric Cantor, the Republican party whip, in the 2014 Virginia primary election. This demonstrates the power of the primary elections to get rid of unwanted politicians.
In order to restore our democracy, we need to replace the rule makers who have rigged the system against the majority, with rule makers who will level the playing field for all. Primary elections offer us the best opportunity to rid ourselves of corrupt politicians, put new people in government and turn our country around.