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Sal Albanese

When Roe V. Wade was overturned in June 2022, support for abortion rights across the country was at 61%, an all-time high. The sentiment repeated in the aftermath of the Supreme Court decision was at times outraged, but at others confused: how could something that the majority of Americans don’t agree with now become the law? 

The same is true of so many other hot-button issues in the political sphere. Whether it’s abortion rights, gun control, LGBTQIA+ rights, or regulating social media companies, voters are constantly left asking: Why are elected officials constantly doing things that the vast majority of Americans don’t agree with? Isn’t a democracy supposed to operate under a “majority rules” mentality?

There is a reason why this is happening. It’s because our representatives are chosen in low-turnout closed primaries.

In most jurisdictions across the United States (for example, 85% of Congressional districts, according to a study of the 2022 midterms by Unite America), the Primary Election effectively decides who will win the General Election. In red districts, the winner of the Republican primary will almost certainly end up being the winner of the general, and same with Democratic candidates in blue districts.

Here in NYC, that means that our elected officials are often selected by only 10%-20% of voters. It’s not an accident: it’s by design. The parties have more control over their candidates when the winners are picked by a small slice of dedicated party voters in a poorly-timed election in June.

Closed primaries also silence the voice of the city’s over one million Independent voters, which includes half of all veterans, many immigrant & minority communities, and young voters. This is particularly outrageous, since those elections are funded by taxpayer dollars – so Independents are paying for the very election that they’re shut out of. 

We’re proposing a simple, yet effective solution: Final Five Voting. Final Five Voting is a combination of two powerful election reforms. First, an Open Primary: scrap the closed party primaries and put all candidates on the same ballot, regardless of their party affiliation. All voters will be able to vote on that ballot, even Independents. We call it a “Pick One Primary” because the voter will – you guessed it – pick one candidate. The five candidates who get the most votes move on to the General Election in November, where the voters will use Ranked Choice Voting (which NYC already implemented in 2021) to rank the five in order of preference. 

This election reform isn’t meant to necessarily change who wins elections. It’s meant to change what elected officials do once they’re in office. Under the current system, they only need to worry about that small slice of voters who participate in the primary. Under Final Five Voting, our Representatives are freed from the tyranny of the party primary, making them accountable to the November electorate – not just the narrow slice of voters who participate in those closed primaries.

Final Five Voting enables what we call Free Market Politics, delivering the best of what free markets deliver in any industry: innovation, results, and accountability. It will encourage more candidates to run for office without fear of being shut out by the political elites. Increased competition raises accountability for elected officials to better serve their “customers,” the electorate, and encourage a more diverse and representative field of candidates and ideas.

New York voters overwhelmingly supported Ranked Choice Voting (with nearly 75% of the vote) – we the voters are smart enough to know when a system is broken. But Ranked Choice didn’t fix all of our electoral problems. Final Five Voting is what we need to hold our elected officials accountable and break down the chokehold that political elites have on our elections.

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