2020 Democratic Candidates
With dozens of Democrats gearing up for the primary election, could ranked choice voting help narrow the field and keep voters engaged? Photo credit: Wikimedia

With a horde of Democratic presidential candidates running, ranked choice voting could change the tone of campaigning, and provide a fairer distribution of delegates.

The number of candidates vying for the Democratic nomination next year could smash all records. But such a large field also means that most voters will likely end up disappointed because their preferred candidate is eliminated. Is an election where most people’s preferred candidate loses a good thing?

Ranked choice voting (RCV) could help fix that problem.

San Francisco has used RCV — also known as instant runoff voting — in local elections since 2006, and the system decided a 2018 congressional election in Maine. Harvard professor Lawrence Lessig’s group, Equal Citizens, is proposing the use of RCV in presidential primaries in 2020.

Adam Eichen, a self-described democracy wonk, is a communications strategist for Equal Citizens. In this podcast, Eichen and Peter B. Collins discuss the strengths and weaknesses of RCV, and the steps required to implement it — starting in New Hampshire, traditionally the first primary state.  

With a roster featuring as many as 20 candidates, voters whose first-choice candidate is eliminated would still influence the outcome with their second and third selections.

One benefit of RCV is that it encourages candidates — aware that they might need second- and third-choice votes — to refrain from using negative ads or personal attacks against their opponents.

Deciding the winner of an RCV election can take weeks, a reality that might frustrate TV watchers, online influencers, and media executives eager for conclusive results on election night. Eichen and Collins also discuss the pros and cons of eliminating one-on-one runoffs, which usually attract lower voter turnout.

Adam Eichen is co-author, with Frances Moore Lappé, of Daring Democracy. You can read the opinion piece about RCV that he co-wrote here. A crowded 2020 presidential primary field calls for ranked choice voting.

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Related front page panorama photo credit: Adapted by WhoWhatWhy from flyer (Equal Citizens).

Full Text Transcript:

As a service to our readers, we provide transcripts with our podcasts. We try to ensure that these transcripts do not include errors. However, due to time constraints, we are not always able to proofread them as closely as we would like. Should you spot any errors, we’d be grateful if you would notify us.

Peter B. Collins: Welcome to another Radio WhoWhatWhypodcast. In San Francisco, I’m Peter B. Collins.

Today, we’re going to take a look at an interesting proposal coming from Equal Citizens in Cambridge, Massachusetts, to implement ranked-choice voting for the democratic primaries in key battleground states in preparation for the 2020 election. Adam Eichen is a communication strategist, and I’ve spoken with him before. He was working first with Frances Moore Lappe’s interesting group also based in Cambridge. He went on to make a difference in Pennsylvania with a very interesting campaign. That was what they were doing last year, the MarchOnHarrisburg.

  Now, he is affiliated with Professor Lawrence Lessig, who ran for president back in 2016, on the single issue of reforming our campaign finance system. Adam Eichen, great to talk to you again.

Adam Eichen: Peter, it’s always a pleasure. Thanks for having me back.

Peter B. Collins: I’m really fascinated by the proposal that you aired out in a commentary piece that was coauthored by Congressman Jamie Raskin of Maryland, and Rob Ritchie as well appeared at The Hill recently. We’ll link to it in the text file that accompanies this podcast, but the proposal is to use Ranked-Choice Voting. I think we should begin by explaining to people who haven’t been exposed to it, the fundamentals of RCV. So how about if you start with that?

Adam Eichen: Sure. I mean, ranked-choice voting sounds complicated, but in reality, it’s just a different way of counting votes in a system where in most cases, especially for local, state, and congressional elections, you are electing one candidate, but you may have multiple candidates that you like. What ranked-choice voting does is it allows you to rank your candidates in order of preference. Say there are five candidates running, you can rate them one to five. The way that works, it’s not like you get multiple votes. This isn’t a breach of one person, one vote.

  All it does is if no one gets a majority, no one gets above 50%, then the person who came in last place, their votes get reallocated according to their second choices. Think about the 2000 election in Florida when Al Gore and George Bush were divided by about 537 votes. Most people liked to point to Ralph Nader as the spoiler, as he got about 100,000 votes. Had they had ranked-choice voting in Florida then, the people who voted for Ralph Nader could have selected Al Gore as their second choice, which many of them, though maybe not all, probably would have preferred instead of helping to elect someone like George Bush.

  Their votes would have been reallocated when no one got 50%, and Al Gore would have likely been the winner. That’s more representative of the voters’ preference because in a democratic society, we should want the candidate who has the majority of support. Basically, rank your candidates and if someone gets 50%, well, that’s the election. That’s over on the first round, but essentially, it’s like an instant runoff as the rounds go on and no one gets the majority. It’s really good, Peter, for elections where there are a lot of people running.

Peter B. Collins: For example, in the midterm elections this 2018, there was a race in Maine, a congressional race that was decided by ranked-choice voting. I think that at least the people I’m in touch with in Maine were pleased with the process and the outcome. But explain to me how it will work in a primary situation because we’re expecting a large field of Democrats. As many as 24 might be on, for example, the early New Hampshire primary ballot. Would people have to rank all 24 or would they simply make a first, second, and perhaps a third choice selection on their ballot?

Adam Eichen: Well, so this is where it gets interesting. In the case of main, basically, you had four candidates running. There was the Democrat, Republican, and two independent, what we would call third party candidates. The third party candidates took about 8% of the votes, and so nobody had a majority. Once those votes were reallocated, the winner, Jared Golden, ended up being declared or having over 50%. That’s the way it works there, but in the presidential primary, it’s a little bit different because it’s not just one seat. For the congressional election in Maine, everyone was fighting over one seat, but in the primaries, you’re not electing a candidate, you’re electing delegates.

  New Hampshire has about, I don’t know exactly, a couple of dozen. Maybe that is between 17 and 24 delegates. Based on the percentage you get, you get a certain percentage of the delegates. The delegate selection system has long been different over the past hundred years in terms of what’s the best way to allocate, but after the 1980s, essentially the Democratic Party said, “If you get 15% of … or if you get above 15% of the vote, you get that percentage of delegates, but you have to get above 15%.” It has a threshold, and anything above the threshold is proportional, but anything below the threshold gets thrown out.

  The problem with that in the presidential primary is that when you have could be a couple dozen candidates running in New Hampshire, people are going to split the vote, that the winning candidate in New Hampshire, and again, winning in quotations, because just because you come in first does not mean you get 100% of the delegates. You get a certain percentage of the delegates, but because people are going to split their votes, it means there could be a lot of candidates getting below 15% delegate thresholds. What that means is they get nothing. We could be looking at a situation in which there are so many people running that 50% of the people who vote cast their ballots for somebody below the 15% threshold.

  That means 50% of people in New Hampshire, I mean, again, this is maybe worst case scenario, could have their votes thrown out when it comes to trying to select the next president in New Hampshire, that is. This isn’t unusual. I’ve gone through and since the late ’80s, about one in five voters in New Hampshire have not had their votes count towards a delegate. This isn’t just a problem in 2020. This is whenever there are five-ish candidates that are very competitive in the presidential primary, a lot of votes are going to be wasted under this system, and so what ranked-choice voting would do is it would rank the candidates, and it’s up to the secretary of state if this bill passes to determine how many candidates you can rank.

  Usually, you can rank as many as you’d like. If your first choice gets below the 15% threshold, their votes get reallocated according to the voters’ second choices. That continues until every voter, or until every candidate left, is above the 15% threshold. That means that the end results of the New Hampshire primary will most accurately reflect the will of the voters, and no one will have to worry about votes splitting. I mean, I think about this a lot, that if you’re progressive, you might be between Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders. This situation gives the ability that if someone like Elizabeth Warren were to get 16% but Bernie Sanders only 8%, if you really wanted Bernie Sanders, you could rank Elizabeth Warren two, and then your vote would be reallocated to Elizabeth Warren.

  That way, your voice trying to suggest your opinion for the future of the Democratic Party could count towards that final delegate selection. It applies to more centrists people as well, because you have to fight for all votes. If you’re between Michael Bloomberg and someone like Joe Biden, this also gives you the ability to express your vote for one person, but also not have to think strategically about, “Well, will Michael Bloomberg really get above the 15%? Do I really want to waste my vote?” It’s a little bit complicated, Peter, but ultimately, this would fix the primary from being a real disaster in terms of democratic representation this year with so many people running.

Peter B. Collins: I’m clearly intrigued by the idea, Adam. As you explained, it does get a little complicated, and one of the confounding issues is that every state has different laws and regulations. Are you and Professor Lessig and the team at Equal Citizens putting together, now I’m not accusing you of being like Alec, the American Legislative Exchange Council, but are you putting together a proposed legislation that you would submit to the legislatures of each of the states that you’re targeting to adopt RCV for 2020?

Adam Eichen: Well, we’re working on a bill right now, as I said, in New Hampshire. I want to take a quick step back and to say that this would apply mostly to the Democratic primary in 2020 but that’s because there’s an open seat on the democratic side, but if this bill went through and the parties agreed to use it, it would also apply to the Republican primary as well. Think back to 2016, this would have been very useful in the GOP primary in 2016. The GOP threshold is 10%, and so about 13% of the vote went below that 10% threshold, so between, I think, Chris Christie, Ben Carson and Carly Fiorina. So both parties can benefit from the system.

  I want to be very clear that this applies to both parties the same, and it’s not partisan. Right now we’re working with New Hampshire activists to get this bill through. We don’t have a proposed legislation to submit to other states yet, to my knowledge, but I know groups like FairVote and others are working to get it in place for the general election as well. That is something that states could do. We’ll work with activists across the ground in swing states to make this a reality if that’s what they want to do. Because frankly, I think, well, as I’m organizing in New Hampshire right now, the key thing is I’m working with a very diverse group of people politically, geographically, demographically.

  On my team are the former chair of the Republican Party in Salt Lake City, Utah, who now runs the New Hampshire independent voters. I’m working with progressive legislators. I’m working with Jim Rubens, who ran for Senate in New Hampshire is onboard as well. I mean, this is a real diverse coalition, third party candidates, Libertarians, Greens, because ultimately this is about improving and increasing the choice that voters have in our system. I think that’s something that resonates no matter what you believe politically. We’re working with those who want to make this happen in their state.

Peter B. Collins: Adam, in your project last year, the MarchOnHarrisburg, you engaged religious communities, faith based communities in the kinds of reforms of redistricting or gerrymandering trying to change that. I’m curious if you see the same potential here. Are there activists in faith communities who see this as a good idea?

Adam Eichen: Absolutely. Absolutely. In fact, we’re once again partnering with the Unitarian Universalists. They’re the ones who set up our tour in Pennsylvania. Some of our ideas actually from the Pennsylvania campaign, we’re going to try and translate to this campaign in New Hampshire.

Peter B. Collins: Give me an example.

Adam Eichen: Well, we’re looking to not quite be as ambitious in terms of the number of events we do, the grassroots events, but we’re going to be putting on town halls across New Hampshire in key cities across the state where we’re going to try and bring together folks who are interested in ranked-choice voting, but also folks who want campaign finance reform in this state and improve voting rights and any issue relating to democracy. We want to integrate presidential candidates who want to talk about their proposals to fix our democracy. We want to bring together a movement of people who are interested in addressing the failures of our democracy.

  New Hampshire is a fascinating strategic state because all of the presidential candidates are already going there, including some that haven’t announced yet. At minimum, we want to try and get this issue talked about as people are vying to be the next president of the United States. I think that citizens across the state and across the country are ready to have that conversation. That was absent in 2016. The only real mention of it was Donald Trump’s drain the swamp, but we want to make that much more front and central because, Peter, last election cycle in 2018, there were over 20 ballot initiatives about democracy, pro-democracy ballot initiatives.

  Then the vast majority, the super majority, I think all but one or two passed including, you know, many with significant Republican support. I think that running on democracy reform is a winning issue for whomever wants to run on that.

Peter B. Collins: Adam, as I mentioned, I am intrigued by this idea. We have now almost 10 years of experience with ranked-choice voting in San Francisco. I want to be candid. It’s mixed. The greatest benefit is that the candidates do not attack each other because they know that they need to avoid offending the people who would rank them second or third. Now, that I see as a real benefit because the level of discourse relates more to the issues and less to personal attacks. How do you see that playing out in a presidential primary?

Adam Eichen: Well, I want to return to that point as well, because I think that I personally am really interested in the kind of the failures of representation in the New Hampshire primary. But Peter, you know me. I’m a democracy wonk. This is what I do for a living, but I think actually probably the most beneficial aspect of putting ranked-choice voting in the presidential primary is it would de-incentivize in-fighting. It would de-incentivize people from airing negative attacks, because as you said, second and third choices matter. That you want to appeal to people’s bases because you may not be their first choice, but maybe you’re going to be their second choice.

  That’s incredibly important, and you do see that across the country in places and municipalities that have used ranked-choice voting, that the discourse in our presidential primary would change. We’re pretty sure of that. Then instead of leaving the primaries bruised, parties would leave it strengthened. I think everyone can get behind that because primaries are good. There’s this idea that people are skittish about a competitive primary because you don’t want to attack who could be the next presidential candidate of your party, but what this would do is it would allow for a robust competition, airing out of ideas, real debate, but also make it clean and positive and constructive instead of destructive.

  I think that would happen in the presidential primary, which is why again, we’ve got to have this in place for 2020 in such a crowded primary because the incentive in such a crowded primary is going to try to stand out, to say things that are outlandish, to attack, to do whatever you can to be the top dog, whereas this would really ease that and create a much healthier primary. I’ll let you follow up if you want to talk more about San Francisco’s experience.

Peter B. Collins: What I want to be very clear about here is that my next comment doesn’t really apply to the proposed use of RCV in a primary, but my biggest gripe is that it displaces or removes the potential for a one-on-one runoff race between the top two placing candidates. Last year, we had four candidates running for mayor of San Francisco. I realized that trying to define people by how progressive they are seems silly to people outside San Francisco, but trust me, London Breed who ultimately prevailed was the most centrist and most aligned with corporate interests of the four people running, and she only got about 38% of the first choice votes in that first round.

  The progressive vote actually was greater than the vote that she got, but it was split between two candidates. Also, it took almost three weeks for the count to reveal the ultimate outcome. That doesn’t really bother me, but it certainly distresses the corporate media, which loves to declare a winner on election night. Again, I don’t have a problem frustrating them there. But had we had a one-on-one runoff, there is a good possibility that Mark Leno, who is a long time elected official in San Francisco and served in both houses of the legislature in Sacramento representing the city, he had much more experience than the ultimate winner London Breed.

  Yet, he basically was squeezed out. Now, you could also say that the composition of the candidate pool was more of a factor than the mechanism of ranked-choice voting, and that’s something that could be debated. Again, my issue is that I would like to have seen a one-on-one runoff following the first round that, again, the winning candidate got only 38% of the vote.

Adam Eichen: I understand that. I mean, so my opinion about runoffs is I’m a little wary of them, and I’ll tell you why. Georgia was a great example of what happens in a certain runoff situation, where you have the election in November and then you have a runoff in December. What you saw in Georgia, because no one got a majority, I believe, in the secretary of state’s race, it went to a runoff there, but you also saw a very, very sharp decline in voter turnout in December. For a lot of low or down ballot races, you see a very sharp decline because the media covers it less. People are less attuned that there is an election in December.

  I think that there are, for me, I have some concerns about runoffs a month later because there’s not this environment of, “Well, this is election day.”

Peter B. Collins: Well, Adam, that is a very substantive point. I can see that, that the runoffs never do attract the same level of turnout and participation, and also, it occurs in a very short time window. And typically, people just hunker down and support the person that they had voted for in the what became a primary.

Adam Eichen: Right. No, I mean, it’s very true. One of the reasons why for the presidential election, I’m more optimistic in terms of the vote choices and the ranking translating into the truest expression of voters’ desires for what kind of candidate they want to elect. And Peter, you and I were talking about this before the show, is that because on municipal elections, there’s just low information. People aren’t quite as clear about what the ideological differences between candidates are. There’s a reason why municipal elections often have such low voter turnout.

  That’s because most people just don’t know enough to let alone vote for one candidate, let alone rank them according to how close they are in terms of ideological belief with oneself. But in the presidential primary, I see such potential for the truest expression of voter preference because the media is going to be covering the differences between everyone in the primary every single day, every single hour. They’re going to be inspecting to the 10th degree how different they are and what issues, who stands for what. And so I think in a presidential primary, especially New Hampshire, which is going to be the first primary in the nation, the first in the nation primary, voters are going to have a really good sense of their top three, top five candidates.

  I think that the results there are going to actually be representative, that you won’t see some of the downsides of implementing it on a municipal level, when doing it on a real national scale where the media is in New Hampshire. They have people stationed there to cover it every single day. That’s exciting. Another thing that I want to say, the reason why I think I’m personally so excited about taking on this campaign is because I think if New Hampshire were to decide to use ranked-choice voting in the presidential primaries, every single news outlet when covering the New Hampshire primary would have to include a section on what ranked-choice voting means.

Peter B. Collins: Yes, they would.

Adam Eichen: It would be the greatest benefit to the democracy movement as it pertains to alternate ways to count votes in terms of ranked-choice voting, et cetera. Because people would recognize that there are better ways to make sure voter preferences are taken into account. This would be an amazing opportunity to show Americans across the country, not just in New Hampshire, that our democracy can get better and citizens are working to make sure it happens. That’s exciting to me.

Peter B. Collins: Adam, the one other thing I would add from our experience in San Francisco is that we don’t have full public financing, but there is a matching program, and it does help candidates who don’t have the big corporate connection or have not prostituted themselves to raise money in order to get elected, and so it does, I think, attract people who would otherwise choose not to run to take a risk and to put themselves out there. I think that we all are enriched when there are more people participating and more voices with different perspectives being presented.

Adam Eichen: Absolutely. I mean, look, this is no substitute for public financing or ensuring that everybody has the right to vote and everyone is registered. I mean, this is just one additional tool that we can use to fix our democracy. It’s exciting though, in New Hampshire right now, they are considering a public financing program of democracy dollars where every residents of Maine or every citizen of Maine would be given four $25 vouchers to give to a candidate that they support for executive council or governor. Hopefully, that would expand to other races in the state Senate and State House. That’s exciting.

Peter B. Collins: Wow. I hadn’t heard of that concept before, Adam. That’s very interesting.

Adam Eichen: It’s what they use in Seattle. In the municipal elections in Seattle in 2017, it was the very first time they used these democracy dollars. It’s very exciting because then you don’t have to actually contribute out of pocket for a matching system, for example. It’s basically every voter gets a certain amount of money and they can give it to that candidate to show grassroots support.

Peter B. Collins: In Seattle, they didn’t let Amazon or Groupon handle the distribution of the coupons, did they?

Adam Eichen: No. No. No. No. I mean, look, Peter, this is the exciting thing, and you and I have talked about this many times. This is what Frances Moore Lappe and I were talking in our book Daring Democracy, that there is really a growing democracy movement, that people across the country are stepping up and fighting to fix our democracy. Whether it’s for ranked-choice voting or public financing or voting rights, Americans are getting it across all political backgrounds and that’s incredibly exciting. Just the work in New Hampshire right now, I mean, for those who are interested in looking at the bill, it’s house bill 728.

  It’s a really, really fascinating bill because the bill we’re working on, Peter, would also apply to state and federal elections too. It’s an omnibus legislation, but I will say that the strategy here is a little tough because what we’re asking is that New Hampshire agree to run the presidential primary using ranked-choice voting. But ultimately when it comes to how to allocate delegates, it’s up to the parties. There’s going to be a second problem strategy here that if we win in New Hampshire, we are going to then have to pressure the DNC and RNC to agree to use the data that New Hampshire voters are providing them. So this is going to take a movement.

Peter B. Collins: In the case of the DNC, it was quite a battle by the progressives and the rear guard Sanders supporters to push for the changes to prevent the super delegates from a repeat of 2016, where they essentially blocked a competitive convention. They determined in advance that they were going to solidify around the Clinton campaign. In fact, on the night before the California primary, the AP declared that Clinton had already won because they had pulled the super delegates and they were declaring her the winner, and it took the wind out of Sanders’ sales in California. I’m not trying to argue that he would have won, but I think the outcome would have been a good deal closer if things had been different.

  So the DNC has agreed that super delegates will not vote on the first ballot. I think that’s an improvement, but when we introduced the unpredictability of the outcome of ranked-choice voting, we may need to take another look and maybe those super delegates need to take a powder on the first two ballots at the convention.

Adam Eichen: Well, I will say, Peter, that I think that ranked-choice voting would make it more likely that a candidate could win on the first ballot, because I think the biggest threat right now is that candidates may stay in for a very long time, and there may be a lot more delegate splitting. Whereas this would allow people to potentially gain more delegates in a more representative way, which is exciting. I mean, again, I think this is a fair compromise, a very good compromise. I will say that I know there’s a lot of questions about how much the DNC is in favor of certain democracy or forms and all that, but Tom Perez is a big supporter of ranked-choice voting.

  He went down in 2018 to Memphis, Tennessee, where the politicians there had put on the ballot an effort to repeal their ranked-choice voting system. He stood with the activists down there to make sure that the voters kept that system. We are actually encouraged that potentially, the DNC might be willing to agree to allocate delegates using ranked-choice voting, because I think, again, this benefits the party. I think both parties want a primary in which the incentive is to be constructive instead of destructive. I think we can all get around that. We can all get support in support of that.

Peter B. Collins: Adam, have any of the early announced Democratic candidates been briefed on this proposal and are any expressing interest?

Adam Eichen: We are currently working on that right now. Hopefully, I can send you an update as we get them, but I’m looking forward to them. I think that indeed, we will get some folks on board here because, again, I think that even candidates don’t want to spend their time being negative, because, again, I mean, think about who’s running. A lot of these people are friends. I don’t think that they want to have to go out there and attack one another. I think that we want a situation in which our politics is much more constructive.

Peter B. Collins: Adam, before we wrap up, I wanted to get your take on the democratic initiative in the now democratic majority house, the House Bill 1, which is a package of various election and process reforms. Part of my issue with it is that it can’t pass the Senate at this point, so it really is an exercise in agenda setting. That said, I think it’s an important agenda, so if you could thumbnail some of the key elements of House Bill 1 and what you think the prospects are for implementing them at some point in the future.

Adam Eichen: My take on House Bill 1 is really that I feel incredibly spoiled, because I got into this democracy work about five years ago, and there are folks who have been fighting in the trenches for the past 40 years dreaming that one day congress would vote on let alone have a majority of cosponsors on a bill like H.R. 1. I feel like I got into this movement at the right time, and I’m incredibly fortunate, I’ll say that. But I mean, this bill is truly the omnibus that those who have been fighting for democracy have dreamed of. I mean, it attacks almost all of the shortcomings in our democracy today.

  It has a public financing for congressional elections provision. It would limit certain and close loopholes in terms of our campaign finance laws. It would enact things like automatic voter registration and same day registration nationwide. That would increase the number of people who are registered to vote. It would address congressional or partisan gerrymandering of congressional elections. This bill really goes above and beyond on the major holes in our democracy. It’s truly an outstanding bill. To say it’s an omnibus is almost an understatement. It’s about 600 pages long, and it’s very well written.

  It would end felon disenfranchisement. This is the bill that we have all been waiting for. To your points about whether or not it’s a messaging provision, in some respects, sure. Because it’s never going to pass the Senate, and there’s only one reason for that. That’s the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell. He’s already pledged. I think, the day after the Democrats introduced it or announced it, he said, “There’s no way this is getting a vote.”

Peter B. Collins: He considers the idea of declaring election day a holiday or holding the election on a holiday so that more people can participate, some sort of a sneaky democratic scheme. He also railed that it would be so expensive because federal employees would get an additional holiday. There’s an easy resolution to that by combining veteran’s day and election day in the years we have an election. But obviously, and I would add that both parties are resistant to reform and change because the campaign finance system, the gerrymandering system and all the other defects of our system got them elected, and so they’re sitting there saying, “Well, I know it’s broke, but if I fix it, will I still have my seat?”

Adam Eichen: Right, but I will say this, Peter, that again, I’ve been thinking a lot about the results in 2018 in terms of these ballot initiatives. I don’t think that rank and file Republican politicians are going to be very happy to oppose this. I think Mitch McConnell is putting his foot down, but there was a big campaign finance and gerrymandering ballot initiative in Missouri. There was an effort to end gerrymandering in Utah, in Colorado, in Michigan. In Michigan, there was also a voting rights package that passed. This is my favorite thing. In Florida, they ended felon disenfranchisement that for the last hundred years, if you were convicted of a felony, you lost the right to vote forever unless pardoned by the governor or through a clemency board.

  People got together and by over 60%, they passed a constitutional amendment to the Florida constitution to end felon disenfranchisement or to end the ban on voting for those convicted of felony with the exception of those who committed sexual assaults or murder. If you look at it, who else won in Florida in that election? Well, DeSantis and Rick Scott both won. If you actually look into the demographic data of who voted to expand the franchise, the Republican voters voted for it too.

Peter B. Collins: Yeah, that’s interesting.

Adam Eichen: In fact, almost every single county in Florida, a majority of voters voted for Amendment 4 to restore the right to vote for those convicted of felony.

Peter B. Collins: You may have read the 600 pages of H.R. 1, but I’ll confess, I haven’t gotten around to it yet. I have read news accounts that it includes a call for hand- counted paper ballots, and the Georgia governor’s race where there were key efforts and they were successful at voter suppression, blocking the registration of those who were known to be African Americans, therefore likely to vote for Stacey Abrams. And there were many other anomalies that made a recount meaningless because all you do is run the same numbers that you had before.

  In states where they continue to rely on these unverifiable electronic voting machines, we need to see a major change. I believe that’s enshrined in H.R. 1.

Adam Eichen: I mean, the key from my perspective, the key for making sure our elections are secure is really twofold. That’s paper ballots and something called risk limiting post-election audits. I know that that’s the step board. I have to admit to you, I haven’t read the entire bill as much as I would have liked to. There’s too much going on right now, but …

Peter B. Collins: You’re too honest, Adam, but that’s okay.

Adam Eichen: … but election security provisions are in H.R. 1 too. I mean, again, as I was saying, this really is an omnibus bill. It may not pass this legislative session, but as it moves forward, we’re going to have a record of everyone in the house who voted for it. Hopefully we get a vote in the Senate and hopefully we’re building the nationwide movement and to draw awareness to this to potentially get it passed in 2020 or 2022. It’s going to be a long road, but … Big changes don’t happen overnight. That’s the mindset here is that this is a building blocks to have a better democracy, and we’re getting there.

Peter B. Collins: Adam, for our listeners, what’s the best resource to get more information on the proposal for ranked-choice voting in the presidential primaries.

Adam Eichen: Well, so we post all of the articles and all the information on the Equal Citizens website. That’s, and there’s a little tab that you can click on about the campaign for ranked-choice voting in the presidential primaries. Hopefully we’ll have much more to say about it as the days progress. We’re going to continue this campaign until hopefully it passes.

Peter B. Collins: Adam Eichen, thank you very much for joining me today and thanks for your enthusiasm for reform of democracy here in the US.

Adam Eichen: Peter, thank you so much for having me. Talk to you soon.

Peter B. Collins: Thanks for listening to this WhoWhatWhypodcast featuring Adam Eichen of Equal Citizens. Send your comments to Peter at If you have the spare change, be sure to support the investigative journalism work here at WhoWhatWhy.


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