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Our View: 'Final Five voting' merits support in Wisconsin

Our View: 'Final Five voting' merits support in Wisconsin

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“In American politics, winning isn’t winning unless the other side is losing, and losing badly. This shouldn’t be. And it doesn’t have to be.” — U.S. Reps. Mike Gallagher, Republican from Green Bay, and Chrissy Houlahan, Democrat from Pennsylvania, in their forward to the book: “The Politics Industry: How Political Innovation Can Break Partisan Gridlock and Save Our Democracy.”

The problem in American politics isn’t that the other side is losing.

The problem is that the voters are losing. Solution-based legislation is losing. Good governance is losing. Democracy is losing. Who is winning? Special-interest groups that fund the extremes and count on the gridlock of status quo to paralyze responsible governance.

In their book, “The Politics Industry,” Katherine M. Gehl and Michael E. Porter argue that – for the sake of true democracy – it’s time for voters to change the rules.

Thankfully, two state senators – Republican Dale Kooyenga and Democrat Jeff Smith — and two state representatives — Democrat Daniel Reimer and Republican Tony Kurtz — circulated a bill last month to advance a change of rules for federal elections in Wisconsin — and we fully support it.

The two-step concept calls for single-ballot primaries followed by general elections that provide an instant runoff to assure the winner actually has a majority. One of the key causes of gridlock is the politically run primary system of elections.

As we’ve seen too often in Wisconsin, legislators are often punished by their own party for supporting solution-based, bipartisan initiatives. That means the political parties and special interests will keep legislators in line with the threat of a political opponent from the political extreme of the party. Somehow, they have turned “primaried” into a verb. That may serve party leadership, but it clearly doesn’t serve voters who want bipartisan solutions.

As political science emeritus Joe Heim of the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse has long argued, it reduces true competition for votes and puts the parties in control. How do we change the rules and break the party grip? The proposed legislation calls for Final Five voting: The combination of top-five primaries and Ranked Choice Voting in general elections.

Here’s how the plan would work:

Instead of voting for one party or the other in the primary, you would vote in a single-ballot primary. The top five vote-getters would proceed to the general election. Instead of one finalist per party, for example, that final five could include two Republicans, two Democrats and one independent — meaning more competition for votes.

In the general election, voters would rank those candidates one through five under a process called Ranked Choice Voting.

If the top vote-getter receives more than 50 percent as the Number 1 preference, that person is elected.

But if no candidate receives a majority as the first preference, the person who comes in fifth is thrown out of the pool under Ranked Choice Voting. The ballots that listed the eliminated candidate as the top choice are redistributed counting the second preference.

Those second-place votes will help determine the person elected from the remaining four candidates — and it’s certainly possible that the person in third place among top-preference votes would receive enough votes as second choice to leap to the top as election winner.

If enacted, this would change the rules for electing those running for federal office from Wisconsin — for Congress, for instance.

Part of the appeal would be for candidates to run a positive campaign for voter support instead of attacking opponents.

We’re sick of hired guns from other parts of the country coming here to run nasty campaigns when they wouldn’t know the Mississippi River from Coon Creek. The voting process has been enacted in Alaska and is being considered in other states, including Wisconsin.

The initiative has the support of LeaderEthics-Wisconsin.

“We believe this is a serious effort, designed to curtail some of the hyper-partisanship we are seeing in politics today,” executive director Lee Rasch said. “We are encouraged that the legislation has bipartisan sponsorship.” The proposal does not tackle the troublesome influence of money in political campaigns, but as Rasch says, this initiative is a good first step toward returning control to voters.

Democracy Found, a Wisconsin-based initiative committed to revitalizing democracy, is promoting the legislation. You can learn more at


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