Voting Reform Is Happening In Maine, Alaska and Nevada

James Allison

In Maine, Alaska and Nevada voters have become so disenchanted with their unresponsive legislatures that they have voted in citizen referenda for major election reforms involving open primaries and rank-choice ballots.  

These reforms would replace partisan primaries with open primaries where anyone can run, with or without the sponsorship of any political party. The top four or five vote getters would go on to the final election in the fall, where each voter casts a rank-choice ballot.  

If on the first ballot count your first-choice candidate comes in last, that candidate falls out and your second-choice candidate moves up to become  your first choice on the next ballot count. And these instant-runoffs continue until some candidate receives most of the first-place votes. You can’t win with a mere plurality—as often happens now. No, you have to have a majority.  So, the winner might not be your first choice, but might be your second or third, for example. And it’s the voters who choose their representatives—not some political party.

Maine and Alaska have already conducted state-wide elections that way, with great success. Nevada will probably follow in 2026.

In Indiana “citizen” referenda are initiated by the state legislature. So the problem for Hoosiers is to find legislators willing to draft or support  enabling legislation for the adoption of open primaries and rank-choice final elections. Support for such reform can probably be found among independents and moderate Republicans as well as Democrats—all voters who feel their votes don’t matter.