Top Four: Election reform

march madnessMarch Madness is here, and I’m looking at my bracket. (I’ve got Florida to win it. So as of today, I’m still good). So, lets consider election reform that also aims at narrowing our top choices down to a Final Four – the Top Four primary election method. As explained at



Top Four is the ranked choice alternative to Top Two.

Top Four uses a two-round election cycle to elect a candidate to a single-seat office like mayor, governor, or senator. There is no state-sponsored “primary” election in which political parties nominate candidates, though political parties remain free to endorse candidates by any means they choose. The first round consists of a preliminary election taking place just before the general election, as close to the general election as administratively feasible. In that election, all candidates seeking the office run against each other irrespective of party preference. Every voter casts a single vote for a preferred candidate.

The general election ballot then includes the four candidates who received the most votes in the preliminary election, again irrespective of party preference. For example, a Democratic-heavy district may feature two Democrats, one Republican, and one Independent. The general election is then conducted by ranked choice voting.

The top four method has advantages over other methods, including Mark Frohnmayers Unified Primary ballot measure for approval voting. A top four system would start with a blanket primary with every eligible voter participating. The partisan primary would not be restricted to just active Democratic and Republican voters as it is now.  In the primary there would be no need to rank candidates, so the ballot wouldn’t be significantly different than it is now for voters. And, unlike the “top two’ primary system used in California and Washington, using the top four means that we are sure to have choices in November between not only the major parties , but at least one, if not two, independent or minor party candidates. This allows for the possibility of the growth of minor parties. Or even a left, or right or middle alliance of several minor parties.

In the general election, the voters would be asked to  rank their choices. However with just four to chose from, the ranked method would be easier for voters to adapt to.

Imagine a general election race using ranked voting with Democrat,  Republican, libertarian and progressive party candidates. Most voters should have little trouble choosing their first and second choices.

Winnowing down the primary to the top four and using ranked voting only in the general election would allow voters to actually vote for a candidate in the general election that is closer to their ideology, avoid a confusing ballot full of candidates to rank and assure a voter that would prefer to vote for a minor party or independent candidate  that their vote will not be wasted or cause their least favorite choice to win the election.

A key agenda item of the Independent Party of Oregon is election reform. More participation by educated voters will make a difference in the quality of our governance. With over half of all millenials not joining either major party, and with more non affiliated and minor party voters than Republicans, it’s more important than ever that we do all we can to promote a more democratic process.

Complete article from

– Rob Harris –

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