Sep 29, 2023

How to fix our broken elections

One electoral solution could address many of our issues.

I’m Isaac Saul, and this is Tangle: an independent, nonpartisan, subscriber-supported politics newsletter that summarizes the best arguments from across the political spectrum on the news of the day.

For all the talk about how broken some parts of our democracy are, very few people are actually doing something meaningful about it. Nick Troiano is one of those people.

I first met Troiano at a conference in California last year, when we ended up being roommates for a few days before speaking on a panel together. The more I learned about his organization Unite America, and the more I got to hear his own story, the more convinced I was that he was one of the few people who had the right ideas about how to elicit meaningful change in a lasting way.

Through his work, Troiano is attempting what most people probably don't even imagine to be possible: To solve gerrymandering and political polarization. He thinks the way to do this is to address what he calls the "primary problem," which is that most primary elections are structured to put an inordinate amount of power into the hands of a very small number of voters. As a result, we get more and more extreme partisan candidates each year who represent us less and less. As Troiano puts it, roughly 8% of eligible American voters cast ballots in the primary elections that effectively decide the winners in 83% of our Congressional races.

But he has a solution — one that has already been proven and put into place, which he explains in our interview. To be frank, when I first heard Troiano’s pitch, I wasn't sold on how impactful his proposed reforms would be or whether his vision was worth getting hopeful about. But over a series of conversations we've had, and after watching the impact of his work over the last year, I’ve come to find his arguments more and more compelling — and his solutions more and more viable. 

Below, you'll find a transcription of our most recent conversation, which will be released later as a podcast and YouTube video. The conversation has been lightly edited for clarity and length.