It is positive that Evanston is considering ranked-choice voting.

But Evanston does not exist in a vacuum. Illinois politics is at the bottom of the barrel and contributes to population flight and failed systems, finances and programs at every level.

As Jarell Corley recently stated in the Tribune, “It’s time for an honest assessment of the reforms needed to change our state’s political culture.”

The partisan primary system is one reason why elections are so uncompetitive and voters have so little ability to impact on their elected leadership.

California, Washington, Nebraska, Alaska have all enacted nonpartisan primaries. And this year Nevada and Missouri voters will have a chance to do the same.

In the nonpartisan system, there are no more Democratic and Republican primaries. There is a single nonpartisan primary where all voters and all candidates participate on equal footing, and general elections are no longer an afterthought.

This is the direction the country is heading and Illinois would benefit greatly from a shift away from party-controlled elections to voter-controlled elections.

By all means explore ranked-choice voting for Evanston. But expand the conversation beyond the borders of Howard Street and Linden Avenue.

Mayor Daniel Biss, as a former state senator, could play an important role in advocating for the need for such a move for the entire state. Let’s hope he and others rise to the occasion.

John Opdycke
ETHS ’87
President, Open Primaries

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  1. As a true nonpartisan informed voter, I couldn’t agree more with this letter. People should be able to vote on the candidates and issues they chose – not be polarized by declaring one party at the potential detriment of what the party may offer on a candidate. We all can learn from each other and the more voices heard (and voted across party lines) are how real change can be effectuated.

  2. Thanks to John Opdycke for raising the issue of non-partisan primaries.
    In Democrat and Republican primaries, roughly 10% of voters, usually the more extreme Party members, decide who gets to be on the general election ballot. That means voters in a general election can choose only between extreme Party candidates. So we get a Congress of members with only Party loyalty, and no regard for the common good. No other major industrialized nation uses such an election system.
    Three states — California, Washington State, and Alaska — have chosen, by citizen initiative ballot, to replace Party primaries with non-partisan primaries. In all three cases the Parties fought tooth and nail to prevent the change. (Nebraska’s non-partisan primary applies only to its state legislature, not to Federal offices. )
    The Illinois constitution bars any meaningful citizen initiative. However, Article VII, the Home Rule amendment, gives most Illinois communities the right to decide their own election processes provided that the effects stop at their political boundaries. State senator Laura Murphy, chief sponsor of the Illinois Ranked Choice bill (IL SB 1785, Amendment 1) has said that passage of ranked choice voting in Evanston and other communities would help persuade Illinois legislators to vote for the state-wide bill. So I suggest that we in Evanston try to put ranked choice voting in place; and that everyone call their state senators and endorse the state-wide bill.
    I think Party primaries are the worst part of our electoral system. However, non-partisan primaries are not on the table in Illinois: the Parties will not give up power voluntarily, and Illinois has no citizen initiative process to take it from them. Unlike plurality voting, ranked choice voting at least gives everyone’s vote some weight in the outcome, so worth supporting.