A policy activist from The Democracy Found proposed reforms for the U.S. electoral system in a talk hosted by the La Follette School of Public Affairs Thursday night.

Katherine Gehl, co-author of the report “Why Competition in the Politics Industry is Failing America: A Strategy to Reinvigorate Democracy,” discussed issues in the “political industry.”

“There is currently in our system no intersection between acting in the public interest and getting re-elected,” Gehl said.

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This systematic problem comes from our electoral system, Gehl said. The rules of the game affect how the game is played, and the political system in Washington is doing exactly what it is designed to do — which, as a consequence, fails constituents. 

Partisan control takes precedence over the legislature’s ability to govern collectively, Gehl said. Partisan elections and gerrymandering are the main devices used by the two parties to control the political industry. 

“Change has to come in our democratically elected bodies, and we have to bridge our parties and take ideas from both sides to move our country forward,” Gehl said.

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To improve our system, the U.S. must develop a healthy competition that values votes as much as it values money, Gehl said. The Democracy Found is proposing rank choice voting to replace partisan primaries as one way to elevate the importance of votes.

Rank choice voting allows voters to rank the candidates in order of preference and uses runoff elections to establish a true majority for the winning candidate rather than citizens casting their vote against their least favorite candidate.

“This gets rid of wasted vote notions and elects candidates that most broadly appeal to voters,” Gehl said.

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This won’t necessarily change who gets elected, but it will change how they will be able to act, Gehl said. Rank choice voting would eliminate the duopoly and increase voter satisfaction, she said.

To enact the reform, 26 states could pass a referendum. The other 24 states would have to pass legislation. The Democracy Found is working on passing the legislation to change Wisconsin’s voting system with activists from all across the political spectrum.