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General FAQs

Which Political Innovations do you support?​

There are many good and desperately needed political reforms and political reform organizations.  Veterans for Political Innovation (VPI) is laser-focused on only three reforms:

  1. Open (single ballot) primary elections—where all candidates compete on one ballot in the primary election regardless of party affiliation.
  2. Voting innovations such as ranked-choice voting, approval voting or other alternatives to our current, plurality (a/k/a “first past the post) voting.
  3. “Final-Five Voting” — a powerful combination of a top-5, single ballot primary and a general election that uses a ranked-choice ballot and, if needed, a series of “instant runoffs” to choose a majority winner.

VPI is focused exclusively on these three innovations because we believe they have the potential to make the biggest positive impact on our political system, by fundamentally changing election incentives, and they are also the most achievable and least partisan reforms.

What about other needed reforms such as: independent redistricting (gerrymandering), money in politics, voter access, election integrity, National Popular Vote, ethics and lobbying reforms, etc?

Once again, our political system has become toxic and dysfunctional and it is in need of major reform.  VPI is generally supportive of other reform efforts that make our system more ethical and effective for everyone. However, VPI will only work in support of the three election innovations outlined above.

Why veterans?

  • 49% of veterans self identify as independent or unaffiliated voters.
  • 32% of veterans work in public service or with charitable organizations compared to 22% of non-veterans. Veterans are service oriented and ready for a meaningful mission.
  • A 2021 Gallup Poll found that 69% of the public still has “quite a lot, or a great deal” of trust in Veterans.  Whereas, only 12% of those polled had “quite a lot or a great deal of trust” in Congress.

    So, VPI’s big idea is: inspiring and educating one of America’s most-trusted institutions, veterans, to mobilize and advocate for election innovations that will help repair some of America’s least-trusted institutions (the political system and Congress).

Will these reforms benefit one Party over the other?

No, absolutely not. The reforms VPI champions are not about picking winners or losers and they will not benefit (or hurt) either party.  These reforms will infuse our elections with healthy competition, giving voters more choice, elevating more candidate voices and making sure every single vote counts.

In every other industry, customers demand healthy competition and a variety of choices (fast food, ketchup, cars, etc).  “We the people,” American voters, are the customers in our representative democracy and we demand more choice.  Political parties (both major and minor parties) will continue to play an important role in the new Final-Five Voting, election model that VPI champions.

Single ballot open primaries, with the top four or five candidates advancing to the November General Election means voters will have at least four viable candidates to choose from and will no longer be stuck voting for the “lesser of two evils.”  In this new, innovative election system, the candidate with the best ideas and the broadest support will win.

Who are your funders?

Any dark money? Nope. Not one. Single. Penny.

Veterans for Political Innovation is a nonpartisan, national 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization. VPI will NEVER endorse any candidates for public office.  VPI does lobby for our targeted election innovations within IRS guidelines.  However, VPI’s primary mission is mobilizing veterans and supporters as election innovation advocates; that means, educating, training, and empowering our volunteers to effectively communicate our mission, vision and values and affect real systematic change in the states where they live.

Who works for Veterans for Political Innovation? Our national staff is:

  • Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and co-founder, Todd Connor
  • Chief Operations Officer (COO) and founder, Eric Bronner
  • Chief of Staff (CoS) and co-founder, Dan Biga
  • Director of Brand, Jamison Aweau

FINAL FIVE VOTING FAQs

What is Final Five Voting?

A combination of a Top-Five Open Primary and a Ranked Choice General Election.

Why do Veterans Care?

Close to 50% of military veterans are registered independents and are functionally excluded from participating in closed primaries where most elections are decided.  Military veterans are also deeply concerned about the crippling polarization that, regardless of your political views, clearly has made the political system ineffective.  Many southern states use ranked choice voting for their military ballots, and military veterans and democracy experts that have been deployed abroad know that other healthier democracies use different systems for their elections.

What is Ranked Choice Voting / Instant Runoff Election?

A simple change to the ballot that allows voters to rank candidates in order of choice. Those rankings ensure that as many voters as possible will help elect a candidate they support. There’s no longer a need to vote for the lesser of two evils. Candidates must win with majority support.

How It Works | Simple. Fair. Effective.

  • In most places, primaries will remain the same except their will be one, single ballot for everyone and five candidates will advance to the general election.
  • In the general election, you can still vote for only one candidate as you currently do or you can rank candidates in order of preference.
  • If a candidate wins a majority (over 50%) among the first-choice votes, that candidate is the winner.
  • If no candidate gets 50.1%, or more, the winning candidate is determined by ranked choice voting. 
  • Ranked choice voting ensures that the winner is supported by more voters than any other candidate.

How It Works | Simple. Fair. Effective.

Half as many voters participate in primaries. Special interests have more influence in the primary. Yet, viable candidates get eliminated in the primary.

Too many candidates can cause voters to feel confused, overwhelmed, or discouraged from completing their rankings. Five is an ideal number to optimize competition without overwhelming voters.

Why Advance Five Candidates?

This answer is more practical than academic. Most simply, five is a good balance between the competing interests, which include:

  1. Expanding voter choice,
  2. Limiting the field so voters and the media can focus enough attention on every candidate,
  3. Expanding the field so that more candidates can be heard,
  4. Limiting the field to reduce long and confusing general election ballots, 
  5. Limiting the field so that special interests can’t “game” the ballot by staking the field, and
  6. Expanding the field so that marginalized or under-funded candidates can make it to November.

OPEN PRIMARIES FAQs

What is an Open Primary?

Sometimes referred to as a “jungle primary” (in Louisiana) or a “single-ballot primary” — an open primary is the first election, in an election year, and all candidates run on one, single ballot regardless of party affiliation.  So, Republican, Democrat, Libertarian, and Green Party candidates, along with Independent candidates, would all run on one single ballot.

Will there be partisan labels on the primary election ballot?

This is up to each individual state.  However, most states that have open primaries still include partisan labels on their primary election ballot, next to the candidate’s name.

Is the Primary Election even important?

Yes, absolutely.  In 2020, 83% of the races for the United States House of Representatives were decided in the Primary Election due to a lack of real competition in the General Election.  This means that only 10% of eligible voters (those who participated in the 2020 Primary Election) elected 83% of our last Congress!

What’s the problem with a Closed Primary election?

Closed primaries are the biggest form of voter suppression in the country.  Historically, in 75% of elections, the outcome is determined in the first round of voting—the primary.  In the majority of races, once a candidate wins the primary, which under a closed primary system is limited to members of their own party, they do not face a real challenge in the November election.  This means 75% of elected officials in this country are winning office without having to communicate with voters outside their own party. 

Voters are disinterested in partisan primaries.  When you go to a nonpartisan, open primary system, you get rid of partisan primaries.  You end the “inside baseball” aspect of elections that turn so many voters off.  You have a public primary open to all and a November election between the finalists with the most support.  

Will minor (or third-party) and Independent Candidates be locked out of an Open primary system?

An open primary system allows third parties to participate in the first round and creates a level playing field for all voters and all candidates.  Candidates, regardless of party affiliation, are on the same ballot in the first round. You could have a primary ballot with multiple Democrats, Republicans, Independents, Greens, Libertarians, etc. in any given race. Independent and third party candidates and voters are no longer barred from the crucial first round. Moreover, because candidates must now compete for all voters (instead of just their party base) in order to win, this gives groups of like-minded voters a lot of leverage to win powerful policy concessions.  It’s this leverage that will catapult the third parties into political relevancy and growth.

How will Open Primaries impact voters of color?

Within a partisan political system, black and Latino voters are often taken for granted by the Democrats and ignored by the Republicans.  According to the National Association of Latino Elected Officials, more than half of Latino voters in the 2014 election reported that they hadn’t even been contacted by a single candidate, party, or community organization to ask them for their vote.

An Open Primary system opens the doors for new coalitions and candidacies that bridge the partisan divide and bring together white, black, Latino and Asian voters in new ways.

Won’t Open primaries minimize competition by allowing for same-party races and more centralized party control of candidate recruitment?

No.  The majority of election districts are dominated by one party or the other.  Under a traditional partisan system, independents and minority party voters in these districts have no say in who represents them because they are barred from participating in the only election that matters, the primary of the dominant party.  In an Open Primary system, every voter is empowered and November elections are competitive rather than predetermined affairs.  More competition in the November General Election gives voters more power to elect broadly popular, consensus-based candidates.

In an Open Primary system, won’t elected officials have to work harder to keep their seats and work extra hard to gain new seats in competitive districts?

Yes. Absolutely correct.  All politicians have to work much harder to stay in office under an Open Primary system.

RANKED CHOICE VOTING FAQs

How Would Ranked Choice Voting Improve Representative Diversity?

Including five candidates, instead of just two, in the general election guarantees that voters hear from, and the media reports on, a wider range of candidates. Further, studies have shown that more women and candidates of color actually win when using RCV.

But whether or not a candidate wins the general election, every candidate in an RCV election has an important voice and influence on the final outcome. No longer can a candidate be marginalized by the conventional political narrative or the megaphone of well-funded special interest groups. This is because candidates need to appeal to the voters of a losing candidate to win their second and third place votes.

This is one reason why RCV has also resulted in more civil campaigns and broader representation.

How does RCV work?

  • Ranked choice voting is designed to be simple for voters: rank candidates in order of choice.
  • Voters can rank as many or as few candidates as they want to. The votes are counted to ensure that as many voters as possible help to elect a candidate they support. 
  • In a single-winner election for mayor, city attorney or a city council seat, that means that ranked choice voting helps to elect a candidate with majority support.  

Learn more HERE.

Do I have to Rank all five candidates for each office?

No. A voter may rank up to five choices for each office but is not required to do so. 

If I really want my first-choice candidate to win, should I rank the candidate as my first, second and third choice?

No. Ranking a candidate more than once does not benefit the candidate. If a voter ranks one candidate as the voter’s first, second and third choice, it is the same as if the voter leaves the second or third choice blank.

Can I give candidates the same ranking?

No. If a voter gives more than one candidate the same ranking, the vote cannot be counted.

Only one candidate can represent the voter’s first, second, or third choice.

Will there be a subsequent run-off?

No, Ranked Choice Voting eliminates the need for run-off elections.

Are There More Benefits to RCV?

Yes, there are a lot of additional benefits to RCV. Learn about the Problems Solved by RCV and Additional Benefits of RCV, such as:

  • Positive and collaborative campaigning is incentivized.
  • Candidates cannot win with “scorched earth” campaigns where they demonize one single opponent.
  • Candidates are forced to run on their own problem-solving record and the most consensus-based candidate will win.

Where is RCV used/implemented?

Ranked choice voting has been adopted in several U.S. cities and states:

  • Alaska – 2020 (Statewide)
  • Berkeley, CA – 2010 (Mayor, City Council)
  • Cambridge, MA – 1941 (City Council, School Board)
  • Eastpointe, MI – 2019 (City Council)
  • Las Cruces, NM – 2018 – 2019 (City Elections)
  • Maine – 2018 (U.S. House & Senate Primary, General Elections, Statewide & State Assembly Primaries) 
  • Minneapolis, MN – 2006 (Mayor, City Council, Park Board, Tax Board)
  • New York City – 2020 (Municipal primaries)
  • Oakland, CA – 2010 (Mayor, City Council, City Attorney, City Auditor, School Director)
  • Payson, UT – 2019 (City Elections)
  • Portland, ME – 2010 (Mayor)
  • San Francisco, CA – 2002 (Mayor, City Attorney, Board of Supervisors, Sheriff, District Attorney, Treasurer, Assessor-Recorder, and Public Defender)
  • San Leandro, CA – 2010 (Mayor, City Council)
  • Santa Fe, NM – 2018 (Mayor, City Council, Municipal Judge)
  • St. Louis Park, MN – 2019 (Mayor, City Council)
  • St. Paul, MN – 2009 (Mayor, City Council)
  • Takoma Park, MD – 2006 (Mayor, City Council)
  • Telluride, CO – 2008 (Mayor)
  • Vineyard, UT – 2019 (City Elections)
  • Academy Awards Selections
  • Robert’s Rules of Order – recommended for private organization elections

RCV is used by the Democratic, Republican, Green, and Libertarian Parties in many of their central committee and other party elections, including: 

  • Alaska: All voters in Democratic primary
  • Nevada: Early voters in Democratic caucuses   
  • Hawaii: All voters in Democratic primary
  • Kansas: All voters in Democratic primary
  • Maine: All voters in state and federal elections
  • New York City: All voters in municipal primary elections
  • Virginia Republican Party used RCV to nominate Glenn Youngkin for Governor in 2021
  • Wyoming: All voters in Democratic primary

In addition:

  • RCV is used for overseas and military ballots to vote in places with runoff elections in six southern states. 
  • RCV legislation is being considered currently in 23 states.  You can see which states and elections HERE.
  • RCV is used in over 50 U.S. colleges and universities to elect student government officers. 
  • Internationally, RCV is used by every voter in six countries, including: Ireland, Australia and New Zealand, and in local elections in many more
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