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What is ‘final five’ voting? The radical reform idea could transform U.S. politics

November 7, 2022, 11:08 AM UTC
Voting booths are set up at the Orange County Supervisor of Elections Office on the first day of early voting for the 2022 midterm general election in Orlando.
Voting booths are set up at the Orange County Supervisor of Elections Office on the first day of early voting for the 2022 midterm general election in Orlando.
Paul Hennessy—SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Good morning.

Is there a fix to what ails American politics? One day before divisive mid-term elections, it’s a question worth asking. And at last week’s meeting of the Fortune CEO Initiative, we explored one potent answer.

It’s called final five voting, and it is pioneered by Katherine Gehl, who began her journey into political reform in 2017 when she and Harvard Business School super-professor Michael Porter penned a powerful piece for Fortune comparing the U.S. political system to a duopoly—which works well for the duopolists but not for consumers…or in this case, citizens. The piece is still worth reading, here.

“Final five” attempts to solve the problem by doing two things: first, having a single, all-parties primary, in which the top five vote-getters move on to the general election. And second, allowing voters in the general election to rank all five and conducting an instant run-off where the last candidate is eliminated, and then his or her votes are allocated to the voters’ second choice candidate, and so on, until a clear winner emerges.

Here’s what Gehl had to say at the CEO Initiative last week:

85% of seats in the U.S. House were determined before the general election, because those were people who ran in safe Republican seats in red districts or safe blue seats in Democratic districts. And in the Senate, it’s over 60% of winners who were chosen by the end of the primaries. That means that people who were elected in those primaries are working for the people who voted in the primaries, and that’s only 8% of the of eligible voters in this entire country.” 

Making general elections matter, she argues, and making candidates compete for a true majority of voters, is key to making democracy work. Appearing with Gehl at last week’s event was Kent Thiry, former CEO of DaVita, who has been pushing similar reforms with some success in Colorado and elsewhere. Said Thiry:

Final five is perhaps the nuclear weapon in the arsenal that, literally, if we could snap our fingers and have that system exist throughout America, our democracy and the performance of our country would improve literally overnight. And there are a number of other arrows in the quiver that are incredibly important. Things like open primaries…and [eliminating] gerrymandering.”

Both Gehl and Thiry were able to report some recent successes in their reform efforts. But progress is slow and uncertain. Why? Because politicians from both parties, who have benefitted from the existing dysfunctional system, tend to oppose change. They argue business leaders should be champions of the reform. You should watch what they have to say, here.

More news below.


Alan Murray
@alansmurray

alan.murray@fortune.com

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AROUND THE WATERCOOLER

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Here’s what to watch for in Tuesday’s game-changing 2022 midterms, by Associated Press

This edition of CEO Daily was edited by David Meyer. 

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