Spring 2024 | Publication

Visions for Victory: Conservative Perspectives on Final Five Voting


An undeniable trend in America’s contemporary political life is the growing and widespread dissatisfaction with available electoral options. American voters increasingly take a dim and cynical view of elections as a reliable mechanism for representing their interests. In this era of realignment, uncertainty, and instability, conservatives are now reconsidering long-held policy commitments as well as the organizational tactics needed to achieve victory.

One electoral reform, Final Five Voting (FFV) – a combination of open primaries and top-five instant-runoff general elections – has made visible headway. Alaska voters adopted a close variant, “Final Four Voting,” in 2020. Similarly, Nevada voters approved a ballot initiative in favor of FFV in 2022 and will vote on whether to fully adopt it in November 2024. Further, state lawmakers in Wisconsin have debated enacting similar reforms and across the country campaigns are underway to explore the potential of electoral reforms like FFV.

Leaders, scholars, activists, and policy advocates within the big tent of the conservative movement have debated whether electoral reform accords with their priorities. Conservatives’ reception of FFV has been as varied as the conservative movement itself. Once an internal affair, the Right’s debate over FFV has recently spread to the hearing rooms of state legislatures and the op-ed pages of conservative periodicals.

Baron undertook this study to illuminate all the positions within this emergent and consequential debate to bring the discussion of FFV into the open. Informed by conversations with conservative experts, former members of Congress, advocacy and campaign professionals, and opinion leaders, this study presents the main points of contention, the underlying theoretical divides, and the political stakes of adopting FFV in state and Congressional elections.

This report is designed to inform decision-makers, analysts, and the public about how conservatives have received FFV proposals, giving full play to both its proponents and opponents to explore the varied ideological dynamics within this politically decisive constituency. While Baron advises the Institute for Political Innovation, the leading organization supporting FFV, Baron intends to foster public understanding and conversation by representing all perspectives accurately and impartially.

This document comprises the first published study of the range of conservative perspectives on FFV and electoral reform – the requisite prologue to a discussion that will unfold in the months and years to come.

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