Delegating Democracy

Rob Richie and Adam Fogel // Published April 3, 2008


Political parties have broad authority over how they conduct their nomination procedures, including in primary elections administered by the state. Parties are private associations with protections under the first amendment that enable them to go beyond state and federal laws in expanding suffrage, increasing participation and allowing for more democratic contests. With this flexibility and freedom, parties have great opportunities to review and improve their election systems by incorporating reforms that give more voters an equal voice and an equal vote. From representative delegate allocation regimes to ranked choice voting and expanded suffrage rights, a political party’s nomination process can be a true laboratory of democracy. We can start with elections for the president, although parties ultimately could explore reforms even more daringly in state and local elections in areas such as campaign finance.