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| Zachary Roth | Portsmouth Herald |

With U.S. democracy plagued by extremism, polarization, and a growing disconnect between voters and lawmakers, a set of reforms that could dramatically upend how Americans vote is gaining momentum at surprising speed in Western states.

Ranked choice voting, which asks voters to rank multiple candidates in order of preference, has seen its profile steadily expand since 2016, when Maine became the first state to adopt it. But increasingly, RCV is being paired with a new system for primaries known as Final Five – or in some cases, Final Four – that advances multiple candidates, regardless of party, to the general election.

As close to a silver bullet as you can come.

Alaska, the only state currently using RCV-plus-Final Four or Final-Five, appears to be seeing some benefits to its political culture already: After years of partisan rancor, both legislative chambers are now controlled by bipartisan majorities eager to find common ground and respond to the needs of voters, say lawmakers in the state who have embraced the new system. A slew of other states could soon follow in Alaska’s footsteps.

Katherine Gehl, the founder of the Institute for Political Innovation, and the designer of the Final Four/Five system, calls RCV-plus-Final-Five “transformational.”

“There’s a huge pressure on reformers to say, this is not a silver bullet,” said Gehl. “And OK, I get that.” But, she added, “I think it’s as close to a silver bullet as you can come.”

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