Please click on the photo above or this link for the 5-minute video of my testimony in favor of Final Five – a measure that is being considered by voters in Nevada and legislators in Wisconsin – and we believe can be a model in many states. We also include the transcript below in this blog.
Many Wisconsinites spoke in favor of Final Five, while many out-of-state special interests flew to the state or connected by Zoom to make comments against Final Five – which is usually part of a fundraising strategy to send out “clickbait” to tell donors they are fighting “ranked choice voting” and get conservatives to give them donations that might otherwise go to conservative candidates running for office.
However, there were also a few Wisconsinite speakers who were concerned Final Five is like other ranked choice voting systems, who I was able to catch in the halls after the testimony and were surprised to learn that the Soros-backed Governor and US Senator led the charge to try to STOP the similar Final Five measure in Nevada – a move voters luckily rejected by approving Final 5 and defeating the Democratic Governor.
Hundreds Attend 8-Hour Senate Elections Committee Hearing
The Shared Revenue, Elections, and Consumer Protection Committee met on Tuesday, December 12, with almost all eight hours spent hearing testimony on two bills.
Many Wisconsinites turned out to raise objections to a proposed “Monday open” bill (SB 685) that would start processing ballots the day before the election. While this bill was not our focus, we did have many friends both in attendance and who contacted me separately with the biggest concern that it appeared there was no requirement for Republican and Democratic observers to be in place to witness the opening of ballots – an issue I had to fight as far back as my first campaigns in Virginia in the 1980s over ballots being opened in back rooms.
The second measure was Senate Bill 528, the Final Five bill, on which Take Back Our Republic Action is registered to lobby in support. While we have registered to lobby in many states in the past, including leading the successful passage of the military overseas instant runoff bill in Georgia, and in New Mexico where we were able to get, (so far unenforced) language in New Mexico stopping ActBlue’s process of processing unverified donors, this and a companion bill are the only bills we are currently registered to support.
The most glaring difference in the testimony on the two bills was that, while almost everyone testifying on the Monday open bill was from Wisconsin, when the committee turned to the Final Five bill, almost everyone testifying against the bill was from out-of-state while almost everyone testifying in favor of the bill was from Wisconsin – something I added to my prepared remarks as reflected in the transcript below.
As you will see if you watch all the testimony, the out-of-state attacks were mainly focused on things they don’t like about the main ranked choice voting systems used elsewhere and had little to do with the Final Five proposals for Nevada and Wisconsin. In most cases lacking any real arguments they argued the bill must be bad because liberals donated to it – quite a stretch since the leftwing political machine of the late Harry Reid led the liberal attempt to stop Final Five and even get it off the ballot.
The other attack was that some legislators who have been at least open to discussing Final Five have received contributions from groups who support Final Five. Obviously, groups and people who make contributions to candidates or nonprofits give money to those they believe would at least consider supporting their issues, but the groups who flew to Wisconsin to speak against Final Five have much larger budgets then the Wisconsin-based group supporting Final Five which they attacked.
In the hallway between testimonies, I was able to catch a few Wisconsinites who did speak against Final Five. Apparently some had been told our effort to pass Final Five was part of an overall effort to also get rid of the Electoral College, another completely false attack since we have campaigned strongly AGAINST getting rid of the Electoral College (for example, click on my piece in the Hill, “Voters shouldn’t be fooled by push for National Popular Vote”)
With that as background, we hope you will listen to (or read below) this 5-minute testimony and go to www.wiseye.org for the rest of the pro and con debate.
Prepared Testimony on SB 528
(similar but not verbatim of remarks delivered with 5-minute maximum)
Thank you Chair Knodl:
My name is John Pudner, and I am President of Take Back Our Republic Action which registered to lobby in favor of (SB 528). We are Wisconsin-based and I believe me and all the Wisconsinites who testified in favor of (Final Five) are appreciative of all of the out-of-state speakers who came today to oppose Final Five – I thought for a while they were all from out-of-state.
(Note: the italics was not in my prepared remarks, but was added after the parade of out-of-state special interests who testified against the bill before my turn to speak).
In the interest of time, please note we posted a 70-minute presentation with pro and con arguments and a great give and take we had in Appleton (WI) recently (regarding Final Five) that is on our website. That presentation was the 47th time this year I’ve been to a Wisconsin event of local conservatives in this state and talked about Final Five and election integrity. Until a couple of years ago I had never discussed Final Five in my speeches, or on Fox News or in what I wrote for NewsMax.
That’s because three years ago someone in Katherine Gehl's office who had heard me on the air called me to see if I supported Final Five. I told them no and assumed that was the last conversation I'd have on the topic.
I always evaluate proposals as a number cruncher - Fox News called me Mr. Moneyball, and for better or worse ESPN compared me to Nate Silver - but I crunch numbers with one philosophy - I want conservative candidates to win unless liberals actually get a majority of votes. That’s my criteria. .
As I crunched numbers I started to see a disturbing trend: elections were being won not based on turning out a majority of voters, but as a function of which candidates could be kept off the ballot or added on a ballot and campaigned for as spoilers.
As I crunched numbers, I realized the key to the election here was Kanye West and the Green Party candidate NOT being on the ballot so the third, fourth and fifth place candidates were the Constitution party, Libertarian party and Pro-life Solidarity party, all conservatives.
In short, of the votes counted, 28,000 more conservative votes were cast and a liberal won by 20,000. This could go the other way in another race.
Winning with a minority of votes cast is not the way it’s supposed to work.
That’s when it dawned on me that the Final Five idea would actually fix this. I started adding the issue to my speeches. I called back the person I'd kind of blown off, and shocked them by telling them I’d crunched the numbers and actually agreed with them.
(In order to stick to 5-minutes, the following was deleted from my actual spoken remarks but is important: Then a second factor hit as out-of-state liberals started spending millions of dollars in primaries to keep the Republican who their polling showed might beat them off the final ballot. In Illinois Governor Pritzker spent $20 million in the Republican primary to pick his opponent, and out-of-state liberals spent millions to keep Judge Dorow from being on the final ballot. Now I realized the Final Five issue I had rejected fixed two major problems.).
The out-of-state attacks today have mainly been on ranked choice voting. In the interest of time, I will leave behind with you today a comparison of traditional ranked choice voting - which we oppose - and Final Five, completely different systems I believe. I will leave this comparison behind for the committee, and anywhere else in attendance who would like a copy..(handout appears at the bottom of this blog).
We get around the state and what I find is that most conservatives will say they don’t like Final Five because they don’t like any ranked choice voting. However, by the end of these meetings - and you will see this in various recordings on www.takebackaction.org - there is a give and take and some come away on board with Final Five.
Because we run call centers and a lot of polls all over the country we decided to poll Wisconsin Republican primary voters. We were very surprised that only 20 percent had heard of Final Five, but of the almost 1000 we polled, a pretty good sample size with a margin of error of only 4 percent, 50% of Republican Primary voters supported Final Five, 30-some percent opposed it and the rest were undecided. So we found pretty wide support once we got passed the smaller meeting group.
Because I've provided a link with 70 minutes of detailed back-and-forth plus the handout, I want to conclude by focusing on just a few highlights I believe are important for this discussion.
Highlight Number One
Some people assume that when a candidate is eliminated in any kind of runoff, the votes transfer to a moderate. That's often not the case. The 12 million Bernie Sanders in 2016 who switched to Trump were a key to his election. The seven Southern states as well as South Dakota that use traditional runoffs have not elected many moderates, they elect some of the most conservative officials in the world.
Highlight Number Two
Until we have this system, Republicans will spend all their money straight through August attacking and damaging each other, while outside liberals will spend money attacking whichever Republican they think could beat them. Under Final Five, Republicans and Democrats can go after each other all year to give voters a real choice.
Finally, Highlight Number Three, Alaska.
And finally Alaska. I want to point out some of the misconceptions there.
Alaska is hit by conservatives with the charge, “You elected a moderate in Lisa Murkowski under this system.” Murkowski ran under a traditional system 12 years earlier, was beaten in a Republican primary, and then won a WRITE IN campaign for US Senate. Murkowski wins even if she is not on the ballot.
Sarah Palin had a 60 percent unfavorable. I will close by saying the night I was with Dave Brat after we had just stunned the majority leader Eric Cantor, Steve Bannon called me to say he thought Trump or Palin could win using the same playbook we had just used to beat the Majority Leader. I told Bannon Sarah Palin would be a great RNC chair, but she had a 60 percent unfavorable, she will never win another seat. A candidate who runs with a 60 percent unfavorable is never going to win under any system. With that I am happy to take any questions. Thank you.
(Below is the handout given to both legislators and those in attendance)
Take Back Our Republic - Comparison of Final Five (right, red) to other Ranked Choice Voting (blue, left)
(Updated December 12, 2023 for Committee Hearing on Final Five). We appreciate the chance to make comments regarding the support of Take Back Our Republic Action for SB528. In the interest of time, we also call your attention to www.takebackaction.org for the 70-minute audio of a presentation and cases made both in favor and opposed to Final Five.
This document focuses on one specific issue, the ways in which we believe Final Five Voting is different from other Ranked Choice Voting systems, which we oppose.
Final Five Voting and Ranked Choice Voting do use similar general election procedures. But Final Five Voting likely eliminates the practice of out-of-state groups spending money in a Republican primary to keep the Republican most likely to win off the ballot. Final Five voting also is simpler, less susceptible to opposition-funded “spoiler” candidates that dilute the Republican vote in many states to let Democrats win with a minority – something that could be done in reverse in a heavily Democratic state.
Many conservatives oppose Ranked Choice Voting, but their top criticisms do not apply to Final Five.
Ranked Choice Voting Criticism
Final Five Reality
Designed to Beat Republicans: The first major statewide Ranked Choice voting system was designed, in part, to defeat a Republican Governor in Maine. Paul LePage won two elections – with 37.6% in 2010 and 48.2% in 2014 – because Independent Eliot Cutler got substantial support in each race. Many liberal donors were asked to fund this proposal specifically to defeat the Republican Governor.
Designed to Give Voters Back Their Power: Final Five is a system designed and supported by Wisconsinites who saw how dysfunctional DC is and wanted to realign incentives to give greater accountability to voters. Final Five was designed to solve problems, while Ranked Choice Voting has been used to help Democrats.
Complicated: Ranked Choice voting can be very confusing since voters can be asked to evaluate and rank an endless number of choices (13 in the New York Mayoral race).
Simple: Final Five is the exact opposite – a simple system. Voters can pick any candidate they want on primary day regardless of party. In the general, there are five candidates and they only need to pick one, but also can designate up to five back-up preferences if they choose.
Backward Process: Ranked Choice Voting advocates keep the easier to game primary intact. letting liberal megadonors continue to game the system into weaker candidates in the primary since only one Republican can still be on the ballot for the November election. We’re less likely to have an electable candidate in the general. We’ve seen massive liberal buys of advertising targeting conservative voters to divide us in primaries. It is effective in sowing discord that weakens us in the general.
Logical Process: Final Five does not use a ranked ballot until the general election, once the list of options is down to a manageable five candidates. This ensures the main benefits of changing the system in the primary (liberal megadonors can no longer pay to eliminate the strongest Republican as they did in the Illinois Governor’s race and Wisconsin) by allowing the conservative they are trying to beat to still make the final ballot).
In summary, without a top-five primary, ranked choice voting creates all the confusion that critics fear without providing the key benefits of Final Five.
Advocates should acknowledge that Final Five’s instant runoff uses a “ranked ballot” at the end of the process, but categorically calling all Ranked Choice Voting the same thing is untrue. It matters how and when you use a ranked ballot.
If someone is telling you that Final Five Voting is a bad idea, or hurts conservatives, be sure to ask them what alternative ideas they have for fixing the system.