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Friendly Conservative Banter In Final Five Pro-Con

Both sides made their case at Tuesday’s Public Hearing at the Campaigns and Elections Committee Tuesday on a Constitutional Amendment to ban Final Five. We hope you will go to and register to see both sides lay out their case. Obviously, we believe the stronger cases were on the pro-Final Five side by the author of the Politics Industry, and her team, as well as veterans groups that formed to back Final Five. 

However, because we can only use short clips of the testimony that extended for hours, we will focus on the chance we had to make our case sandwiched between representatives of two of the most outstanding conservative organizations who oppose Final Five. In a political climate where we often find people are attacked not for “not being conservative enough” but for “not being angry enough,” please see the clip of yours truly getting friendly hits twice:

  • Right before our testimony, Jefferson Davis, Spokesman for Election Integrity for Wisconsin Ad-Hoc Committee, prompted laughter throughout the hearing room by closing his testimony with, “I’d like to close by saying I had a delightful conversation with a strong advocate of top five and it went extremely well. And for confidentiality reasons, I won't say who it was, but there can be an open dialogue and you don't have to be at each other's throats. I'm just glad it wasn't John Pudner.

  • Believing I was in the clear, I laid out my testimony on why I believe conservatives should approve Final Five (see below). Little did I know the next testimony from another outstanding conservative leader would hit me with a friendly barb as well.

  • Brian Sikma, followed my testimony opening with his impeccable credentials as a Fellow at Opportunities Solution Project and Foundation for Government Accountability and before laying out his case against Final Five noted, “I am with the Opportunities Solution Project, but more importantly, I am a Wisconsin resident, Wisconsin voter, and I’m John Pudner’s occasional friend … I guess.”

Thank you both for the good-natured humor.

Some also found it interesting to note that a couple of committee members who agreed with last week’s testimonies of US Senator Ron Johnson and myself in favor of a pro-life measure that passed the House were the more skeptical of Final Five, while another legislator who strongly opposed our pro-life testimonies last week was supportive of Final Five.

The disagreements on these and other issues are serious - but when there is just an honest disagreement, that is part of the legislative process of back-and-forth in the Republic the Founders left us. I could not have put it any better than Davis - we don’t need to be at each others’ throats.

Here are key points from my testimony, followed by the actual testimony, which you can read or click on the photo above to watch - including the friendly jabs at me before and after I started:

  1. OTHER Ranked Choice Systems Target Conservatives, NOT Final Five.

  2. Partisan Primaries Killing Republicans Chances in Many Generals.

  3. Why Enshrine a Process that Helped Drop Tommy Thompson from +21 to -7? 

  4. Final Five Takes Away Incentives to Attack Candidates in Your Own Party, so They Lose the General.

  5. Now Focusing Specifically on the Proposed Ban of Something that Doesn’t Exist. 

  6. Opponents of Final Five Would Set Us On Path to Much More Confusing Ballots than Final Five. Final Five Prohibits Using a Ranked Choice Ballot for More than 5 Candidates.

  7. Made More in One Day from Win Bonuses for Passing 35 Ballot Measures in Ohio than all of 2022 Working on a Wisconsin Statewide Campaign

  8. Ballot Proposal Problem: 70% Who Support Voter ID Tricked by Ballot Question Into Making it Unconstitutional in Michigan.

  9. Final Five Opponents go Further Than Georgia Ban - Which Protected the Military Overseas Ranked Ballots we Passed in 2021. 

  10. As Former Chair of Republican Legislative Aides, I Know the Pressure.  

10 am, January 30, 2024, Room 300 Northeast

John Pudner, Testimony AGAINST AJR 101 (Ranked Choice Voting & Final Five Ban)

(As laughter subsides from Jefferson Davis’ friendly barb) I'll save my counterattack until he walks out. Thank you, Mr. Chairman for having two meetings, one for the proponents of Final Five and one for those opposing it. I would just note that you made us drive through a snowstorm to get to our meeting. 

I was not sure if that was intentional.

OTHER Ranked Choice Systems Target Conservatives, NOT Final Five. I want to start by noting that unlike some other ranked choice voting systems, Final Five was NEVER designed to beat conservatives. There are some cases where other ranked choice voting systems were put in place specifically to beat a specific conservative.

Final Five was designed, if you read the background, to change incentives for how elected officials can address issues, If someone wants to end this conversation by banning Final Five with this amendment (AJ 101) because they believe Congress is functioning really well, if you're one of those few then don't talk about Final Five because everything's great. Enjoy your world.

I believe there is a pretty strong case that the current system is not helping. Particularly for conservatives, like me, living in Wisconsin. In the last few highly contested statewide races, conservatives have been cannibalizing each other. 

Partisan Primaries Killing Republicans Chances in Many Generals. Tons of time and money is spent attacking each other, resulting in general election losses. Representative Tusler alluded earlier to the other half of it, the general election, where Joe Biden received 49 percent of the vote - the left-of-center vote - but he won because the 51 percent right-of-center was divided between four conservatives (the Constitution Party, Libertarian Party, and pro-life Solidarity Party.

In the hall, I mentioned to the gentleman who asked in his testimony (why the left-of-center vote is not also divided by candidates like the Green Party Candidate and Kanye West who seem to not make the ballot) that the top story on our page gives the 20-year history of how green party candidates are rooted out by liberals.

I’m not saying conservatives never rooted out (a candidate who would split the liberal vote), but we posted an article going back to Ralph Nader and how liberals got him off the ballot in all the key states. I was working for Bush and we won anyway, but the left was very very systematic. 

Why Enshrine a Process that Helped Drop Tommy Thompson from +21 to -7? The first sign I saw that the current system that proponents of this bill of the band want to protect was causing problems was 12 years ago with Tommy Thompson, who had won his last race by 21 points (for Governor). Thompson went through a divisive primary, and wins it with just 34 percent. Does anyone remember Tammy, Baldwin's percent coming out of the Democratic Primary the same day? She had 99.5 percent. So after this divisive primary Thompson goes from a 21-point win to a seven-point loss.

The response from some conservatives is, let's enshrine in our constitution that we always go through that process. I just don't understand this proposed Constitutional Amendment that tries to enshrine this process forever - a process that is a big reason we don't have a Governor Michels or Kleefisch, or for a couple of people I saw in the Hall Ramthun.  We don’t have a Senator Thompson or Vukmur, or a Justice Kelly or Dorow.

Furthermore, millions in liberal out-of-state money is coming into the state in two ways.

First, money to affect Republican primaries to help the weaker candidate advance. 

Second, more spending in the general election encouraging conservatives to vote for a third party.

Our elections shouldn't be about who can keep some spoiler on the ballot, or who can't get them on the ballot. That's not how a Republic is supposed to work.

Final Five Takes Away Incentives to Attack Candidates in Your Own Party, so They Lose the General. I believe Final Five mitigates these political challenges, particularly for conservatives because you no longer incentivize third parties to come in with attack commercials during a primary, particularly if you're in a state that insists on having your primary in August, with only two months to recover.

Final Five saves resources for people to really fight for their own team in the general election. It also influences behavior. Go back to Ross Perot years back. Perot getting in the race made people care about the federal deficit, and realize there's a bill to be paid and that served a real purpose.

Even though I supported the Republican instead of Perot, I believe he raised issues and changed incentives so that Republicans and Democrats were actually incentivized to have a balanced budget. Can you imagine that today? I believe we need to give voters a way to hold elected officials accountable.

When Congress has less than a 20 percent approval rating, but a 95 percent re-election rate, something is off. 

State Legislators have to actually pass a balanced budget. I know it's not friendly or easy, but you do it. 

Now Focusing Specifically on the Proposed Ban of Something that Doesn’t Exist. Opponents of Final Five propose putting this on the ballot, Some states like California do legislate a lot through the ballot, They see something they don't like and they put it on the ballot. I don’t believe that's what the founders had in mind when they formed a Republic, not a Democracy. They set issues up to go through this legislative process like hearings you're having and the resultant discussion. 

There are times I believe something should go to the ballot. I won't be a hypocrite. If a judge makes what I consider a terrible decision to throw out a law, that’s a great time to go to the ballot to try to overrule it. I fight for that. 

But this proposed ban is really just legislating through the ballot. Nevada does take items to the ballot and voters passed Final Five there and defeated the liberal Governor who opposed Final Five and tried to get off the ballot.

Opponents of Final Five Would Set Us On Path to Much More Confusing Ballots than Final Five. Opponents are basically making arguments that Final Five is too confusing for Wisconsinites to figure out. They are basically saying that if I voted for a Constitution Party or pro-life Solidarity Party candidate, it's too confusing for me to then figure out if I want to list my second choice as Trump or Biden, or I just hate them both and don’t want my vote going to either. That's not very confusing.

Final Five Prohibits Using a Ranked Choice Ballot for More than 5 Candidates. With all respect to a previous testimony (not referencing either of the aforementioned people who made their case against Final Five), that opponent referred to cases where there were 35 or 16 candidates on the ballot. The Final Five system never allows you to use a ranked ballot until you are down to five candidates.

I believe all the arguments that the system is too confusing go out the door when made by people who want to start legislating by putting things on the ballot like California. .

You don't follow Final Five opponents lead by starting to put things on the ballot like California doesn’t create a much more confusing ballot in which voters need to go through 15 pages of referendum questions? So they're proposing something much more complicated than a ballot that lets me make a second choice.

Made More in One Day from Win Bonuses for Passing 35 Ballot Measures in Ohio than all of 2022 Working on a Wisconsin Statewide Campaign. If I were considering this proposed ban of Final Five only as a political consultant, and if your focus of this ban is making as much money as possible for political consultants, then, yes, approve this ban of Final Five. So much money is made on ballot referenda if you're in one of those states that puts things on the ballot like Final Five opponents want to do, then I’ll just say that in one day in Ohio, I made more money on ballot win bonuses for running campaigns to get 35 ballots approved than I made all year in Wisconsin in 2022 working for a statewide candidate. So, the political consultant in me says, yes, start putting stuff on the ballot like Final Five opponents are proposing. We all make tons of money.

The same applies to another testimony earlier by a Final Five opponent (not one of those referenced above with the friendly barbs) who claimed a bunch of petition signatures in Alaska proved they were fed up with the system there. Guess what? You get $15 or $20 per petition signature collected, that's all these things are. That's not Alaskans rising up (after 85% of them said the system was easy to use). That's a paid kid saying, “Hey, listen, I was hired to get people to sign this piece of paper - will you help me out and sign it? I'm sorry, that's a bogus argument.

Ballot Proposal Problem: 70% Who Support Voter ID Tricked by Ballot Question Into Making it Unconstitutional in Michigan. The other problem if you agree with Final Five opponents to put this ban on the ballot can be illustrated in a recent ballot measure in Michigan. About 70 percent of people support Voter ID. We can have an honest discussion on that issue too,but that’s where voters are on the issue. In Michigan, they put something on the ballot that people thought was enshrining voter ID into their State Constitution, but they used tricky wording - that is how these firms work once they get in doing these ballots.

This Tricky wording used to fool the voter into thinking they were confirming Voter ID actually made the requirement unconstitutional by sneaking in language that you could always sign an affidavit instead (with no ID to show if you were even signing your real name to vote). That's what happens in these ballot fights. So, I’d be very wary.

But assume the ban Final Five opponents are proposing were added to the State Constitution in all red states. That wouldn't have stopped any of these systems in San Francisco or New York - so these are red-herring arguments being brought up. But if that happened it would have stopped the ranked ballot used to help get Glenn Yongkin elected when the nomination process they wanted to use was thrown out. The Republican Party of Virginia, where years ago I was the political director after Karl Rove, used a ranked ballot to help get Youngkin elected.

Final Five Opponents go Further Than Georgia Ban - Which Protected the Military Overseas Ranked Ballots we Passed in 2021. The ban Final Five opponents are proposing makes NO EXCEPTIONS so goes further than a ban proposed in Georgia. This amendment if passed in Georgia would throw out the Georgia bill Take Back Our Republic Action lobbied for when I still lived in the south that allowed overseas military to use a ranked ballot. This proposed ban goes further than a proposed ban in Georgia that specifically said the legislation we had passed a few years ago, using ranked ballots for overseas military, would never be affected. Even the sponsors of that ban strongly supported the ranked ballots we passed.

So you're taking away a tool The ranked ballot is just a tool. You can figure out if it works in a particular system or not, but don’t try to kill it with these kind of bogus arguments. 

As Former Chair of Republican Legislative Aides, I Know the Pressure. I really do know  what you go through as legislators. I know your job is tough.I was actually Chairman of the Republican Legislative Assistants in another state for years way before I moved back to Wisconsin. I know your offices likely deal with 12 people who tell you every month there is some new reason they are going to primary you. Eventually, they might tell you this is one of 12 issues that will lead them to primary you - one is that you made an exception in a bill, or only reduced funding to a group they don’t like by 90% instead of 100%, or you are for Final Five.

After a while, I used to say, “Okay, I get it. You are going to primary my boss for 12 different reasons. That's a process. You go through it as part of being a representative. But if Final Five opponents are successful in starting to use ballots to determine issues, then these people complaining will quickly learn they are no longer important. Right now, they are important and your public hearings back home are important.

If you let Final Five opponents take you down this California-style process of just putting these issues on the ballot, then those same people will get ignored because then it becomes all about TV budgets and tricky wording on a ballot. So let's just call a spade a spade. This proposed ban is to stop Final Five. You're taking up a Final Five bill. You can vote it up or vote it down.

I'm sure there's going to be a long discussion on it. You don't want a campaign running on TV presenting this ban is to stop 35 candidates from being in a ranked ballot when that's not the focus of this bill - and Final Five itself does not allow a ranked ballot of more than 5 people. 

Do not let voters get tricked by a gimmick like the Michigan voters were tricked last year when they unbeknownst to themselves voted to make it unconstitutional to require a photo voter ID.

Please reject this ban. Thank you. 


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