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How a Murdoch Hopes to Save American Democracy

A separate group, launched by Novogratz, has been enlisting philanthropists to each pledge 1 percent of their net worth toward “protecting democracy” and said it had already raised $87 million toward a goal of $250 million in pledges by 2024.

Most proposed changes include some variation on ranked-choice voting, a system that allows voters to select their preferred candidates in order. New York City used the system in its Democratic primary for mayor last year, to great media fanfare — a breakout moment for what previously had been an obscure cause promoted by a small and scattered group of activists.

Before then, ranked-choice proponents had notched a few quieter wins. In Maine, voters pushed through a ballot initiative in 2016 to become the first state to allow the system in elections for federal office. Alaska followed in 2020 with a similar ballot initiative, and 51 cities across the country have adopted ranked choice in some form or another.

Proponents of ranked-choice voting argue it will make campaigns more civil, save money, lessen the polarization that is poisoning American politics and give voters more choices. And while the data is still out on many of those claims, surveys do show that voters tend to like it.

One detractor has been Sherrie Swensen, the clerk of Salt Lake County, Utah, a state that has embraced ranked-choice voting in municipal elections. Swensen, whose position includes overseeing elections, said the system was “very complex to implement,” as it took weeks to figure out how to design new ballots.

Murdoch is plowing resources and much of her energy into Unite America, a collection of groups that backs organizations, campaigns and candidates that support her reform goals. Unite America is meant to be a “cross-partisan” meeting ground for donors and activists, she said. “It’s a group of people,” Murdoch added with a chuckle, “with a wide variety of reasonable opinions.”

Its executive director is Nick Troiano, a 32-year-old activist who ran for office as an independent in Pennsylvania at 24. Troiano has recruited a staff of hard-nosed political operatives from both parties, hoping to develop a cadre of seasoned campaigners who can steer investments and advise ballot initiatives in new states.

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