Nebraska has made voting a lot better for everybody. It's a model for the country.

The primary system we use to choose candidates in the United States is broken, but there's a proven way to make it better.

A tiny fraction of possible voters get to choose who is actually running for office. It's what happens in most state and federal elections across the country; if you're a registered Republican, you get to vote in the primaries for that party. Democrat? Same.

But what if you're among the more than 40% of voters (and half of all millennials) who are independent?

In many states, you have to actually register as a member of a party in order to vote in the primary.


If registering as a member of a party you don't necessarily agree with on many issues rubs you the wrong way, join the club.

Image of the George W. Norris chamber via Nebraska Legislature.

Are there any solutions to this problem?

Some states, like Nebraska, have taken a different approach — and it's working much better.

John Opdycke, the president of Open Primaries, explained in a recent Atlantic interview, how this alternative system truly breaks the mold.

"[The primaries] don't just determine party nominees," he said. "They determine the shape and the tenor and tone of the campaign, the issues that are on the table, the coalitions that are on the table."

How so? Let's explore 3 ways they do that.


1. Open primaries, where anyone can vote for any candidate regardless of party registration

It means that candidates have to appeal to all voters, not simply the ones in their party, to end up on the final ballot.

This leads to...

2. A general election ballot without party affiliation where voters choose between the top two candidates.

It also means that the people get things they want accomplished by their lawmakers — despite political affiliations of the parties. In the case of Nebraska, a legislature comprised of 35 Republicans, 13 Democrats, and 1 independent accomplished a raise in the minimum wage, immigration reform, abolishing the death penalty, and raising the gas tax, among other things.

Imagine that happening in a state where the primaries are like they are for most of the country?

3. A non-partisan unicameral legislature where politicians work together

A unicameral legislature is something that rather flips the traditional voting narrative on its head, and it's opening some eyes. Definitively, unicameral legislature means one chamber of house, rather than two divided ones.

With no formal party alignments or caucuses, it allows coalitions to form issue by issue. This way, every bill gets an open and public committee hearing regardless of the member's party status.

GIF from Open Primaries/Why America Needs Nonpartisan Elections.


Here's a short clip with some sound reasons why it's working for Nebraska.

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Courtesy of Macy's

In many ways, 18-year-old Idaho native, Hank Cazier, is like any other teenager you've met. He loves chocolate, pop music, and playing games with his family. He has lofty dreams of modeling for a major clothing company one day. But one thing that sets him apart may also jeopardize his future is his recent battle against a brain tumor.

Cazier was diagnosed in 2015. When he had surgery to remove the tumor, he received trauma to his brain and lost some of his motor functionality. He's been in physical, occupational, and speech therapy ever since. The experience impacted Cazier's confidence and self-esteem, so he's been looking for a way to build himself back up again.

"I wanted to do something that helped me look forward to the future," he says.

Enter Make-A-Wish, a nonprofit organization that grants wishes for children battling critical illnesses, providing them a chance to make the impossible possible. The organization partnered with Macy's to raise awareness and help make those wishes a reality. The hope is that the "wish effect" will improve their quality of life and empower them with the strength they need to overcome these illnesses and look towards the future. That was a particularly big deal for Cazier, who had been feeling like so many of his wishes weren't going to be possible because of his critical illness.

"In the beginning, it was hard to accept that it would be improbable for me to accomplish my previous goals because my illness took away so many of my physical abilities," says Cazier. His wish of becoming a model also seemed out of reach.

But Macy's and Make-A-Wish didn't see it like that. Once they learned about Cazier's wish, they knew he had to make it come true by inviting him to be part of the magical Macy's holiday shoot in New York.

Courtesy of Macy's

Make-A-Wish can't fulfill children's wishes without the generosity of donors and partners like Macy's. In fact, since 2003, Macy's has given more than $122 million to Make-A-Wish and impacted the lives of more than 2.9 million people.

Cazier's wish experience was beyond what he could've imagined, and it filled him with so much joy and confidence. "It is like waking up and discovering that you have super powers. It feels amazing!" he exclaims.

One of the best parts about the day for him was the kindness everyone who helped make it happen showed him.

"The employees of Macy's and Make-A-Wish made me feel welcome, warm, and cared for," he says. "I am truly grateful that even though they were busy doing their jobs, they were able to show kindness and compassion towards me in all of the little details."

He also got to spend part of the shoot outdoors, which, as someone who loves climbing, hiking, and scuba-diving but has trouble doing those activities now, was very welcome.

Courtesy of Macy's

Overall, Cazier feels he grew a lot during his modeling wish and is now emboldened to work towards a better quality of life. "I want to acquire skills that help me continue to improve in these circumstances," he says.

You can change the lives of more kids like Cazier just by writing a letter to Santa and dropping it in the big red letterbox at Macy's (you can also write and submit one online). For every letter received before Dec. 24, 2019, Macy's will donate $1 to Make-A-Wish, up to $1 million. By writing a letter to Santa, you can help a child replace fear with confidence, sadness with joy, and anxiety with hope.

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