CHEYENNE — Changing the political system isn’t easy, but if anyone can try, it’s people who know the system from the inside out.
John Pudner, executive director for Take Back Our Republic, spent years in the game.
He’s seen incredible moments, such as watching President George W. Bush (with whom he campaigned) get elected. But he’s also seen the corruption, the dirty politics and an all-around change from the conservative values in which he has believed.
So he got involved with an organization to help change it, and now the group has extended its reach into Wyoming.
Take Back Our Republic officially launched its Wyoming chapter on July 1 with a kickoff party at Powder River Art Gallery.
Pudner called the launch event a success, with nearly 90 people in attendance, many of whom asked Pudner and the other TBOR officials questions about the organization and what it would mean for Wyoming politics.
“They seem to understand that we need to look for fair election reforms,” Pudner said. “We’re a bunch of former political operatives who went from running campaigns to trying to fix the system.”
TBOR officials are hoping to host another event in Wyoming sometime later this year before the weather causes driving to be risky, but Pudner encouraged anyone interested in political reform to check out the group’s website or reach out to it via email or phone.
The organization was launched in 2015 as a response to people gaining influence with politicians due to significantly large donations.
The five main issues TBOR focuses on are gerrymandering (manipulating the boundaries of a voting district to create a result that favors a political party); instant runoff voting; dark money (political contributors and organizations that aren’t required to disclose their financial sources); foreign contributions; and campaign finance.
Pudner explained that the organization wants to make the government more reflective of the voters it is supposed to represent.
“We want electeds and candidates to focus on the people, not on outside special interest money,” he said.
Instant runoff voting was of particular interest to Pudner and the TBOR team.
IRV allows voters to rank candidates in order of preference. Ballots are then counted for each voter’s top choice, and if a candidate receives more than half of the vote based on first-place choices, he or she will win.
If not, the candidate with the fewest votes is eliminated, and the voters who selected the defeated candidate have their votes added to the total of the next choice.
This process continues until a candidate receives more than 50 percent of the vote.
IRV, also known as ranked-choice voting, is used to elect the president of India, the president of Ireland and members of the Australia House of Representatives, among other major elections.
It also was used recently in the New York City mayor’s race. Additionally, it is used when choosing the Academy Award for Best Picture.
“Someone can pick a second choice and get someone that there’s a bit of consensus around,” Pudner said.
During this year’s legislative session, Wyoming lawmakers killed a bill that would have created primary runoff elections in Wyoming if no candidate were to receive more than 50 percent of the vote. While the bill had support from Donald Trump Jr., it failed on its third reading.