My co-chairs on the Bipartisan Policy Center’s Commission on Political Reform — former senators Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) and Olympia J. Snowe (R-Maine) and former agriculture secretary Dan Glickman (D) — and I agree with Phil Andrews’s assertion in his Jan. 8 Washington Forum essay, “Only election reform will fix gridlock,” that fundamental changes are essential.
In 2014, our commission released a series of recommendations to restore functionality to Congress. Polarization runs so deeply through our nation’s politics and institutions, so any solution requires a comprehensive approach.
Among the issues our commission tackled head-on are the two Mr. Andrews highlighted: gerrymandering and more open primaries. We urge states to adopt redistricting commissions that have bipartisan support in the legislature and the electorate. States with redistricting commissions generally create a higher percentage of competitive seats.
We also recommend that states adopt open or semi-open primaries to allow independents or members of other parties to cast ballots in a primary. Stand-alone congressional primaries have averaged about 20 percent turnout.
Moreover, our recommendations include full disclosure of political contributions and changes in the internal workings of Congress, such as a more open amendment process, five-day workweeks and the re-empowerment of congressional committees.
The reasons for congressional dysfunction are plentiful and broad. Our efforts to fix the problem must be equally so.
Trent Lott, Washington
The writer, a former Republican senator from Mississippi, is co-chair of the Bipartisan Policy Center’s Commission on Political Reform.