We advocate for common-sense electoral reform. The issues below are fundamental improvements to the political system.
Our current voting system, where you are allowed to vote for one candidate and the person with the most votes wins, forces you to be a tactical and insincere voter. If you don’t think your favorite candidate has a good shot, you’re better off voting for your second-favorite instead because they have a better chance. Or, you might vote for your favorite anyway, causing your viable second-favorite to lose out to your least favorite.
When voting for your favorite candidate is against your own interest, you know there is something wrong with the system. When people cannot express their sincere opinions and feel their voices aren’t being heard, they disengage from the political process.
Ranked voting can solve these problems. Voters rank candidates in their preferred order. You can vote for your favorite candidate, even if they’re an underdog, with the comfort of knowing that your vote may be automatically transferred to your second-choice if your favorite does not win. This fosters a more diverse and representative political climate. If you’re interested in more information, these videos are a good starting point.
Replace the Electoral College
The Electoral College is not representative of states nor people. The principle of balancing popular voting power with state voting power, in order to retain an element of sovereignty for small states, is a fine one, but the Electoral College does not achieve this.
Besides Maine and Nebraska, candidates only need to win the slimmest majority of a state’s votes to be awarded all of a state’s electors. This means candidates safely ignore states, both big and small, where they maintain a comfortable majority. Instead, they intensely focus on the swing states, a minority of the American population with outsized influence in presidential elections.
In the final two months of the 2008 election, presidential candidates visited only two small states, New Hampshire and Maine. In fact, Ohio, Florida, Pennsylvania, and Virginia, just four states, received the majority of campaign visits. Candidates also spent the most money on advertisements in these four states within the final two months.
In the 2016 election, more than two-thirds of campaign events took place in six states: Ohio, Florida, Pennsylvania, Virginia (sound familiar?), North Carolina, and Michigan. 94% of campaign events took place in just 12 states.
The Electoral College only bolsters the influence of swing states, to the detriment of small states, big states, and the popular will.
To make matters worse, the 4 million American citizens (more than live in Wyoming, Vermont, Alaska, North Dakota, and South Dakota combined) who live in the U.S. territories get no say whatsoever in the Electoral College.
Gerrymandering is where politicians gain an artificial advantage by manipulating district boundaries. There are quantitative measurements of gerrymandering that can be used as a standard for approving district drawings. Software may also have a role in the fair drawing of districts.
Primaries are elections that determine who will run as the candidate for a particular political party. These elections are often limited to members of that party, even barring independents. This is a mistake.
Not enough people turn out for regular elections, but even more people stay home on primary election day. Consequently, only the most left-of-the-left and right-of-the-right come out to vote in primaries. This exacerbates partisanship in a time where we need to be calling for moderation, unity, and cooperation.
Allowing independents to vote in primary elections would serve as this much needed moderating force. Alternatively, parties could get rid of primaries entirely and run all their candidates in the general election since vote-splitting isn’t a concern if ranked voting were adopted. Parties could spend their financial resources supporting a platform of issues, rather than a specific candidate.
Automatic and Online Voter Registration
We should decrease the barriers to civic engagement wherever possible. Automatically registering someone to vote when they apply or renew a driver’s license, for example, will engage more people in the political process. The same goes for allowing people to register to vote online.
Campaign Finance Reform
Corporations and wealthy individuals have outsized influence on elections. While there are normally limits on how much an individual can contribute a campaign, Super PACs circumvent these rules. A Super PAC can raise unlimited funds from corporations, individuals, unions, etc. that donate as much money as they would like. While some politicians in favor of Super PACs argue that they are not beholden to large donors, the proliferation of corporate welfare suggests otherwise. This quid pro quo incentive structure should not exist in the first place.
Inspiration: “In a Washington Post-ABC News poll in early February 2010 it was found that roughly 80% of Americans were opposed to the January 2010 Supreme court’s [Citizens United] ruling. The poll reveals relatively little difference of opinion on the issue among Democrats (85 percent opposed to the ruling), Republicans (76 percent) and independents (81 percent).”
Election Day Holiday
Election Day is already a holiday in some states. A federal holiday will allow more people, particularly the working class, to exercise their right to vote.
Repeal Voter ID Laws
Voter fraud is a nonexistent problem. The true purpose of laws that require you to have an ID to vote is to prevent underprivileged voters from casting their ballots. Many would-be voters don’t have a driver’s license because they do not drive nor a passport because they do not travel internationally. While it’s possible to get a state-issued ID at a DMV, these can be costly and DMVs may be inaccessible due to poor public transportation. We should remember that there shouldn’t be an income nor socioeconomic status requirement to vote.
Inspiration: “A 2011 Texas strict photo ID laws has been in the courts since its passage. On April 10, 2017 a federal judge ruled, for the second time, that the law discriminated against minority voters. On June 2, 2017 SB 5 enacted non-strict, photo voter ID requirement. in Texas.”
Slow but steady.