The exclusive two party system brought about the results of the 2016 elections. It also brought back the “Nadar 2000 effect”, where the media and the establishment yet again choose to use 3rd party voters as their scapegoats. It’s been 16 years since the close race of Gore vs. Bush 2000 election and we continue to hear statements like, “you’re wasting your vote”, “you’re spoiling the election”, “you’re casting a protest vote” along with many other statements regarding voting in a democracy for third party or for low polling candidates in the American voting process. These are statements you shouldn’t expect to hear when voting in a democratic voting process, but unfortunately do because our voting process isn’t representative of its participants. In the current social, economic and environmental climate presented we desperately need to take back democracy. There are several ways of doing just that, but the one I choose to focus on is voting. This election cycle has done nothing but bully the electorate on a scale that is impossible to hide. This election cycle, the American people have expressed their frustration with the presidential choices and the electoral process. Polls are revealing that the American people are clamoring for more options. Favorability polls for the 2016 election show both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump breaking unfavorable records. Both nominees are failing behind 50% unfavorable ratings. So far behind it pushes past reigning champion Gorge W. Bush, who was the most unfavorable candidate until then. A USA Today poll showed 76% of voters wanted an open presidential debate opening up the podium for third party candidates, although that did not happen because the “CPD” Commission on Presidential Debates (a private organization ran by none other then the two entities who shouldn’t organize a democratic public debate, Republicans and Democrats) created undemocratic rules. One unfair rule shows the restriction of third party candidates from debating due to illogical polling requirements. These restrictions come even though the 2 main 3rd party candidates are on enough ballots (48+) to feasibly win the presidency. Until we demand change through organized voting and petitioning the powers that be will not concede.
Americas antiquated voting system:
The American voting system is unrepresentative of the electorate. The truth is the electors from the Electoral College have the final and ultimate say concerning the next president. As a direct result of the Electoral College process 2 out of the last 5 elections went to a candidate who didn’t receive the popular vote. That means our voting system has a 60% efficiency track record. Of the last 40 elections 1/8th of them went to the least voted candidate (1824, 1876, 1888, 2000, 2016). In the 2016 general election Hillary Clinton had the popular vote (even though being extremely unpopular). The popular vote results showed Hillary acquired 65,130,547 votes compared to Trumps 62,625,786, that’s 2,504,761 more votes than Trump, yet too short of the electoral college. This statistic isn’t in support of Hillary’s “unfortunate” loss, (many say her loss ended neoliberalism as we now it) it’s a perspective of an antiquated system that presents a modern day problem. This isn’t to say the founders weren’t innovative and don’t deserve credit. This opposition also isn’t in complete support of a popular vote as the only viable solution, because a popular vote may very well present its own batch of problems. This is to point out the structural issues of the electoral college, such as “winner take all” state electoral votes, the electors final decision (electoral decision after Election Day) and the disproportionate calculation of votes per state population. We May not have to replace the whole process just alter it. To present pertinent background, the Electoral College was adopted into the American Constitution in the 1780s. Over 3 hundred years later this method chosen by the founders (because they felt citizens couldn’t make informed decisions due to the rate information traveled) is still the way America elects its president. The designers of the Electoral College were concerned, in the day of the wooden printing press and the pony express, that the voters would not have enough information to choose a candidate. As a result 100 senators plus 438 representatives equal the 538 Electoral College votes and half of it’s members chose the fate of a country with over 300 million in population. The popular vote doesn’t account for anything; it is the 270 electors whose voice actually counts. The starkest detail is that in almost half of the states the electors are not obligated to represent the American people’s decision potentially disenfranchising the “electorate”. Not long after the Electoral College was created the winner take all method came into existence, but it wasn’t accepted statewide. It wasn’t until 1872 that the winner take all method was adopted statewide. Not only is the winner take all method unfair it’s not written in the constitution so it can be revised. In today’s day and age there is no reason to pledge loyalty to such an antiquated system that seems more of dictatorial than democratic.
Electoral College Reform:
- Proportional Plan
The proportional plan is where a state’s electoral college votes are distributed based on the proportion of the vote their party received. The state can choose how to distribute their electoral college votes. Proportional plan is a complicated remedy for the unfair winner take all method.
- District Plan
District plan offers that one elector would be chosen by the voters for each congressional district, while an additional two, representing the two “senatorial” electors allocated to each state regardless of population, would be chosen by the voters at large.
- National Popular Vote
The National Popular Vote bill would guarantee the Presidency to the candidate who receives the most popular votes in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.
Improving voter participation:
According to voter turnout statistics for developed nations, America’s voter turnout trails to the tail end. After the 2016 general election the voter turnout dipped to about 57% of eligible voters. Meaning nearly 100 million eligible voters didn’t participate. There are many reasons for low voter turnout, but let’s focus on how to improve it on a systemic level. First let me say there are major efforts already going into improving voter participation.
- Automatic registration is a participation method adopted by states like Oregon and California. Automatically registering citizens who become eligible to vote through interactive systems like the DMV.
- Same day registration allows eligible voters to register the same day they cast their ballot. Currently, eleven states and the District of Columbia allow same day registration. Let’s make it statewide.
- Lowered voting age is an effort, which promotes youth participation in civic affairs. It’s ironic that 16-17 year olds can legally work, pay taxes on income, drive in most states and can be tried as adults in criminal court, but not get the extension for civic duty. Some suggest lowering the voting age to 16 could drive demand for better civic education in schools and could in turn assist America’s voter turnout problem.
- The Voter Empowering Act is a comprehensive voting reform effort that has been introduced to state legislature in recent years, although it has been turned down. The Voter Empowering Act looks to make the voter registration process more efficient by expanding online registration and modernizing the way voter information is collected, processed, stored, and shared. The Voter Empowerment Act pretty much consolidates most registration reform efforts I previously mentioned and desperately needs to be pushed statewide.
Improving the voting process:
- Open Primaries
There is no acceptable reason for closed primaries in any state. It disenfranchises nearly half of registered voters. Over 40% of registered voters are registered as Independent. Not to mention a portion of voters refuse to identify with the 2 major parties and instead register third party. So there is a significant amount of voters who can’t participate in closed primaries. Bringing me to my next point, opening up the primary process. New York is one of the 11 states that closes its doors on nearly half of it’s registered citizens. Maybe the democratic thing to do is open them up to include all citizens.
- Early voting
New York is in the company of 15 states who prohibit in person early voting. Early voting permits voters to cast their ballots before any type of Election Day. Early Voting is essential in eliminating the chaos associated with voting. Early Voting can help alleviate long lines, and can include a number of voters who simply cannot make it to the polls while they are open.
- Election Day, a national holiday
America has several holidays celebrating and acknowledging our freedoms and liberties. What better day to celebrate and instigate democracy than Election Day. Election Day should be a national holiday so that everyone has the time and opportunity to fulfill their civic duty. This implementation may increase turnout and it may pave the way to a more committed and more vibrant democracy. An alternative to a civic national holiday could be following what some countries do for their elections, in holding their elections on the weekend. This makes voting more accessible for voters to participate.
- Voting by mail
This is not to be confused with absentee ballots, where you are allowed to vote by mail only under special requirements. Voting by mail is proven to be more cost effective and convenient. It has proven to increase voter turnout. Oregon saw significant increases in voter turnout after transitioning to “all-mail” elections. Washington, Oregon, and Colorado conduct their elections entirely by mail, and 19 other states allow some elections to be held by mail.
Introduce non spoiler voting process:
- Ranked Choice Voting
Ranked choice voting is the antidote for the spoiler effect America’s voting process gives it’s voters. America’s voting process is an illusion of democracy. Ranked Choice Voting (RCV) also known as Instant Runoff Voting (IRV) is real democracy. RCV allows voters to rank their choices in preferential order. Making our democratic process more inclusive, fair and functional. In the very likely event no candidate passes the minimum threshold needed to win the election, the candidate in last place is eliminated, and votes are redistributed according to the preferences on the ballots. The process repeats until a candidate passes the threshold. RCV is a no brainer, America should have adopted it’s practice ever since record of its first use in Australia back in the late 1800’s. RCV is currently used in at least 10 U.S. cities, excluded to only state and local governmental elections. Maine’s approval of ballot initiative Question 5 is a victory for voting reform. Maine became the 1st state to adopt RCV for state and federal elections. It’s imperative that we follow Maine’s footsteps and adopt Ranked Choice Voting nationwide. There are plenty of ways to get involved, for starters join efforts with organizations like http://www.fairvote.org and get involved.
Informing the electorate:
- Open up the debates
A third party candidate has not been allowed to participate in the presidential debate in 25 years, the last candidate being Ross Perot (Independent) back in his first presidential run in 1992. In other words the electorate has been suppressed of valuable information and alternative voices for 6 election cycles. The Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD) is a private organization ran by both Democrats and Republicans. Earlier this year Both Green Party candidate Jill Stein and Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson attempted to settle this injustice in court, although a federal judge has tossed it out. The CPD has set up a clear monopoly of power in creating unreasonable rules, excluding alternative voices. The CPD states that in order for a candidate to debate they must poll at 15% or higher in at least 5 national polls. The polls are not predetermined until the election season. In the 2016 election the CPD announced the polls to be ABC, Washington Post, CBS, New York Times, CNN Opinion Research Corp., Fox News, NBC, and Wall Street Journal. Most national polls excluded third party candidates, making the inevitability of a shortcoming. Keep in mind the corporate media’s sheer blackout of opposition voices guarantees third parties remain unheard. It’s time to demand fair and just management of the debates. Political parties should not dictate the debates; the Democrats and Republican insiders need to step down and step out. The rules should be inclusive to any candidate with enough ballot access to feasibly win the presidency. Uncompetitive democracy is no democracy; we need to hear all voices. There are plenty of ways to get involved, for starters join efforts with organizations like https://freeandequal.org and get involved.
Repeal Citizens United:
In order to have free and fair elections we must mobilize against Citizens United. Citizens United is a Supreme Court decision that unleashed a flood of corporate money into our political system. The ruling stated that corporations have a constitutional right to spend unlimited amounts of money to promote or defeat candidates. This decision basically interprets the constitution as though corporations are human beings instead of legal fictions. The decision in this historic case – Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission – overturns a century of campaign finance law. South Dakota spearheaded this issue and passed the government accountability act and Initiative 22 also known as The Anti Corruption Act. ACA is model policy that sets a framework for city, state and federal laws to fix our broken political system. It fundamentally reshapes the rules of American politics and restores the people as the most important stakeholders in our political system. There are plenty of ways to get involved, for starters join efforts with organizations like http://www.democracyisforpeople.org and https://represent.us to get involved.
Super Delegates were created in the early 1980s. They are mostly made up of party insiders and its sole mission is to maintain party loyalism over the will of the people. The creation of Superdelegates was and still is a method to undermine insurgent candidates like Bernie Sanders. It’s a way to override the American voter. It is totally undemocratic and should be eliminated. There is not a democratic reason to allow over 700 party members to have a super vote that accounts of 15% of the 2,382 delegates it takes to win the DNC nomination. Unfortunately all efforts to eliminate Superdelegates were rejected by members of the DNC. We the people must spearhead this issue if we want fairer elections from the Democratic Party.