America’s election system is far from perfect, so here are five ways to improve it
American Elections are supposed to be the bread and butter of Western democracy. Out of three hundred and ten million Americans, one is filtered out and chosen by their peers to lead the wealthiest nation on earth through good times and bad. Sounds simple enough.
But these days, whether you are an American or an outsider looking in, you have to be at least a little turned off by how the system is set up and run. Elections are long, corrupt and expensive. Not only does this result in abysmal voter turnout, it results in a lesser form of democracy. There are however some simple solutions we can institute to vastly improve American Elections, here are five of them:
When I speak of shorter elections here, I’m referring to the federal election only, not the primaries that come before it, which is a whole separate issue. Still, by the time the two party primaries are wrapped up in earlier summer and the candidates are ready to go to war, there are still four or five months to until Election Day.
That’s five months of attack ads on radio, television, YouTube. Five months of debates on television. Five months of decorating your front lawn with your favorite candidate’s slogan. The Federal Election campaigns are far too long and benefit no one but the media outlets who profit from the nonstop campaign ads. In the age of information we are living in, Federal Elections should take no longer than a single month.
Single Day Primaries
Election primaries are held for one purpose; to choose a leader. The United States Constitution has never been specific about the process, Both Republicans and Democrats have developed their own procedures over time. As a result the primaries for both parties have become a yearlong exercise in party fundraising.
Candidates should not have the time to change policy positions back and forth ten times before primary voters make a decision. Donald Trump was an asshole this time last year, and guess what? He still is, and the primary still isn’t officially over.
Primaries should be held like a leadership race in a parliamentary democracy. One day, the whole country votes, whether it’s open to the public or just party members. The primary campaign should last a couple months at most for the sake of the lesser known candidates. We should not have six months of campaigning for the primary just to be followed by six months of primaries themselves. It’s ridiculous.
A Federal Election by the Federal Government
The Federal Election Commission is a fairly useless bipartisan, but independent regulatory agency that was founded in 1975 by Congress to regulate campaign finance legislation in the United States. Needless to say they’ve done a bang-up job.
Once we manage to get money out of politics, the FEC should be set up in a way that overlooks all aspects of federal elections, not just campaign finances.
I’m all for State’s rights, but for a federal election, each state should not have much of a say in how federal elections are run. Rules on redistricting for example should have federal laws governing them, not a state legislature. These rules should then be enforced by a FEC with some teeth. Gerrymandering and voter suppression laws would become a thing of the past.
Abolish the Electoral College
In theory, with a winner take all electoral system, in 48 states, a presidential candidate can win 50.01% of the popular vote, but receive 100% of the electoral votes from that state. As a result, a person can become president by winning only 21.8% of the popular vote. That doesn’t sound fair to me,
It didn’t sound fair to Al Gore in 2000 either. He received half a million votes more than George W. Bush, but lost the election. By scrapping the Electoral College, there would be no more swing states or safe states.
Furthermore, because of the way the number of electors are distributed, as fairvote.org explains; each individual vote in Wyoming counts nearly four times as much in the Electoral College as each individual vote in Texas.
Again the point of a Federal Election is to choose a federal leader. The states, particularly the smaller ones, should not dictate who becomes president. It should be determined by actual voters.
Everyone knows that money in politics is the single biggest problem in America today. Money has been corrupting our politicians for decades now, there have been entire books written about it, but it has now gotten to the point where bribery is essentially legal.
If the laws are changed either by the Supreme Court or a constitutional amendment, the next logical step would be to publicly fund the general election. Every party, every candidate would have the same advertising limits and best of all, our politicians could finally concentrate on governing rather than fundraising six hours a day.
These are all small pieces in a larger puzzle, but if America truly values its democracy, they should all be considered essential to its survival.