Saturday, August 11, 2012

Election Reform Needed

Now that It is clear who the Presidential candidates will be, let us take a moment to turn our attention to the system or format by which they are chosen. After a series of state primaries where delegates are often appointed on a winner take all basis America must prepare to face the influence of the flawed Electoral College that is archaic, inherently undemocratic and gives certain swing states disproportionate influence in selecting the President. This takes over after the general election, and while the system does have some supporters, much of this support it is based on partisan politics. Reform of both primary and the electoral college processes would benefit the country by helping us chose better leaders. It is worth the effort to devise and support a system that lets the best talent and most qualified work their way to the top.

The best way to determine if a system needs change is to look at its goal or purpose. Our two party system and partisan politics tend to gravitate towards getting candidates elected that reflect the wishes of party insiders and not the people, I reject that goal. We must elect officials that most represent the views and desires of a majority of the people and at the same time protects those on the political fringe. I consider winner take all contest the most unfair way to allocate delegates. Our current systems tend to promote gridlock or often leave us forced to choose between the worst of two evils. Anything that encourages the pandering to special interest and small intense voting blocks is not in the interest of the majority of citizens and acts to polarize the nation.

Any state primary that acts to reduce the impact of those at the center and cast aside the preferences of a large number of independent voters allows for candidates to advance that fail to represent a majority of the people. When a politician tells a group of voters that they "deserve" more money and more opportunities, is this a cheap trick to buy votes? We must look past the media's glowing reviews and ask, "where's the beef"? Voters must make a serious effort to become better informed. The podium in a political campaign is a bully pulpit that sets priorities and brings about needed change. The flow of ideas and debate should be encouraged.

Winner take all primaries are quick and less divisive to their party but the notion that we should choose fast and unite behind a flawed or lesser candidate because he or she is better known or financed makes no sense. Indeed we need to reform the whole process, I live in Indiana, we have no voice at all in choosing a candidate. The field of Presidential candidates has already narrowed dramatically before we have a chance to be quizzed. My favorite candidate Ron Paul  had far less impact because of this closed process. Well designed caucuses or run off style elections offer voters the best choice.

Another major flaw with our current system is that  the announcement of any "third party candidate" can quickly skew the results, these candidates with a message become "a spoiler" that can deny the best choice any hope, this is magnified by the stupidity of our Electoral College. Over recent years, we have witnessed countries torn apart by burning, killing and tribal mayhem because the leaders in power stole the election, it should be pointed out that the winner-takes-all attitude is partly responsible for this problem. When the people's voice is ignored and both sides see the stakes as too high to admit defeat the system will lose broad support.

Open primaries that allow the voters to move from party to party or promoting a “run off” type process where first as well as second preferences are considered would tend to expand and open the political debate. Letting a voter cast votes for their first two choices in a larger field would act as a poll that helps articulate how people feel about the issues. We must trust voters to make the correct choice and resist ideas that hogtie the people in an effort to protect them from themselves. The outcome of our elections will not improve without reforming how we arrive at our final choice, it is unfortunate this is a very low priority.

It is time to put each vote on equal footing. Today with instant communication and no area of the United States more than a few hours away by jet it is time to eliminate the electoral college which redistributes attention during Presidential campaigns to key “swing states”and skews their overall importance. The fact that you can be elected President while receiving less of the popular vote taints an already lengthy and expensive process. The cost of maintaining this antiquated dinosaur is expensive and no longer yields any real benefit, in many ways harmful. It is sad that our nation still allows an election to teeter on, and be decided by a few hundred votes in Ohio or Florida. 

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