If the current election season teaches us nothing else, it’s gob-smackingly obvious that we need to revamp our election system. With a polarized electorate caused by having only two major political parties and a wholly unqualified presidential candidate running on behalf of one of those parties, Dr. Phil’s perennial question comes to mind: “How’s that workin’ for you?”
It ain’t working for us, Dr. Phil. It’s ain’t working.
We’re feeling disenfranchised, disconnected from the political process, and disgruntled by the whole sordid business.
There are a number of ideas floating around for reforming the electoral system. Here are 9 of them.
- We need more major parties, not just 2. I’d suggest between 3 and 5 parties. This would allow for additional political viewpoints that would hopefully moderate the polarization that has occurred by having only 2 parties. We might have to jump-start this process because so much of the system is built to keep third party candidates from making any headway.
- Put an independent, non-partisan organization in charge of the presidential debates. As was made apparent during the 2016 election season, the Democrats and Republicans control the presidential debates through the Commission on Presidential Debates, with no chance for third party candidates to get their voices heard. Putting a non-partisan organization in charge would hopefully allow third party candidates to take the stage.
- Eliminate the electoral college. Nothing is more disenfranchising to average voters than knowing that however we vote, our individual votes for president may not count. In the United States, the majority of states operate on the rule that whichever presidential candidate gets the most votes, the states’ electoral colleges assign all their votes to the winner, thus wiping out all the votes for the “losing” candidate.
- Bring on the ranked choice (a.k.a. instant runoff) voting. This would give citizens an opportunity to express more nuanced desires for presidential candidates, including voting for third-party candidates.
- Overturn Citizens United. Stop allowing corporations to dump money into campaigns so that they have undue influence on our elections.
- Publicly finance campaigns. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, Teddy Roosevelt was a fan of having campaigns paid for by the public in order to keep them on an even playing field in terms of financing. Naturally, politicians tend to be hesitant to go this route because they look for any edge to win, including having the biggest campaign war chest. Unfortunately, this keeps a lot of good, qualified people from running for elected office, simply because they can’t afford it. Requiring all candidates to run under publicly financed campaigns would make them focus on issues rather than fundraising.
- Limit the length of campaign seasons. Do we really need to listen to election-related news for two years prior to a presidential election? The length of campaign seasons has gotten ridiculous and causes election fatigue in voters. Give us a break and limit the campaign season to 6 months prior to the election. Why not look to other countries for examples?
- Make it easy to vote nationwide. We need to stop politicians from creating voter I.D. laws and other barriers to voting.
- Prevent gerrymandering. This is just stacking the deck for particular parties and it’s meant to disenfranchise voters. Why not have an independent, non-partisan organization figure out the congressional districts?
Are there any ideas you would add to this list? If so, please leave a comment.
While it might be argued that some of these ideas for reform won’t work, with as messed up as our current electoral system is, we need to do something to bring sanity back to our elections. Why not give at least some of them a try? Why not start the process of reform now so we aren’t back in this whirlpool of dysfunction in 4 more years?