30 October, 2002

Election Reform

Things I would do if I could change how elections work in America:

  1. Make election day a paid holiday. Many people can't afford to take time off work to go vote.
  2. Provide two days of polling. Make sure that people and businesses can arrange their schedules to let as many people vote as possible.
  3. Allow absolutely no results to be released until the polls have closed on the second day. Why go vote when you already know the outcome?
  4. Offer an incentive to vote. Yeah, the ability to elect your leaders and decide important referenda should be enough incentive, but obviously that's not working. So, allow everyone who votes to get a tax credit.
  5. Allow "none of the above", or no confidence, choices on the ballots. There aren't too many things worse than having to choose between two shitty candidates. Unless it's having only one shitty candidate.
  6. When a person is released from prison, restore their voting rights. If they've "paid their debt to society", why shouldn't they be allowed to vote again?
  7. Make it easier for third- (and fourth-, fifth-, sixth-) party candidates to get on the ballot. Yeah, they might be crackpots, but if it's what the people want, it's what the people deserve.
  8. Abolish the electoral college. No more of this "swing state" crap. If you want to run for president, you should have to reach out and connect with all of America, not just a handful of states.


  1. I am all for tax credits for voters, or better yet additional tax for those that don't vote. That motion should pass easily as a ballot question, by answering it you exepmt yourself from the tax. ;-)
    Seriously I am all for getting rid of the Electoral College, exit polls, and the two party lock on our 'democratic' system. Having the ability to vote none of the above would be nice as well, however I would still try to choose the lesser of two evils.

  2. Well, here are my thoughts:#1: No, don't make it a paid holiday. Have a 24 hour voting window to allow people to get to the polls on their schedules. Also, most all states allow "excuseless" absentee voting. Get all states to allow absentee voting under any circumstances, and there is no excuse not to vote.#2: See #1.#3: Abso-frickin-loutely. Under a 24-hour window, all polls nationwide close at the same time.#4: That's a bad idea. The Tammany political machine stayed in power by paying people for their votes. Voting is a responsibility of a citizen, not some chore that should only be completed if we promise a twinkie. People need to take more interest in their government. What we DON'T need is people who have no interest in policy, but have an interest in getting whatever benefit is afforded to voters. That leads to bad government, and that's what elections are supposed to stop.#5. Agreed.#6. In most states, voting rights are restored at the end of the sentence. If someone is sentenced to 10 years but only serves four, they have to wait an additional 6 years before they can vote. I don't see that as a problem.#7: Generally, what's required? Some cash and petitions? What's the problem?#8: Can't disagree more. The electoral college is still needed; the 2000 election proved that.

  3. The vote-by-phone concept is intriguing... but doesn't allow for "write-in" votes, which is something I support.Also, I don't see the value in compartmentalizing the electoral college. By design, it favors small states over large ones. A state with one million people has a larger "voice per person" than a state with 20 million. Banding the votes together would only dilute the power of the smaller states.

  4. I am intrigued by the concern over a "nationwide recount". Why exactly would this happen in a popular vote, and not in an electoral vote? A candidate who wanted a recount would have to file a grevience in every, single precint across the country. He or she would have to defend this grevience in every single precint. No one is going to order a mass recount, because there is no mechanism for a mass recount. And frankly, there is no need for a mass recount, because for the most part, precints don't have major problems when it comes time to tally the votes. If they did, there would be a lot more work going into fixing the system.Florida proved that Florida needs to update it's voting implements. And oddly enough, Dubya signed into law a bill that will provide more than $3B to make these sort of improvements across the country, hopefully in time for the 2004 election. No more butterfly ballots and hanging chads. That is the problem: antiquated voting technques. Like Heath suggested, implement voting-by-phone. Hell, figure out voting-by-internet (although I really don't see that happening soon, because too many people distrust computers and the internet for it to happen). If you want to write-in a candidate, you'll need to go down and vote. But odds are, if you're the type of person to do a write-in, you're the type of person who doesn't mind getting to the poll, one way or another.Read my post above. Conceivably, I could campaign in 11 states, get a simple majority in each state, and be the next president. Completely ignoring the 39 others states, plus the District of Columbia (which, ironically, is already accustomed to being ignored by politicians). How exactly would the electoral college help the states like Delware, Rhode Island, North Dakota, etc. in a situation like this?

  5. You say the logistics of a nationwide recount are so insurmountable that no candidate would ever undertake one. You may be right, but in my mind, that even *more* underscores the need for the Electoral College.

    In typical years, the Electoral College magnifies the result of the popular vote, providing an unambiguous result to a close election. As an example, in the 1960 presidential election, the winning candidate had 49.9% of the popular vote, and the second-place candidate was only 0.2% behind. Had the popular vote told the story, neither candidate would have had a majority (not uncommon these days), and a difference of only 128,000 votes -- equivalent to the population of Lubbock, TX at the time -- separated the two. On the other hand, the Electoral College vote was pretty decisive: 303 to 219. The clarity of the Electoral results means that indignant demands for a recount in this close election were pretty ineffective. Had it not been for the Electoral buffer, though, this would have probably been a close enough margin to cause riots.

    Greg's "voice per person" argument against state blocs is a little thin. Technically, residents of Wyoming are the most electorally-powerful people in the country, in that the electors-to-voters ratio there is higher than in any other state. But you don't see presidential candidates stumping in Cheyenne and Laramie for those all-important three votes, not matter how 'empowered' those individual voters are. By analogy, even with a head start such as only 8 yards for a first down, I couldn't single-handedly take on the Dallas Cowboys, because I'd be totally outnumbered and outsized. Bloc-ing of smaller, western states wouldn't seriously interfere with the "voice per person" ratio -- a bloc of Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, North Dakota and South Dakota, for example, would carry 16 electors (reflecting all ten Senators, plus the six House representatives from these states). This is one more elector than New Jersey has, despite the fact that the five-state region has a combined population that's still less than half of New Jersey's. So the "voice per person" ratio isn't diluted in this case. But now, under the winner-take-all system, the winner in this bloc takes all 16 electoral votes -- making this part of the country much more lucrative for candidates, and increasing the attention these smaller states will receive overall.

  6. Right. The Electoral college makes it less likely that a nationwide recount would happen.Let's take my state, Kansas. This state hasn't sent Democratic presidential electors to Washington in my lifetime.There was no call to do a recount in Kansas, because it wasn't even close. There was no plausible way that Gore could have garnered enough votes from a recount to take the state and our electoral votes.But if the election is by popular vote, then every single precinct may hold 1, 10, or 100 uncounted votes for a candidate. And in a popular vote, that all gets added to the bottom line.It's akin to searching under the cushions of every sofa in America. It adds up.But what is important to remember is that the electoral college system is designed not only to represent the will of the voters, but to represent the will of the states. The states are (by design and sometimes by practice) where the front-line governing takes place.One possible way was to choose the president by popular vote. This puts large states at a significant advantage over smaller ones. Or, you could have the states pick it, one vote per state. That puts small states at an advantage.This seems to be the best solution.

  7. Humor me, here. What if (and this is a big if), all of the voting equipment in every precint throughout the country was upgraded to the latest, greatest computer system. Not a single person in this country use a butterfly ballot, or drops a sheet of paper into a box, except for those who vote by absentee ballot. Under these conditions, is there concern for a recount? All votes would be counted by virtue of the fact that they've been cast. No need for a group of people to sit around looking at pieces of paper, tallying them up for days on end. Would this, then, remove your concern about nationwide recounts? And "searching the couch cushions" for missing votes?(Yeah, I know that the likelihood of this all happening, and working flawlessly, isn't that great. But I've been dealing with a lot of hypotheticals so far, why stop now? *heh*)

  8. *cringes*

    You've voted before. Can you imagine training the precinct workers you've dealt with to use the "latest, greatest computer system"?How about spending the money to hire precinct workers with a clue? Folks who can learn how to maintain the machines they have, to replace punches when they get worn, to empty the chad trays when they get full, etc.?Better yet, just make me dicktaster for life. I mean, dictator!

  9. The problem with "hiring precinct workers with a clue" is that it's hard to get qualifies people who are able to work for 2 or three days out of every couple of years.Maybe we need to look at this another way. Maybe being a precinct worker needs to be like jury duty?