People usually think of elections as the way to fix things. They hope they can get the right people elected, and then things will be better. The problem is that a lot of things that ordinary people think are problems, politicians find them good, just, and even necessary.
Politicians, who make the rules, find it is too easy and tempting to bend and play the rules. They confuse something being legal with something being right. As long it is legal, it is okay. A lot of these things you can’t really expect politicians to change or correct.
So, if things need to be changed, in most cases it will depend on people banding together, signing petitions to get referendums or constitutional amendments to change things that politicians won’t, or otherwise puting pressure on them to make the necessary changes.
And these changes should be done between elections because every law that tries to fix something ends up in court, so that anything that can affect an election’s outcome won’t be valid in the next one.
I have identified five issues that I believe need correcting and that will take public initiatives to bring about any change.
1) The end of the two-party system. Wait. That sounds too extreme. But actually, there is a problem here that stifles our entire political system.
A two-party system makes an election simple. The winner not only has more votes than the loser, but he/she also has a majority of the votes cast. A clear winner.
But enter an independent candidate.
Now the winner may have the most votes of all the candidates, but he may not have a majority of the votes cast. In a three-way contest, the winner could have as little as 34% of the vote. In fact, independent candidates are discouraged from running because they are generally seen as taking votes from mostly one of the parties, and thus almost giving the election to the other party.
It is not right for any candidate to win any election without getting a majority of the votes cast. The Presidential election is an exception in that it is the states that elect the President and not individuals.
Independent (or third party) candidates are needed to provide more choices. Frankly, I only vote Republican now because there is no other alternative to the Democrats.
So what we need are either runoff elections for every race without one candidate winning a majority of all the votes cast (expensive), or an option on the ballot for second choice candidates if there are more than two. This is especially important in primaries, where it is often tough to choose between candidates (and there are often a lot to choose from.)
Far too often, voters feel they cannot vote for the candidate they really want because it would be considered a wasted vote. They are told to vote for the candidate most likely to win rather than who they really want. This would enable us to finally vote our consciences.
2) Gerrymandering. Every ten years, the majority party of a state is allowed to redraw the representative districts of the state to reflect shifts in population. So the majority party takes this opportunity to draw boundary lines that dilute the voting power of the opposing party and thus keep more of the majority party in power.
This is broadly accepted by politicians because the other party can and will do the same when, or if, they ever get in power. So what is wrong with this, if everyone does it?
With the advent of the computer, strategists are able to know quite a bit about the people who live in any particular place. They know the voting patterns for every precinct in the country. But they also know their ethnicity, religion, educational level, wealth, age, lifestyle, home-ownership, and private vs. public employment as well.
We may assume that all gerrymandering in the past has been to dilute the voting power of the opposition party. But depending on what issues are pending in a state at the time of redistricting, what is there to prevent drawing boundary lines to dilute or maximize the voting power of any other identifiable group? It need not be just Republican or Democrat.
No. This is wrong. If you think it is right, I am not sure if any words will be able to convince you. But I think most people will see this immediately. There is an initiative now in Illinois to put an end to this. And, no, it did not start with the legislators.
I live in a town of 30,000 people. For a while, our town was represented by 4 different Congressmen. This is wrong.
The most logical, fairest way is geography, keeping those in the same communities in the same districts as much as possible. Politicians should not have access to personal information when determining legislative boundaries.
3) The repeal of the 26th Amemdment. This is the Amendment that lowered the voting age to 18.
The only reason that the voting age was lowered to 18 was that at the time, our nation had a military draft; and we were fighting a war that wasn’t really a war because we didn’t declare it one (and so we weren’t really trying to win it.)
So we had 18 year olds fighting and dying; and if that is the case, they should he allowed to vote and have a say in how our country is being run. Now we have 25 year olds still on their parents’ medical insurance and living at home.
Voting is considered a right today, but it is also a privilege and a responsibility. Most states bar felons from being able to vote. So few political leaders would regard it as an inviolable right, one that cannot be taken from someone.
But there is another, bigger question floating around.
Photo credit: Cali4Beach (Creative Commons)
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