Here’s some ideas I’ve been considering for changing our electoral system. I sent this via my email list on Sunday, and have had some really awesome conversations already about the merits and demerits of these ideas. I have left them in their original form, even though my perspective has shifted since Sunday on some of these ideas, due to the respectful argumentation I’ve engaged in with some of my friends who disagree with me. One friend actually told me one of the ideas made her want to vomit. Let’s see how they land with you.
Take a look. Gimme your thoughts. Let’s get in the mix.
DEMOCRACY 2.0: BECAUSE THE CURRENT SYSTEM IS CLEARLY IN NEED OF AN UPGRADE…
1) CAMPAIGN FINANCE REFORM (GET THE MONEY OUT OF POLITICS.)
Since the 2010 Supreme Court judgement commonly known as “Citizen’s United,” campaign spending has reached extraordinary levels, especially from corporations and wealthy individual donors. In 2016 Clinton spent nearly $1.4 billion and Trump spent nearly $932 million on their campaigns. Is there not a better use for this money in our Democracy? How are the actions of the candidates affected by their relationships with wealthy donors and corporations? Why are they spending so much time fundraising as opposed to governing? If we are truly choosing candidates based on their credentials, positions and integrity, there would be no need to spend this much money on campaigning. I say give us your pitch, give us the information, let us decide. Don’t manipulate us (more on that below.)
2) CAMPAIGN TIME LIMITS (THESE CAMPAIGNS LAST TOO LONG.)
Exhausted by the never-ending cycle of political coverage and campaigning? ME TOO. According to The Atlantic:
“Nearly 60 percent of Americans say they’re exhausted by the glut of election coverage…The length of the campaign, moreover, is one reason billions of dollars are poured into U.S. presidential contests…The steep cost of running for president, in turn, only makes the campaign longer; candidates need time to fundraise.
America’s combination of “a relatively short presidential term and an unusually long election process” also obstructs the work of U.S. policymakers, particularly those focused on foreign relations, Stephen Walt wrote in Foreign Policy in 2012. For at least a quarter of each presidential term, politics eclipses policy in government and in public discourse.”
Give me 6 months max of campaigning. Then do your job the rest of your term.
3) LEGALLY REQUIRE EVERY VOTER TO EDUCATE THEMSELVES ON THE CANDIDATES’ POSITIONS AND TO VOTE (EDUCATED VOTING IS OUR CIVIC RESPONSIBILITY AND PRIVILEGE.)
I think we should use current online education and testing models to educate voters and test their comprehension of the candidate’s positions.
Here’s what I propose: Each candidate gets an allotted, word-count limited online write-up to appeal to the electorate (this already exists in paper form, mailed to our mailboxes each election.) Each voter then must read the write-up and pass a short online exam where they are tested on the basic tenets of each candidate’s platform. This would reinforce at least a basic understanding of where each candidate stands on the issues. In my opinion, this should be a minimal requirement for citizenship in this country and for voting.
Polling places would be converted to Help Centers, where those who need technical assistance can be assisted in using the online voting system. There’d also be an option to vote at the center in person, digitally or on paper, with an on-site testing monitor that would authenticate integrity. There would also be assistance programs for those who struggle with literacy, are blind, struggle with standardized testing, etc.
Finally, we should legally require everyone to vote, with financial consequences if they don’t (perhaps through taxes, fines.) I believe that if you want to reap the benefits of a representational democracy, you need to participate in that democracy.
4) VOTE USING BLOCKCHAIN TECHNOLOGY, INDEPENDENTLY VERIFIED BY MULTIPLE NON-PARTISAN GROUPS. (WE NEED TO BE ABLE TO VERIFY THE INTEGRITY OF THE VOTE.)
Alright, this one gets a little technical, but I’ll try and explain it in a concise, easy-to-follow way (I am over-simplifying some of the tech elements, but I’ll give you the gist.) Basically, after passing your comprehension exam (above), each voter is given a computer code that is unique to them, i.e. my name is Ben Caron and my code is 0101. That code is my voting token. To vote, I would sign in online using my unique token, and put my token towards the candidate of my choice. The record of my vote would be logged in a computer registry that is monitored by many different non-partisan groups, none of whom are related to each other, all of whom are verifying against each other that their information matches. That way, if The Colorado League for Voter Integrity sees my token went to Candidate A, but the California Voting Coalition sees that in their records it went to Candidate B, they can cross-check against each other and report the irregularities. This keeps the election from being hacked, as each group is uniquely equipped and charged with monitoring the integrity of the online vote (if you want to know more about blockchain technology, click here.)
6) ELECTION DAY IS A HOLIDAY, AND A MONDAY! (NO EXCUSE FOR NOT VOTING.)
Every election day would be on a Monday, and it would be a national holiday. That way, you have the full weekend to research the candidates, and pass your comprehension exam so that you can vote by Monday. As everyone will have Monday off, you won’t have to get time off work to vote. Early voting would also still be an option, that way if you vote early, you just get a three-day weekend.
Reward the people for fulfilling their civic duty, and make it easier for them to do so!
7) EXPLORE ALTERNATIVE VOTING METHODS (BECAUSE THE LESSER OF TWO EVILS IS A TERRIBLE OPTION.)
There are many different ideas as to ways we can create a more just voting system that doesn’t give us the option of voting for “the lesser of two evils”— which many people felt was the only option they were given in this last election. One system that is used globally is called “instant-runoff voting,” which consists of ranking your choices and redistributing the votes from the least-ranked to the highest-ranked. There are also many other systems to explore, including approval voting, and a direct popular vote, with a runoff between the top two finishers if no candidate receives 40 percent of the vote. Let’s take the time to find the system that truly serves us best, as opposed to assuming our current system is the right system.
8) RESTRICT THE USE OF ADVERTISING IN ELECTIONS (END THE CYCLE OF MASS MANIPULATION.)
I propose that each candidate be limited to the amount and the type of advertising they can utilize, placing the power back in the hands of the voter to engage with the candidate on their own terms, as opposed to the candidate’s terms.
Advertising is admittedly a form of mass manipulation, usually meant to emotionally trigger an audience so they might act in the way that an advertiser desires. Political advertising is rarely utilized to communicate information or facts, but instead used to propagate fear and hatred so that you’ll vote for the candidate you fear and hate least. Political advertising in the US has created immense toxicity and division in our society. It needs to be regulated.
I believe each candidate should have a cap on the amount of air-time they are allowed, as well as how much they can spend on advertising in general. Also, I think advertising should be independently fact-checked before it is allowed to air. Just as campaign fundraising is regulated, so should campaign advertising, for the sake of our society. Instead of allowing candidates to encroach on our headspace unbidden, I would advocate that voters should be encouraged to visit the candidates’ websites and research the facts about each candidate in their own time (power to the people!)
9) AT LEAST FOUR PARTIES TO BALANCE THE POWER (THIS DUAL-PARTY SYSTEM IS FAILING US.)
We need to figure out how to create at least a four-party system in our nation, because, as of late, neither of the two parties we’ve been presented with actually hold the interest of the people at heart. Instead, they both serve big donors and corporations (for the reasons I listed above.)
As citizens, we should be given a range of candidates that represents different gradations of our values. Everything is not just red and blue, black and white, conservative and liberal. We are nuanced people with nuanced values. Let’s represent a little more diversity in our political thought and discourse.
***This is a complicated one to execute. First, you’d need to get the money out of politics so that big-donor fundraising isn’t such a necessity. Then you’d need to figure out ways to give equal air-time and placement to all candidates (in case you missed it, Jill Stein and Gary Johnson were not included in the debates.) Lastly, you’d need to make it clear that voting for a third or fourth-party candidate isn’t a wasted vote (perhaps through the alternative voting methods I mentioned above.
I am not exactly sure how this one gets accomplished, but I do believe it’s a vital necessity. Maybe you have ideas?
My intention with posting this is to spark a dialogue, or at least to plant a seed in your mind as to the ways that this electoral system is failing us. Many of these ideas need to be researched more. They all need to be vetted properly. Maybe you’ve got info to share with me. Maybe you hate these ideas. Let’s talk. Educate me. I love respectful argumentation.