The evidence proves that Political Parties running elections is bad for Democracy.
Ideas for election reform have been flowing across my facebook screens nearly daily for the last month. Many of the ideas individually have a lot of merit, but there are some that are downright dangerous. The most common ideas are ranked choice voting, eliminating gerrymandering, open primaries, making election day a holiday, even more early voting, vote by mail, automatic voter registration, and mandating paper ballots. I am sure there are others that I missed listing and others that I have not heard about.
Why is election reform such a hot topic all of a sudden? A major driver was the recent election for president that did not turn out in any way how the experts all expected it would. Their malfeasance has turned into a state of shock all across America. So the next question is, what went wrong that never went wrong before. As far as I can tell, nothing went wrong that hasn’t gone wrong before. That means that the problems that need fixing haven’t changed. Why all the fuss now? My thesis is that nobody wants to admit that anything was going wrong before. Especially the pundit class, that group of people who sit around tables that are near TV cameras and pontificate just as I am doing now, except my laptop camera is turned off and I don’t get paid. Also the pundit class keeps getting to talk into cameras and say stuff and two weeks later when they are all wrong, the same group gets brought back in front of the cameras and are asked to pontificate some more. Instead of looking back and asking what are we missing, they pretend that the real problems with our entire election are not consequential, and as the cognitive dissonance distance between what is broken and what the pundit class bases their predictions increases, the less reliable the predictions are, and the less the public believes them.
A reliable election process is where the best candidates are selected and those candidates should represent as much of the spectrum of ideas as possible. It also depends on all the votes being counted, and anytime the count is in doubt, a recount should be expected as a matter of course. Enforcement of election procedures along with the same level of audits used to validate that a bank is responsibly and honestly counting all the money individuals have handed to them for safe keeping is the minimum we should expect if protecting democracy is a true government objective. Are any of those standards happening in our election system? I don’t think so at all. In fact until we implement procedures to assure we have a process that brings forth candidates that advocate a broad spectrum of ideas, and elections whose results are trusted by the electorate, then any changes that do not directly address those problems will remain small band-aid patches on a deep wound. And if that is all we implement, then the band-aid will fall off and the wound will open even wider.
In order to bring forth multiple candidates with differing philosophies the two-party system has to be relegated to back of the line. It was obvious to the Founding Fathers that as odious as political parties are, they will form nonetheless. That should be accepted but in no way be legislated as a requirement for candidacy nor should parties be outlawed. People will do what they always do and form cliques, it is government’s role to make sure that parties do not make the rules. Right now, our election system is so locked down as Democrat vs. Republican that around 98% of all elected officials in the US are members of one of those parties. That only two candidates are considered viable in at least 98% of our elections means that other ideas are literally stifled. Actual discussion is diminished and the voter finds nobody that truly represents their personal point of view, resulting in lower voter turnout. Counting ballots must take place on paper, but technology should not be eliminated. While scanner software is easy to manipulate, there is no reason that programming the machines cannot be done using open software, data entered (such as candidates names and their related printed information that appears on the ballot) should be in plain language. The program code should be written in an interpretative language so that any literate individual can read and understand how the program tabulates the votes . Audits of at least 10% of the polling places must be mandatory and the audits must be a hand count of the scanned paper ballots.
There are two more critical issues that must be addressed since their impact on elections is profound. First, a law must be passed overturning the Supreme Court decision to release certain states and other jurisdictions from Justice Department oversight of changes to their election laws. It became obvious within days that the court had made a mistake since one state after another passed voter restriction laws as soon as the oversight was removed. Along with that, the law should provide tools for any polling places that are insufficiently supplied with voting machines or ballots to have those ballots printed at any nearby printing facility via a temporary eminent domain authority.
The second critical point is to remove any political party restrictions for Primary elections. This has become a frequent point made by many, but most do not go far enough since they only require that anyone can pick which party’s ballot they want. But consistent with my earlier point that parties must be relegated to the back of the line, each person showing up to vote in a Primary gets only 1 ballot with all the candidates on it. This becomes more critical when there is more than one office on the ballot. A person can then vote for the person they want in the primary no matter what parties their choice of candidates aligns with.