Sunday, November 23, 2014

A More Perfect Union Part 1 Improving Voter Turnout, and the Voting System in General.

I had intended to post this on Election Day, but things being how they are (and me not having an organized workspace) I have put it off.  Well I sm trying to Remedy the situation.  This is the first part of a series on Ways I have come up with to Improve the working of OUR government, and the state of our Democracy as a whole.

For Years I have heard lamentations about Voter Turnout and complaints about things like Gerrymandering, both parties being sides of a coin, politicians being dishonest and more worried about their own hold over the reigns of power, etc etc, ad Nauseum.  For the most part I agree with all these statements and feelings.  Our system IS broken, the 2 parties are more worried about being AGAINST the other side than actually being FOR something.  the 2 Party system makes Us v Them partisan politics the norm and a vital part of each sides propaganda machine, and We, the People all too often come out as loosers in the process.  So I would like to put forward a few meagre proposals on how we can fix or alleviate at least SOME of these problems.

1: Direct election of the President

This is a fairly straightforward proposal, and one that I think will go FAR to remedying a few of the problems.  Eliminate the Electoral College.  The EC was, to my way of thinking, a much needed and creative way to deal with the election of the president in the colonial period.  It was an innovation or compromise that dealt with the Technological Limitations (quite nicely I might add) faced by the Founders and the Many States.  In a time when sailing ships, horses, and canals were the fastest mode of travel, our nation NEEDED a way to collect the votes from the districts up to the state level, and then transport them to a central point from which to tally them at a federal level and declare a winner.  However those technological limitations are no longer in place.  In this time of instantaneous communication around the entire world, we do not NEED to hold onto this archaic system.  nor Should we Want to.

I perceive a few reasons why.  1: Direct election would improve voter turnout.  Whenever Direct election gets brought up, many people will say something like "then the major cities will be the ones electing the president, and all the (read conservative) heartland will be out of luck"  well, that might be a valid point IF the major cities were completely homogeneous.  however, in truth, they are not.  Most STATES aren't even as homogeneous as they seem.  People who argue with that point neglect to consider the large population of NYC who are Conservative (or for that matter the Upstate NY conservatives, or mid state Jersians who are conservative... or the Tennesseans, Texans, Georgeans, etc who are Liberal.)  as it stands now, Many States are considered "safe" due to their historical EC

2: RunOff/ Preferential voting system for President

This is a fairly simple idea, that I imagine would improve voter turnout AND open the doors to third (and fourth, fifth and sixth parties)  Instead of voting A OR B OR C... the voters would rank them A then C Then D Then B.  a threshold would be set (perhaps 65%) that would be required to elect the president.  IF, in the first round of tallying, no candidate crossed that threshold, than the candidate witht he lowest total would be eliminated, and all of his or her voters would have their SECOND choices tallied into the total... rinse and repeat if noone crosses the line, until ONE candidate obtains "the prize"

Under this form of national election (or state election for that matter) there is NO problem with 3rd parties "wrecking" an election.  Perhaps Perot would have won in 92, if enough Rs and Ds put HIM first, THEN their party candidate... or Nader, or Stein. or Johnson... etc etc.

Now there IS one problem I forsee with this idea, and that is getting the same candidates on Every Ballot, therefore I would propose that "Any Candidate who obtains a place on 15-20 state ballots is AUTOMATICALLY placed on EVERY ballot"  Thusly allowing smaller parties, who might not have a big bankroll the ability to obtain national status and at least a chance at the Highest office

3:Proportional Representation in the Senate

Now, I will grant you that this one is a stretch, Honestly, I am not even 100% sure I like it, not to mention it would require a Constitutional Amendment... However i think it is an interesting idea, and one that we should at least have a vast DISCUSSION about.  AGAIN this is aimed at undercutting the stranglehold that the 2 parties hold over our government.  Psychologically it would foster a sense of cooperation, conciliation and compromise, not only among our elected leaders, but among the people as well.  It would ALSO serve to strengthen our Third parties, preparing them to field Viable Candidates for national and state wide offices.

This would work fairly simply, instead of each state electing its pair of senators, there would be a national senate referendum BY PARTY, and any party that passed a certain threshold (perhaps 5 or 10%.. we would want it fairly low) would gain a proportional representation in the Upper House of the Congress.  This would allow third parties to amass a coalition across state lines, and among the ENTIRE population and have an easy path to having a voice in the Federal Government.  Instead of a third party needing to get 40-50% of a statewide vote, they would only need that SIGNIFICANTLY lower bar, nationwide.  Libertarians, Greens, Social-Democrats, Family Rights parties would ALL have an equal chance to get a "seat at the table".  Further more, IF we wanted to go "full parliamentary model" we could grant portions of the Federal Government/ executive branch power to this portion of the government, (say the FBI, EPA, Natl Guard, FEMA, and Boarder Patrol for examples) leading to a majority of the senate having direct control over those offices... however that would ALSO allow for multiple minority groups to form COALITION governments and override whichever party was the Majority.  Once Again, fostering unity and bi (or Tri) partisanship and cooperation within the halls of power.

4: End Gerrymandering and long term Incumbency

This is a Big one.  As far as I am concerned, all congressional districts should be computer drawn, based SOLELY on population, and not on race, creed, or political affiliation.  There are a couple of computer models that would also work (see them HERE) that can take other things into consideration ( completely balance the parties within districts, making them always competitive, hewing closely to existing political divisions like county and city lines, etc)  The Ideas all have some merit, and should probably be left to the individual states to choose which one is best for the states itself... albeit limited by Computerized, and making individual districts competitive, not organized to favor one party over another... and I would make "bug splat" districts prohibited (you know the ones with multiple 'fingers' and big swirls... in other words, districts should be as contiguous and 'basic geometric shapes' as possible.  A straight Population style could look like "pie slices" in each state, or another pattern.

That would go a long way to ending the plague of incumbency and 'safe districts' that undermines the BASIC PROMISE of the Democratic Process.  If that was coupled with a "hard" or "soft term limit law (soft would be a limit on # of terms in a row a senator or congressman could serve, with a single or double term "break" in the middle... like 2 or three in a row, with a single term break before running again)

Once again, I don't have a complete preference among one or another plan for this one, so perhaps it would best left to the "many states" so that many options are tried.  Honestly, this one would be a great idea for a national or statewide party to make as a cornerstone and enact within their OWN party, without the force of law, IMHO that party could make some SERIOUS political hay out of doing something that might HURT the party in the short run, but which was in the best interests of the PEOPLE and our democracy (to be Honest, I only see one party doing this, since the other one already has a very strong base and power platform for that base... but that MIGHT be my partisanship showing through)

5: Presidential Incumbent Ticket

This is something that I have been toying with for a few years now, and something that could add a VERY interesting dynamic to the political landscape.  However it would only work with the first two (specifically the second) change already in place.  With this idea, any incumbent president would run on a separate ticket to the ticket of his party.  As i said, it would only REALLY work with Run-Off style elections, to avoid a 'perot' style problem of splitting the ticket, or splitting Support.  But, I think it might serve as a VERY interesting "vote of NO Confidence" in a sitting president, if they were forced to face, not only challengers from OTHER parties, but from within their own.  (McCain v Bush v Kerry in 04?? might have had a different outcome... especially if Wes Clark was another option... Or Even Romney v Obama v ((shudder)) Hillary in 12)

 Over the last decade as I became more politically active and astute.  I started out with nothing more than a deep seated sense that Something was Wrong and I have been seeking out ways to fix those problems ever since.  These are a few of the ideas that I have come across, gleaned from other political systems, writers, thinkers... ideas that i gleefully appropriate from a multitude of disparate sources of every possible political stripe and try to work into my OWN complete Synthesis of a 'MORE perfect Union" of man and government.  A BETTER form of government, or at least one that learns from the lessons of the past and attempts to FIX those mistakes and problems that have come from the weight of two centuries of lawmaking (and all the attendant Social and Technological advances that have happened in the intervening years)

This Kind of reflections and advancement is what the Founders intended when they laid out rules on how to change and amend the Constitution.  For us to be able to Modify and Change the structure of government and Fix, completely the problems that have accumulated within our legal system and Governmental structure.

What Say You All?