Reforming the voting process is necessary

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August 15, 2010

Title in Midland Daily News: Reform of voting process needed

Responses:

            We just had a primary election this month with abysmally low turnout. It is time to examine the voting process in this country and change our ways. The campaign for an office is far too long, tiresome, and costly especially for president.

Education

We need to place more emphasis on not only the electoral process but what is at stake in that process. It is unconscionable that in the best country in the world we marvel at 60% turnout in a presidential election. Contests in the recent Michigan primary election were decided by less than 25% of registered voters. Local elections quite often have the shameful turnout of merely 3-5%. This doesn’t even take into account the number of citizens who have not bothered to register.

Registration

            Citizens are not required to vote in any election but they are required to register if they want to vote. Registering should be easy and transparent and available to all citizens. Registering for the first time is necessary when one reaches voting age. Since we are a mobile society it is again necessary to register after moving to a new location. Moving just prior to an election should not disenfranchise people. Being a student should not bar one from voting either.

Campaign

            Campaigns for office should begin no earlier than six months prior to the election. Local elections are generally not a problem in this regard but state and national campaigns stretch out over too long a period. Our elected leaders need to do their job, not campaign for office.

            This time frame would allow anyone with serious credentials to get his/her name in front of the people in time to be on the primary ballot. A primary election, like the one we had on August 3, is for the purpose of selecting a candidate for a political party. That’s why we can vote only one party in a primary election. Requirements for a candidate to get on the ballot need to be open enough so that “third party” candidates (even fourth and fifth party) would have easy access to the ballot.  Once the requirements are met, all candidates would have public funding for their campaign and could spend no more.

            Various public debates and town hall meetings for each office would be televised for all constituents to watch and/or listen to.

Primaries

            There would be one national primary for president in early July in which any registered voter could cast his/her choice for any one of the candidates regardless of party affiliation of the candidates or the voter. The same could apply to local and state elections.

Election day(s)

            Elections for national office could be held over several days as happened in Florida in 2008 but the last day would be set up so that the polls close at the same time all over the country except Hawaii. In this way there would be no results posted early to influence later voters, except Hawaii.

            In order to encourage voting even local elections could be held on more than one day.

Paperless voting

            Technology is a wonderful modern tool to make life easier and more efficient use of time with results produced in seconds or minutes. Voting technology gives us all these benefits too. The Help America Vote Act of 2002 ordered some changes in voting after the debacle of 2000 but it failed in one very important aspect. It allowed paperless electronic voting machines. This means there is no way to have a recount but more importantly there is no way to record votes in the case of computer failure. And we all have experienced computer failures. Even more significantly perhaps is the possibility of fraud inherent in such machines. A programmer or hacker could change the code to produce results just different enough to make the loser a winner. Voting is such a sacred right that the paperless voting machines must be done away with. In 2009 17 states and DC were still using paperless voting machines. Fortunately Michigan is not one of them.

            There must be uniform rules regarding the number of machines per registered voters around the country. ID requirements must be as lenient as possible.

            Changing the rules this way would bring about several significant benefits. The process would have more credibility and voters would have more options in a more disciplined manner. The candidates would be on an equal footing even third party candidates who seldom can make it in the current process.

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Reference:

Michael Shearer, “Seven  things that could go wrong on election day”, Time, October 23, 2008.

http://www.truthout.org/102508A

 

Responses:

On line, copied here with permission of Midland Daily News.

Chris R:

I agree on the registration process for 3rd party candidates. They spend most of their time and money getting signatures and attempting to become officially registered for an election. The system is inherently rigged to keep the 2 parties that control everything...in control of everything. This is even more of a problem b/c they both are essentially for the same thing...the warfare/welfare state. They just like to divy up the loot slightly differently.

 

By email:

I read it in the paper this morning..... and FULLY AGREE.  Expect you'll get lots of positive response.

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Yes, Norbert,

I agree that reform of the voting process is needed.  I voted in the primary but I am still scratching my head on how little was really known about the candidates.  I would have liked to split my ticket, too.  As I attempted to discern which candidate would be best and I try to avoid "party" affiliation.  And then, the independent candidates are at an extreme disadvantage.   A shorter process with more of the financial aspects put towards issue development instead of primary race costs would assist both the candidates and the voters in determining which candidate best represents who the voter wants in offce. 

 

So, keep the torch alive on the need for reformation!

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Perhaps G.W. Bush’s greatest contribution to history will be the changes brought about in the faulty voting process that stuck us with him in the first place!

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Norb:  8 15 10

 

Thank you for sharing your Forum article.

 

"Things" in this country have been based on traditions that have outlived their original purpose. The country, the world and our culture have changed -- some to the worse  -- and much worse !

Base on "tradition" a court system is similarly tradition bound, it takes some aggressive new thinking to get all that updated, whereby examples from other countries may bring us some more modern solutions.

 

You ideas as to voting rights and voting processes are in line with this. Our failure to get people interested in voting is, that some consider the ritual a waste of time. They find that the "ins" -- having been "in" for several decades (e.g. our war monger Levin) -- have in fact run our country  financially into the ground, but .leave us no way to get them out. People interested enough to seek office -- lest they are millionaires already -- cannot find an opportunity to become a candidate lest they schmooze the ones in power with promises of follow their lead without ideas of "innovation".

So your proposals are timely and well suited to solve our problem, but they are significantly underfunded to make it into public consciousness.

 

Now substitute for "country" the "Catholic Church" and everything else fall similarly into place. The last thing they need are "innovators", even if the people leave the church in droves. Let us do some new thinking there also.

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Norb,

I agree that we need to reform our voting rules, but some of the most serious problems in our system are not addressed by your suggestions.  We need to get rid of the electoral collage.  That would force presidential candidates to campaign in all states, not just in "contested" states.  As it is, voters like me who live in a red or blue state but don't vote with the majority in our state are disenfranchised.  We need to elimiante voter registration all together, not just make it easier.  The government can tell if you paid your taxes or not, surely they can determine if you are elgible to vote.  Just show up at the poll and give your SSno and have them check you on a computer system the first time you vote at that location. Next time they will know you.  Mosts countries do not require registration anyway.   Make election days national holidays, so you don't have to talk off work to vote.  Yea, I know polls are open early and late, but plenty of people comute long distances and work two jobs.  I don't  think multiple day elections would be a good thing; it gives too much opportunity for exit polls to influence results. Keep former office holders from ever becoming lobbyists.  The revolving door we have (US Rep becomes lobbyist) is bad.  I like the idea of 6 month max campaign - your best idea.