Beyond Good and Evil

Dr. Ronnie J. Hastings

Citizens! (III) Call for Election Reform

In addition to the destruction of the political professional class [Citizens! (I) Call For the Destruction of the Political Professional Class] and the redistribution of wealth [Citizens! (II) The Redistribution of Wealth] we citizens have to come up with a better way to elect our officials, particularly the election of President.

We have just witnessed the disturbing possibility that the White House can be bought, the possibility that winning the race for the Presidency is a matter of who has the most money. In 2000 we witnessed the disturbing fact that a candidate can win a majority of the vote of the citizenry and yet not win the Presidency. As citizens who love our country, we must seriously address ways of ceasing to be disturbed in these two ways.

First, look at the electoral college, which made possible the strange outcome of the election of George W. Bush in 2000. One way of looking at it is that the Republicans “stole” that election. The electoral college was established from the inception of our country because the right to vote was far, far from universal; the definition of the voting citizen was deeply qualified. In order to vote you had to be male, free, etc. The electoral college was also established to avoid a delay in determining the outcome of the election, given the 18th century detriments to communication lines and the archaic means of communication by today’s standards. If the election was close, instead of spending months with no President recounting the votes, the college would give us a President as quickly as possible; if the college vote came out without a majority vote, our founding fathers, to avoid a leaderless nation, provided the means to have our President anyway, by letting the House of Representatives vote in the new chief executive, which, by the way, happened in the elections of 1800 and 1824.

I submit, fellow citizens, that the reasons for having the electoral college are today anachronistic; they no longer exist. We are very close to universal suffrage, thanks to the sacrifices of women and civil rights advocates of the past. Anyone can vote today who is 1) a citizen, 2) a non-felon, 3) above a certain voting age, and 4) of a sound mind (i.e. knows what he/she is doing when they vote). All the old restrictions having to do with gender, position, and property have been swept away. The systems of voter registration well established across the country have minimized voter fraud and are getting closer and closer to eliminating such fraud. The Republican leadership in some States during the last election who attempted to mess with citizens’ right to vote by politically partisan voting-time restrictions and intimidation tactics is to me despicable; that leadership messed with a hard-won voting suffrage, and, for the most part, got their come-up-ance for doing so. Citizens should continually remind such despicability such “messing” better not happen again from now on.

Furthermore, the means and lines of communication, thanks to the computer age, have made delays in election outcomes obsolete. We have to gag the press and media on election night not to give results until the polls close in particular States, in order not to have elections affected by immediate vote counts. The fiasco following the 2000 election (Can you say “Florida?”) would have been avoided, even with the recounts, if results had followed the popular vote rather than the electoral college vote. Even with the fiasco, we had a new President promptly, by 18th century standards.

Therefore, I ask all citizens to call for the elimination of the electoral college, the outcome being determined by comparative totals of the popular vote across the nation and territories. A winner, with computer compilations of incoming votes, can be determined as soon as it is now, using the “gag” rule as mentioned above. Have an “official” tally center, if you want, on election night, but have several independent computer centers also keep up with the vote counts simultaneously, accumulating as soon as the numbers are reported for public consumption, with no “official” totals released until all the several centers corroborate on the numbers. (This to safeguard against hackers and cyber-criminals.) No election should be called until the corroborated difference between the two vote counts (assuming we will have a “two-horse race,” as usual) exceeds the corroborated sum of the expected vote counts in the last States to report.

Now to the ridiculous expense of the Presidential election. (It seems almost obscene to me that the amount of money spent on political campaigning has to be factored into the national economic picture.) I suggest a limited window of time allowed for campaigning, so that elected officials cease using all their terms as preparation for the next election in lieu of doing that for which they were elected. Also, a limited window would compliment the destruction of the professional political class (See “Citizens! (I) Call For the Destruction of the Professional Political Class”). France has shown us lately how this could be done. They allow four months for Presidential campaigning; you cannot do it before that period. We might want more than that, say, up to a year, but that would be much, much better than the “four-year” Presidential campaigns our Presidents perpetuate these days in their first term. The Supreme Court turning loose the political action groups and the super groups with no limits as to how much money they can use has exasperated the situation, creating the possibility that the few very, very rich can direct a Presidential campaign; any success as a result of this Supreme Court decision could create a plutocracy in our country (rule by the rich few).

I suggest:

  1. no campaigning and no campaign contributions unless it is in a designated and voted-upon window that does not exceed 12 months before the election (The actual time window length will be a referendum item on the ballot of the next national election in 2 years, or, be a one-time selection made on the income tax return form from each tax payer.)
  2. only individuals can contribute to a campaign; if a corporation or organization wants to contribute, the contribution must be made in the name of a consenting, voter-registered citizen
  3. the total campaign contribution (to a political party and to a specified candidate) for each citizen per campaign shall not exceed a very modest amount, say, somewhere between $200 – $1000, which would also be voted upon as in the manner in (1) above (I am not necessarily an example, but I think my total monetary contribution to the last Presidential campaign for my candidate and his party was $25.)
  4. campaigns cannot purchase media time and space, including newspapers, internet, television, and radio, for purposes of propaganda; the media can be purchased to present the position of each candidate, not to attack the position of opponents (note this leaves open the possibility to attack your opponent indirectly, by stating what your position is NOT)
  5. the media can be used to present debates and town-hall meetings, wherein the positions of all sides are presented
  6. the media has to present the sides of all the candidates by covering in a balanced way the party conventions and the campaign speeches “on the campaign trail”
  7. any cost to a citizen using the media to campaign for his/her candidate counts against his/her campaign quota defined in (3) above (I’m not sure how you enforce this unless you impose a penalty for exceeding your quota {a criminal penalty, for so many would not mind paying a fine — a felony, maybe?}, and unless there is a lot of checking on personal campaign spending after the election.)

I have no doubt many of my fellow citizens reading this could improve, add to, subtract from, or tweak these ideas. In any event, we as citizens have the power to assure we will have a future in which we are less politically disturbed.


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2 thoughts on “Citizens! (III) Call for Election Reform

  1. Dolores Covington on said:

    Yes, yes, yes…get $$$ out of politics. Lawrence Lessig estimates that our elected officials spend 60%-70% of their time campaigning, raising funds, instead of governance. And now, with an attempt to gerrymander in such a way to skew electoral college votes to one party’s advantage! What is wrong with a popular vote? We need to simplify so much in our political process. I would like to see candidates for any public office post Op-Ed pieces, stating clearly and succinctly exactly where they stand on important issues.

  2. Pingback: » An Expose of American Conservatism – Part 1 Beyond Good and Evil

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