How Would You Change Our Elections System?

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This topic contains 11 replies, has 9 voices, and was last updated by  Mike Steinhoff 8 years, 2 months ago.

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  • #156356

    If given an opportunity what would be the one thing you would want to change concerning our election system?

  • #156379

    Mike Steinhoff


  • #156376

    Dennis Boyer

    One thing, you’re holding us to one thing?

    One thing, immediately: reverse Citizens United decision that is drowning our elections in corporate cash.

    Macro thing: Constitutional renewal to lift the 18th Century artifacts from our necks (Electoral College– direct popular election of the President, revamp Senate to give it a bit more “representative” quality so that people are represented instead of trees and cattle, no blockages of appointments in Senate… up or down votes, term limits, and lots more…)

    Meta thing: proportional representation in US House of Representatives, break the two-party monopoly.

    Last year I led a discussion project in Madison, Wisconsin that looked at democratic practice and process and came up with a report “The United States’ Democratic Promise”. I’ll try to put a link below, but if I flub it it can be found at the downloads at

  • #156374

    Corey McCarren

    Direct popular elections (probably). There’s a lot of writing from founding fathers confirming that the electoral system was designed to keep the government run by wealthy white men. They were assumed to be the only intelligent individuals around at the time. It goes without saying (I hope) that I do not agree with that assessment at all. The system is unfortunately still designed to only elect elites.

    I do understand the concern some have that radicals would be elected as many of those most active in the electoral process do swing towards the ends of the political spectrum. However in the end Americans are overall very intelligent regardless of education level and most certainly regardless of skin color/gender/sexuality/disability.

    It’s definitely a conversation worth having, and after the conversation putting to a referendum. Why not let the people decide? They’re intelligent enough.

  • #156372

    Jeffrey J Kontur

    Without the Electoral College, I don’t see a way that small states will have anything close to an equal voice as large ones so we need to keep the Electoral College (or something like it). But I do think it should not be all-or-nothing. Both Maine and Nebraska have proportional allocation of delegates. Why can’t we all?

    That would have the dual benefit of allowing in more party competition and better reflecting the actual wishes of the electorate.

  • #156370

    Stephen Peteritas

    No electoral college… what’s wrong with the popular vote?

  • #156368

    Jeffrey J Kontur

    I’m hardly a scholar on this subject and I haven’t really taken a great deal of time to consider all the various alternatives and ramifications, but here are some thoughts off the top of my head.

    1. For probably the first time in history, it’s at least possible and practical to base elections on a true popular vote. Before, collecting and tabulating votes would have been impossible but modern technology and communications makes it both cheap and easy. (Score one for popular vote.)
    2. A tiny enclave who supports a “lesser party” candidate wouldn’t have their votes effectively nullified. Since their votes would be counted for what they were, and aggregated with others of like mind no matter where they were, it would make elections more truly democratic in the classic Greek sense of the word. (Score two for popular vote.)
    3. Does this open the door to changing the way Congressmen and Senators are allocated? While I think most would oppose such a move I think the issue would come up and change could become a real possibility. (Score one for Electoral Vote.)
    4. What effect might popular vote have on gerrymandering? I think that’s unclear.
    5. How does a party decide who its nominee will be? (And do we even care?) Are we talking about changing only the election itself or also the primaries and caucuses? The issue isn’t so simple.
    6. With a pure popular vote system, individual states may effectively cease to exist as far as candidates are concerned. When you can no longer count on getting [x] number of delegates, where do you spend your time and money? On the one hand, putting an end to this out of hand campaigning is a very good thing. On the other hand, if delegates focus only on the population centers — CA, NY, IL, PA, OH, FL, etc. — where does that leave smaller and less populated states — DE, WY, MT, ND, etc.? (Score two for Electoral Vote.)

    I guess based on my own arguments, I could almost go either way, depending on how it was implemented.

  • #156366

    eileen gianola

    Limit the President, Senators, and Congressmen to a 1 year term.

  • #156364

    Jeffrey J Kontur

    Ask every former President and I’ll bet you a shiny new nickel that every one of them will tell you it takes a full year just to learn the job and start to get good at it. (Let’s not even argue over which ones, if any of them, were actually good at their jobs.) So a one year term is self-defeating. We’d always have inexperienced leaders. That’s probably even worse than inept leaders. Our current system is the best mankind has ever developed for keeping a check on power and always bringing fresh blood into the talent pool. We just have to be willing to vote out the dead wood, to mix my metaphors.

    I do, however, support term limits. In fact, to borrow and modify an idea that Bill Clinton proposed, make term limits apply only to consecutive terms. So a former President could come back. The twist is this:

    • President – limited to 2 initial four year terms, then required to sit out as many years as he served initially. (So a one term President could pull a Grover Cleveland. A two-term President would have to sit out eight years before regaining eligibility.) Return terms require annual reelection. Hard limit 20 years total service.
    • Congressmen – same as President but with their current shorter term. Hard term limit of 15 years.
    • Senators – limited to 1 initial six year term then required to run for reelection annually. No sit-out requirement. Hard term limit of 15 years.
    • Any person serving any of the above offices who subsequently wins a different one of the above offices (i.e. Congressman who becomes Senator) acquires the new term limits of his new office but has all his service years follow him and count against those new term limits.
  • #156362

    Mark Hammer

    I think a common mistake many people make is to confuse what they’d like to see different in the behaviour of elected officials, with the electoral system that got the person there. It’s the sort of dissatisfaction whose logic runs like this: I think elected person/party X is doing a lousy/shameful/slack job, and I didn’t even vote for them anyway, so the fault must lie in the electoral system that allowed the vote to put them there. Maybe it’s a gross and thoughtless generalization on my part, but I find that some of the loudest voices for direct and proportional representation tend to be folks whose focus is to get the folks into office that they want and the folks they don’t like out, and are much less concerned with: the stability of the resulting government, the cost of elections, the clarity of electoral outcomes, the functionality of the resulting government.

    I always turn to Israel as an example of how proportional representation can sometimes be the very last thing you want. Since it was founded as a democratic state, it has probably spent more than 90% of that time with a coalition government obliged to yield to fringe parties with largely incompatible demands, sometimes with as many as 17 parties. I suspect they’ve blown many opportunities to do the right or most effective thing, whether domestically or internationally, because consensus was near impossible. Everybody there recognizes the problems this creates, but since it would require constitutional changes to fix, and since THAT would require the agreement of all those fringe parties to effectively sign their death sentence to streamline things, it is unlikely to happen. They have an electoral system that some folks elsewhere think is a dream come true, but they’re stuck. And it’s not just them. There are a number of other small nations with proportional representation, currently in dire straits.

    So, the question to ask oneself before making any sudden moves is “How much of what I’d like to see different comes directly from the structure of electoral system itself, and how much really comes from other sources?” (like campaign funding, election behaviour, cronyism, lobbying, campaign duration, the role of media, etc.). Be very careful of any changes to the system itself, because they may end up not being what you really want, but now you can’t change them.

    And on a lighter tangential note, somebody answer this for me. There HAS to be a band out there somewhere called “The Hanging Chads”, right? I mean it is such a great name for a band. All the musicians could have Chad as their first name, sort of like The Ramones had the same last name.

  • #156360

    Robert Singleton

    Workin on it…

  • #156358

    Denise Petet

    Get rid of the electoral college. Or, failing that, have it be proportional to the popular vote. if a state has 4 delegates and a 50/50 republican/democrat population then their 4 votes will be split, 2 and 2. I live in a republican state, my vote for president literally doesn’t count. Cause all our electoral votes go republican regardless of what the popular vote is. And yes, while I simply do not mind at all being spared all the bashing commercials, I also know that it’s a number’s game and the presidential candidate literally doesn’t give a fig about 90% of the country….all he cares about is scoring those few high delegate states that’ll win him the electoral college.

    the system has been skewed to make it easy and cheap for candidates to do a minimal amount of work to gain a maximum amount of votes.

    Term limits – we need to end 50 year long reigns of power in elected officials. If the prez is limited to 2 terms so should everyone else.

    I’d like to say regulate the PACs more but make more rules they’ll just find more loopholes. After all most PACs were created to allow candidates to smear and attack each other while dodging any rules put in place trying to make them accountable for their attack ads. I just don’t know how to make it happen.

    Failing that, maybe ending ALL political ads. No more ads on tv period. Maybe if the candidates spent less time attacking each other they could come up with actual plans for things to do and run on a better platform than ‘He sucks so much, you can’t elect him’.

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