Democracy 2.0 - Updating Our System
The electoral process, the basis of our democratic system, is plagued with serious flaws and must be updated to increase voter confidence, access and turnout. First and foremost, we need to remove the influence of money in politics but there are also many other issues that need to be addressed. We need to level the field when it comes to campaign funding, expand participation in debates and modify state laws that impede independent and third party candidates such as Washington State's primary law. We need to increase the pool of candidates and create the opportunity for other parties/platforms to participate in our governance.
Institute Instant Run-off Voting - Increase Voter Choice: Instant run-off (IRV) voting allows voters to rank the candidates in order of preference when they vote. This system actually enhances competition and increases independent and third party candidates' prospects because the voter's vote is not "thrown away" when one votes outside the two-party system. IRV removes the fear of voting for what you believe in the current "winter-take-all" election system. The individual with the majority of votes wins but cases with no clear majority trigger a run-off. The candidate with the least amount of votes is eliminated in the second round and the results are recalculated using each voter's ranked list of candidates. The process eliminates the weakest vote-getters through an iterative process and ensures the winner has received the support of the majority of the voters. The IRV process saves taxpayers money by eliminating the expense of run-off elections.
Eliminate the Electoral College: The Electoral College undermines democracy and needs to be abolished. We must actualize the concept of one person, one vote in presidential elections. Our current arcane process allows each state to appoint its electors who formally make the final vote for the president and vice president. Each state is allotted a specific number of electors but some states have less people per elector and therefore have a greater influence in the outcome of the election. For example, for each electoral vote in Wyoming there are 160,000 people while Illinois has more than 550,000 for each electoral vote. Why should people in under-populated states have more influence in our presidential elections? The Electoral College converts our direct vote into an indirect vote. This process has resulted in the election of presidents that didn't win the majority of votes. Odd isn't it? It is a concept rooted in the early days of our country when there was a concern about the ability of voters to make an informed choice. Today's voter is saturated with information and such a concern is no longer valid. Abolishing the Electoral College is an essential key to implementing a strong democracy.
Publicly-Finance Elections: Publicly-financed campaigns allow bright, articulate citizens to run for office without requiring raising the usual boat-load of money to be successful. It removes big money from the process changing the nature of politics and governance by letting candidates focus on the issues and elected officials on governing. Maine, Connecticut, Arizona and North Carolina have set the example by running publicly-financed elections. More than 80% of the current legislatures were elected with publically financed funds in Maine and Connecticut.
Same Day Voter Registration: Allow eligible citizens to walk into the polling place on Election Day and simultaneous register and vote in an election. Elections create the greatest motivation to register and those who decide they want to participate should not be turned away. Studies have show states with same day voter registration have greater turn out at the polls than those that do not.
National Voting Day and/or Voting by Mail: Voter turn out is low in our country; there are a variety of factors causing that problem. To convey the importance of voting to sustain a viable democracy we should move the Election Day to a Saturday or create a National Voting. A voting holiday would also benefit those with inflexible job hours and transportation difficulties. Another option would be to follow the lead of Washington State by requiring a vote-by-mail process to become the standard for the nation, completely eliminating the problems associated with getting to the polls.
Design and Administer a Federal Standard for Voting: Our elections should be uniformly administered at the national level. The most important tool of our democracy should not be entrusted to partisan elected officials of individual states.