I voted. I was reminded in doing so of the tremendous damper that our system of ballots puts on true pluralistic democracy. The candidates who don’t make it onto the ballot might as well not exist, from the point of view of the common voter. Out of sight, out of mind. And the two major parties make sure that the barrier to entry is high enough to effectively prevent a meaningful third-party (let alone fourth-party) presence. This year third parties in PA had to collect over 67,000 signatures in order to get on the ballot.
It seems to me that the most egalitarian and democratic system would be to require every candidate to be written in. That would completely avoid the question of how high the barrier to ballot entry should be. And it would finally do away with the impression the current system conveys that democracy is like a restaurant, where you can only order what’s on the menu. Finally, it would keep the most irredeemably lazy and apathetic voters away from the polls, which is probably for the best.
I can imagine some potential objections to this proposal, chiefly being that it puts the illiterate voter at a disadvantage, as well as candidates with long, difficult to spell names. But these are trivially overcome. It would not be too great a burden on a candidate to distribute slips of paper to potential voters, from which to copy the name. In districts with paper ballots they might distribute stickers, sized to fit in the candidate name field on the ballot. And electronic voting machines might even be modified to include a bar-code reader, so that a voter equipped with one of the previously mentioned slips of paper, or with a campaign pamphlet, or even with a sheet printed out from the candidates website, could simply scan it and confirm that the name read is the person they want to cast their vote for.
to be a bit contra-contrary…
i do think the civic virtue thing is important.. because discouraging people to vote just makes it easier for undemocratic forces to take over (or take over more.. depending on your viewpoint..)
in any case.. i do agree that voting is fucking hard in most places…
A reform that I would support:
1. Nationwide rules for elecitons–we have a standard currency.. but not standard elections??? that is kinda strange.
2. No matter what the system–there needs to always be a paper record/receipt.
3. 500 signature rule for every candidate. i don’t think it would be too hard to get 500 signatures–on the other hand.. it would weed out a number of joke candidates…
4. Instant run-off voting
5. No straight party voting allowed. In fact, how about no party designations at all allowed… people should try to get to know who they are voting for.
6. Free, scannable voter-id cards for everyone–it shouldn’t be that hard to make such things–and make them available to everyone.
any other ideas? objections?
Re: to be a bit contra-contrary…
I can see the states-rights argument against, but on balance I think I agree. If we have a federal government to insure that the states don’t trample basic civil rights, then surely overseeing consistent election practices ought to be high on the list.
Hell yes. Also, while I am generally not a Free Software zealot, I think ballot machines is one area where open-source software should be mandated as part of the federal standards mentioned above. If we are required to entrust our votes to these machines, we should damn well be able to audit their source code.
Yeah. This is one of the other advantages I was thinking my write-in only system would have… people would have to write someone’s name in, instead of just pushing the party button.
Hell.. we agree on at least 4-6 ideas… that is a good start for two people from significantly different political backgrounds…
i think there is much common ground to be found here… we just need to kill the major parties.. they have been around too long…
When I DO vote I always vote with NOTA or an obsene write-in name.
Crappedyer Underpants is one of my favorites.
I hate all the “get out the vote” and similar campaigns. If people are to lazy and disinterested to get off their butts and vote, unless a celebrity tells them to do so I really don’t want them picking my elected officials. I can hardly surmise that those people spend much time actually thinking about why they vote for a particular candidate. Not to mention that every person that doesn’t vote makes my vote count for more. I prefer less people vote for that reason.
On that topic though I read an interesting article saying that America has one of the lowest voter turnouts in the world. Also that often educated people don’t vote which is unusual. The article also stated that people who didn’t vote were less likely to have much social contact and two other indicators that were similar. Which was interesting because this related to an article that I’d read recently about how Americans are becoming more socially isolated and that the average American used to have something like 3-5 close friends and now only has 1.
Just once I want to see a celebrity go on TV and say “EVERYBODY STAY HOME”.
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