Friday, March 28, 2008

Electoral reform

Last night on CNN, the senator from Florida, Bill Nelson, made an appearance. It is not surprising that a senator from Florida would bring up the issue of electoral reform, but it is surprising how rarely it is talked about in the media. The journalist was almost flabbergasted when the senator suggested that we should do away with the electoral collage.

I think this is one of the absolute most important issues in this country today, and an issue that is watched by large parts of the world. I believe the United States is in dire need of electoral reform for some very obvious reasons. The bottom line is simple: what voters need and want does not transfer into political decisions through the electoral process.

The United States has an extremely low voter turnout as compared to other western societies. It also does not exactly have a wide selection of choices for voters to consider in terms of political parties. It is difficult to vote in this country because you have to register, voting takes place on a weekday, postal ballots may not be offered, incomprehensible and sub standard technology is for some reason used, and so on and so on…. This is made even more complicated because of the absence of a proper nationwide system of identification.

These are some of the things I think need to happen:
- abolish the electoral college
- conduct all voting on Sundays
- automatically and permanently register every U.S. citizen over the age of 18 to vote
- elect the president by popular nationwide vote
- introduce a national ID card
- introduce a nationally uniform voting system with the same ballots and machines everywhere
- prohibit all private campaign donations

I believe that many of the worst problems that the United States faces at home today stem from the fact that a vicious circle has started in the electoral process. The will of the people has not transferred into political action through the electoral process because of the grave problems within it, hence citizens lose confidence in the system, hence the number of real and active participants in society drops, hence crime rates go up and the circle continues.

Now, why is it that the United States only has two viable political parties? It is because in a U.S. election, the party that wins the most votes in a given constituancy wins all the seats for that constituency. In most parliamentary systems, seats are awarded proportionally according to the percentage of votes. I blame the electoral system, and I blame the two-party system for many of the problems that exist in America today (I will hopefully be able to explain this further in future postings). In relation to this, I want to pose a question:

Do you believe the United States should switch to a parliamentary system where the voter would have a realistic choice between around 10 different parties? By that I mean a system where a party that receives 5% of the vote in a given district gets 5% of the parliamentary delegates in that districts. This would inevitably create more parties in the United States, and those additional parties would almost certainly bring more political diversity to the table.

I believe that giving voters a choice between around 10 different parties instead of 2 is a much more fair system. When you go and buy a car, would you prefer having 2 choices to having 10?