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New Electoral Process (a Political Issue)


Introduction

There are many problems with our current electoral process that prevent us from being fairly represented. These problems include such things as the disproportionate influence of special interest groups and political parties, shady campaign financing, dirty politics, an unfair simple plurality voting system, and many others. Each attempt at patching our current process has resulted in shifting the problem to a new place. Numerous examples exist just from the last few elections.

For instance, even though there are some limits on what an individual can contribute to a candidate to prevent someone from buying a candidate, people have just needed to be a little more creative in finding ways around them. Some people contribute in the name of their minor children. Other people pool the contributions of many other individuals so that they can still present a large check to a candidate. In some cases, the people pooling the money have paid back the amounts donated by other people. Another problem is that independent candidates miss out, since they do not have the backing of a political party nor the money that was contributed to it. We also now have PACs (Political Action Committees) that can collect and spend unlimited amounts in support of a candidate.

Another problem is with the vast amount of negative advertising, exaggerations, fake news, and outright lies that come from the candidates and their supporters. It has been said that information is power. However, that only works when the information is true. When the information is false, you actually lose power. Studies have shown that people will often believe what they first hear, even if they later learn that what they heard is not true. This can lead too many people to vote for the candidate who is the bigger liar and cheat. Electing liars and cheats leads to government corruption and a lot of wasted taxpayer money.

The answer lies in taking all that we have learned about the democratic process over the past centuries and using it to create a new electoral process from scratch that would eliminate our current problems. Unfortunately, many groups and individuals have a vested interest in keeping our current electoral process. For instance, some people have invested a great deal of time and money into obtaining some extra influence, which they could end up losing if the electoral process was changed. Therefore, it may be an uphill battle to make any real change, but the right changes could make things a whole lot better for most people and for the future of our country and the world.

Government’s Role

Let's start at the beginning and take a look at the role our government should have. In a free society, the government's main role should be to protect its citizens, land and resources, and to provide an environment where all its citizens can get the most out of their lives. The government should create the environment where its citizens are better off than they would be without a government or with any other form of government.

In order for the government to do the best job it can for all its people, it will need to be run by the best people. Therefore, our electoral process needs to help us to find and to elect the individuals who will do the best job of running our government and not those individuals who are just better at getting elected. With this in mind, it seems like we need to do more of a talent search instead of having a political campaign. (See Political Parties.)

Therefore, we would first need a process for recruiting, evaluating and selecting the best and most qualified candidates. Since we still want to give everyone a say in who represents them in their governments, we would still need to have an election. This means that everyone would still need to learn about the candidates, and to do their own evaluations and selection.

Since we want the best candidate for the job and not the candidate who is best at campaigning, we will need a new method for the voters to learn about the candidates. For fairness, this new method would need to provide each and every voter and candidate an equal opportunity to ask and to answer questions, and to discuss the issues. Then, once the voters have made their selections, we need to have a better way for voters to vote for their choices.

Campaign Promises

During a campaign, a lot of candidates spend a lot of time promising to do various things that are popular with their current audience while avoiding talking about the things that are unpopular. Since each candidate will often promise a lot of different things for different people, it is likely that most people will like some promises, but dislike others. The problem with campaign promises is that they are not always kept or the wrong ones are kept. In addition, legislation is often passed for the things that the candidates did not talk about and for which most people may not have wanted or that would not really be good for most of us.

When a candidate is elected, we do not always know whether people really preferred this candidate over his or her opponents, were swayed by one or more of that candidate’s promises, or settled for the candidate that they hoped would do the least amount of harm. In fact, most people may not even like many or most of the promises and proposals made by any of the candidates. Therefore, people may simply end up electing the candidate with the least disliked ideas and promises. I often find myself voting for what seems like the lesser of two or more evils.

Although we may want to elect someone who can come up with ideas that could help solve our problems, what we really need is someone who is good at listening to and evaluating many ideas from many different people. We need to separate the issues from the candidates. We want to elect the person that would be best at running the government, at protecting our interests and at handling whatever issues arise. We want representatives who are able to gather all the relevant information, to be open to new ideas, and to be able to evaluate and analyze everything in order to select the best solutions to our problems no matter where the ideas came from.

Candidates should not be making the types of campaign promises that we have been getting. Of course, they should promise to do a good job, but not that they will lower taxes, spend more on some things, spend less on other things, or to pass some new bill to do this or that. Candidates should discuss the issues and propose possible solutions, but this would be just to help people get an idea about how well a candidate knows the issues and how good he or she is at listening to others, and at evaluating and analyzing ideas and possible solutions.

What we want is to give everyone the chance to express and to debate their ideas about the issues and to propose solutions. We should be able to submit our ideas to our representatives or to bring them up at town hall like meetings. Our representatives should also have the right to debate the issues just like any other citizen, but they should not be allowed to simply impose their ideas on their constituents. People should have the ability to vote for their representatives and for individual proposals separately. People should not be forced to vote for the combination of a candidate, a bunch of campaign promises and a package of proposals.

Voting

In many places in the United States, we have a simple plurality voting system. In this type of voting, the candidate that receives more votes than his or her opponents would win the election. With 2 candidates for a single office, this means that one of them must receive a majority of the votes. With 3 or more candidates, a candidate can often win the election even when he or she receives far less than the majority of the votes.

When there are more than 2 candidates, the votes are sometimes split between the candidates in such a way that the least preferred candidate wins the election. For instance, 40% of the voters may prefer candidate A and 60% prefer both candidate B and candidate C over candidate A. With all 3 candidates in the race, it is possible that candidates B and C could split the vote of their supporters and each only get about 30% of the vote. This would mean that the least preferred candidate would win with only 40% of the vote.

With 3 or more candidates in the race, it is very likely that 2 or more candidates may appeal to the same votes. Of those candidates, it is also possible that one of them has a far better chance of being elected than the others. Since these other candidates have less of a chance of being elected and could take away votes from the more electable candidate, they are sometimes labeled spoilers.

With a simple plurality voting system, voters often have to decide between voting for their preferred candidate and possibly allow an undesirable candidate to win, or voting for a less desirable candidate that has a better chance of winning. Although limiting the election to just 2 candidates would ensure that the winner needed to get a majority of the votes, this would deprive us of our right to have a real choice. It would be like telling everyone that they could only vote for vanilla or chocolate ice cream.

We need a voting system that will allow us to vote for our preferred candidate without worrying about whether or not our vote is being wasted on a candidate that has little chance of winning or would even allow a far less desirable candidate to win. The simple solution would be to require that a candidate must win a majority of the votes.

When no one gets a majority, a runoff would be needed. Of course, having a runoff election has a number of its own problems. It would be time consuming, expensive and inconvenient for everyone involved. In addition, if there were more than 3 candidates, it may not always be fair to limit the runoff to just the top 2 candidates.

Luckily, we can eliminate most of the problems of having a runoff by incorporating the runoff in the original election. This can easily be done by allowing people to rank the candidates as their first choice, second choice, third choice, etc. If no candidate gets a majority of the first choice votes, then the candidate with the least votes would be eliminated. If your first choice candidate is eliminated, then your second choice would become your new first choice. This would be repeated until a candidate gets a majority of the new first choice votes.

Process

In the past, candidates for office decided what issues they would talk about, when and even if they would debate their opponents, and even who could come to their rallies. This situation, where the candidate is in charge of the campaign, must change. The candidates are applying for a political office (a job) where we would be their bosses, so we have every right to decide what they need to do in order to get our vote. Therefore, after considerable though, I have come up with a new electoral process that would basically work as follows.

Election Boards

The first thing we need is an Election Board that would handle all aspects of the appropriate election process. Members could be hired or elected. Since we want the board members to work for the people and not for whoever hired them, then we should probably elect them. In order to prevent these board members from having control of their own elections, we need to bar members from working on their own election, by either limiting them from serving for more than one term at a time, or having a different election board handle these elections.

All actions taken by the members of the Election Boards would be open for review and oversight. We would need to ensure that they do not use their position to exert undue influence over the election process or the candidates. Any attempt to do so would need to be promptly dealt with so that the election process would not be compromised.

As needed, representatives from local Election Boards could serve on regional Election Boards, representatives from the regional Election Boards could server on state Election Boards, and representatives from the state Election Boards would server on a national Election Board.

Candidate Selection

During a suitable, but short time frame, any eligible individual could apply for a political office by submitting an application to the appropriate Election Board. Candidates would have to meet the usual age and residency requirements, and may need to pass some appropriate candidate exam. This candidate exam could be similar to a civil service exam given for people to qualify for a government job, but would also include a specific section that asks questions about the office the candidate is seeking to be elected to.

On the other hand, there would not be any requirement to gather some number of signatures, since the screening process and primary should weed out the unqualified candidates. For some state and national offices like governor, senator and president, there should also be a requirement for the candidates to have previously held some other public office where they would have gained some needed experience.

Then, the Election Board would do an initial screening and background check to reject any invalid applications. Every valid and invalid application, with its status, would be made available for review by any interested individual at the Election Board offices and on a public web site. In order to keep everything above board, all information and decisions must be made available and open for review and to challenge by anyone at any time during the process.

Once the application deadline had passed, the public would have the option to submit any comments about any of the prospective candidates. In addition, the Election Board would start putting each application through a thorough screening process. If any legitimate problem is found with a candidate, the candidate’s application would be rejected.

All comments, responses, documentation, decisions and resulting application status changes coming out of the screening process would be available at the Election Board and on the public web site. Challenges to and appeals of decisions would be handled in an expedited manner through the courts or through some review board made up of members of other election boards.

During this process, the goal of the Election Board would be to get the candidate list down to some appropriate manageable number. For campaigning and the election, we might want to keep the number of candidates down to something between 4 and 6 or maybe 5 and 7, depending on the office.

After the screening process, if there are more candidates remaining than there should be for the campaign and the election, a primary could be held. Although the Election Board should not eliminate anyone who is truly qualified, too many candidates may make a primary difficult. Therefore, The Election Board should make every effort to get the candidate list down below some maximum number such as 10.

Primary

When a primary is needed, the remaining qualified candidates will go through a short period of campaigning as described in the following topic. This will be a very short campaigning session that will be designed to give voters an opportunity to get enough of an initial impression of the candidates in order to pick their top choices.

If our primary uses a regular voting process where the top vote getters win, we will not always end up with the voters’ preferred candidates. For instance, let’s take a primary with 10 candidates in which we need to reduce the list to the top 5 candidates. Each of the first 5 candidates are favored by about 12 percent of the voters, but are disliked by most of the other 88 percent of the voters. The last 5 candidates are liked by almost all voters with 40 percent of the voters favoring any one of them over any of the first 5 candidates. The problem occurs when these 40 percent of the voters do not have a clear favorite and split their votes so that none of these last 5 candidates gets even 10 percent of the vote and all get eliminated.

The way to improve the primary would be to have the voters rank the candidates for each office from their first choice to their last choice, which would be similar to what we would do in the actual election. Once the ballots had been counted, the one candidate with the least number of votes for each office would be eliminated. Then, for each office, the votes would be counted again, but this time using the second choices from those ballots that listed the eliminated candidate as those voters’ first choice. This process could continue until we were left with just the needed number or primary winners.

By using this ranking and elimination primary election process for the above example, at least a few of the 5 preferred candidates would be selected. Although most real primaries would probably not be as extreme as the above example, this process would pretty much guaranty that some of the voters’ preferred candidates would be selected in the primary and continue on to the campaign trail and to the election.

An improvement to this process would be to continue the elimination process until we had the first clear winner (i.e. a candidate had more than 50 percent of the votes). After the first primary winner was selected, that candidate’s votes would be eliminated from the original ballots to get the next round's ballots and a new elimination process would be done with the remaining votes to get the second primary winner. After each subsequent primary winner was selected, that candidate’s votes would be eliminated from the that round's stating ballots and the process would be repeated until enough candidates were selected to be on the ballot for the specified office. This multiple elimination process would help to ensure that all the preferred candidates would go on to the actual election and not just some of them.

Campaigning

Once the candidate list had been certified, the actual campaigning would begin. Much of the money spent on the campaigning would be provided by the appropriate local, state or national government, and dispersed directly by the Election Board to cover all debates, rallies, advertising and related expenses. (Our governments should have more than enough to pay for the campaigns, since our elected representatives would not need to include all the earmarks intended to pay back their campaign contributors in the bills they pass.) In addition, any group or individual could still sponsor an election related event, but all candidates must be invited and treated equally.

Whether it was for a government sponsored or a privately sponsored event, each candidate would need to be invited and provided any appropriate transportation, meals and accommodations. Speaking order at all these events would be random or would be rotated. Each candidate would also be provided equal time to talk, to answer questions and to respond to comments made by other candidates.

Advertising space would also need to be equally distributed among all the candidates. Individuals would still have the right to express their options about the candidates when talking to others, but would not be allowed to buy advertising without giving each candidate equal time to respond. This would preserve everyone’s right to free speech, but eliminate someone buying extra speech rights, which might have given them some extra influence over a candidate.

The Election Board and all candidates would get to review all advertising by candidates or voters. Any false, misleading or unsubstantiated claims would have to be fixed or removed before being published or aired. Challenges to and appeals of advertising decisions would be handle in an expedited manner.

Starting a few days before Election Day, candidates and the news media would be barred from introducing anything new that the election board and the candidates had not been given fair warning of and sufficient time to respond to.

Voters

In order to protect the integrity and validity of our elections, we must be able to ensure that only legitimate voters have cast a single ballet each. This new election process should help to reduce the incentive for voter fraud, but it alone may not eliminate it entirely. Since voter fraud is only truly effective when it goes unnoticed, we do not really know its full extent. Therefore, it is better to err on the side of caution and do all we can to reduce the possibility of it happening.

The first step would be to ensure that we have a good method of ensuring that only people who are authorized to vote can register to vote. We also need to ensure that people who move or die are promptly removed from the voter rolls. To ensure that the voter rolls remain clean would be to require anyone who has not voted in some number of years to be removed unless the individual provides proof that they are still around. All appropriate means and time must be given to try to contact the individual before removing that person from the voting rolls.

Then we want to make sure that the people showing up to vote are who they say they are. This means that everyone would need to provide some appropriate proof as to who they are. This may be as simple as some form of valid identification that has a picture, or something more high tech like a finger print scanner or facial recognition software. Whatever method is used, it must ensure that people who are authorized to vote can do so. We also need to ensure everyone has appropriate identification that can be fairly easily obtained without an excessive cost associated with it, since we do not want to suppress the right of any valid voter to vote.

Voting

On Election Day, the candidate’s names would be placed on the ballot in some alphabetical or random order. There would be no mention of any affiliation with any group nor any additional information not absolutely needed to allow each candidate to be identified. Maybe photographs could be provided. To provide an alternate means for a recount, paper ballots would be generated and stored.

With more than two candidates for a given office, there would be the possibility that no candidate gets at least 50 percent of the vote. Therefore, voters would have the option to vote for their first choice, second choice, third choice, etc. for each office, so there could be instant runoffs. If no candidate receives more than fifty percent of the vote, the lowest vote getter would be removed, and the second choices of those individuals who voted for the removed candidate would be used. This procedure would be repeated until one candidate got at least fifty percent of the vote and could be declared the winner.

In those cases where we need to vote for multiple candidates to fill multiple seats on some council or board, we could handle the selection process similar to the way we would handle a primary election. That is, by eliminating the lowest vote getters until we get down to the needed number of candidates, or by narrowing down to the first winner, then repeat the process for the second and subsequent winners.

This method of voting by ranking our choices has recently been gaining some following in many different places here in the United States and around the world. It is often referred to by a number of different names. These include such names as Ranked Voting, Preferential Voting, Instant Runoff Voting, and Alternative Voting.

Outcome

Since all candidates would receive the same government funding, there would be no fund raising issues, and no individual or special interest group would be able to buy influence. Since the candidates would not belong to any political parties, soft money would not be a problem and there would be no party influence. Since all candidates and their ads would go through a screening process, attack ads and dirty politics would be greatly reduced. With much of the politics and influence buying taken out of the process, more and better qualified people would be willing to serve and to represent us.

Some additional changes would be needed for after the election. The Election Boards could serve as watchdogs to monitor the performance of our representatives. They, or anyone else, could question the actions of our representatives. If a representative could not convince his or her constituents of the correctness of a vote on some issue, his or her constituents could vote to overturn their representative’s vote. If our representative continued to not represent our interests, then we could call a new or special election to elect a new representative. This would help us take back control of our government.

Implementation

We would not need to implement these changes in all elections all at the same time. The changes could start in individual communities and move to the county and state level before going national. The benefits could start to be felt immediately by the voters in the locations that made the change. For instance, if a state started to elect its U.S. senators and congressional representatives using this new electoral process, each of their representatives would immediately be free to better serve the interests of their state instead of the interests of some political party and other special interests.

In fact, until a lot of other states switched over to this new electoral process, this state’s representatives would become key swing votes on many issues. They would always be able to vote with their states best interest in mind. In some cases where the vote could go either way, they could be able to use their vote to influence something else that was important to their state. Of course, when all elections are converted over to the new electoral process, this extra influence would go away, but it could initially be used to help convince people to switch to this new electoral process.

Next Section

Representation - How to improve the way our Representatives do their jobs.

Last Updated:
Thursday, December 28, 2017
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