I Fixed Democracy - You're Welcome America
As you know, I am an adventurer, entrepreneur, and amateur everything. Amongst the things in that last title are elections. While my videos are not very political in nature, if you follow me on Twitter, I often get into it with certain folks who I think are completely hypocritical. The very talented Rick Wilson, Tom Nichols, and John Schindler retweet my jokes from time to time. While I would say I'd be unlikely to agree with many of their positions, they are funny, smart, and honest people whom I can have a civilized conversation with that doesn't result in one side calling the other side traitors. (Except when it comes to the deliciousness of Fireball Whisky, you Commie traitors.)
Anywho, these three fine folks (who you should follow) often write articles about current events, and I was inspired to do some writing of my own. I may turn this into a video down the road, but I figured I would change things up and write out my thoughts.
I've Fixed Democracy
Caveat - I live in the great Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, so some things I talk about here may not be universally applied or applicable, and the situation in your specific state may be vastly different.
Being someone fascinated with systems and numbers, I find elections to be very interesting. There are so many different ways to put people in charge of stuff and then spend two to six years saying what a terrible job they are doing. Lately, I've become more interested in how elections are actually done and the rules surrounding them.
A popular idea is to redraw electoral districts and end Gerrymandering. Nationally, the fine folks at Five Thirty Eight Politics and Stephen Wolf at the Daily Kos has done some incredible work there. They have some amazing maps, and as someone who loves maps, I love their work. In Pennsylvania, a group called Fair Districts PA has led the charge to fix the Commonwealth's awful electoral districts. So, since so much incredible work has been done there, I don't see the need to really rehash that. Redrawing districts to be non-partisan should definitely be a priority in every state, regardless of who is in charge.
In the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, currently, election law makes it very hard for the everyday person to run. There are far too many elections where someone runs unopposed and elections results where the person who wins does not get 50% of the vote.
I think that should be rectified. Here are some of my ideas.
This system of voting allows people to rank their choices. After the first round, if no one has 50%, the person with the least amount of votes gets eliminated, and then those votes go to the next top available choice the voter selected. It repeats until someone gets 50%. In a race where only two people are running, it doesn't come into play.
Why would this be beneficial?
At the end of the day, the person elected is someone that 50% of the people are okay with.
People wouldn't be "throwing their vote away" by voting for a 3rd party, giving their voices some more traction.
This hurts extremists. Candidates now campaign to be the "2nd choice" for people, allowing for more moderation in views and compromise.
Suddenly, it isn't about the most significant group that shows up to the polls. It's someone 50% of a population is okay with.
They've implemented this system in some local cities over the years, but Maine has adopted it statewide. It was vetoed by the powers to be there, but it was overridden in a referendum. The people of Maine liked it, and the population didn't have too much trouble using the new system. I mean, if they can figure it out, why can't everyone else?
I feel like a lot of reform could be done in this area. I'm not sure if all of these ideas are compatible, but I think they should be considered. Many people talk in Pennsylvania about having a semi-open primary (where independents can choose which primary to vote in) or an open primary (where anyone can vote for anyone). I think changing from the current closed primary system (where the two major parties only vote on their own candidates) is going to be too difficult to change. This system is entirely too entrenched for either party to agree to change it. So, I have an alternative to making democracy better.
3rd Choice On Primary
Right now during the primary, you pick a Republican or a Democrat to run in November. I think during the primary there should be a 3rd slot for a 3rd choice that is open for all non-major political parties and independents. Same rules would apply to qualify for the ballot. The same number of signatures to get on the ballot with the same filing fees. The idea here to me is that come November there will be at least three choices on a ballot. The left, the right, and a third opinion. Other candidates of other minority parties can still qualify to appear on the ballot with their petitions in November as needed, but there would be at least three choices on there. To me, the more, the merrier, and this works very well with Ranked Voting.
No Minimum Write-In When No One Runs
One thing that always bothers me is an uncontested election. When no one has anyone to run against, what's the point? I would often scratch my head and wondered why no one ran against someone in the general election. I assumed in the primary that if no one officially ran on the ballot, then whoever got the most write-in votes would be that party's nominee. Even if it was just one valid write-in vote. I only recently learned that someone would need at least as many write-in votes as they would need signatures to get on the ballot in the first place. So if you needed 300 signatures to appear on a primary ballot, you would need at least 300 write-in votes to appear on the ballot in November.
I think this minimum needs to be abolished if no one submits paperwork to be on the ballot in the primary. I don't think anyone should run unopposed for a government position. At least there should be someone there so folks can gauge how well they are doing. If they are an area favorite and they only have token opposition, so be it. So, if no one runs for a position under the Democratic, Republican, or hopefully 3rd choice line, the person with the most write-in votes would take that spot and then pay the appropriate filing fee.
I think these three simple reforms would open elections up to more people in Pennsylvania. Many people do not vote because they don't think their vote counts for anything. They either live in heavily Republican or Democratic areas and by the way a district is drawn, it might not matter if they vote or not unless it is a statewide race. This is especially true for people who identify more with minority parties but don't' vote for them and vote for a major candidate they can live with.
These reforms are doable, are not radical, and gives more people a voice in the process.
So, you're welcome America. Hit me up anytime if you'd like to hear my other ideas to make democracy better.