By Mary deWolf
U.S. elections are a bit like the weather — we complain a lot but don’t do anything. Or do the wrong thing. We could act to improve the election climate in this country, and we should.
Let’s insure that every citizen who wants to vote can do so. Despite claims from “True the Vote” and the tea party, voter fraud is negligible in this country. It certainly does not warrant restrictive and expensive voter ID laws. Electronic deletion of voters from the rolls is criminal. In Ohio, an important swing state, nearly 20% of the electorate has been disenfranchised in this way since 2009. Abominable practices including purposely misinforming voters of voting times and places and intimidating poll watch strategies are flagrant attempts to suppress votes. Interestingly, there is evidence that those efforts backfired, actually fueling minority voting in the 2012 presidential election.
Cheers to those who stood in line for hours (after their workday ended) to cast their vote — but why should they have to? In 1998 citizens of Oregon recommended and overwhelmingly supported a plan to vote by mail with a paper ballot. That process is still wildly popular. Washington has followed Oregon’s example and California has made it easier to vote by mail. It’s a proven change we can make.
Voting by mail provides the additional benefit of a paper record of each vote. The majority of votes currently cast in this nation are cast electronically. Electronic voting is essentially insecure, open to fraud on many fronts. Courts have ruled that electronic voting software is the property of the company that created it and not open to public investigation. It’s understandable that results are not universally trusted.
The framework of our election process needs reform. Redistricting at the whim of the party in control undermines confidence in our representative democracy. It’s not OK if lines are drawn so a vote doesn’t matter.
Speaking of votes not counting, the Electoral College system is an unnecessary disgrace to our election process. It gives swing states too much attention and small states a numeric advantage. Every voter’s choice should count in the presidential election. With the Electoral College, it doesn’t.
The deluge of money taints election validity. The Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision allows corporations undue influence in campaign funding. Even before Citizens United, a 2007 court decision opened the door for individuals to give large donations to non-profits promoting “social welfare.” These groups do not have to list their donors but spend millions of dollars on campaign ads. Elections bought by big money are not elections by the people.
These problems undermine our faith in our election system and make it nearly impossible to elect third (or more) parties with fresh ideas. American blood has been, and is still being shed to insure Americans’ right to vote. There are proven changes that work and good ideas to explore. Let’s work to improve our election climate.