FIXING it

Yesterday’s post focused on legal reforms aimed at official corruption. Important as those are, they aren’t the only reforms we need to make.

We need to fix our elections.

Even those of us who follow politics closely and who are familiar with the country’s legal framework often miss the way in which demographic shifts have upended America’s electoral system and shifted power to an unrepresentative minority of voters– aided and abetted by America’s minority party.

Over the last few years, more people have come to recognize the inequities caused by gerrymandering and the Electoral College, but beyond that, our comfort with “the way it is” has blinded us to the equally troubling consequences of equal Senate representation, for example. Currently, over half the U.S. population lives in just nine states. The result is  that less than half of the population chooses 82 percent of the country’s Senators. And that means that the Republicans hold their current Senate majority despite the fact that the Democratic Senate minority represents more than half of the American people.

A recent article from Vox, which led off with that example of distorted representation,  offered eleven proposals to fix what has evolved into an unfair and unequal system. The article began with a recitation of several of the most egregious elements of our decidedly undemocratic reality.

Intentional efforts to make it harder to vote, such as voter ID laws, are increasingly common throughout the states — and the Supreme Court frequently approaches such voter suppression with indifference. Gerrymandering renders many legislative elections irrelevant — in 2018, Republicans won nearly two-thirds of the seats in the Wisconsin state assembly, even though Democratic candidates received 54 percent of the popular vote. Wealthy donors flood elections with money, as lawmakers spend thousands of hours on “call time,”dialing the rich to fund the next campaign.

And looming over all of this is the problem of race. In some states, Republican lawmakers write voter suppression laws that target voters of color with, in the word of one federal appeals court, “almost surgical precision,” knowing that a law that targets minority votes will primarily disenfranchise Democrats.

After the Democrats took the House in 2019, the first bill they passed was the “For the People Act.” If that act passed the Senate– which did not happen and will not happen so long as Mitch McConnell is in charge of that body–Vox says it would be the most significant voting rights legislation since the Voting Rights Act of 1965. (A companion bill, HR 4, would strengthen that original Voting Rights Act by restoring sections of the law that were eviscertated by the Supreme Court.)

That said, as the article correctly noted, even if those measures are enacted, they would still fall short of addressing the major and troubling challenges facing Americans’ electoral system. They wouldn’t address Senate malapportionment or the Electoral College –both systems that hand control of the government to an unrepresentative, predominantly rural minority of our citizens.

The eleven “fixes” identified by Vox include much-discussed measures like eliminating the filibuster and revitalizing the Voting Rights Act, but also less-often suggested changes like eliminating advance registration in favor of same-day voter registration. (A number of states are moving in that direction, which has the benefit of also eliminating flawed and partisan purges.)

Then there are the changes that would make it easier to vote: more early voting, no-excuse absentee voting and other measures that would actually facilitate the process of casting a ballot. What if we emulated Australia, for example?

In Australia, over 90 percent of eligible voters typically cast a ballot in federal elections. The nation achieves this feat by turning Election Day into a celebration, where voters gather at community barbecues to eat what are often referred to as “democracy sausages.” But Australia also uses a stick to encourage voting — nonvoters can be fined about $80 Australian dollars (about $60 in US currency) if they do not cast a ballot.

You really need to read the whole article, but even those who disagree with some of its specific recommendations will find it hard to argue with the proposition that it is past time for lawmakers and citizens alike to focus on the numerous, fundamentally unfair elements of the way we choose America’s leaders.

 

15 thoughts on “FIXING it

  1. Suffice it to say,

    There’s a whole lot of stuff to unpack, and a whole lot of shenanigans to undo! Courts, executive orders, citizens United, voting rights, voting laws, and the like!

    Everything that they’ve done to elevate the privileged upper echelon over the average working Joe, no pun intended, including the unfair tax breaks on corporations, and most importantly, the attempt to strip Americans of healthcare coverage during a pandemic…It needs to be hammered home every day!

    Donald Trump, if you would believe what he says, was just a little bit sick! But he has an emergency room in his house! And, he has a helicopter to fly him to any hospital he chooses close to his house, he has access to jets that would fly him to any hospital of his choosing anywhere in the world! He doesn’t worry about healthcare.

    All of the Shmucks rallying to the cause of eliminating the ACA without any alternative, they have no conscience…. Because they know they’ll be taken care of medically, and, let those others, die off because they’re just a drain on the economy right now.

    If you look at the campaign buttons GOP put out when Social Security was passed, and years later when Medicare was passed, and after that when the ACA was passed, each button talks about the danger of socialism and how evil these programs are! So exactly what is socialism? LOL!

    The only thing I can extrapolate from just looking at those campaign buttons from the past century in the 1st part of this century, they are insane! But probably more so, they are evil people. What would be the problem in assuring every citizen, a Roof over their head? Enough food to eat? Medical care? The right to cast a ballot? Civil equality? Human rights? A decent education? Access to higher learning?

    All these things should be a no-brainer! But when you have enough aggrieved, self-deluded, and probably self aggrieved lemming-like sheeple, support a minority that works against their rights and use them to promote a fascistic agenda that strip them of the very thing they roil about, this raises more questions than answers.

    There’s more to this than stupid, more to this than self-delusion, there’s more to this than willful ignorance, it’s a fanatical kamikaze like martyrdom mentality, they would self-immolate on command if they were asked to! No different than a suicide bomber.

    Okay, I’m done!

  2. I suggest the first thing which needs to be “fixed” is to get information to the public about ALL CANDIDATES! We used to be bombarded with the mailers containing candidate’s personal information and campaign foundation. The Absentee Ballot had the back page filled with sitting judges which we were to vote “yea or nay” to keep them in office and school board members; other than a few earlier news items about school boards we have no way to know who these people are or what they stand for. The same goes for offices lower than president, vice president and governor; we had little if any information about Representative or Senate candidates unless they were currently in office. I even tried Googling the two Democratic State Representative candidates; found minor information on one and nothing on the second candidate.

    “Then there are the changes that would make it easier to vote: more early voting, no-excuse absentee voting and other measures that would actually facilitate the process of casting a ballot.”

    The current corruption in office is being ignored by those enthralled with a low-rated former TV personality; the only knowledge many of them have as to who Trump is. But the Republican party was and is fully aware of his near 40 years of corruption and current corruption which has been ignored the past 3 1/2 years which reflects the basic history of Trump. Not even the fact that he is partially responsible for the deaths of almost 210,000 Americans and has personally infected an unknown number of victims seems to matter. I hope all are aware of his motorcade around Walter Reed Hospital yesterday and the conflicting reports on his actual condition and treatment.

    Unless and until we can rid the current government of on-going corruption, disruption of our lives, our livelihood and simply staying alive; whatever plans for change we consider for the future are meaningless. Plans to “fix our elections” in the future cannot help voters today; we need to fight today’s battles today and get out the early votes here tomorrow, Tuesday, October 6, 2020, and mail in those Absentee Ballots if they have arrived in your mail.

    Less than a month until the 21st Century D-Day, November 3, 2020, Presidential election!

  3. This isn’t necessarily new. South Dakota was admitted to the union in 1889 in order to provide three more Electoral College votes for Republicans who began to see their hold on the Presidency endangered by the election of Grover Cleveland. After serving up Benjamin Harrison as a placeholder until they could find someone they really liked, Cleveland won again. But we have to understand that there were only eight years between 1860 and 1912 in which Democrats held the Presidency. Small wonder they began to think of it as their birthright.

  4. John,

    This comment of yours suffices to explain the death cult, aka the Republican party: “There’s more to this than stupid, more to this than self-delusion, there’s more to this than willful ignorance, it’s a fanatical kamikaze like martyrdom mentality, they would self-immolate on command if they were asked to! No different than a suicide bomber.”

    Why do god-fearing, decent people who go to church every week still vote for the party that wants to undo everything Jesus said in the New Testament? How do they justify their actions with their so-called belief system? Is it just abortion? What about helping the poor? What about equal rights for all humans? None of these seem to apply in places like Nebraska. Why not? Are these church goers taught to cherry pick the Old Testament to tailor their interpretations of the New? How on Earth can a non-hypocrite vote for politicians that favor removing affordable health care, favor eliminating retirement earned benefits for the elderly or just denying affordable insurance to people with pre-existing conditions – like being female, for example?

    These questions are more than just rhetorical. The obvious answers, resulting from the actions of those voters described by John, are that these people are embedded in hypocrisy disguised as faith. It’s what the churches did to ensure the flock kept putting money in the plate. And who can forget the lust for power that that influence over so many has on the purveyors of mythology, fear and guilt? That lust for power translates to the politics of the Republican party. In other words, Republicans have NO intention to govern for the people, only to the rich who feed them.

    Take the money altogether out of politics by overturning Citizens United. Limit the election season to 6 months, not a continuous cycle. Make election day a national holiday. Register people to vote if they are citizens with proof at the time of their application for Social Security, driver’s license, or any other government document. Publicly fund ALL elections at every level of government. Eliminate the filibuster in the Senate. Institute an equally balanced bi-partisan committee in the Senate that acts as a clearing house for ALL legislation coming from the House AND the Senate. Get rid of minority and majority leadership in the Senate actions. The parties could and should continue to whip votes, but both parties should whip on both sides of the aisle as a matter of provable course. Limit Senate terms to 2, 6-years each. Limit House terms to 4, 2-year terms each. “Retired” legislators shall be prevented from working for lobbyists and contractors of the Federal and state governments for 6 years after leaving office.

    Perhaps these are the elements of a good start.

  5. While I lean toward Terry’s solution, posters this morning have plenty of fair assessments and recommendations for voting reforms that should cut back a little of the power Oligarchs have over our society.

    I marvel at the process considering many reforms should also address our educational system, which has failed for decades. We produce mediocre results year after year. Once again, we are a laggard on the world’s stage, just like we are a laggard (ranked 33rd on the Democracy Index) as a democratic state.

    For further emphasis, we also have a medical system that lags all other countries. The same goes for our food and energy systems. And they even take advantage of dumping exorbitant externality costs on society.

    With all these systems producing mediocre to poor results, why aren’t we addressing the whole system? Is it the systems producing these poor results or those in leadership positions within the systems?

    Voting is just a small cog in the wheel or one tree in the forest. I happen to believe that Oligarchs created our systems for Oligarchs. They found tremendous opportunities in America and weren’t constrained by the Church of England. I’ve not been able to find any evidence of where our Founders documents were written for “we the people” or written “by the people.”

    An oligarchic system will produce oligarchy-centered results.

    Methinks Rep. Katie Porter gets it, and her whiteboard takedown of a Big Pharma exec went viral. Imagine if we had a “free press” with talking heads doing this nightly for a year across all our oligarchic systems. I wonder how the public’s perception would change? I also wonder how the public’s perception would change when the connection from Big Pharma to our politicians and government operations are discussed in detail:

    “Porter noted that Alles was paid $13 million in 2017, which she said is “360 times what the average senior gets on Social Security.” She added that Alles received millions in bonuses tied to increases for the company and that he received $500,000 in bonuses due to the price increase for Revlimid.

    “To recap here: The drug didn’t get any better, the cancer patients didn’t get any better, you just got better at making money, you just refined your skills at price gouging,” Porter continued.”

    https://thehill.com/homenews/house/519255-katie-porter-brings-back-viral-whiteboard-to-grill-pharma-exec-on-cancer-drug

  6. Vernon,

    I agree! Greed, greedy, greediest! Greed is the driver!

    Citizens United would not exist without lobbyists, lobbyists would not exist if it weren’t for the politicians who retired to be lobbyists! So retired politicians are the minions driving this evil movement so to speak in government right now. I thought bribery was a crime, but somehow they get away with it. Why are there lobbyists anyway? Every citizen has the right to petition the government and redress their grievances, so what are the lobbyists there to make right?

    If we have a court system that functions in a nonpartisan manner, every citizen no matter their stripe will get a fair hearing from the government at the very least. The courts would be able to sort out the viability of those grievances, in a fair and equitable fashion. But it seems almost impossible to keep politics out of the judiciary. But the judicial branch are made up of imperfect humans who can become inflamed with fanatical passion detrimental to society. They will follow along eventually with the politics because there hasn’t been a stop put to the injustices of this political system.

    Religion? Well, I’m a religious person! And, my faith is possibly on the unique side when compared to the whole of religion.

    And I’m not just saying me, there are many like me, but compared to religion on the grand scale, is an extremely minute portion with the voice that doesn’t usually express itself.

    That being said,

    Politicians have always used religion as a wedge between different creeds and ethnic groups. Politicians used religion to take aboriginal children away from their parents and Australia, did the same thing in the United States concerning certain tribes or 1st nations. Taking the children from heathens to instill religious beliefs that the white man claimed were appropriate. Used religion to calm their conscience during the slave trade, because we all know, Canaan was cursed, and the black race descendent from Canaan? But that’s not scriptural, because the black race came from Kush (Cush and Put) these were the progenitors according to Scripture of the black race, not Canaan!

    But, the average layman did not read the Bible, did not know Scripture! So, it was easy to manipulate people to believe anything! Because, if they didn’t believe what their preacher politician had to say, well, they were going to burn in hell, which is another unscriptural teaching. But, there’s not enough thread to go into all of that. At least today.

    So, with the deep (UNTAXED) pockets of these religious organizations that are really political organizations, and the unlimited amount of money they can put forth through their lobbyists, it’s just hypocrisy at its finest, but more so, it’s a business. It’s not, or never has been about worship! Not just the Christian religion, but Islam and Judaism can be lumped in the same boat.

    They’ve even manipulated Romans the 13th chapter which, “They” claim, the superior authorities mentioned in that Scripture are the churches and the church hierarchy! But, that’s not the case. The superior authorities are the political governors of nations and states, not the church! This is how they’ve manipulated people since the beginning, and this is how they will meet their end! The political realm will get extremely tired of religion injecting itself above their station. And with more people becoming Agnostic or Atheistic, religion has just put a huge target on their back.

    I believe in Scripture, and Scripture says; their time interfering in government is waning down rapidly!

    I find it fascinating to have been talking about this for many years and seeing it come to fruition now. So, we shall see if I’m actually on the right side of this whole thing, LOL!

    A great sea change is coming, and the wailing and gnashing of teeth will be deafening!

  7. Nice catch Todd,

    I will say, religion is steeped in the CEOs of these pharmaceutical companies! I know this for a fact. They are dead EYED hypocrites that display their religiosity while at the same time practicing every sort of bigotry and unchristian or non apostolic behavior! It goes along with what Vernon said earlier, and, they use religion to control the masses. Too bad people are too ignorant to see that what is happening is not scriptural because they don’t read the Bible, they just want to follow. They’ll run right off the edge of the precipice if they are told to, because they use no mind of their own.

    There is a Scripture the kind of brings this out and Acts 17 chapter 10-12;

    “Immediately by night the brothers sent both Paul and Silas to Be·roeʹa. On arriving, they went into the synagogue of the Jews. 11 Now these were more noble-minded than those in Thes·sa·lo·niʹca, for they accepted the word with the greatest eagerness of mind, carefully examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so.”

    This is an example which says, to not follow blindly, but to verify if you are being told the truth or not. Nobody checks, because everyone is lazy! It’s easier to follow than to do some work to find the truth, that way they can always claim, just as the Germans did with the Nazis, “we didn’t know we just believed what we were told!”

    Just like Trump’s followers!

    After all, what keeps an honest person honest? The only thing that would keep a person honest would be their conscience, but if their conscience is nonexistent, a person is capable of anything.

    Keep your religion at home folks, that’s where it belongs! I think, it’s going to be way too late to change the course of what’s coming!

  8. The problem with all the “fixes” is they’re just wishful thinking. Ain’t going to happen with this Constitution.

    This Constitution was designed to inhibit power, that’s why legislative and executive don’t overlap. There is some attempt to remedy the situation with Administrative agencies under the executive branch given the ability to ‘legislate’ rules to maintain order. But Republican don’t care for such things and because they’re not really covered in the Constitution.

    Where government structures are designed to work……e.g. parliamentary govs……they don’t have to deal in such constructs. Their executive and legislative ‘branches’ are one in the same.

    Our Judicial branch had to take the power to review laws. Nowhere in the Constitution is that authority granted. At some point in the next 4 years if Trump is reelected, that too will get ignored and blunted by Trump and god help us if Republicans get back in both houses, they might just take that authority away from the Courts.

    At that point Trump wouldn’t need the Courts or Congress.

  9. It’s revealing to realize that Democrats see obstacle to democracy as problems to be solved, Republicans as loopholes to crawl through.

  10. Sorg:

    “After all, what keeps an honest person honest? The only thing that would keep a person honest would be their conscience, but if their conscience is nonexistent, a person is capable of anything.”

    Swift justice with the appropriate punishment if found guilty by a jury would be a backstop. We have as many have observed over the years a double standard of justice for corporate criminality and for the 1% vs us Proles.

    Like many things here in the USA – You can have a higher education, go to a trade school, have great healthcare if and only if you can afford it. Same holds true with our Criminal and Civil “Justice” System, you can evade justice by having deep pockets.

  11. I grew up in small towns in Indiana which were farming communities filled with blue collar workers as well. There were more lawyers, doctors and hospitals in those communities at that time.

    For me, this discussion raises a question of equity. How would we ensure that the people living in rural communities would have their voices heard and represented? I have heard it said that you can assess the health of a democracy by how it treats its minorities.

    Yes, I agree we need to get rid of politicized gerrymandering. Yes, I’d like to see the electoral college become a thing of the past. The question for me is how do we convince people that these are needed changes in a very Republican state?

    And beyond this, how can we mobilize to address finance campaign reform that actually has teeth in it and can be enforced to decrease the corruption at all levels of government? What are the most effective steps we can take that have the most leverage? As long as the plutocrats have much more power than the people of main street, I think it will be difficult to improve our political systems, to rid it of system racism, homophobia, islamophobia etc.

  12. In terms of the electoral college, I’m not terribly bothered by it being a popular vote within the states as opposed to a popular vote nationally. What does bother me is the antiquated machinery associated with the EC that can easily go south. Contrary to what it appears to be on Election Day, candidates do not win electoral votes of states. They win a slate of electors who then are supposed to go vote for them. A whole of things can go wrong with that process as I’ve written about before.

    If I were the Democrats, I wouldn’t be so quick to throw out federalism. One thing that’s saving us right now is the fact Trump and his minions can’t order things be done in all 50 states. Imagine if the President of the United States were in a position to control how the vote is to be conducted in all 50 states. That would be a disaster.

    No, federalism is an essential safeguard, a check on a too-powerful executive. So too is separation of powers and checks and balances. The President appointing people without Senate confirmation, his issuing executive orders based on “emergency powers” granted to him by Congress, when there is no emergency. Spending money that’s not appropriated. We have handed the President a blank check over the years. The presidency is way too powerful.

    I don’t think getting rid of the filibuster is such a grand idea. It is the one thing that makes the parties work together. Do we want even less compromise in the U.S. Senate than we have now? They got rid of the filibuster on the confirmation of federal judges so the party in control doesn’t have to put up more moderate judges that appeal to both parties. How is that working out?

    There are so many changes that have to be made. We cannot assume that Presidents in the future will voluntarily follow norms and do the right thing because to not do so has political consequences. That didn’t work with Trump. We can’t assume that nobody like Trump will ever be elected again.

  13. Robin R. …”how can we mobilize to address finance campaign reform that actually has teeth in it and can be enforced to decrease the corruption at all levels of government?”
    Elect candidates who prefer to have their campaigns publicly funded and reject those who prefer their campaigns be funded by special interests.

  14. Madison gave the conduct of elections to the states and thus we have considerable differences in how individual states conduct theirs. (We can be thankful he didn’t leave elections to the feds in light of what, for instance, Trump would decree to every state capital). As for the constitutionality of the judiciary’s right to review the legality and constitutionality of legislative and executive acts, that was settled starting with Marbury v. Madison and affirmed in hundreds of cases since. Specific and descriptive authority need not be set out in the Constitution. The Constitution does not set out the right to regulate jet planes and railroads, for instance, because among other things, there weren’t any. Times change. Interpretation is necessary, as Marshall recognized with Marbury. Perhaps AI will be the next victim of Marbury; perhaps not. It’s a matter of interpretation.

    Today’s election dilemma can be solved with passage of House Bills 1 and 4 along with a bill calling for public financing, a possibility if we elect Biden, retake the Senate and hold the House, so let’s get on with it. The public financing bill should also contain a provision limiting political campaigning to the four months immediately preceding the general election along with other voter-enfrancising measures pertaining to automatic voter registration and the like. This is not rocket science. The remedies are clear, so all that’s missing is the will – so let’s drum up the will and vote in people who will prioritize this issue, get it done early on, and then proceed on to the humdrum tax and budget wars.

    Unfortunately, conduct of elections and proportionate representation are cut from different cloth, and the latter cannot be solved in the halls of Congress but will instead require a Constitutional Convention (or amendment that takes years to come to fruition, if ever). I personally would prefer a convention but am fearful that every fruitcake alive (think pro life et al) would have his/her own plank to offer to such convention’s delegates and might pass). I therefore would go along with our gross misrepresentation (See California and Wyoming – both have two senators) for a while longer in the hope that this country’s progressive bloc will soon be so overwhelming that we can call for a Constitutional Convention without fear of Bronze Age solutions to 21st Century problems – but for the here and now > VOTE!

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