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Isn't it time to reform our election process?

 
 
Reply Thu 12 Aug, 2004 11:50 am
Isn't it time to change the way we hold elections so that those millions of Americans who don't feel represented by either of the two major parties can still have their votes counted? Why couldn't we have a runoff election whenever no candidate gets a majority of the vote? That way you could choose the candidate you really wanted in the first vote and if he didn't win, you would have the opportunity to vote for your second choice. I know there are other countries who do this and it seems to work. Anybody know why we don't do that here?
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Type: Discussion • Score: 2 • Views: 2,540 • Replies: 38
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CoastalRat
 
  1  
Reply Thu 12 Aug, 2004 12:00 pm
Because the "people" do not directly elect our president. If we did, Gore would be our leader since he got a majority of the popular vote in 2000.

Technically, when voting for president, we are really voting for electors to the electoral college, who then vote for president. There were numerous reasons for the founding fathers doing this. For one, they were not sure the average citizen was intelligent enough to vote for a leader. But mainly they wanted to lessen the impact of large urban populations being able to control the outcome of an election.

Now while your idea certainly has some merit, I think things are better left alone, after all, with few exceptions, the current system has worked.
0 Replies
 
FreeDuck
 
  1  
Reply Thu 12 Aug, 2004 12:09 pm
Quote:
Because the "people" do not directly elect our president. If we did, Gore would be our leader since he got a majority of the popular vote in 2000.


I'm aware of how the electoral college works, but most states award their electoral votes to whoever wins that states' election. In this scenario, I don't see why a runoff election, or even a ballot that allows you to rank the candidates in order of preference isn't possible.
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Scrat
 
  1  
Reply Thu 12 Aug, 2004 12:34 pm
Anything is "possible"; I believe the larger issue is what is advisable. It appears to me that the only people even claiming that there is anything wrong with the current system are the same people claiming (against all available facts, mind you) that the 2000 election was "stolen". So, before I'd even consider modifying a system that works, I'd have to hear suggestions from a group who hadn't worked so hard to completely invalidate their own opinions on the issue.
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FreeDuck
 
  1  
Reply Thu 12 Aug, 2004 12:40 pm
Quote:
Anything is "possible"; I believe the larger issue is what is advisable. It appears to me that the only people even claiming that there is anything wrong with the current system are the same people claiming (against all available facts, mind you) that the 2000 election was "stolen". So, before I'd even consider modifying a system that works, I'd have to hear suggestions from a group who hadn't worked so hard to completely invalidate their own opinions on the issue.


Oh I heartily disagree. Many independents, like myself, who do not feel that either of the two major parties are trustworthy and that neither represents us have complained about the two party system. I believe that independents represent a substantial block of registered voters and that we ARE independents for the very reason that we aren't satisfied with either party. I think that if people knew that by voting for a third party they would not be harming their lesser evil candidate we might actually elect that third party candidate. Don't you think Nader would be polling at higher than 5% if we weren't so damn scared to get Bush for four more years?
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Setanta
 
  1  
Reply Thu 12 Aug, 2004 12:41 pm
On the subject of the election of President, one referes to Article II, Section 1 of the constitution:

Article. II.

Section. 1.

The executive Power shall be vested in a President of the United States of America. He shall hold his Office during the Term of four Years, and, together with the Vice President, chosen for the same Term, be elected, as follows:

Each State shall appoint, in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a Number of Electors, equal to the whole Number of Senators and Representatives to which the State may be entitled in the Congress: but no Senator or Representative, or Person holding an Office of Trust or Profit under the United States, shall be appointed an Elector.


The third paragraph of Section 1 detailed the mechanism for the assembly of electors and the transmission of the results to the Senate. However, under the original provisions of that paragraph, the person who ran number two in the voting would become Vice President. This was unsatisfactory to the states, and was redressed in the XIIth amendment, as follows:

The Electors shall meet in their respective states and vote by ballot for President and Vice-President, one of whom, at least, shall not be an inhabitant of the same state with themselves; they shall name in their ballots the person voted for as President, and in distinct ballots the person voted for as Vice-President, and they shall make distinct lists of all persons voted for as President, and of all persons voted for as Vice-President, and of the number of votes for each, which lists they shall sign and certify, and transmit sealed to the seat of the government of the United States, directed to the President of the Senate; -- the President of the Senate shall, in the presence of the Senate and House of Representatives, open all the certificates and the votes shall then be counted; -- The person having the greatest number of votes for President, shall be the President, if such number be a majority of the whole number of Electors appointed; and if no person have such majority, then from the persons having the highest numbers not exceeding three on the list of those voted for as President, the House of Representatives shall choose immediately, by ballot, the President. But in choosing the President, the votes shall be taken by states, the representation from each state having one vote; a quorum for this purpose shall consist of a member or members from two-thirds of the states, and a majority of all the states shall be necessary to a choice. [And if the House of Representatives shall not choose a President whenever the right of choice shall devolve upon them, before the fourth day of March next following, then the Vice-President shall act as President, as in case of the death or other constitutional disability of the President. --]* The person having the greatest number of votes as Vice-President, shall be the Vice-President, if such number be a majority of the whole number of Electors appointed, and if no person have a majority, then from the two highest numbers on the list, the Senate shall choose the Vice-President; a quorum for the purpose shall consist of two-thirds of the whole number of Senators, and a majority of the whole number shall be necessary to a choice. But no person constitutionally ineligible to the office of President shall be eligible to that of Vice-President of the United States.

(Nota Bene: the mention here of Section 3 of the XXth amendment concerns the procedure if no one shall have yet qualified as President at end of the stated period of time--to date, the provisions of Section 3 of the XXth amendment have never applied to an election.)

Therefore, a complete overhaul of this section of the constitution and of the applicable portions of amendments XII and XX would be necessary, which is to say, one would be obliged to amend the constitution. The two dominant political parties have a vested interest in preserving the electoral status quo, so this is unlikely to happen.

There were no political parties as we know them at the time of the writing of the constitution. At the time that the XIIth amendment was adopted, the idea of political parties had arisen (hence, the provision for the separate electoin of a Vice Presient), although the modern political party did not occur until Andy Jackson created the Democratic party from the shambles of Jefferson's Republican party. The notion of a run-off election was obviated, as far as the framers were concerned, in the provisions for the certification of the winner--there was no problem with having a "minority" president, so long as that individual had the most votes. So, once again, the entire system would require an overhaul, which would require Congress creating an amendment, or calling a constitutional convention, and on the topic of electoral reform, it just ain't gonna happen.
0 Replies
 
FreeDuck
 
  1  
Reply Thu 12 Aug, 2004 12:48 pm
Setanta, thank you for the info.

Isn't it still up to the states to determine how they award their electoral votes? Is there anything in the Constitution that says that states must award their electoral votes to the guy who got the most votes? Is their anything in that paste from the Constitution that rules out statewide runoffs?
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Setanta
 
  1  
Reply Thu 12 Aug, 2004 12:57 pm
You will note in reading the pertinent passages, that states certify their choice to the Senate. In the event of a run-off in the House of Representatives, there is also a single vote per state. As the system now works, the person polling the most votes in each states accomplishes the election of all electors accredited to that candidate. Therefore, there is no scenario involving a run-off in any individual state. Electors have tradduced their commitment to a candidate in the past, but it is sufficiently rare in our history to make it reasonable to say that all the electors in any given state vote for the same candidate.

I deny the contention that the electoral college was devised in reaction to a lack of confidence in the electorate. There is no documentary support for this chestnut, which has been resurrected roughly once every four years throughout our history. The electoral college was specifically designed, along with the Senate and its powers, to preserve a portion of sovereignty for each state, without regard to population. These compromises were essential to securing the adherence of the "small states" in 1787.
0 Replies
 
Rick d Israeli
 
  1  
Reply Thu 12 Aug, 2004 01:00 pm
Are there people in favor of the (mainland) European way of elections, meaning 15 different parties who all get a share in participating in running the country, based on the number of votes they get during national elections?
0 Replies
 
CoastalRat
 
  1  
Reply Thu 12 Aug, 2004 01:02 pm
Nothing that I am aware of FreeDuck, depending of course on what any state constitutions say about it. In fact, many if not most states do not require the electors to vote for the candidate that wins the popular vote of their state. This has happened several times over the course of our history. In fact, I think it last happened in 2000 if I am right. I will have to check that out and get back on that one.
0 Replies
 
Scrat
 
  1  
Reply Thu 12 Aug, 2004 01:04 pm
FreeDuck wrote:
Quote:
Anything is "possible"; I believe the larger issue is what is advisable. It appears to me that the only people even claiming that there is anything wrong with the current system are the same people claiming (against all available facts, mind you) that the 2000 election was "stolen". So, before I'd even consider modifying a system that works, I'd have to hear suggestions from a group who hadn't worked so hard to completely invalidate their own opinions on the issue.


Oh I heartily disagree. Many independents, like myself, who do not feel that either of the two major parties are trustworthy and that neither represents us have complained about the two party system. I believe that independents represent a substantial block of registered voters and that we ARE independents for the very reason that we aren't satisfied with either party. I think that if people knew that by voting for a third party they would not be harming their lesser evil candidate we might actually elect that third party candidate. Don't you think Nader would be polling at higher than 5% if we weren't so damn scared to get Bush for four more years?

I'm not sure what state you live in, but here in NC I can cast my vote for any candidate from any party I choose. The fact that some candidates and parties may be less popular than others is no reason to rework the system, though it may be reason for those candidates and parties to rethink their platforms.

And I see no evidence that those who would consider casting a vote for Nader are informed in any way by reality, so I assume that if he's getting 5% that's representative of how many people actually want what he's peddling.
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FreeDuck
 
  1  
Reply Thu 12 Aug, 2004 01:10 pm
So Scrat, you've never heard the terms 'wasted vote' and 'protest vote'? I cannot accept that there isn't quite a bit of psychology behind how people decide who to vote for. I don't believe that it is as simple as people voting for who they want to be president -- though it should be.
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Scrat
 
  1  
Reply Thu 12 Aug, 2004 01:25 pm
FreeDuck wrote:
So Scrat, you've never heard the terms 'wasted vote' and 'protest vote'? I cannot accept that there isn't quite a bit of psychology behind how people decide who to vote for. I don't believe that it is as simple as people voting for who they want to be president -- though it should be.

Is it your contention then that the government should not only provide us the freedom to vote as we choose, but must also have an active role in making sure we use that freedom wisely? I'm afraid that sounds a bit like the opposite of freedom to me. I respect your position, but I can't shake the feeling that those clamoring for things like instant run-off voting would be clamoring to prevent such a thing if they thought it would benefit others. This notion has come to the fore purely due to Nader's insistence on running and purely due to the reality that he will drain some votes from Kerry. So, people who want to vote for Nader effectively want a second chance at the voting booth, and I for one am not inclined to see that as a solution to the possible problem of people not adequately considering the ramifications of casting their vote in the first place.
0 Replies
 
FreeDuck
 
  1  
Reply Thu 12 Aug, 2004 01:37 pm
Quote:
Are there people in favor of the (mainland) European way of elections, meaning 15 different parties who all get a share in participating in running the country, based on the number of votes they get during national elections?


Without knowing more about it I'd say I am tentatively for it. Representation = Good. Partisanship = Bad.
0 Replies
 
Scrat
 
  1  
Reply Thu 12 Aug, 2004 01:40 pm
FD - Isn't representation by definition partisan? If I elect someone to represent my interests, and you elect someone to represent yours, and our interests are at odds, don't we each want our representative to defend our partisan interests?
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FreeDuck
 
  1  
Reply Thu 12 Aug, 2004 01:47 pm
Quote:
Is it your contention then that the government should not only provide us the freedom to vote as we choose, but must also have an active role in making sure we use that freedom wisely?


Huh? It's my contention that the constituency is too complex and two varied for two equally corrupt parties to represent them. I don't think we should be penalized for voting for who we want.

Quote:
I'm afraid that sounds a bit like the opposite of freedom to me. I respect your position, but I can't shake the feeling that those clamoring for things like instant run-off voting would be clamoring to prevent such a thing if they thought it would benefit others. This notion has come to the fore purely due to Nader's insistence on running and purely due to the reality that he will drain some votes from Kerry. So, people who want to vote for Nader effectively want a second chance at the voting booth, and I for one am not inclined to see that as a solution to the possible problem of people not adequately considering the ramifications of casting their vote in the first place.


You are quite hung up on this Nader thing. I have a hunch that you might feel differently if Ross Perot were to run again, but that's beside the point. You definitely are misinterpreting my position. I'm glad Nader is running. This isn't about Nader! This is about introducing a wider variety of ideas into the political discourse. Don't you think more people would vote if they had more candidates to choose from?

I just believe that a president and other elected officials should be chosen by at least 50% of the electorate.
0 Replies
 
FreeDuck
 
  1  
Reply Thu 12 Aug, 2004 01:50 pm
Scrat wrote:
FD - Isn't representation by definition partisan? If I elect someone to represent my interests, and you elect someone to represent yours, and our interests are at odds, don't we each want our representative to defend our partisan interests?


Well, that's not exactly what I meant by partisan.

par·ti·san1 ( P ) Pronunciation Key (pärt-zn)
n.
A fervent, sometimes militant supporter or proponent of a party, cause, faction, person, or idea.

Don't you think it would be a lot harder to have the Rep/Dem pissing matches in Congress and in the Senate and in the Media if there were more than two parties with power?
0 Replies
 
Scrat
 
  1  
Reply Thu 12 Aug, 2004 02:12 pm
FreeDuck wrote:
Quote:
Is it your contention then that the government should not only provide us the freedom to vote as we choose, but must also have an active role in making sure we use that freedom wisely?


Huh? It's my contention that the constituency is too complex and two varied for two equally corrupt parties to represent them. I don't think we should be penalized for voting for who we want.

Again, where I live I can vote for anyone from any party that I choose. Is this not the case where you live? You seem to suggest that the fact that too few people are interested in voting for the same things you want means there's something wrong with the system. My guess is that it just means that most people don't want what you want.

FreeDuck wrote:
Don't you think it would be a lot harder to have the Rep/Dem pissing matches in Congress and in the Senate and in the Media if there were more than two parties with power?

No, nor do I agree with you that a lack of conviction amongst our representatives would be a good thing. (It is conviction that causes those "pissing matches".) Take a look at parliaments around the globe, and you'll find not just pissing matches as you term it but outright acts of violence. More voices doesn't mean a quieter exchange, nor does it necessarily mean a better product.

If you want your party of choice to have stronger representation in our government, you either need to convince more people that your chosen party has something to offer them, change your platform to offer them more of what they already want, or a bit of both. Where the media may be marginalizing your message, complain to the media. That's not a problem of government.
0 Replies
 
Rick d Israeli
 
  1  
Reply Thu 12 Aug, 2004 02:17 pm
Scrat wrote:
More voices doesn't mean a quiter exchange, nor does it necessarily mean a better product.

No, not necessarily. However, it can lead to a good consensus, and I do believe that has helped at least my country to develop to what it is now. It also keeps the government sharp: complaints from both left-winged, right-winged, Christian parties etc. on certain issues are evaluated, and it can bring certain issues to the attention of the government which can not be brought to attention by lobby groups.
0 Replies
 
FreeDuck
 
  1  
Reply Thu 12 Aug, 2004 02:43 pm
Quote:
Again, where I live I can vote for anyone from any party that I choose. Is this not the case where you live? You seem to suggest that the fact that too few people are interested in voting for the same things you want means there's something wrong with the system. My guess is that it just means that most people don't want what you want.


I could argue that 40% of eligible voters doesn't vote because they don't like what's on the ballot, or restated, they don't want what you want. Yes, I can vote for any party I want, if they can get on the ballot. Just because other people 'don't want what I want' doesn't mean that I should have no representation.

Quote:

No, nor do I agree with you that a lack of conviction amongst our representatives would be a good thing. (It is conviction that causes those "pissing matches".)


And I don't agree with you that partisanship equals conviction. You seem to be implying that only Democrats and Republicans can have conviction and that any third party candidate would not.

Quote:
If you want your party of choice to have stronger representation in our government, you either need to convince more people that your chosen party has something to offer them, change your platform to offer them more of what they already want, or a bit of both. Where the media may be marginalizing your message, complain to the media. That's not a problem of government.


First of all, you are assuming that I have a party affiliation. And from the tone of your argument I get the hunch you are assuming even more than that. If people are really happy with the two major parties, then what's the harm in letting other parties have a shot? You seem to think that ballots are like a free market. I wouldn't like it if I had the choice between two equally bad grocery stores to shop from.
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