Sunday, July 31, 2011

A Case for Ending the Current Method by Which Presidents are 'Selected'

by Len Hart, The Existentialist Cowboy

The office of President is connected to the electorate 'metaphorically' but not in fact. The very method by which the President is elected is complicated by party machines, primaries, state election procedures and most notably an antiquated and completely useless 'Electoral College'.

As long as there is an 'electoral college', 'third parties' are reduced to playing 'spoiler'; 'states' are given powers they should not have. The 'President' is supposed to represent ALL the people but he/she is, in fact, elected by states and/or state party machines. And those, in turn, are but pawns of big contributors, organized lobbies and special interests.

The only viable alternative is to end the primaries; replace them with a single national popular election defined and decided by an 'instant runoff'. A benefit of this is that free of 'party' machinations, candidates must run on issues. The 'President' of the United States (in theory, at least) must represent all of the people of the United States. A 'direct election' can make a truth of this fiction.

Then --why is the 'President' elected by 'states'?
The following criteria are listed in [an] LWV study:
  • Ensure majority rule. Most major political races currently can be won with only a plurality.
  • Encourage minority representation, where minority is defined by either party or cultural
  • affiliation.
  • Encourage fair gender representation.
  • Produce fair and accurate representation of diverse political views in legislatures.
  • Increase voter participation.
  • Encourage geographical representation.
  • Encourage “sincere” voting, as opposed to “strategic” voting.
  • Maximize effective votes/minimize “wasted” votes.
  • Provide a reasonable range of voter choice.
  • Prevent fraud and political manipulation.
  • Encourage competitive elections
--League of Women Voters in Oregon, Criteria for Evaluating Election Systems, Election Methods: Review of Alternatives and Oregon, Proposals, Executive Summary
There are many ways to arrive at the 'people's choice following a national popular election. The Borda count, for example, is a single-winner election method. Voters are given a list of candidates representing every party fielding a candidate. The voter simply RANKS the candidates in the order of their preference. Their favorite, for example, is 'number one', etc.

Thus the Borda count determines a winner by giving each candidate the number of points which correspond to his/her rank as 'marked' by each voter. Nothing could be simpler: the winning candidate is the one with the most points.

The Borda count is but one system. There are competing 'range' and/or preference systems. All of them, however, must meet certain criteria if we are to achieve the goals of any new proposal.

Everyone's vote must 'equal' everyone's else's vote, i.,e no system should result in any vote or sub-set of votes having more 'weight' statistically than any other vote. One man (person), one vote must become more than mere slogan. It is possible that it be made a fact!

What does this mean to voters? Simplistically, a vote in rural Arizona must --and can -- carry as much 'weight' as a vote in Houston's very, very posh and elite 'River Oaks'; a vote in Harlem must --and can -- carry the same weight as a vote in Minnesota or a vote in any other place, city, neighborhood or enclave in these United States. The President is --after all --said to be elected by popular vote. But that has not been the case in fact and practice. The biggest offender is the 'Electoral College'. Thanks to the electoral college, the value of individual votes in small states are not worth much.

Another benefit is that party machinations may be, can be minimized. Any party can 'elect' within its rank any candidate it desires. Let the parties do what they want within their ranks --as long as its legal. But --as more parties are sure to spring up --more points of view will be represented. The obvious benefit is that voters are no longer reduced to voting between two shades of gray, between frick or frack, between GOP or GOP-LITE. The people will at last been given a choice. Democracy will have at last come to the United States.

The greatest benefit of all may be that the cost of elections will decline. Candidates must address issues over postures and strategies. Voters will themselves sense that --at last --their vote is actually counting for something, that it is not merely lost amid the electoral college and/or the machinations of increasingly complicated and completely out-of-touch parties, primaries and machines.


Media Conglomerates, Mergers, Concentration of Ownership, Global Issues, Updated: January 02, 2009

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