Apologies for the whiplash, dear reader, but sadly you read right: We at the Concorde International Review have made the editorial decision to publish a listicle. However, unlike the latte personality tests of Buzzfeed et al., we decided to take a look at the American election system.
In all seriousness: Election season seems to bring, year after year, the same sets of problems that seemingly never get addressed. We’ve decided to present, in the form of an ergonomic list, some of the issues that we think need to be dealt with once and for all, because it is demonstrably insane that they have remained so pressing.
Methodologically, we have tried to stray away from partisan solutions to these issues : our list aims to provide fixes that are constitutionally compliant, fair to the citizenry and, most importantly, ludicrously common-sense.
This is by no means an adoption of the dreaded listicle format for all future publications, of course. Next week you can expect another deep dive into an unexpected (as yet undecided) topic.
In the meantime, you won’t BELIEVE number 3!!!!!
- Voter ID should be provided by the government.
One of the biggest points of contention this year has been whether or not voter fraud is a threat to the election process. This debate stems from the fact that in the United States, there are no government issued identification documents given to citizens; as such, the ID carried by most people in the US is actually their driver’s license, obtained via the Department of Motor Vehicles – a state-level government industry.
This may come as a surprise to anyone living in any other (Western) democracy, but the concept of federal-level ID is actually a hot button issue: For the most part, the problem lies in the fact that many Americans – Appeals Court judges included – hold the opinion that voter ID is unconstitutional, be it for privacy reasons (4th Amendment), or for fear that it would be a breach of voting rights protection (14th Amendment).
This line of reasoning may be founded in constitutional law, which does give it a great deal of legitimacy. However, from a functional perspective, it’s rather silly. Because the American government already has at least two separate databases containing forcibly taken information related to its citizens. The first is Social Security. The second is for taxes.
Despite the fact that providing the federal government with personal information (either directly or through a third party) is unavoidable for the overwhelming majority of Americans (to the point where I can’t easily think of a valid exception), the lack of a national ID means that the same government that keeps tabs on you and supposedly represents your interests nevertheless fails to provide an accessible and cost-free method for citizens to obtain a valid ID. In effect, the only ID that is readily available to the majority of Americans is a driver’s license (or, in the cases of more affluent populations, the passport). This ties the ability to vote directly to a mandatory payment, the hassle of multiple weeks worth of driving lessons, as well as access to a car. This is bad, as it boils down to censitary suffrage.
Of course, not all states require ID to vote. This is, in fact, just as stupid as the requirement of ID without providing a free government solution to the problem, because your identity must be verified at some point and the options provided by states vary but are needlessly complicated and/or poorly designed. Invariably, they also require you to verify your identity after the fact, which serves no other purpose but to push back the issue and increase the likelihood of complications.
What’s the solution?
There’s really only one. The government needs to provide all American citizens with ID, free of charge. In order to accommodate for some of the above issues (there’s honestly no dealing with Satan), this could be issued at the municipal level rather than the federal level. This lets citizens remain secure in their pretending that the federal government is incapable of tracking them while also not disenfranchising massive amounts of voters and costing the rest the needless government expenditure necessary to disentangling thorny ID issues after every election (not the mention avoiding the possibility of voter fraud).
- Voting should happen at a reasonable time and place.
Here’s a thought: voting should be practical for the voter. It follows from – at the very least – the 14th Amendment, particularly Section 1, that any impeding of the voting ability of a US citizen is unconstitutional. Therefore, if voting is de facto difficult because polling stations are difficult to find or to access (for instance, if election day is on a work day), to name a few possible reasons, then it stands to reason that the legal framework governing election logistics needs to be updated.
One of the reasons why some states open the polls earlier than on election day is because election day is usually absolutely annoying to free up for most citizens. If Election Day became a national holiday, or, like in a sensible democracy, was set to always be a weekend instead of an arbitrary day in early November that changes every year, more people could reasonably take the day off to go to the polls, and we wouldn’t need such a needlessly complicated system of early voting in some states, reserving mail-in ballots for more difficult cases.
On top of that, let’s also start thinking about solutions to vote through government websites. This is an argument that immediately faces pushback, because Americans on the whole have very little faith in the ability of their government to not be hacked, due to continued discussion of these affairs in the national political conversation for the last five or six years (Russian election hacking, Hillary Clinton’s email). In fact, you may rest easy, knowing that the federal government (or even the state governments) tend to be somehow between impossible to hack and impossibly intimidating to hack. If the codes used to protect the American government are ever cracked, we will have far worse things to worry about than a couple extra votes, such misfiring nuclear missiles, unanticipated radar pings requiring immediate military response, or the complete failure of federal dams. When hacking has been an issue on the national scale it has either been in the case of unprotected data (the DNC, which is not affiliated with or protected by the national government, or Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s private server) or hasn’t really been hacking at all: Russian interference in the US elections is actually an example of social engineering (a form of hacking that involves playing unsuspecting citizens for suckers through targeted ads).
For the United States to avoid falling further behind the times, these common sense measures to handling the locations in which we vote need to be considered. Both are needed, as they provide contingencies in the case of black swan events such as pandemics.
- Ranked choice voting is more representative of true voting intentions.
A timeless feature of US politics, especially in presidential elections, is the effective political division between the Republican Party and the Democratic Party. Countless voices have expressed discontent with this feature, for one because it limits avenues for political change, and makes third-party voting a useless exercise: A ticket outside of either of the main parties is unlikely to win – a roundabout way of saying that it essentially cannot happen.
Candidates that wish for their campaign to be relevant therefore must go through the filter of either party’s primary, which has had the effect of completely diluting what it actually means to be a Republican or a Democrat : fringe movements, whether leaning towards the center or towards the extremes, have had to integrate in order to have a shot at relevancy. Bernie Sanders in 2016 was certainly not what might have been called a classical Democrat candidate, neither was Donald Trump an exemplary Republican one; and it stands to reason that this trend towards loss of party meaning is set to continue, to the detriment of the American people.
This is, let’s put it this way, an apparent lack of representation. If you require the Red or Blue ticket to achieve a certain level of political office, ideas outside of or to the margins of either color rarely ever get their say. Further, the current situation likely cements the rift/division of society into either color, which, as we have seen, makes bipartisan efforts rare and progress between administrations rarer still (the back and forth is more important).
One way to begin to solve this would be to institute ranked choice voting (Maine is already doing that this year): Each citizen votes for several candidates in order of preference, which means they can choose to vote for the candidate they actually support as well as – if that candidate fails – support their party’s ticket. What this means, in other words, is that ranked choice voting is a way out of the current practice of voting for a candidate that is more likely to win but not necessarily representative of a voter’s true allegiance; it gives third-party tickets an actual chance at garnering support, and it serves to establish with much more precision what the true political landscape of the United States is.
- Consistency in the electoral college is key to properly fair elections.
Some states have a winner-take-all/first past the post system, and others have a proportional system. It’s time that all states agree on a single system because the current situation makes the entire process entirely devoid of fairness. As it stands, it’s not uncommon to hear voters of either party complaining that their vote doesn’t matter. And it’s true no matter which way you look at it : a Republican in Maine or Missouri has as little power as a Democrat in Tennessee or California. The only ones with any real importance are voters in Florida and Ohio.
Ideally, implementing a fix to this issue would involve switching every state to a proportional system, because that would be the most accurate representation of the will of the people as a whole and not the will of the “winner by one vote in that state therefore the people voting against me in that state never mattered hahaha” (not very sportsmanlike).
Incidentally, that could even result in the end of gerrymandering: Districts no longer matter if each voice is counted as, well, a single voice.
- Debates need to become actual debates
We’ve watched, and commented, on both the presidential and vice-presidential debates that occurred in the past month or so. They were both awful for wildly different reasons, but one commonality sticks out: two minutes per issue is too little time to discuss anything of any importance or to go beyond the obvious talking points on any given issue. Instead, it only serves as yet another delivery method for catchy punchlines or gotcha moments. This is an insult to the intelligence of the American electorate. The success of podcasts suggests that people are quite willing to devote a fair amount of time to in-depth analyses of issues they hold dear ; the fact that this cannot be said about politics is highly troubling. Policies should be the central focus of these exercises, not soundbytes.
We would like to see more time spent on each topic, because longer discussions allow for more clarity, more in-depth discussion, and actual engagement with said topic by either debater. It would require setting up more debates, each one assigned a specific theme: “Foreign Policy”, “Economy”, “Healthcare”, etc. Any of the questions asked by the moderators in either debates last month should have warranted its own hour and a half spent exploring its complexity.
What we got instead were, respectively, an elderly shouting match, and a competitive dialogue of the deaf on who would answer the least close to the actual question.
Debates like what we’ve experienced don’t discuss issues, don’t convince anyone; they simply are not useful in the way they are currently formatted. Not to speak of the definitively amateurish moderation – a moderator ought not to participate in the debate and only keep it on track.
This list, which took us practically no time at all, is far from exhaustive. It could have easily featured dozens more points. While it is sobering to recognize the vast chasm between what is and what could be when it comes to American democracy, we also firmly believe that this sort of exercise should be more common than it is. Not all solutions to the problems with the American electoral system have a partisan slant, nor should they. Only through recognizing that there are a variety of more effective approaches to resolving injustice can we actually begin to make progress and move towards a more coherent political status quo.
For those of you who would wish to see a better electoral system : we invite your reply. This Columbus day, tell us : what is your vision of the future of America?