Most people will agree that the American system of voting needs an overhaul. Changes to the way in which we cast a vote, and in how votes are counted, would help immensely. Here it is two days following the Election Day and there is still uncertainty. One thing that often comes to mind when people are critical of American elections is the Electoral College. I’m thinking beyond just the Electoral College, though it needs changing too. It’s certainly one of the biggest areas where change is needed. But I can also think of other ways to make improvements. More on the Electoral College later.
First, validated voters should be permitted to vote online. I requested my ballot online. I could have just as easily cast my vote online too. Opponents of online voting point to possible identity validation issues. But I can think of ways around that, such as the types of validation required when logging into federal government websites (like when I make changes online to my allotments or W-4 or accessing my TSP retirement account) or the two-factor identification steps many financial institutions employ to verify a customer’s identity. Here in 2020, we need to find ways to improve how we vote. People vote today essentially the same way it’s been done, almost since the beginning. Not much has changed: (1) either stand in long lines, or (2) fill out a paper ballot at home (or in a hotel room hundreds of miles away) and mail or hand carry it back to the board of elections. Isn’t that a little archaic? I think that it is. Absentee voting became very popular during the Civil War and during World War II, at time at which soldiers away from home could vote. It was universally limited to persons in the military then, generally, and by the late 1800s, the privilege gradually became available to civilian voters. In the last half a dozen or so elections, I’ve casted an absentee ballot far more than I voted in person. I ought to be able to vote online, which would record my vote electronically – and instantly – and avoid the long delay such as what we’re seeing this week.
Second, we need to improve a candidate’s eligibility to appear on a ballot. Sure, I get that everyone should have a right to run for public office. But, there are several candidates for president who have little chance of winning. No, wait a minute. They didn’t stand a chance at all of winning or even coming close to winning. Did you realize there were dozens of candidates for president in this election? I scratched my head wondering why they weren’t eliminated previously. Some of them include Jo Jorgensen, Howie Hawkins, Don Blankenship, Roque De La Fuente, Kanye West, Jerome Segal, Sharon Wallace, Dennis Ball, Barbara Bellar, President Boddie (yes, that’s his name – do a search), and Mary Ruth Caro Simmons, just to name a few. The list all of all the candidates is a lot longer than this. This is only a paltry number of the people who are legitimate candidates, though not necessarily viable or competitive candidates. There are dozens of 2020 presidential candidates (which you can view HERE). Why haven’t you heard of most of them, you ask? Apparently not all of them made it on the ballots in every state. There are 21 candidates on the ballot each in Vermont and Colorado. The next largest presidential ballots are Arkansas and Louisiana with 13 candidates each. Twelve states have only three candidates on the ballot. Here in Maryland, there were five.
Approximately three dozen candidates for president are on the ballots sporadically around the country. An additional 100 + candidates are eligible but were validated too late to make it on the ballots in most states but are still official presidential candidates. This variance in who appeared on the different ballots supports my idea to eliminate them from the general election altogether. If they can’t get themselves validated to appear on the ballot in all 50 states and the District of Columbia, then they should not be permitted on the ballot in any state at all. Were I a candidate, I’d favor this change.
These folks collectively received roughly 2.5 million votes, some earning as many as 60,000 + votes and others earning a couple of hundred votes. One person received 29 votes. As close as this election was, just 1-2 percentage points separating Joe Biden and Donald Trump in many states, just imagine what the outcome might have been had all of those other candidates not been in the race? I think the primary elections should eliminate all those extra people. How? Good question. Perhaps, there could be a rule to eliminate any candidate earning less than 20% of the vote in a primary election. That would be a clear indication that the candidate isn’t strong enough to survive the rigor and competitiveness of a general election. Maybe if the American people weren’t voting for all of these extra candidates, we wouldn’t still be waiting with bated breath on the election’s outcome here it is 48 hours later.
Lastly, the Electoral College needs to be eliminated. America is a democracy. In a democracy, the standard of “one person, one vote” is supreme. But in our current system, that doesn’t always work. A person could win the popular vote but end up losing based on the Electoral College, just like what happened in the 2000 and the 2016 elections. If we’re supposed to be a government of, by, and for the people, then the citizens should determine who they want to represent them and not some convoluted system that determines who will be president. At the time the Electoral College was first established, there was a good reason for it in the minds of the founding fathers. They feared that a politician with a tyrant, dictator-like mindset could manipulate the American people (someone like Mr. Donald J. Trump, for instance) and rise to power, possibly staying there in perpetuity. Presidential term limits didn’t exist at that time. A lot of politicians were loud and boisterous and were sometimes intimidating to voters. The founding fathers didn’t trust that the American people would make the right choice, and states identified electors to help get the “right” people in the presidency in a judicious manner, without influences – irrespective of the popular vote. I was thinking and equating this election to a football game that tied and went into overtime leaving everyone sitting on the edge of their seats. This election is like overtime. That’s what the Electoral College gives us.
Although many people don’t like the Electoral College, it’s probably not a high likelihood that it will change. In order to change it, a constitutional amendment is required and ratified by 3/4 of the states. So, we’ll probably be stuck with it for the foreseeable future.