Monday, November 06, 2006

election eve

Twas the night before election and all through the house
not a soul was awake, not even a mouse.
That's because it's a worknight, need that sleep,
And sometime tomorrow we'll vote for the creeps.

Or something like that.
So the TV pundits tonight (election eve) are basically in agreement. Predictions are for mid-20s pick-up for Dems to take the House and in the Senate it is going to be close, either barely Dem, barely Rep, or maybe dead heat 50-50. It's coming down to three or four races, Missouri, Montana, Virginia, Tennessee, Maryland, oops, that's five, anyway, the Senate may not be resolved before election night bedtime.

I'v got my picks written down on a voting booth cheatsheet. It would be far easier if I could just stay home and vote on-line. But we hardly trust the new voting machines as it is, who would trust Internet voting.

I hope the Democrats take the House, we need some divided government to slow down the radical Bush agenda. But, hey, I'm a radical in some ways myself.

For instance, I think our whole election process is tainted with money, wracked with partisanship, and rife with questionable results. And that's my nice version of how I think. In some way I feel the whole election process is nothing but a sham, a set-up to favor the political class, that's the class that runs our country as a group, politicians.

Perhaps the most redeeming value of the American election system is that it is good for the economy. Political spending for this election cycle will top $2 billion. That beats most nations total GDP, and we spend that mainly on stupid political commercials. Elections create the need for banners, lawn signs, telephone use, TV, radio, print advertisements, voting machines, poll workers, campaign workers, it goes on and on, from the need for food and decorations for a candidates money raising dinner to the type of refreshments on the campaign bus. A ton of money passes around the economy because of our elections. The question might be, is this a good use for spending two billion dollars?

It might be a good use of that money if our election system was the best in the world, but it's not. Far too many Americans believe that the counting of votes isn't being done accurately and there is enough evidence that Americans are correct in their belief. That is a problem of trust and democracy needs trust to survive. But more than that it needs honesty to garner that trust. By now most Americans have heard about various voting irregularities and suspect that their own vote won't get counted. One must wonder whether the irregularities are mistakes or purposeful acts.

Are our elections honest? It's hard to believe when you have that much money floating around that elections are honest. Just watching many of these late campaign TV commercials I see plenty of dishonesty in the ads, particularily the attack ads. The manner of money raising has plenty of stink to it. Politicians run around to parties to raise money and then when they win the election it would be difficult not to believe that the politician won't remember who threw the money parties and who made up the guest list when making decisions in Washington.

Then there is the structure of a backward two-party system. Most democracies in the world use coalition forming with multiple political parties. The two parties in America have worked in a collusion over the years to create mostly safe districts by way of gerrymandering. The redrawing of district lines to favor one party or the other causes most House seats to be entirely uncompetitive, it is only a handful of districts now that are in play. Third party and independent candidates are forced to jump through legal hoops to gain ballot access in many states, purposely shut out of the game by the two parties working in concert creating those hoops.

If I was the election God, I'd change things. First, I would remove political TV and radio commercials from our airwaves. In exchange, politicians would be given free air time, perhaps a 1/2 hour several times throughout the month. Candidates would be given free time to respond to charges and accusations coming from the opposition and third party and independent candidates would be under the same rules as the Democrats and Republicans. A limit, say about seven candidates would be eligible based on pre-polling of public whether a party gets access to free airtime and an average of five debates would be conducted in five different forms and forums.

Second, even though I mention political parties in the first change, I would eventually like to remove political parties as an institution. Not like communism, one party rule, but no party rule. I don't see why we don't elect candidates that aren't supported by a political party machine. Candidates in their free air time make their case as to being able for the job, they just need to put forth their beliefs without a party ideology. After the election, the candidate will need to caucus with like-minded winners sans a political party. Without parties very few elected officials will vote lockstep with other politicians. Officials will vote more honestly on each of the mass of issues.

Third, the ballot casting of the future is the home computer. In this form, voting can be able to take the pulse of the people on a regular basis and do it cheap. Once voting on the home computer becomes commonplace, our country can transpose into a direct democracy. People will be able to vote more often and less on who their representatives are and more directly voting on issues. Elections could be held more like two or three times a year at home on the computer. Everyone should be given the minimum voting computer and given any type of special needs in order to use the computer. A completely secured code must be used and also an additional secured code be available for exchange if the first code is tampered with and abused. Violations of code tampering would be harh, 40 years jail, something like that in order to discourage anyone tampering with our democracy. Computer home voting would eliminate some of todays problems such as voter intimidation, but will need to monitored to make sure new problems open up from a different system and work quickly to respond to new problems.

Fourth, the quality of candidates needs to be examined. Opening up the election process to third parties or even eliminating political parties and having all independents would improve candidate choices. Remember these people are applying to American citizens for a job, so they should do what most of us do when applying for a job, submit a resume and application, piss into a cup (drug test) and go through a series of interviews (free airtime, see change #1 above). We need to have testing of candidates knowledge (call it the politicians SAT) and the answers released to the public.

Fifth, along with changes that open up the process to more candidates we need to vote with IRV, instant run-off voting. This involves ranking the candidates. A voter would rank their choices, from 2004, a voter might choose Ralph Nader as number one, George Bush as number two, John Kerry number three and the other candidates Libertarian 4th, Green 5th, and etc. When votes are tallied if the candidate with the most first ranked choices doesn't have a plurality (at least 50.1% of the vote) then an instant run-off occurs and the last place candidate is dropped and second ranked votes are added in, then third ranked, until one candidate has the plurality. This way a winner has the most votes and voters get to have a say in all the candidates. In addition as an instant run-off, there is no need to redo the vote if there is no clear winner. If you see a proposal to adopt IRV, please vote yes.

But I'm not the election God, oh well, maybe Americans will make the changes I'd like to see.