Electing Our Representatives
There are a number of problems with our current system of electing our representatives. Let’s begin with the low-hanging fruit.
We currently elect our president and vice president by the Electoral College, rather than by a direct popular vote. There are a number of reasons why this Electoral College should be abolished in favor of a popular vote.
1. With the Electoral College, each state is granted a number of delegates equal to the sum of the number of its senators (two) and the number of its representatives (at least one). This results in the less populous states having a larger per capita representation that the more populous states.
2. With the exception of Maine and Nebraska, delegates are chosen on a winner-take-all basis. The result is that political candidates focus their campaigning on so-called “swing states,” where voters are fairly evenly divided between the two major parties, while ignoring the issues of importance to the voters in the rest of the country.
3. The winner-take-all method of choosing delegates makes it extremely difficult for a third party to become established.
Eliminating the Electoral College by a constitutional amendment is not feasible because doing so would require the approval of three-fourths of the states. Since approximately half of the states benefit from the current system, the prospect of persuading the legislators of half of those states to vote for an amendment that would reduce their state’s representation is virtually nonexistent. However, doing away with the Electoral College could be included in a package of proposed changes to the Constitution that could be voted on as a whole, as described in my article Rewriting the Constitution. Additionally, there is currently a workaround in progress wherein a number of states have agreed to direct their delegates to vote for the candidate with the most popular votes, to be effective when the total number of electoral votes of the states joining this pact has reached a majority of the electoral votes.
In addition to being severely disadvantaged by the winner-take-all method of choosing delegates, a third-party candidate is further hindered by the fact that under the present system, those who prefer that candidate would be reluctant to vote for him (or her) because he is unlikely to win, and voting for him would reduce the likelihood that their second choice candidate would win. This problem could be remedied by adopting the instant-runoff voting system.
Caucuses and in particular the Iowa Democratic caucuses should be done away with for the following reasons.
1. Those who wish to participate in the Iowa Democratic precinct caucuses must arrive at the designated location during a narrow time window. This tends to exclude many of those who have jobs and family obligations from participating.
2. Those candidates that obtain support from less than 15% of the attendees receive no representation from that precinct. This practice puts minority candidates at a disadvantage.
3. Unlike the vote cast during a primary or general election, the attendees’ choices of candidates are not secret, leading to the possibility that attendees may be intimidated by the presence of their supervisor at the caucus.
Those states that hold their caucuses and primaries early in the election cycle, in particular, Iowa and New Hampshire, have a disproportionally large influence on the selection of the parties’ nominees. To eliminate this bias, it is herein recommended that all states hold their primary elections on the same day, assuming, as advocated above, that the caucuses are replaced by primaries. If the candidate with the highest total number of votes has a majority of the votes, he will be the nominee; otherwise, the instant-runoff method will be used to select the nominee.
Regarding the requirements necessary to become president, I see no justification for the minimum age requirement of 35 years; convincing a majority of the voters that you are the best candidate should be sufficient qualification. Also, I see no reason why naturalized citizens shouldn’t be allowed to be president. In every other respect, naturalized citizens have the same rights as native-born citizens; being eligible to become president shouldn’t be an exception. Since the president has access to information at the highest levels of classification, it is appropriate to require presidential candidates to have the highest level of security clearance.
As is the case regarding the president, we should eliminate the age requirements for serving in Congress. Also, we should require that members of Congress have a security clearance appropriate to the level of classification of the material to which they have access.
Regarding the qualifications necessary for voting, some have advocated that voters be required to present some form of photo ID as a deterrent to voter fraud, while others contend that this would place an undue burden on many voters. The Secure Card system described in my article A Proposed Method of Eliminating Identity Fraud, if adopted, would completely eliminate the possibility of voter fraud and could be used for online voting. The Secure Card enables the user to securely conduct all types of transactions and would replace all credit cards, membership cards, driver licenses, etc., so it would not be necessary to obtain a separate photo ID.
The age requirement for voting, currently 18, is presumably justified by the notion that one must be of a certain age in order to make an intelligent decision regarding the selection of candidates. However, age is only an approximate indicator of the level of mental maturity and in any case, the choice of 18 years is totally arbitrary. Therefore, I recommend that we eliminate this age requirement for voting and instead require that those who wish to vote pass the same citizenship test that is given to immigrants before they (those who wish to vote) are allowed to do so. I am aware of the fact that this proposal may bring to the mind of some of the literacy tests that were used in the South to unfairly exclude Blacks from voting, but if the citizenship test is administered fairly, there shouldn’t be a problem. If the citizenship test were to be used as a qualification for voting, such widespread use would make that test more susceptible to being compromised. To prevent this, the method described in my article Our System of Education: The Problems With It and How It Can Be Improved to eliminate cheating on tests could be used.
While a direct popular vote is superior to the Electoral College system for the reasons stated above, the popular vote is not without its problems. In a democracy, the quality of the elected representatives is dependent upon the wisdom of the electorate. In order to get elected, a candidate must tell the people what they want to hear, whereas a successful leader must tell the people what they need to hear. Thus, we have politicians making extravagant promises in order to get elected that they are unable to keep when they do get elected. Furthermore, when politicians do get elected, they are often beholden to the lobbyists who finance their campaigns.
As discussed in my article A Proposed Method of Eliminating Inflation, members of Congress consistently fail to balance the federal budget, thereby increasing the national debt because doing so would require them to make hard choices between cutting back on spending on programs favored by constituents and raising taxes, both of which would cause the legislators to incur the displeasure of the voters and thereby hinder their (the legislators’) chances of being reelected.
As discussed in my article Governing Philosophies, there is a tendency of democracies such as our own to start out as being libertarian but evolve over time into becoming caretaker states, aka welfare states, where all aspects of people’s lives are controlled by the government. This transformation results from the fact that income redistribution resulting from taxpayer-financed entitlements tends to benefit those with below-average income at the expense of those with above-average income, coupled with the fact that due the skewed income distribution, a majority of people earn below-average income.
In order for our country to avoid becoming a caretaker state and perhaps ending up like Greece, a financial basket case, we need to roll back the government to its core mission, namely, to maintain law and order and provide those and only those essential services that cannot be provided by the private sector and put in place safeguards to prevent the role of government from again expanding due to popular demand. To this end, the following items are proposed for incorporation in the rewritten Constitution, as discussed in my article Rewriting the Constitution.
1. The role of government, including the federal, state, and local governments is limited to providing those and only those essential services that cannot be provided by the private sector. These functions include enacting laws, enforcing laws, operating the courts, maintaining the public areas (e.g., roads), police, firefighters, national defense, and the like. Public education as well as entitlements, including, but not limited to Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid shall be phased out. Any services provided by the government shall be available to all on an equal basis regardless of the financial status of the recipient; means testing is strictly prohibited.
2. As advocated in my article A Proposed Method of Eliminating All Taxes, all forms of taxation are to be eliminated. Instead, the government is to be funded by charging fees for the use of government resources, such as license fees to drive on the public roads. Government services that cannot be selectively provided to individual users, such as national defense, shall be funded by a national condominium fee.
3. The federal budget shall be balanced, except in the case of a dire emergency and then only with the approval of two-thirds of both houses of Congress as well as the president.
In addition to preventing our government from evolving into a caretaker state, the above measures would limit the ability of lobbyists to influence members of Congress, since the legislators would have few if any goodies of government (e.g., tax breaks) to offer the lobbyists in return for their campaign contributions.