Our unfriendly electoral system

The US electoral system is unfriendly, and deliberately so, to third party attempts to get ballot status for presidential candidates. Such candidates face a bewildering thicket of regulations and rules that vary widely from state to state. Why is it that individual states determine who shall be on a presidential ballot? A much fairer system would be one set of rules set by the federal government, rather than fifty sets of rules that require large amounts of money and staff to implement. This is quite deliberate, the Twin Parties of Imperialism don’t want competition.

Then there’s the front-loading of the primaries whereby the candidates for both major parties will now be chosen by February of next year. This further lessens any real choice available to voters by closing the options early. Only those who can raise hundreds of millions need apply. Hint: Anyone who can raise that much money is not beholden to you or I, but rather to their corporate backers.

Then there’s the electoral college. We don’t elect a president. Rather, we elect electoral college delegates who in many cases do not have to follow the will of the voters. This mistrust of the voters has been enshrined in the Constitution since Day One. Clearly, the founding fathers wanted to be able to override a presidential vote if needed.

So, what we have is a system that pretends to be democratic and open, but isn’t really at all.

5 Responses to Our unfriendly electoral system

  1. Lars Wed, Jun 20, 2007 at 2:39 am #

    You are 100% correct. That’s why we need a direct national popular vote for President. Such a system would force candidates to campaign everywhere, as opposed to just “battleground states”, and address a wider variety of issues. Just such legislation passed in Maryland and apparently is in state legislatures across the country.

  2. DJ Wed, Jun 20, 2007 at 3:33 pm #

    “This is quite deliberate, the Twin Parties of Imperialism don’t want competition.”

    While the two factions of the Democratic-Republican Party do indeed resist (with all their will) the breaking fo their monopoly on power, not all of the characteristics you list are related to these efforts.

    For example, the reason each state sets its own rules is because “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.” It would take a Constitutional mendement to nationalize electoral policy.

    The Electoral College is an interesting, problematic, but not entirely unuseful institution. Its purpose is to allow different regions with different concerns to not be overrun by a tyranny of regionally concentrated voters. For example, in 2004, 122 million people cats votes for President. Imagine if a candidate won 100% of California, New York, Texas, and Florida, but not a single vote in any other state. Our founders believed that (this being a federation and not a unitary state) the results should be geographically weighted, and that though the candidate might have a clear majority in the diorect vote, since 46 states opposed him/her, he should not lead the country.

    BTW, the direct vote/unitary system is axactly why Sri Lanka is at war these days. I could foresee a scenario in which a region of the U.S. (say the West and Midwest) was consistently outvoted by other regions, and decided that they no longer wanted to be part of this nation. The electoral college system is designed to prevent such a scenario. It isn’t perfect, and perhaps should be modernbized and updated. But I do believe that a direct vote, especially in these polarized times, would put our nation at risk of dissolution.

  3. Bob Morris Wed, Jun 20, 2007 at 4:51 pm #

    A less populated region already can be outvoted by a more populous region because more populated regions get more electoral votes. Unless you’re saying that less populated regions should get more say than their numbers?

    Then too we have the absurdity of North Dakota with its tiny population, getting as many senators as California, which has 15% of the population.

    The Constitution favors rural regions at the expense of urban regions, something which is hardly democratic or fair.

    As for the electoral college, I can’t think of any other democracy where votes do not actually elect the person being voted for, where delegates can overrule the will of the people.

  4. DJ Wed, Jun 20, 2007 at 6:56 pm #

    The Senate was not designed to represent states on the basis of population– the House was. Again, this is a balance to ensure that the States are adequately represented. We are not a unitary nation, we are a union of states. In essence, each state elects its candidate, and the results are compiled. Very few nations have as much respect for statehood as the U.S.– but 13 of our states existed before the nation. (In Germany, several smaller kingdoms banded together to form a larger nation, but Germany did not preserve states as members of the union in the same way as the U.S.)

    And though the electoral system may appear to favor the rural areas over urban, as a resident of a rural state, I would say that politics in general is biased toward urban (because population density makes effort in urban areas more politically rewarding). THAT’S not democratic, either– and it can’t be remedied by changing the voting system.

    BTW, the Labour Party in Britain is reported to use an electoral college for internal candidate selection. And, quoting Wikipedia, “States with electoral college systems outside the United States include Burundi, Estonia, India, France (for the Senate), Hong Kong, Kazakhstan, Madagascar, Nepal, Pakistan, and Trinidad and Tobago.”

    As to the fact that electoral college members can change their votes in the U.S., that is indeed absurd. But how often does it happen? 85 instances in two centuries of use, meaning that the vast majority of electors vote the way they are supposed to. (23 of those were all Virginia electors who switched their vote in 1836, so only 62 instances occurred at other times.) BTW, in 24 states it is illegal to do so. Each state is free to make its own laws on selecting and regulating its electors.

  5. Bob Morris Wed, Jun 20, 2007 at 9:42 pm #

    My real point is the Constitution was written in agrarian times by wealthy landowners who mistrusted the populace and is getting a bit long in the tooth anyway.