From Vetted List, Iranians Pick a President

Iranian centrist candidate Hassan Rohani
From Vetted List, Iranians Pick a President. That was the headline in the dead-tree version of the Wall Street Journal on June 15, 2013. The sub-head read "Voters in Increasingly Isolated Nation Seek Economic Boost From Slate of Candidates Approved by Clerical Council"

As I read that, I kind of snorted to myself "Yeah, they get to pick the best from the worst", but then it hit me like a two ton heavy thing, that this is virtually the same situation that we have in the United States. 

No, we don't have our prospective President picked by a Council of Elders from an established religion, but we certainly have our choices for President narrowed down by a very small group of activists, on both sides, who subscribe to the religion of the Left or of the Right. Between straw polls and conventions, only a rare few of "the folks" get to be involved in the sausage-making process of picking the party's nominee. Most people who might make great Presidents have no desire to sell themselves out to that ugly, demeaning, subservient process.

While the Iranian Council is a closed, insular group, we Americans feel ours is slightly more open as attempts are made by outsiders to game the system by busing in stooges to vote in the caucuses, or when liberals cast votes in conservative primaries to set them up with the worst possible candidate, or (heaven forbid!) when voter fraud is committed.

In Congress, we can't even get a Farm Bill passed (plenty of pork to go around in that one) or get a 'comprehensive' Immigration Bill (also referred to as the Instant Democrat and Cheap Worker Bill) to the President, so why would I think that our voting situation could get resolved by our 'leaders'?

While the actual election of a President and Vice-President are spelled out in the Constitution (yeah, that stodgy old document), the primary system is done on a state-by-state basis. This desperately needs to be fixed. What happens in our current system is that whomever is the frontrunner at a particular point in time is savaged by the media which opposes them. At the same time they are hammered with advocacy ads from their opposition ("Call 202-555-1212 and tell So-and-so that you want smart immigration reform, not business as usual").

When that front runner flames out, the process starts all over again with then next candidate until we select one of them on a state-by-state basis. Because of the timing of the primaries, caucuses and straw polls, several insignificant states (there, Iowa and New Hampshire, I said it) get to have unusual sway over who will make it to the general election. 

An alternate method would be to have a single day on which we all get to vote for whom we would like to run for President (or for whatever office for that matter.) Democrat, Republican, Independent, Green, Red, Bull Moose, whatever party, everyone votes at the same time.Voting would be through electronic means, i.e. over the Internet, through your ATM machine, your EBT terminal, via the Lotto terminals at 7-11. (Note: just like any secure transaction, you would need a PIN or ID card to act as a second form of authentication.)

The voting apparatus of the several states would bounce the votes against a database of validated voters and  put any anomalies into the provisional column, later deciding if these 'bad' votes need to be adjudicated. If it is found that individuals or groups committed voter fraud, they should be swiftly prosecuted.
One way to audit/adjudicate votes after an election would be to draw names of states at random and have each state electoral department check another state's ballots. So, Connecticut could check Arizona's outliers. Since we would all be on the same database system (maybe borrow some technology from the NSA), it would just be a matter of lining up votes with SSNs and validated voter rolls. It really shouldn't be that difficult. We do this every day with ATMs, checks, credit cards, gift cards, airline tickets, ACH transfers, etc.
I would allow the top eight candidates to proceed to the next round. Because of how we are set up in the US, this would probably need to be tallied by state, but national totals would lead individuals to decide whether they are nationally viable. The first round of the primary would likely end up with a couple Republicans, a couple Democrats, a few popular middle-of-the-roaders and a wingnut or two.

The next round would narrow the field down to four candidates. Voting would take place in the same manner. These candidates would run in the general election. You could very well have a case where Mitt Romney might be on the ballot in Massachusetts and Michigan, but not in Mississippi. You could also have a situation where two Democrats might be on the ballot in California. But, that would be fair, wouldn't it?
Our current two party system is barely functioning for Congress, but do we really need a chief executive that is beholden to one party or the other? I would rather have a President that was beholden to the citizenry rather than which party happens to have the majority in the House or the Senate.
Having an Electoral College complicates things, however. Technically, the Electors would head to Washington in December to cast their ballots. There would be Electors in most states where they would all be voting for whomever won the state, but some states which have proportional voting would send Electors to vote for whomever won each district. If, after the first ballot, there is no candidate with a majority, then the Electors would have to toss it over to the Congress to vote in a convoluted "one state, one vote" ballot.

Our election laws in the United States are a mess. Small states complain that they would lose relevance with "one person, one vote", but when you are electing a President and Vice President, does it really matter that Iowa didn't get promises from each candidate to continue the Ethanol Subsidy?

We absolutely need to abolish the Electoral College with a voting method that eschews fraud and allows each valid citizen to have their vote count and be counted. The Federal government is too large and too important now to leave the election of its leaders in the hands of so few voters and to be manipulated by all of the 501 (c) advocacy groups. While I have always favored making voting a little more difficult than checking Facebook, the reality is that having an honest system for all would be better than what we have now.

Comments

Craig Hollins said…
Ever thought that a re-write of the constitution (should that be capitalised, like God?) is in order? The only way to achieve uniformity across the country is to have uniform rules imposed on the states - and that can only happen with a constitutional change.

We honestly crack up at a country that touts itself to be the high ground of democracy but has to settle elections in court because of "hanging chads" or other anomalies. Is it really that hard to have an independent government body to oversee ALL elections, federal, state and local? We do - every time I go to the ballot box I know what the process is, I know all the rules regardless of the election tier or state I'm in.

It means that I'm more likely to have my intended vote heard. Isn't that the important thing?

As to how you select your candidates, why are Democrats allowed to have a say in Republican primaries and vice versa? Here if you want to get involved in preselecting candidates for the party you have to first be a member of the party - and of the branch the candidate is standing for. Some seats put forward a candidate with only dozens of votes.

Your idea about having a more diverse selection of candidates has merit but, without proportional voting, it's doomed to failure. Imagine one Democrat. a Republican and a Tea Party candidate - without proportional voting the Democrat is going to win because the right wing vote is going to be split. Proportional lets you say put the Tea Party first and the Republican second. Your vote will never go to the Democrat but you've achieved your aim of more diverse candidates.

I agree with you on electronic voting but with a couple of exceptions. First, random audits need to be conducted to ensure no "white man magic" is being pulled on the computer counting process. Second, if we go electronic, I want the right to change my vote at any time. I don't see why I have to wait four years to fire a politician with only his interests at heart.
Robert Goehring said…
Some of what you say I do agree. However, some I don't. Guess we will just have to agree to be different.

As far as Craig goes, the Constitution is capitalized if you are referring to the founding document of our Republic. If you are referring to your daily visit to the WC, you don't need to use big letters. But I don't think we should re-write it. I understand you don't like my guns but how would that question be handled? Would there EVER be consensus? I doubt the document would ever be finished and, knowing our current politicians, it would be upwards up tens of thousands of pages to cover every little niche.

I am very glad we in the U.S. can provide you with a good laugh every once in a while. I wonder who would be the voting overseer as I doubt one exists anyplace where one can find a real "independent government body" to do that. Funny, though, how you don't understand our form of government. That is also a common affliction in the U.S. so don't feel I am picking on you.

The old "immediate satisfaction" thing popping up, eh? Can't live with your decision so I want to change my vote - every month if I want to do that. Wow. Lots of elections that way.

But, Mr. The-Asterisk, you are wrong about abolishing the Electoral College. What we should do is abolish the 17th Amendment and return to Article I, section 3, of the Constitution, "The Senate of the United States shall be composed of two Senators from each state, chosen by the legislature thereof for six Years; and each Senator shall have one Vote." We are already being punished by the large population pockets (NYC, LA, Houston, Philadelphia, D.C., and others) who use the majority to abuse the minority. Isn't that why the U.S. was made a republic, with direct election of the House, State legislatures picking the Senators, and the Electoral College allowing the States more say in election? We have gone too far to the left.

Craig Hollins said…
Robert there is an interesting update to this story.
We held a federal election last September and the senate vote (we select six from each state) was very close. One senator was elected with a margin of fewer than 500 votes. When they are that close a recount is automatic. Unfortunately something strange happened, and completely unprecedented in our history. One ballot box of 1,340 votes went missing and hasn't been discovered.
This meant the recount was invalid. The supreme court ordered a re-election and we go to the polls again next month in Western Australia to decide again.
What are the ramifications? The head of the Electoral Commission resigned and there has been a complete review of the process of collecting and counting votes. Vote security has been increased and we are pretty confident of having a good, clean result. (No comment on the outcome - that's a different matter.)
Now the parties are having to re-run an election campaign. They have to fund the advertising, campaigning, travelling (we are a VERY big state) and so on - but they have spent all their campaign funds on the last election. Who pays for those?
You say you can't find a real "independent government body"? I believe we have several of them. The Electoral Commission stuffed up big time but they owned up, took corrective action, axed those responsible and re-ran the poll. Given that stuff ups happen occasionally, what more can we ask for?

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