The case for presidential election reform
I know you probably don’t want to read another word about the election. I get it. I’m angry about the election as well. But I think that I should present you with ideas about how the future of presidential elections can be improved, particularly on the Democratic side.
If you look on “voteforbernie.org,” one section shows a map of how and when to vote for the Democratic candidates. What you’ll find is a mess. There are different configurations for states, and some are just maddening. I’m going to try and convince you of ways for how the primaries for both parties can be improved for next time.
First off, get rid of every closed race in the country. Period. A Gallup piece written earlier this year showed that, in 2015, the Democrats and Republicans had party affiliation numbers of less than 30%, while independent affiliation was at a whopping 42%! Despite such a chasm in affiliation, nineteen states had closed Democratic elections, either caucuses or primaries. And in New York, where it was a closed primary for both parties, that means that over 3 million voters registered as Independent couldn’t vote in the state of New York. There’s another terrible reason for that, but I’ll get to that later.
Second, get rid of caucuses. I attended the Iowa Caucus for the first time this year, and it was definitely an experience. The caucuses were a whirlwind in the Loras Fieldhouse, but despite all the drama, only several hundred people showed up to decide the composition of the precincts represented. The simpler option would be to have primary elections where more people can participate. Hillary Clinton has made the claim of getting 2.5 million more votes than Bernie Sanders, and the “Washington Post” at the time fact-checked that claim and overall gave it a Geppetto Checkmark, the equivalent of True. Okay, but apart from Iowa and Nevada, Sanders won every caucus state. If those states changed to having primaries, the voting gaps and outcomes may be different, but it would make the elections in those states fairer.
Third, make every state have same day voter registration. If you hover over each state on the map provided by voteforbernie.org, you can see if states allow you to do something about your party affiliation or registration status the day of, or at, the caucus or primary. Tragically, not every state allows this, and there’s perhaps no more galling example than New York, where “new voters must register at least 25 days in advance in order to participate.”
We’ve witnessed so much squabbling and wringing of hands over voter ID laws in states such as Texas and voter disenfranchisement like that in Arizona. Since 1952, the only time a Democratic candidate won Arizona in the general election was in 1996. But this is about New York, a Democratic stronghold that’s been blue since 1988 and yet has some stunningly undemocratic voting laws. The zeal that entities like the DNC will have in acting toward New York will help provide some insight on the integrity of those entities.
Fourth, get rid of Super Tuesday. Or at the very least, reorganize it in a way to make it more representative of the reality for Democrats. News channels like CNN show which candidate won a particular state, and on Super Tuesday, Clinton beat Sanders in the majority of the states. The big problem? Most of the states were in the South. Apart from Sanders’ wins in Colorado and Minnesota caucuses, and Clinton’s relatively narrow win in Massachusetts’ primary, Clinton walloped Sanders in the Southern states.
Until the Democrats find a way to connect with the South that benefits both parties, Super Tuesday needs to be done in states that more accurately reflects where Democrats can win the general. One way would be to keep Colorado, Minnesota and Virginia, and showcase the Northeastern states except for New Hampshire and New York, and add Maryland to bring the total to eleven, the number of Super Tuesday votes for this year. Those states all voted for Obama twice, are either blue or purple, and would present a better picture of states where Democrats can win. There may be better options, but this is a start.
Fifth, change the voting calendar. Geographically, it makes no sense. The first four states (Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, and South Carolina, respectively) are so far apart from each other, that the amount of time and energy spent simply traveling is taxing and there’s no coherent thread to work with. The ideological concerns and population makeup of Iowa are going to be majorly different from a state like Nevada or South Carolina. Also, Alaska, Hawaii, and territories like Puerto Rico could vote on either coinciding or separate days of the continental states, or all on their own day. It’s not perfect, but it’s a start for an alternative.
anders has a net favorability rating of 12 points, while Clinton has a net unfavorability rating of 24 points! The only person more unpopular? Trump, with a net unfavorability rating of 41 points. And yet, as outlets like “The New York Times” will point out, both Trump and Clinton are the frontrunners. I’ll leave that last part for you to think about.