Electoral Reforms

Electoral reformToday is the only day that this might be remotely interesting to most people, so I'm jumping on it. There are two electoral reform issues that I fully support: Ranked Choice Voting (RCV) and the National Popular Vote (NPV).

Ranked Choice Voting is a new term for Instant Runoff Voting (IRV). Voters mark ballots with 1, 2, 3, etc. instead of checking one box. If no candidate receives over 50 percent of the first ranked votes, the candidates with the lowest number of first ranked votes are eliminated one at a time, transferring their votes to the voters' second or third choices, until one candidate has over 50 percent of the vote. There are lots of sources of information, current users,and demonstrations out there, so read more if you're interested. Minneapolis used RCV last year in it's Mayoral and Council elections. St. Paul will use RCV for the same next year.

The National Popular Vote is pretty simple, but revolutionary. It uses the Electoral College system to elect the presidential candidate who gets the most votes nationwide. That's it. Sounds too good to be true, right? Well, it's an actual national electoral reform that has a real chance of being adopted. The plan is to have each state pass a law that requires that the presidential candidate with the most votes nationally will receive that state's Electoral College votes. Since the Constitution only says that each state will determine how to choose its Electors, if a majority of Electoral College votes - 270 - are pledged by any number of states, the plan will go into effect. The NPV website is packed with info, so go there to find out more. I read Hendrik Hertzberg's blog at The New Yorker; he is a stout and active supporter of the reform. The District of Columbia recently added its three Electoral College votes to the 73 Electors already pledged to vote for the popular presidential candidate. The states that have joined the plan are Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and Washington state. Only 194 to go!

Another reform I just began thinking about is Proportional Representation (PR), the type of system used in parliamentary democracies. For the U.S., it is not necessary to change to a unicameral legislature to use PR. (The U.K. has two legislative bodies right now) It could be used only in one half of the legislative branch, making more sense for the Houses or General Assemblies. I wouldn't support this plan for the U.S. House of Representatives right now, but am starting to support it for the more numerous bodies of state legislatures. Since the Supreme Court ruled "one person, one vote" governed every legislative body in the U.S. (except the U.S. Senate, don't get me started), bicameral legislatures have had exactly similar voting districts in both bodies, just less representation in the Senates and more representation in the Houses (typically double). So there is a redundancy and a possible lack of accountability when two legislators represent the exact same constituents. PR would create a entirely different means of apportionment in the two bodies. FairVote.org is promoting Choice Voting, one type of PR. Two quick benefits: A virtual guarantee that third (and fourth, fifth, sixth etc.) parties will gain representation. And the elimination of redistricting for every state House district every 10 years. There can still be multiple districts within a state, Congressional Districts make sense, but redistricting is very much reduced or even eliminated when the entire state is the district.

Lastly, in-person voting on a Tuesday is stupid. Mail-in or weekend voting are two good options. They both have pluses and minuses, but I'll just leave it at that. Thank you for reading if you got this far. Please comment below - I'm dying for signs of actual readership.

UPDATE: I forgot one other point. Congressional districts should be forced to follow county lines. This can't work perfectly, but a exception could be created so that each district can only have two partial counties (including only a portion of the county). For instance, an Twin Cities eastern suburban district could not include portions of Ramsey, Dakota and Washington counties. But it could include all of Ramsey with portions of Dakota and Washington counties. Most states would actually be able to redistrict by including one partial county in each district, but two would be needed in some areas, like Southern California, and it would give plenty of leeway in other circumstances. An additional requirement could be to follow County Commissioner districts when using a portion of a county.

Speaking of gerrymandering, a new blog I started reading makes the point that most gerrymandering is done on racial lines. This has a curious effect on the current election: "With only one exception I can think of, virtually all the Democratic House members going down on Tuesday represent predominantly white districts outside of California." The reason involve pot and blacks, but not blacks smoking pot. If that's not a good teaser, I don't know what is.