3½ State Initiatives That Will Significantly Improve Our Democracy
Changing the election process, state by state, so that the voters pick their representatives
In America, voters don't pick their politicians. Politicians pick their voters — Wayne Dawkins
The original Gerrymander, drawn in 1812 to favor Elbridge Gerry (one of the members of the constitutional convention). From this, going forward, we don’t have a representative Democracy. Instead we have a system designed to strongly favor the majority party and incumbent electeds (in most states).
Structuring the system so that the voters are given the opportunity to elect people who represent them not only will create a more balanced outcome (Republican vs. Democrat) but it also tends to bring forward more people who work cooperatively with their opponents. It even lowers the level of vitriol in the campaigns.
Here are the 3½ initiatives that, if we can get them passed in competitive states, will go a long way toward giving us a more representative Democracy. And one with more people working to improve things and fewer focused on bomb throwing.
A State Constitutional amendment similar to the one in Colorado that controls how redistricting is determined. Key to this is that this process is not optional or advisory1, it’s the process. Also key is one of its 3 key criteria is Maximize the number of politically competitive districts.
A state initiative to implement a combination of jungle primaries and IRV. Alaska has, I think, the best system for this where 4 candidates go on to the general election, but I would add IRV for the primary too.
A state initiative to implement all mail voting similar to California, Utah, etc. This works smoothly in the 7 states presently using this system, and has shown no partisan advantage, it’s surprising it hasn’t caught on more.
A state constitutional amendment that adds the following to the constitution: Every citizen age 18 and over has a right and an obligation to vote.
The biggest objection will be to initiative #1. And it will be a bi-partisan objection from most of the office holders. Existing representatives love gerrymandered districts because it means they are unlikely to face a competitive election.
In addition, generally this will favor the weaker party in a state. After all, the stronger party has the votes to draw the lines to favor their candidates. So this does lead to a less one-sided outcome.
On the flip side, voters love this. By an overwhelming margin. Liberal, conservative, voters want to pick their representatives. They do not want a pre-selected outcome. Americans treasure their Democracy.
Initiative #2 does not favor either party, but a couple of loud Republican voices have claimed it does favor Democrats. So it will face some Republican opposition. In addition it’s different and sounds complicated (it isn’t) and that causes opposition. However, when presented well it tends to pass and their arguments that it can favor incumbents which always helps.
Initiative #3 does not favor either party. And while Trump still complains about mail in ballots, most Republican operatives realize that early voting favors the party that does the best job of getting people to vote. So this will face some objections, but probably not that much.
Initiative #4 is one I came up with. I don’t know if it will make a difference. If added, in some states it’ll be ignored, in some it’ll be a means to shame those that don’t vote, and possibly, in some states, they’ll take the Australia approach and fine those that don’t vote. But bottom line, specifically listing the vote as both a right and a responsibility is a strong statement.
First off, many will say the above is missing so many things from making it easier to vote to full disclosure of donations to public funding. Yep. The above doesn’t make things perfect. But the above are the most impactful steps to improve our selection of a representative legislature.
Second, #1 is the game changer. #2 & #3 will improve things a lot, but #1 matters more than everything else put together.
All together, if all (or most) states implement the above, it won’t so much favor either party, but it will make our legislatures (state and U.S. House) much more representative. And #2 will dial down the drama.
How to Accomplish It
First off, get all 3 (or the rest of the 3 where some exist) in the battleground states. Arizona, Georgia, Nevada, Pennsylvania, & Wisconsin. And then Michigan & North Carolina. If it can be done through the legislature - great. If not, use the initiative process.
Plus, any state where the existing legislature is open to any or all of the above, work to get it through via the legislature. Each additional state helps create a trend.
Second, I don’t want to waste money creating yet another PAC to accomplish this. I definitely don’t want to create an organization to helicopter in to a state and try to ram it through as a group of outsiders.
So… is there a PAC out there that is focused on accomplishing this? And is their approach to identify the most effective group in each state to do this, and then feed them money and support? Because that is something I would happily write a check to.
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Ohio shows what happens when the independent process is advisory - it is ignored.