We Need Real Election Reform - NOW!

Long lines, Unreliable voting machines, invented rules - our elections need an overhaul. Here are 11 simple, common sense electoral reforms both Democrats and Republicans can agree we need NOW!

After our last election, America is hurting.

It doesn’t matter if you consider yourself a liberal or a conservative. It doesn’t matter if you were for Obama or Romney. It doesn’t matter if you voted for a third party candidate or wished the Democrats and Republicans had put up someone else like Ron Paul.

What matters is how much we all agree about one thing: our electoral process is a mess.

Many people came away frustrated by language barriers and invented rules, exhausted from standing for hours in long lines, and, in some cases, were disenfranchised. In Pennsylvania, we have youtube video of a voting machine repeatedly changing a resident's vote from Obama to Romney. In South Florida, voters waited in excess of seven hours. In Virginia, the lines were so long voters were turned away illegally once the polls closed.

America can do better than this. America must do better than this. And we can.

That’s why I started a petition on signon.org with 11 simple, common sense reforms that anyone can support. In the first two days after it was posted, more than 1,000 people signed. But more are needed. You can read it here: http://signon.org/sign/america-cannot-be-great

I’m going to be honest here. I have a definite political point of view. I am unapologetically a liberal Democrat. However, when I talk with conservatives, I’m surprised by how much we really agree. Sure, I’m in favor of keeping abortion legal and they want it abolished. Sure, I believe in FDR New Deal style economics and they are more geared to supply side systems. However, we all believe in the basic principals of Democracy.

We all believe that our government can only get legitimate power from its citizens in the form of their votes. We all believe that it is the people who should have final say in how our nation is governed. We all believe special interests are hijacking our political process and something must be done to stop it.

So I did some research, and as it turns out there have been a lot of people from all over the political spectrum working on these issues for more than a decade. Some of these people are rather famous - Ralph Nadar, Robert Steele, Howard Zinn, etc. Many you probably have never heard of. What’s important though is the common sense of the reforms they propose.

I took many of their suggestions, added some of my own, and came up with a list of 11 election reforms that I think we need today. We really can’t wait a moment more.

These reforms include the following:

- Holiday Voting. We propose that Election Day should be a national holiday. This way every voter should be able to vote easily and won't have to worry about missing work and/or transportation issues. Early Voting should be universal.

-Paper Trail. We propose that ALL ballots must either be on paper or otherwise subject to physical re-count. It is too easy for votes to be miscalculated without any reliable recourse for reasonable challenges and/or recounts if there is no paper trail. Too many voting machines in use do not meet this standard. If voting machines are used, each vote must produce a physical paper footprint subject to recount.

-Honest Open Debates. We propose that to end the current monopoly of the debates by Democrats and Republicans all debates must include third, fourth, and fifth parties.

-Tightly-Drawn Districts. We propose that we end the corrupt practice of gerrymandering, replacing it with compact computer drawn districts determined by independent non-partisan commissions. They shall be prohibited from drawing districts to favor or disfavor an incumbent or political party.

-Full Public Funding of Diverse Candidates. We propose to eliminate all federal and corporate financing of campaigns, and all political action committees, that instead all state and national campaigns be only publicly funded.

-Constitutional Amendment. In addition to all of the above enacted as an interim law, we propose to work toward a Constitutional Amendment that places Electoral Reform outside the power of the government; abolish Citizens United; abolish the Electoral College; and re-enfranchise convicts who complete their sentences.

And there’s more. Even if you don’t agree with all of these reforms, even if you only agree with the majority of them, I ask you to consider signing the petition. You can explain which reforms you disagree with in the comments section.

With the election still fresh in peoples’ minds, we have a real chance here to make this an issue and get some real change. I’m not naive enough to expect all of these reforms will be enacted (though I wish they would). However, even if some of them were brought before our political leaders, even if a few were put forward and passed...  imagine how much that could change America for the better.

Please read the entire petition here and consider signing: http://signon.org/sign/america-cannot-be-great

And pass this message on! Thank you.

Steven Singer
Twitter: @StevenSinger3

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Mark Carolla November 19, 2012 at 07:00 PM
Reasonable suggestions to making the process fair and available to everyone... consequently, it will be a struggle to make it happen. Eliminating gerrymandering and the electoral college, along with public funding for candidates, would be high on my list.
Jason Bahr November 19, 2012 at 07:20 PM
I thought it was interesting that you found it hard to believe that you actually agreed with conservatives. We care about the process and we are frustrated with the goofy way our government operates as well. As far as Citizens United goes – it clearly did not cause a problem this past election cycle. I am ok with banning corporate money if you also agree to ban union money and influence. If you do not think that is a problem – you’ll never see my signature.
Jason Bahr November 19, 2012 at 07:27 PM
One more point – the debate process is a joke. The candidates / political parties should have no input into the debates. I agree with you. The two finalists should sit down at a table on national TV and go at it for 2 or 3 hours. No 1 minute sound bites no baseless claims.
NE12Ukid November 19, 2012 at 10:28 PM
I'd love to see a law restricting campaigning to no more than 6 months before the election.
Roger November 20, 2012 at 12:05 AM
National Holiday...? No. We have many national holidays now. Most of them have degenerated into simple three-day weekends, a time for the citizens to go someplace, or do something for themselves. For example, consider all the people on "holiday" for Presidents Day. How many of those not working actually do something related to Presidents Day? I venture to say, very, very few. Likewise, with Memorial Day, and Labor Day. These days have degenerated into nothing days, to be used as three-day weekends. A national day for voting would be no different. If you want a day for voting, how about one of those day when people are already "not working?" As for the limited time of campaigning, this is one more step in limiting free expression of ideas. A very bad idea that sets a precedence for other expression limitations. Forget the paper trail idea. Every ballot should be cast electronically. If we rely on electronic commerce, stock trading, and other major transactions, the voting scheme should be an easy thing to do. If we can't do electronic voting, then lets throw out all electronic commerce too as not being reliable. I would agree with tightly drawn districts. Established borders, such as counties, should be used. No public funding of "diverse candidates." This opens the field to anybody and everybody, regardless of qualifications.


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