On the radio station I wake up to, the morning show team was talking about the practicality of holding the election on a weekday, when people had to work. They pondered the idea of holding the election on a weekend or making voting day a holiday (The Junior Senator from Illinois advocated taking election day off – but wouldn’t that actually bring out more Republicans?).
This made me think of all the things I’d do differently if I were to retool our way of electing officials. Here’s what I’ve come up with over the last few years…
States Must Continually Verify Voter Registrations
It’s ridiculous for Voter Registration Organizations (ACORN) to overwhelm states with new additions to the voter rolls (Ohio) so close to an election. The strategy is surely to let some questionable ballots slip through. We have the technology to make keeping voter rolls clean an ongoing process. Voter registration should also be an ongoing process. It’s foolish to wait until things are in full swing to try and clean house. It should be kept clean from the start.
A Short Season
Campaign 08 has managed to drag on for two years. Yeah, that’s right. It was 2006 when the Junior Senator and Miss Hillary started sparring with a handful of other Democrats for the nomination. This has caused a lot of burnout on both sides of the aisle, and it also keeps Senators, Congressmen, and Governors away from their duties.
So how about: no talk of running for office until October of the year before the election. Any potential candidates then have 90 days to debate and raise money. There’s a two-week primary period during which the respective candidates are chosen. Then another ninety days, and then the election. An election cycle with the end clearly in sight – talk about a way to keep voters motivated!
Polling would be forbidden from the beginning of the Election Cycle until the new President took office. Why? Because they’re an inexact science no matter how careful the pollsters allegedly are with their sampling, making them utterly useless other than as propaganda for one side or the other. They also can instill overconfidence in one side and burn out voters, especially when the election cycle runs as long as this one has.
I’ve been watching election polls since Ford v. Carter, and even worked as an exit poller for ABC News one year. I can tell you how the polls will run every election year:
2 Years Before The Election:
Any Democratic candidate would beat any Republican candidate.
1 Year Before The Election:
Democratic frontrunners would beat any Republican candidate.
Six Months Before the Election:
The Democratic frontrunner would beat the Republican frontrunner.
After the Democratic Convention:
The Democratic candidate would beat the Republican frontrunner.
After the Republican Convention:
The Republican candidate would beat the Democratic candidate. But that’s what is called a “convention spike”.
Two weeks after Republican convention to Two weeks before the Election:
The Democratic candidate has experienced some slippage, but maintains a commanding lead.
One Week Before the Election:
The race has become close, very close, but the Democratic candidate maintains the lead.
It’s a statistical dead heat! Who can call it?
After the election:
It’s a shocker! The Republican won! Who could have known?
By eliminating polling, you would also force media outlets to report on the candidates themselves rather than falling back on a stale old platitude (“A commanding lead in the polls”) to carry their reportage.
No More “Get The Vote Out”
Voting is a right, but it’s also a civic duty. It’s kind of like serving in the military in that respect. If someone doesn’t want to vote, let them not vote. They will surely get the government they deserve. And let’s face it, there are some people who shouldn’t be voting – and there’s something fundamentally dishonest about putting a pen in their hand and marking an X if they don’t understand what they’re doing. Likewise loading people on a bus and pointing them toward the polls.
This is not to say if someone cannot get to the polls they don’t deserve a ride. Let’s get people who want to vote out there. I just think it’s wrong to truck warm bodies to polling places and encouraging their votes with a hot coffee and a Baby Ruth bar. Doesn’t that smack of the Draft to you?
The Purple Finger This is my favorite thing to come out of the Iraq war – the pictures of people leaving the polls, proudly waving their ink-stained fingers. That, friends, is what we fought for. And we should do that here.
That’s right. Forget the red, white and blue stickers for your lapel. Dip your finger in a well and get a true symbol of your patriotism. Besides discouraging voter fraud at the point of contact, it gives you a chance to harass those who didn’t vote for the week it takes the ink to wear off of your finger.
New Voting Day: April 16th
This should be a no-brainer. Not a solid date, of course, since they move the date your income taxes are due if April 15th falls on a weekend. But the day after they are due should be the day we go to the polls. I told this idea to my wife and she said, “If we did that, nobody would ever be re-elected.” What a shame, right?
Wait Until the Fat Lady Sings
Without exit polls and projections, people on the left coast would be spared from vote-discouraging projections (this was supposed to be “fixed”, but projections have been creeping back in of late). Also, states would be free to count the votes without worrying about some reporter’s deadline. It could probably all be done in one night, but if it takes two weeks to get it counted right, hey…
So you’ve won the election! Congratulations! Now you have to wait three months while you grab headlines with word of your “transition team” and speculation on your cabinet appointments. I like how the British do it. If you’re on the losing end of the election, your lease at Number 10 Downing Street pretty much ends the next day. Make the switch within a week to give the President a chance to sign his controversial pardons. This would also put an end to three months of miscellaneous lame duckery.
One 6-Year Term
The President shall serve only one six-year term. That way he or she can do the job without losing focus during the re-election process. Besides, shaving two years of lame duckery off the end of most Presidential second terms instantly improves their record. For example, Iran Contra happened in the last two years of Ronald Reagan, and Monica Lewinsky happened in the final two years of Bill Clinton. How would their respective records look without those stains? Even Nixon would have fared better – no re-election worries, no Committee to Re-Elect the President – which, besides being responsible for Watergate, was unfortunately acronymed as CREEP. Now you can look back on that whole China visit thing without wincing!
Also, there shall be no talk of changing the rules for a second term, just like it annoys me when people talk about third terms for popular Presidents. I was against it when they talked about doing it for Reagan, and I was really against it when the talk was the same for Clinton. And mark my words. If the Junior Senator wins and doesn’t get routed out of office in 2012, there will be talk in 2016 of pulling the plug on that messy constitutional restriction.
So that’s my take on election reform. Eight short months from the time the candidates announce to the time a new President takes office. That’s how it should be in a perfect world – well, my perfect world, anyway. There’s still lots of other things I need to work on, like that whole messy fundraising thing, the stuff that McCain-Feingold either compounded or didn’t seem to do anything about. But that’s something for another day. Or another election cycle.