Published in Delaware Liberal on 1/28/2014 by ProgressivePopulist
Last week the President's election reform Commission published its
report with their ideas on reforming our election systems. The ideas
seemed to be to improved voter participation, particularly in national
elections. Because it was intended to provide a bi-partisan answer to
our obvious electoral deficiencies, the solutions proposed, while mostly
helpful, were incremental and did not offer answers to our
long-standing crisis in our so-called participatory republican
The crisis has as its root cause the total absence of
voting as a right in our U.S. Constitution. This omission historically
stems from the compromise necessary to facilitate our nation's founding
to address the needs of the factions demanding that rights of the states
be upheld, including those states dependent on slavery to fuel their
It was heartening to note that the Commission
cited Delaware's voter registration system as a best practice in that
area. As a new resident, I was blown away with the efficiency and
convenience of this system when I registered my car, had it inspected
and secured my driver's license and voter registration in a
Delaware also stood out as among the
higher voter turnout states with 62.7% in the 2012 election, compared
to the national average of 58.2 %. Delaware also was one of the few
states with higher participation than in the 2008 national election.
Commission report had as its greatest emphasis the need to limit the
time necessary to cast a vote to 1/2 an hour. It cites best practices
of those states enabling a comparatively speedy voting experience in
the 2012 election to assist those states actually desiring to improve
the time required to cast a vote.
The Commission also advocated
states providing online voter registration and the transfer of personal
data from driver's license records between states. Further, it argued
for the positive impact of so called "early voting" and the updating of
now obsolete electronic voting equipment, the purchase of which was
funded ten years ago or more with federal tax money.
locations were suggested as optimum as well as easily accessed "voting
centers" in early voting systems. The wide distribution of sample
ballots well in advance of the beginning of voting periods and shortened
ballots for Presidential elections to speed up the voting process as
well as electronic poll books to simplify verification of voter
eligibility. These are all useful improvements but very incremental
solutions to our very low participation rates compared to other
democracies around the globe.
Unaddressed in the report are the macro-issues which drive our low participation endangering our democracy:
The absence of national constitutional validation of the concept of
voting rights for all qualified citizens, at least for federal
. The plutocracy which empowers corporate and elite
domination of our governing bodies, including our judicial, executive
and representative bodies of local, state and national levels.
The funding of campaigns by corporations and elite which overwhelm
individual citizen participation and drive the apathy apparent in the
. Gerrymandering of legislative districts, both state
and national resulting in our elected officials picking their voters
rather than the reverse.
. The electoral college system in federal elections which dis-empower the popular vote.
. Winner take all runoff systems, prolonging the election process vs. instant runoffs.
Opt in voter registration systems in contrast to opt-out registration
which would enable universal registration of qualified citizen voters.
. Limited mail ballot options which greatly increase participation rates.
these issues are addressed, participation rates will continue to be a
national embarrassment and non-participation advocated by the likes of
Russell Brand will appear to be warranted. Will it take a revolution to
achieve a real participatory democracy in America? At the current rate
of improvement along with the relentless challenge to voting rights for
minorities and the poor by Republicans whose long-standing advocacy for
voting rights only for the elite in this society , it would appear
revolution may be the only option. The only good news in this area is
the courageous turnout in recent federal elections by oppressed voters,
overcoming systemic voter discouragement and such anomalies as Seattle
and Vermont. These signs of life in the electorate argue for me that
participation is a better option.