Election reforms have failed

darryl donkephant3I’ve spent considerable time studying ballot access laws and election results, I’ve even written a book on the topic. One thing that is obvious is that election rules are rigged to support the parties in power. This is so obvious, that according to a recent poll by Rasmussen, 68% of voters think election rules are rigged to favor incumbents and are unfair to voters.

Often times, someone or some group will tout a proposal to reform the election rules in some way. Among the recent proposals that have picked up some significant level of support are: Top Two elections, “Clean Elections” campaign financing, and independent redistricting commissions. However, these have all failed.

The myth of Top Two, which was first approved by voters in Washington in 2004, is that more moderate candidates will get elected, and that elections will be more competitive. However, the truth about Top Two is that voter choice is virtually eliminated at the general election, and some voters are given the choice of voting for two candidates from the same party. This alone should be seen as disenfranchising every voter who is not a member of that party. The claim that more moderate candidates get elected has been debunked, as well. Ballot Access News reports, “Political scientists who have studied primary systems invariably find that top-two election systems do not elect more centrist candidates.”

Clean Elections financing, which has been implemented to some degree in 7 states, is where “the campaigns of candidates who choose to participate in public financing programs are financed solely with public funds; these candidates are prohibited from raising funds from private sources.” Another 7 states provide for taxpayer funded matching of campaign funds. The rules for matching funds are often times written in such a way as to only fund the campaigns of Republican and Democrat candidates, while the Clean Elections financing is offered to all candidates and can be rejected. Both Clean Elections financing and matching funds are often rejected by Libertarian Party candidates who believe that financing of campaigns should not be controlled by governments.

Independent Redistricting Commissions are currently used in 13 states. Many of these so called independent commissions are nothing more than partisan commissions where elected officials are able to hand-pick the members of the commission; even the supposed non-partisan California Citizens Redistricting Commission, which is chosen by a combination of government auditors and members of the commission, “must include 5 Democrats, 5 Republicans, and 4 members from neither party.” To be approved, the “boundaries need votes from three Democratic commissioners, three Republican commissioners, and three commissioners from neither party.” This is probably the closest thing there is to an actual non-partisan redistricting committee, however the major parties still have considerable influence over the process. A better way to create new legislative districts would be to make use of computer algorithms. Computer redistricting could eliminate political influence, especially if the only data put into the system are the populations, jurisdiction boundaries, and the number of districts needed. However, convincing a legislature to give up some of it’s power may be difficult.

Two election reforms that are rarely given much attention are reform of ballot access laws, and modification of the method of elections. The New Hampshire legislature heard a proposal a few years ago to implement approval voting, however without simultaneously reforming the ballot access laws to allow more than two parties on the ballot, such a change is meaningless. It’s past time that we have a serious discussion about changing the method of electing those who supposedly represent us, and any serious discussion would include a complete overhaul of the current election system!

posted by southernpatriot
  • Han Solo

    Money in politics is not the problem…its the symptom….the REAL problem is the POWER!

    Take the power away from government, and you will find that no one will bother spending money on them.

    Unlimited power is WORTH unlimited money. Government power is always for sale, the more power you give them the more that power is worth. And we have now given government nearly unlimited power. They believe there are no restrictions on their powers anymore, so they are now worth unlimited money.

    The solution is less government power, and less government. Not more government solutions to the problem that was caused by too much government.

    The idea of “take the money out of politics” is stupid, misguided and not even worth talking about until the real problem is taken care of. Any talk of ‘finance reform’ is a smoke screen and will never change a single thing.

    • http://vforvandyke.com/ Stephen VanDyke

      Agreed. Although I think Darryl’s article lays it out very well, the conclusion that the problem is money avoids the fact that we have ceded too much authority to begin with.

      The entry costs for ballot issues or campaigns will continue to be more accessible as time goes on. So that’s one silver lining.

      • Darryl W. Perry

        That wasn’t my conclusion at all. My conclusion is that ALL reforms help the established parties that make the rules designed to stifle competition.

  • Ginsburg

    But, government prints the money, so the money is the problem. Or maybe the problem is in thinking we get compensated for doing what we should, or have to do, and then finding ways to pay the compensation beyond the accomplishment being attained?

    For instance government officials shouldn’t be paid at all. They nominated themselves for sensitive positions or the populace. But we buy their BS they should be compensated. Hell, it’s pretty sketchy making that argument for the President, let alone the Supreme Court and Congress.