Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Time to seriously re-think voting periods

As the 2012 election marathon officially begins Jan. 3 in the snow-driven cornfields of Iowa, it is the start of a slow-drip deth spiral upon the public's head. It's been dripping for most of 2011 and will continue past the election of the next President in November.
The obscene amount of money spent by various candidates to attempt to obtain elective office should convince even the biggest partisan die-hard that a different method is needed in the United States to choose public officials. If anyone truly thinks the primary and general election process makes financial or participatory sense, when it takes almost two full years to complete – from the first public pronouncement of candidacy to the official filing and then to the final general election – then I’ve got some newly discovered Lehman Brothers stock to sell you.
A good analyst should always offer an alternative solution and I’ve got a doozy. Simply read and think about it.
First, ALL elective offices below the state level should be non-partisan. I don’t understand why the county sheriff necessarily HAS to be a Democrat or Republican when that person is a law enforcement officer.
And wouldn’t judges appear more impartial if they were non-partisan? Then you’d be voting for personal standards and performance; not along party lines. All judgeships should be non-partisan choices.
More importantly, it would save thousands of dollars in duplicate expenditure. Today, a man or woman must wage two expensive campaigns (party primary, general election) to gain such offices as county or district clerk, county treasurer, justice of the peace, constable, etc.
You hold one general election (and one runoff if needed) and let it be done. The winner would need 50 percent – plus one vote – and if the first round doesn’t produce a clear-cut victor, have a runoff 30 days from that first vote.
Second, in presidential years, hold a one-day nationwide primary, to allow as many candidates in each party to vie for the presidency; it would permit ALL Americans the same opportunity to make their feelings known. The first primary could come in August and then the November general election would pit the winners of each major party (or alternative parties if you want to be benevolent).
At the present time, a handful of small northern states get all the say-so in who becomes the next president. In 2000, if Bill Bradley or John McCain had an equal opportunity to go before ALL the voters in their respective parties, instead of getting slowly chopped piecemeal state-by-state, perhaps the outcome “might” have been different. And who knows where we would be today if a national primary was held four years ago? Would we be saying President Hillary Clinton? Or would Mitt Romney be seeking re-election this November?
When each candidate reached my home state, Texas, in early March of 2008, the nomination process was effectively a foregone conclusion. Many voters simply stayed away because they felt their vote for certain candidates were wasted without ANY legitimate chance of winning.
Why should Iowa and New Hampshire voters get SO much power and influence to pre-determine what every other state decides? A national primary would allow any candidate a fair shot at the electorate – always a better way to do things.
A 90-day campaign period would then begin – plenty of time to get one’s message to the nation without months of monotonous campaign advertising bombarding our senses ad nauseum (literally). It would also end the nonsense for holding national party conventions – good only for dull speeches, a lot of partying and staged photo opportunities and balloon drops. Nothing is ever mysterious about these trumped-up, bloated campaign rallies. No real news is ever made, which is why the networks stopped coverage in favor of anything available to broadcast.
Perhaps NBC could put the candidates through a real version of “Fear Factor?” The winner, bugs swallowed and all, gets the nomination.
Third, make early voting a national phenomenon (with clear-cut standards) and move Election Day to a Sunday (many other democratic nations already do that). Our archaic system retains the first Tuesday in November for the general election because … that was the best day when the U.S. was an agrarian society.
But does it fit a very busy 21st century America? How many people simply shun the chance to vote because of a limited (in their mind) time factor? It should be a customer-friendly process, not akin to paying one’s taxes.
Finally, the right to vote is guaranteed in the U.S. Constitution; it never mentions a damn thing about voter identification requirements. This argument that voter fraud is a major virus eating at the American fabric is a canard; such laws are simply passed to oppress certain voting groups from exercising their Constitutional rights. It’s shameful and it’s un-American.
And please stop this silly rationale about needing photo IDs to fly on an airplane or cash a check. Neither activity is mentioned in the Constitution and fails to take into account that millions of Americans don’t NEED a photo ID (they don’t drive, fly and only use cash to do business). If someone wants to propose a national ID for all citizens to carry and maintain (with all pertinent legal information include, such as voter registration, social security number, other licenses, etc.), hold that discussion separately from the right to vote.
I know this will never come to be because … in your heart you know it makes sense.
Hence, it’s doomed. Rats! Can I get on “Fear Factor?”

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