Monday, March 28, 2016

American Elections

Too much money, too few voters

Bucks County Courier Times
May 26, 2015

The people of the United Kingdom recently held what was by most accounts their most important election in more than a generation.

Big issues were at play. Yet the entire campaign for the six hundred plus seats in the Parliament and to determine the next Prime Minister and the future of the nation took all of sixteen weeks, in which active campaigning was limited to six weeks.

In the United States, the 2016 election campaign for president and members of Congress is well underway and will continue for another year and a half, almost eighty weeks.

The U.S. is of course a big country and it takes time to listen to the people and get a message out. But, eighty weeks and more, in the age of internet, mass media, never ending polling and a five hour flight coast to coast?

American elections to federal office cost a fortune in large part because they take too long. The longer they drag on, the more they cost, driving candidates into a demeaning and corrupting search for the money.

Shortening the campaigns is an important step in rescuing the White House and Congress from the clutches of self serving plutocrats, banksters and corporate rule, and putting the American people back in charge of their government.

Candidates for Congress, their campaign committees and the PACS and super PACS can be prohibited by law from soliciting, accepting and spending funds to influence elections any earlier than perhaps four months before the primary elections.

And it can be required that all unspent funds of candidate committees and PACS must be donated to the federal treasury, after all debts have been paid, no later than three months after the general elections of any calendar year.

Incumbents will hate this. No roll over of funds to stack the deck against potential challengers in the next elections.

Similar restrictions can be placed on the time in which it is legal to solicit, accept and spend funds to influence elections for president.

Another vital step in rescuing our democracy is getting more people to the polls.
According to Pew research, the U.S. ranks thirty-first out of the thirty-four so-called developed nations in voter turn-out. In the 2014 elections, only  33.6 percent of voters nation-wide turned out to vote. Figures for municipal elections are even more abysmal.
Getting people to vote is something to which many politicians give lip service, but which they do not support with action. Some politicians, especially in the GOP, work very hard to insure that large numbers of Americans can’t vote . Voters can be so – unpredictable.

There are two kinds of remedies. One is to register more people; the other is to make it easier for them to vote.

Voters can be registered automatically, as some nations already do. Oregon  now automatically registers voters when they apply for a drivers license. And PA State Senator Vincent Hughes has introduced SB 806, which will automatically register voters when they interact with a state agency, including applying for admission to a state related college or university.

Again, the GOP won’t like this. College students voting? And state agencies deal with the unemployed, people who have lost their homes and the poor. God forbid they might vote.

There is at least one obvious measure to be taken to increase voter turn-out: repeal the 1845 law that set federal elections on  “the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November,” and set the day as the first Saturday in November.

Well, maybe the second, to avoid the occasional Halloween overlap. There is already enough mischief in our elections as it is.

A few states have made election day a civic holiday and California mandates that employers give employees two hours off to vote. We might go one step farther, and declare election day a national holiday, celebrate our civic duty and require all employers to give their employees time off to vote.

Campaigns for federal office in the U.S. have become like a fire that just keeps on burning;  burning  up lawmakers time, time better applied to the needs of the people, and burning up public trust as we watch candidates suck up to the mega donors. And spend months saying nothing.

Fires need oxygen to burn. Money is the oxygen of American political campaigns. Choke off the money and the fire dies down.

But get more people out to vote, and we might just light some fires under our political elites.

1 comment:

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