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 Photo by borabajk/iStock / Getty Images

Photo by borabajk/iStock / Getty Images

First-Past-the-Post Elections -

Ever since the beginning of this Country's formation, an inherent deficiency has been present in the underlying formula of determining Elected Officials.   The premise referred to as the "one-person, one-vote" concept.  While incredibly simple and practical at the time of implementation, it's failings are becoming more apparent in the current political environment.

As the number of people grows and as prosperity spreads, the more diversity of interests arise between various community members.  Some interests will invariably conflict with others, and that's where the power of First-Past-The-Post begins.  In order to secure the protection of one interest over another, agreements and coalitions are made between non-conflicting interests.  That's because any alliance will have a tactical advantage (able to secure more votes) over the remaining disorganized interests.  Eventually, all interests (which do not otherwise demonstrate great common-good) face-off against each other in the form of two consolidated Political Parties.

Any faction interest (Third Party) that forms, ends up splitting-off votes from the Political Party they have more in common with, allowing the remaining opposing Political Party to take control.  The Third Party effectively "shoots themselves in the foot" via dissociation.  This forces off-shoot interests into a "Lose/Lose" scenario, making development of Third Party organizations incredibly difficult and therefore squelching public discussion and freedom of positive-choice.

Effectively, Political Power is Duopolized between the two major Political Parties. 

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Political Party Control -

Political parties (and their primary Financial backers) have no obligation to respect the voting-will of the party membership.  In the current times, this means that a Political Party's direction will always follow the Money, because candidates must either solicit for it subserviently, or get trampled by it unwillingly.  Not only are candidates impacted, but party leadership can be manipulated as well, which can affect the results of Party Primaries and Platforms. 

By the time a candidate reaches a General election they must pass both Filter-Obstacles;  1.  That of Campaign Finance and 2. That of the Political Party Establishment.  The result being that even popular candidates, without the backing of Money/Power structures early on in the election process, can get blocked from consideration at a General Election (ie: Bernie Sanders 2016).  The only third-party or independent General Election  candidates that can bypass such pre-filters appear to be either Wealthy ones (Ross Perot 1992, Donald Trump 2016) or Extremist/Populist ones (George Wallace 1968, Theodore Roosevelt 1912). 

Such obstructionism in a Democracy/Republic either pushes the party electorate into apathy (allowing moneyed/power interests to reign political power) or towards fevered-popularism (manifesting in social/political upheaval).  If freedom of positive-choice can be better protected in our political structures, a more just and fair societal balance can be maintained.

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Campaign Finance

Does it seem fair that Political Action Committees (PAC) or Party Committees can give more money than an individual? Or that Corporations (which are not allowed to give to Campaigns) can give to PACs, which then can give directly to Campaigns?  Is it fair that incumbents get free use of the postal service to send political mailers while other candidates do not?  How about having no upper limit on campaign Expenditures?  Such tilted policies allow big-money interests to dominate media and advertising spaces, drowning out the messages from newer and resource-limited Candidates.  Wouldn't it be fairer to have everyone competing on a level playing-field allowing the Quality of the message and its messenger to drive election results?

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Systemic Political Problems

Power Dynamics -

Throughout History, those that seek to collect and maintain power and domination over others have inflicted tremendous hardship and suffering on the General Public.  The Revolutionary premise for the formation of our Country was based on this perceived notion that the Will of the Governed must be respected for the Benefit for All, instead of for the few or the one. 

People innately attracted to Wealth and Power will invariably endeavor to collect more and more of it; it is their nature.  The challenge that the Middle and Professional classes face is two fold; 1. Learning, Growing, Building, and Providing for high Quality of Life for both Themselves And the Community in General and 2. Keeping aware of the Powerplays and Manipulations of the Wealth/Political classes and keeping those efforts in-check.  That's a lot to handle, but ideally the Middle class maintains a numbers advantage. 

However, were the Middle classes to be reduced in numbers (transfer of wealth), be kept unaware (apathy or ignorance), or be deceived (secrecy or disinformation), the balance of Power shifts to those at the top.  After that, Dictatorships or Revolutions are born, and who knows which side will have more of the initiative and resolve required to come out on top.

The Quality of Life for the General Public is best maintained when the "keys of power" are distributed fairly and diversely among all it's People.

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Gerrymandering -

The consistency of the Two Party Duopoly and lack of positive choice leads directly to the desire of each Party to carve out Voting Districts that either 1. Gives them a numerical representational advantage in Government or  2. Gives them an entrenched office position that is safe from any opposing Party challenger. 

Effectively, the Political class is more interested in keeping power than in representing the Whole of the Constituency (which would ensure a fair balance for All).

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Electoral College -

The Historical basis for this Electoral contrivance is solely based on the belief that the public is unfit to vote with wisdom and therefore should not be trusted with the Power to Elect directly. Its sole existence when created was to allow the Political/Wealth classes to maintain their grip on power.

In its current form, the National discussion is almost exclusively focused on "Swing States".  These states consist of higher population states (more electoral votes) where constituents are more evenly split between the two Parties.  This means more media attention, candidate interaction, and political campaign money flows into these states (for better or worse), to the detrimental neglect of all other remaining "safe" states (where support for one party is historically consistent).

Would any of today's politicians state that the Public is untrustworthy of electing the President by Direct Popular vote?  I think not. So let's implement it.

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Congressional Committees -

Have you ever watched C-SPAN which shows speeches by members of Congress on the floors of the House and Senate?  Notice how most times, the background shows a vast expanse of Empty Congressional seats?  That's because congressional Debate is dead, "murdered" by the Political Duopoly and power substructures that are the House/Senate rules and committee systems.  The ability of a smaller coalition of representatives to get a topic brought to attention of a legislative-wing, is virtually non-existent.

Majority leaders can directly, by withhold voting/discussion entirely, or indirectly, by sending it into committee where their majority appointed chairmen can effectively do the same "burial job".

If representatives are denied the chance to hear arguments for or against a particular issue, or the chance to develop a better understanding, or the opportunity to have their minds changed, then all power is effectively maintained by the Leader(s) of the Majority Party.

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Systemic Political Problems (Videos)

 

power dynamics: rules for rulers

("dictator's handbook")

problem: First-Past-the-Post elections

problem: gerrymandering

problem: electoral college

problem: committee gate-keeping power

problem: political party nominating

 
 

Positive-Choice Representation

 

ranked choice voting -

Imagine being able to vote for your first-most-favorite candidate with no risk.  If your first choice candidate gathers the smallest voting percentage, they are effectively eliminated from the running.  However, your vote lives on dynamically, transferring to your second-most-favorite candidate.  This process continues until one candidate gathers the majority of total votes cast.  This system effectively prevents the "spoiler effect" that occurs when a somewhat popular third party candidate enters into the current election system. 

Typically, if two candidates identifying with Party-A run against a single Party-B candidate, the result intrinsically favors the un-split Party (Party-B in this case), because votes supporting Party-A are divided between their two candidates, effectively diluting the voting power of Party-A supporters.  However, under a ranked choice voting system (transferable vote), the votes of the least popular candidate would then transfer to the second choice.  This allows all voters to select their preferred choice, has the capacity to propel centrists candidates into office, and reduces the power of Political insiders from controlling (primary) nominations and (general) elections.

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Redistricting fairness -

The setting of District Boundaries should have a clear sequence of rules and have fairness be proven through  mathematical testing.  Only then can courts be able to look at quantifiable arguments to base their judicial decisions in any contested cases.  No collection of District definitions should allow for one Party to be over-represented compared to the breakdown of the total popular vote percentages.  A maximum margin of variance could be defined (say no more than 5%) and voted-on by the General public.  The previous ten years (period between census taking) of voting results could be used to test against any newly proposed district configurations.

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political parties & primaries -

Shouldn't any respectable Political Party reflect the fairness and democratic values of the public election system?  If Party leadership can effectively filter candidates prior to allowing the general Political body from voicing their choice, what's the point of having a Party in the first place?  The whole purpose of a representative Political Party is to coalesce around the most unifying candidate that the voting base wants to see run for office.  Not only that, but an open and transparent Political Party nominating process is apt to draw in outsiders and independents who may have felt that Parties of the past have failed in this objective.

California for example, has developed an Open Primary to combat such early-stage disenfranchisement.  This allows everyone in the general public to vote for any candidate (regardless of party affiliation), with the top two vote-getters advancing on to the general election.  This could be modified such that the top three candidates advance or candidates gathering a certain percentage of the vote advance.  This could also be combined with other voting fairness practices (such as ranked choice voting) to further ensure that the will of the people is respected to the highest degree possible, at all stages of voting.

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encouraging debate & public discussion -

The interests of a Democracy/Republic are ill served when discussions of Public Policy are relegated to the "back rooms" of political power brokers.  How can an electorate make the wisest decisions when they are not being informed or not offered a chance to weigh the pros and cons of the various arguments.  When legislation is developed in secret behind closed doors, brought to a vote without anyone given a chance to even read it, and then passed immediately without discussion or debate, it is Dangerous. 

Anyone who has ever built or designed anything of worth knows that careful thought, planning, and Reflection are required in the planning and development phase to ensure that the end product is of high quality, will be effective, and is free of vulnerabilities/defects to the highest extent practical.  This should be even more important on a Federal level, as the results of Federal legislation affect the entire Nation.

Congress members need to take a break from their Campaign Fund Raising efforts and Legislative Vacations and get back to the work of across-the-aisle communication.  If people are unwilling to at least listen to one another, how can a middle ground ever hope to be achieved?  How can a spark of creativity or ingenuity catch fire if minds are forever stuck in a single stagnant frame of mind.   

Our thoughts need to be continually stretched, exercised, and challenged in order to keep our ideas fresh and fit.  It's our Ideas that light the future!

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mixed-member proportional -

Imagine if the effects of gerrymandering could be offset by providing correctional effects to allow election results to more closely match the composition of the electorate.  By doubling the number of representatives, or halving the number of Districts, this could be achieved.

Each District in the new system would elect the candidate with the most votes.   Then once all the first-round of positions are filled, the second-round of positions are filled using the basis of proportionality. 

For example, State-X has ten (10) Voting Districts and thus twenty (20) positions to fill.  Party-A and Party-B each collect 40% percent of the total vote and Party-C collects the remaining 20%.   In the event that Party-A wins every district (via luck or gerrymandering), they get 50% of the positions available (10), or one position per district win.  The remaining 50% of the positions (10) get divided between the remaining party's based on the percent of votes received.  Thus Party-B would get 40% of the positions (8) and Party-C would get 20% (2).

That said, there would have to be ways to determine distribution of positions in other numerical scenarios, a method to determine how the remaining/secondary positions would be filled by each Party, and how each District would get the best possible local representation.

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electoral college -

The determination of the President of the United States (and "leader of the free world") should be decided by direct general vote.  The office is too important to allow the narrow voting margins in a few swing states to decide the fate of the Country's primary leadership position. This could be achieved by Constitutional Amendment, but a more likely scenario is a compact between like minded states (whose combined electoral count has the necessary 270 majority) to grant all their electoral votes to the winner of the popular vote.

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campaign finance -

It is in the public's interest to ensure that campaigns of various candidates have the same opportunities and limitations to ensure a level playing field and allow the Quality of message to decide the outcome and not the Quantity of the message.   The influence of money in politics provides certain candidates a tremendous advantage in leveraging media and communications.  

It seems like a system of campaign Expenditure-Tiers is warranted.  Each campaign could Raise as much funding as they are able, but would be limited to Spending a predetermined Tier level amount(s).   The actual Tier amount(s) would need to be based on scale/size of the office/electorate-base, as voted on by the General public, with spending information provided by jurisdiction (Election-Boards/Secretaries-of-State).   

For example, say there are three candidates for office (Papa Bear, Momma Bear, and Baby Bear) each with campaign-monetary backing equivalent to their respective physical statures (Papa Bear raises $50,000, Moma Bear raises $30,000, and Baby Bear raises $5,000).  Let's say a $5,000 maximum First-Tier spending cap was established for the office.  If all campaigns spend 80% ($4,000) or more of the First-Tier threshold, then the Expenditure cap limit expands to the next higher Tier level (say $10,000) for all campaigns. 

This allows each campaign to use a base line amount (something on par with the Office), protects underfunded campaigns from being drowned out in the messaging environment, and still allows competitive races to ratchet up in intensity if they elicit high levels of interest and involvement from the general public (ie: Baby Bear starts getting more donations because of a broad messaging appeal).

There are a number of good ideas that could be implemented and tried out.  Some localities may opt for a public financing system.  Some could  incorporate a public email distribution system to facilitate equal messaging between candidates. 

Whatever approaches are explored, it is in the Public's best interest to curtail the influence of money on our Political system.

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providing ease of voter access -

Ever since I registered to vote at 18 years of age, I chose to vote by absentee ballot (early vote-by-mail) for the sheer convenience.  No one wants to get home from a long day's work (Tuesday), remember to go vote amidst all the other personal life issues of that day, and then wait in line to cast a ballot.  The historical context may be that Sunday was not a preferred voting day, but times change.  Why not evaluate allowing for weekend voting, a national voting-day holiday, expanded use of absentee/vote-by-mail, and even Electronic signatures for use with an email or log-in voting system (controlled by the elections authority)?

Regardless of what types of expanded Voting access are provided, it is in the Public's best interest to ensure that the electorate has easy access.

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Positive-Choice Representation (Videos)

 

option:  single transferable vote

 (ranked choice voting)

option: mixed-member proportional

 

Option: redistricting & mathematical fairness

Option: state-compacts to distribute electors based on national-popular vote

Option: committees vs discharge petition

Option: democracy in political parties

[satirical] (warning: explicit language)

Option: public campaign financing

Option: Election-day holiday