It is time for serious electoral reforms…
By Jack E. Lohman
We did it again.
With a public satisfaction rate of only 9%, Wisconsin voters re-elected 100% of its congressional representatives, even after they allowed the banking industry to trash our economy. We need new blood, but we have a political system that is stacked against challengers.
I trust Geithner and Barnanke only slightly more than the politicians that pocket campaign cash from the financial institutions. We cannot fix the economy unless we have an honest electoral system.
Following are key changes needed for electoral reform:
Public funding of campaigns — Candidates can opt in or opt out, thus it passes constitutional muster. This gives challengers funds to run a credible race, and also frees “public” candidates from the obligation to satisfy corporate contributors. There are only two kinds of campaign money, public and private. Usually the private money goes mostly to the incumbent because they wield power and can (and often do) initiate taxpayer giveaways to the contributor.
Blind Trusts— All congressmen must put their financial assets into a blind trust so they are not initiating or voting on or against legislation that benefits their personal wealth. For example, Jim Sensenbrenner owns $5M in pharmaceutical stock and voted for the 2003 Medicare Drug bill that will pass $780 billion to the pharmaceutical industry over the next decade.
Instant Runoff Voting (IRV) — This allows voters to select their first choice, second choice and third choice. If their first choice fails to get 51%, their vote moves to their second choice, and so on until one candidate exceeds 50%. Thus voters need not fear throwing their vote away and can vote their conscience. You can also vote for only one candidate, as you do today. IRV is fair to third parties, but the R’s and D’s don’t like fair. Minnestota’s and Georgia’s third-party candidates wouldn’t have caused chaos under IRV. (See the comparison HERE.)
None of the Above ballot choice — NOTA voting essentially means that if None of the Above gets more votes than any other candidate, the election must be held again with all new candidates. This is the only way of allowing voters to affect a complete turnover in a particular district, even if there is only one candidate that people do not support.
Term Limits — Sometimes good and sometimes bad. They’d be good if the Clean Money system were implemented and limits applied only to candidates that took private money instead of public money, but that’s wishful thinking. Generally, term limits should take place at the voting booth, but only after we give voters the tools to make good decisions. I would not favor ousting guys like Sen. Bill Proxmire (D-WI), who spent a total of $500 on his last two elections and was beholden only to the voters. But Sen. Robert Byrd (D-WV) has to go.
Voter ID — The Dems are wrong on this. If people can get to the welfare office to collect their food stamps, they can clearly apply for a voter registration card every eight years. Especially if the process is subcontracted to banks, which are on virtually every corner. Voting is a civic duty and supporting a secure system is the right thing to do. Proof of citizenship should be required and the registration card should be bar-coded and contain a picture of the voter. This will go a long way toward solving the problems at the voting booths that both the D’s and R’s are concerned about.
Voting Machines— Here we are, the most advanced nation in the world, with a mish-mash of systems that can’t even compete with Iraq’s purple fingers. The best system is optical marked cards that allow paper recounts if necessary. But in time an optional, secure online system must be developed, with the same polling stations we now have for backup and those without computers.
Line Item Veto — No, no and hell no!!! Follow the dominoes and you’ll see that campaign bribes that went to legislators to get the pork inserted in the first place, will just be duplicated for the governor so the pork is not vetoed when signed. It will give voters the false sense that things are being fixed when it is just increasing the cash flow in an already corrupt political system.
Redistricting — is now controlled by the two major parties to the detriment of third parties and challengers. They stack the deck by selecting the voters rather than the other way around. They give the Republicans the districts with the highest percentage of Republicans, and the Democrats districts with the highest number of Democrats. That locks out challengers, helps preserve their 95% re-election rate, and reduces the (badly needed) political turnover. This should be turned over to the non-partisan Government Accountability Board.
These are commonsense fixes, but they benefit the public and not the private interests. Nor do they benefit political incumbents, so don’t count on their passage soon or easily. A complete turnover of politicians may be necessary to get us to needed reform.
— My own state senator (Alberta Darling) supports public funding of campaigns for judges, but not legislators. How’s that for a double standard?
— Kentucky’s Sen. Mitch McConnell inserted a $25 million spending provision into a bill after receiving a $53,000 campaign contribution. Had the taxpayers instead paid the $53K, we wouldn’t have to pay the $25M. The $10 for public funding would be a bargain at 100 times the price.
— In the case of Sen. Hillary Clinton, a $100K contribution to Bill’s library plus contributions to her own campaign preceded her request for a $5 million grant to the contributors’ building of a shopping mall.
— If not for corruption, these people ought to go to jail for outright stupidity. Why do they continue with a system that at best tarnishes their reputation and at worse sends them to jail? They can fix it but they refuse to.