Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Fixing elections (the system, not the vote)

Orson Scott Card, again. This week's column is a laundry list of issues, all of them relating to the process of choosing our leaders. In this column, he addresses:

"Disenfranchisement" and "voter intimidation"
The proper way to counter intimidation from poll watchers is to encourage and teach voters that they have nothing to fear. It's embarrassing that the Democratic Party has concluded that the proper solution to electoral problems is litigation instead of training their voters to follow the rules and fearlessly exercise their franchise. If you sue, you might lose. If you teach voters their rights -- and responsibilities -- then everybody wins. It's also cheaper. And it starts with the assumption that minority voters are smart enough to learn the same voting rules and procedures that everybody else follows. Any other assumption smacks of condescension at best, bigotry at worst.
The electoral college
Getting rid of the electoral college often can sound like a "good idea" -- until you start considering the alternatives.
The remedy is simple and obvious: When congressional districts are redrawn after every census, only three principles should be considered: Coherence, compactness, and equality. <snip> Wouldn't the interests of African-Americans be better served, even with fewer blacks in Congress, if most congressional districts contained enough black voters that their votes could swing an election? Instead of having a handful of guaranteed black seats, with all the rest of the House of Representatives owing nothing at all to black voters, we'd have fewer guaranteed black congressmen, but most of Congress would care very much what black voters thought of them -- or risk losing the next election. It doesn't matter, though. Because the group that benefits most from the present anti-democratic system of fixing elections in advance is: incumbents. And by definition, the only people who could change the system are: incumbents.
Voter ignorance
So the only solution is to make sure you aren't one of the ignorant ones. There are websites for most candidates, informing you of their record, their beliefs and principles, and their experience and other qualifications. It's quite easy to find out information about everyone except the handful who don't bother to put up a website.
Counting errors
Sometimes, though, an election might be so tight that a statistically insignificant difference between the spoiled ballots for the two candidates might actually become crucial. In effect, then, the election would have been decided by a coin toss. In such cases, recounts are helpful. Lawsuits are not.

There's lots more. Read the whole thing.

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