There are at least 5 steps that are needed to fix our electoral process. Some of these were stated on a recent episode of the Dylan Radigan show on MSNBC.
- Getting elected cost too much money. The amount of time needed to fund raise for advertising undermines our public officials from focusing on the increasingly complex issues of our time. Ours is the only free society that allows our electoral process to be corrupted by the need for political fundraising that is mostly spent for ads that are usually attacking opponents versus stating what the candidate will do if elected. Thus, public funding of elections is necessary along with free air time for candidates to state what they will do regarding the issues of our time, if they are elected. We need to make sure voters have access to an unbiased source of information about what a candidate stands for and what they would do if elected.
- High paid lobbyists have too much influence over the legislative process. The influence of the wealthy few and large multi-national corporations grossly outweigh the influence of everyday citizens. If corporations are now considered to have the same rights as an individual, then shouldn’t their contributions for supporting a candidate be limited to the same amount of any individual? There should be a several year interval between when a publicly elected official can then become a lobbyist for a company whose nest they feathered while they were in office and vice versa.
- The certification of an election should be certified by a bipartisan committee in each state with representatives from both major parties and independents. The party in power of any state should not be the final arbiter in any election dispute. In Florida in 2000 and Ohio in 2004, there were substantial questions about how the vote was conducted. Yet, partisan Secretaries of State in both States dismissed those concerns and certified a doubtful election result. Similarly, there should be a bipartisan committee in each state to define congressional districts of those states, so the party in power cannot gerrymander districts, to the advantage of their party getting a majority of seats in the House of Representatives.
- The voting machines themselves have to be beyond suspicion, again monitored by a bipartisan process. They should require a paper receipt for voters and an ability to complete a recount, when needed. If we cannot trust the outcome of an election, due to the problems associated with suspect voting machines, we will lose our credibility.
- We need to increase the percentage of eligible voters who participate in elections. Short of making voting mandatory with a fine for non-participation, we can increase participation with verifiable mail in ballots, that allow voters to review accurate un-biased information about the candidates, their stand on the issues and what they would do if elected.
This gets back to point number one. We need a level playing field for candidates and some common sense rules of the road for debating the relevant policies instead of demeaning opponents.