How effective is the electoral process?

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Answered by: Michael, An Expert in the Politics 101 Category
The Electoral Process

               An essay on grading our style of democracy

          the electoral process in the United States of America Deserves a C, that is not good, but not horribly bad either. When grading a nation on its the electoral process we need a frame of reference, a comparison, because without one a grade is worthless. Is our the electoral process fair? Compared to who? Does it represent the entire plurality of the nation? What demographics are favored or unfavored? Is their parity between classes, religions, ages or races? These questions make-up the fabric of what constitutes a functioning and fair democracy, and the USA is mediocre on all counts.

      First, the issue of campaign finance. Before the Supreme Court ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission the United States had a rich but still incomplete regulation on campaign finance, that is making sure that elections are fair and monetary influence from donors doesn't drive campaigns more than actual issues. But, now we have the super-PACs, Politcal Action Committees that essentially have unlimited amount of money they can give with little to no disclosure. This increases the influence of money in politics and continues to poison an already sickened system.

Money in politics is probably my biggest reasoning for giving the United States the electoral process such a low grade. It is my position that most, if not all, politicians go into the system altruistically, wanting what is best for their people, but also a career for themselves. But over time they become beholden to the campaign process, that is needing to raise a large number of funds to find reelection.

          The voting system in the United States can be improved easily though a change to our ballots and change the winner-take-all voting system. Our ballots give us a choice to vote for one and only one candidate. While this is democratic it sometimes undermines democracy itself by empowering the two-party system. Since we can only vote for one candidate, many people are discouraged for voting for someone they consider the superior candidate simply because he is not expected to win. This is not healthy for a democracy. We should encourage voting for the candidates the voters like most, even if that candidate is unpopular. Approval voting system along with the instant runoff are superior.

          Approval voting allows voters to enjoy voting for whomever they approve of. Then, the candidate with the most approval votes wins. This system is simple, and easy to implement immediately. Though I believe the instant runoff system, where people rank their choice of candidate numerically, is a better system; the approval voting system is far more realistic in the USA. Instant runoff allows you to choose your first and second (or more) choice of candidate and if your first choice doesn't win, then your vote would go to your second choice, and so on. Here, voters for Nader/Perot/Paul/etc., should not feel guilty at the polls for throwing their vote away.

           One controversial aspect of our the electoral process, is perhaps its most important, that is the electoral college. While the institution of the electoral college isn't as negative as some of its detractors have claimed, it does create some alarming problems.

           First, the Electoral College over-represents voters in rural states and frequently does not reflect popular will. For instance, Alaska receives the standard three electoral votes, while California receives 55 electoral votes. This would appear to be fair considering the difference in population but in reality the citizens of Alaska’s vote hold more power than the votes of the citizens of California because of the percentage breakdown. Second, the Electoral College discourages third party or independent candidates because it favors a two-party system.

          Third, candidates neglect states that are not “battleground” states, the candidates frequently visit the states that hold the most electoral votes and are not set on a party while neglecting the states with less electoral votes or that have a more set political stance. Fourth, the delegates of the electoral college are not held responsible for their votes. Technically, the electors are required to cast their vote in the electoral college the way their state wants them to, however, it is completely possible for them to vote however they choose to.

           Finally, there is a higher chance of corruption and cheating within the electoral college. It is much easier to corrupt a few electors than it is to corrupt an entire state of voters. This, coupled with the idea of electors not being held responsible for their votes, could prove to be a dangerous situation

          Perhaps the most concerning aspect of our the electoral process in the influence of money. At one time the USA had campaign finance regulations, which was essentially deemed obsolete by the Supreme Court Ruling of Citizen's United V. Federal Election Commission. Today, we have what is basically an opportunity for both individuals and corporations to donate unlimited amounts of money to a candidate of their choosing with little to no transparency. In terms of fair elections this offensive for many. Much like traditional lobbying efforts when a candidate receives massive donations from particular sources he or she will tend to follow the interest of their donors instead of their constituents.

          Aside from money, is the consistent voter suppression, and this suppression I can't find an opportunity to defend. Voting should be an event to be cherished and celebrated by all Americans, like the Superbowl, and if this were to happen the results would only beneficial for our society. In the USA election day isn't even a national holiday, though it should be. It is my opinion that not only should it be a holiday it should carry for three days, this gives everyone the opportunity to cast their vote. Since Tuesday is a working day for most Americans, many cannot vote and if they are allowed many face a loss of pay (the the hours missed) or scorn from fellow employees or supervisors who must work with a limited staff. Making it a federal holiday will increase turnout which is what a functioning democracy needs. In addition, having Election Day in the winter also decreases turnout as many cannot make it due to inclement weather, or find the inconvenience off-putting.

          Though, in contrast, it's not all bad. The United States enjoys mostly open and free elections. Compared to other so-called democracies we do not face violence at our polling places from opposition forces (usually) and we do not have rampant voter fraud. No, there are worst systems than ours, such as countries where the elected official receives 99% of the vote.Most importantly, however, is our mostly universal suffrage, as women and men (who were never found guilty of a felony in most states) have the right to vote at the age of 18, not questions asked. Despite efforts to make voting more difficult for persons of color, the younger vote, and of course, the poor, these groups can vote freely, at least for now. Fortunately (and I use this term loosely), for us these facts keep the US the electoral process out of a failing grade, but our system leaves little to be admired and much to be improved.

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