Much of my frustration is tied to the fact that we don’t pick our nation’s leader in a national election. Instead, we have 50 local elections held on the same day, providing 50 opportunities for local officials to tinker with the process.
For example, the governor of Texas has ordered that there be just one ballot dropoff box for the 2.3 million residents of Houston. I didn’t really care in 2018 when the only polling site in Dodge City, Kansas, was located outside of town. But, blatant voter suppression in national elections impacts us all.
Here are six suggestions to improve the presidential election:
1 Hold one national primary election with all 50 states voting on the same day. Letting Iowa and New Hampshire winnow the field each election cycle makes no sense. One national primary in either May or June would increase participation and require candidates to take a broader, national approach.
2 Cut the political conventions to one day. The decision by the GOP this year not to adopt a new platform has made it official - conventions are now entirely pointless. Let them have their one-day infomercial, but no more.
3 Establish national standards for mail-in voting. Every election, thousands of mail-in ballots are rejected because of a mistake made by the voter. Oftentimes, whether to accept or reject a ballot is a judgement call made by partisan election officials, adding to distrust of the mail-in process. There should be one national standard as to when a ballot is rejected, accompanied by a massive voter education campaign to ensure that everyone knows the rules. And, all mail-in ballots must have the postage prepaid.
4 Bring some level of regulation and transparency to campaign advertising. The Citizens United Supreme Court ruling of 2009 has, as expected, opened the floodgates to waves of negative, dishonest campaign advertising. Required taglines at the end, like “Citizens for Prosperity and Nightly Flossing is responsible for this ad,” aren’t helpful. I’m not sure what new laws could be passed, given the court ruling. But Congress needs to give it another try.
5 Get rid of antiquated rules and make sure that the winner wins. In 2016 we learned about “faithless electors,” Republican members of the Electoral College who attempted to vote for somebody other than the candidate to whom their votes were pledged, Donald Trump. Now we’re learning that state legislatures have the power to overturn the will of their voters. While it is doubtful that anyone could successfully take advantage of these archaic laws, still having them on the books only adds to voters’ concerns and anxieties.
6 Get rid of the electoral college. Speaking of archaic laws, now that two of the last three presidents have been elected with fewer votes than their opponent, it’s time to scrap the electoral college. Smaller, rural states already have an enormous advantage with equal representation in the Senate. When it comes to choosing the leader of the nation, everybody’s vote should count the same.
Those are my dreams for the future. For now, we’ve got this messy, imperfect process that is nearing its conclusion. Millions of Americans like me have already cast our votes, knowing that the system is flawed, but understanding that it is still the best way to make our voices heard.
Walter Rubel can be reached at email@example.com
Listen to the audio version.