Electoral reform is urgent. Many proposals have been presented in numerous countries including the United States over the years with few results. There is too much inertia within the Establishment. The political machines and the transnational corporations including the Big Banks controlling them easily resist such threats to their power.
It’s easy for them to do so as they control the voting: they simply vote “No!” when real change is presented. We jerk about like puppets on strings and deride one another as “sheeple” or “bloodthirsty communists” or “capitalist pigs.” Aren’t you tired of that? I’m tired of it.
What will work? It will take noisy mass movements out in the streets combined with quiet and deliberate political actions to legally and openly infiltrate the Establishment by winning at the ballot box to initiate changes. If we can actually win power even when we win an election. And it seems too late as so many challenges demanding significant transformation, not just change, are avalanching down upon us all.
Electoral reforms are a must as it will allow us to more effectively and radically address our problems. Open, free, and fair elections under the eyes of impartial observers and vote collectors and counters are vital for any functioning republic. Elections are one of the cornerstones of Democracy. This is especially so for a democracy such as the United States of America that is a constitutional federal republic.
Yet we find our political parties and the electoral process corrupted by Big Money, i.e. private control of the money power. Two dominant parties, Republicans and Democrats, work together so much to control elections at all levels from the national to the state and local they are often detested as “the two-headed snake.” Together they accept financial support from the same corporations to such a degree many politicians are generally considered “bought.” Such corporations leverage this special relationship to finance powerful lobbying groups to advocate on their behalf.
The two parties partner up to dominate state primary and caucus systems, control debates including marginalizing reform-minded Republican and Democrat candidates such as Ron Paul (R-Texas) and Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio), block or reduce third and other minor parties from access to the electoral process, and create celebrity dramas around major candidates to obscure real and serious issues they don’t want to address or even acknowledge.
While electronic voting machines have many advantages, obviously fast and efficient in an age of digital telecommunications, enormous populations, and multiple languages, they generate additional problems. They are apparently easy to physically tamper with for fraudulent purposes and can also be easily hacked into, even by remote control.
Perhaps worse, these public machines are owned and repaired by private corporations. These corporations own the software and refuse to allow government officials or independent observers “inside” these electronic voting machines, machines they consider their private property. Such machines don’t leave a paper trail, and any printed could be done after being tampered.
In turn some, such as ES&S (Election Systems & Software) and Diebold were founded and controlled by Far Rightwing families such as the Ahmansons who embrace Dominionist or Reconstructionist beliefs. These are powerful, extreme Christian sects who erroneously believe America originally was and once again should be a Christian nation. These theocrats believe the Holy Bible should replace the U.S. Constitution as the highest law of the land.
Numerous still unresolved controversies and allegations of election fraud and bloodless coups remain from the past three presidential elections (2000, 2004, 2008). Some controversies predate electronics and go back to corporate interference in elections of the 1960s.
Thom Hartmann, successful entrepreneur, liberal political activist, and progressive radio host takes on the privatization of our politics. “Why have we let corporations into our polling places?” he asks as he considers polling places to be “sacred to democracy.” Hartmann stands the corporate infiltration and subtle takeover of our electoral process ranks as the “greatest” of “all the crimes against” American citizens and their democratic republic.
Elections are also a show and a sham in one-party states and other governments where police, the military, and private militia and gangs intimidate voters. Even in America we’ve had businesses pressure workers to vote a certain way or risk losing jobs, promotions, and benefits all the while proclaiming “And you’re still free to vote for whomever you want.”
Electoral reform as well environmental reform cannot occur without also instituting significant reforms of the financial and economic sectors. Some of these reforms may require constitutional amendments. Others may be accomplished in other ways including at state and municipal levels.
Just for the United States alone:
- Ban political parties from politics. They’re free to assemble, but cannot run candidates or endorse issues, candidates, referendums, bills, nor donate or give money, labor, and resources to politicians and candidates.
- No financial contributions from any organization – corporations, NGOs, labor unions, clubs, religious groups, etc. shall go to politicians, political candidates, and referendums and bills, etc.
- Financial contributions can only be from 1) a fully transparent government election fund.
- And/or 2) individual American citizens from their personal funds, not their corporations or non-profits or any other organization and must be fully disclosed, i.e. transparent.
- All electronic voting machines and their software must be open to public audit and possibly transparent public or community control, or we return to or develop a new system of secret ballots and public control. We cannot permit private, corporate ownership and/or control of any aspect of our voting process.
- Abolish the Electoral College.
- Abolish Winner-Take-All Voting and replace with an alternative system from several proposed, including open, direct elections with IRV, Instant Run-off Voting.
- All election campaigns for all public offices, especially at the national and state levels, must be considerably shortened in length of time. As we debate what is the appropriate amount of time per electoral office, we must consider the amount of time it takes to campaign for office in small nation-state such as the United Kingdom may not be practical in a vast, sprawling federal union of 50 states and territories. Barring political parties will shorten this.
- Territories such as Puerto Rico must vote for either statehood or independence.
- Regarding the Legislative branch, study the merits of a unicameral body (one house) vs. the current two-house one vs. proposals for a tricameral system of three houses. Tricameral systems vary including the third house as a “People’s House” or a “National Wisdom Council,” to name two very different examples.
- Strip away from Congress and other branches of government privileges such as immunity from arrest and prosecution as well as establish clear and public protocols regarding conflicts of interest. The latter include the ability to use public office to personally profit from access to financial information disclosed to public officials and their staff in investigations, inquiries, and other related matters. Personal business dealings need to be publicly disclosed. At the same time salaries and stated benefits for public office should be reflective of the weight and responsibilities of public service and the peoples’ trust and thus commensurate to the position.
- The above stated proposals address specifically the Federal, State, and Local/Municipal levels of American government. If We the People of Earth chose to move toward greater political and economic interdependence including Democratic World Government, these reforms serve as models. No democratic republic is truly democratic or republican if the system is corrupt and dominated by powerful factions from the Global Financial and Power Elite and their Allies. Institutions must be clean and transparent with clear boundaries whether they are planetary, national or federal, and regional or local.
There are back and forth arguments for or against term limits, salary caps, interpretations of responsibilities (is serving upon being elected to public office an honor, a volunteer service, a paying job, a career, or all of those?), etc. with heated emotions and misinformation all around, and they can be deliberated upon as well.
Yes, electoral reform is overdue and needed now. We may disagree on the details, and most of us can agree on two items:
1) reforms are needed, and
2) reform is urgent.
What reforms do you propose?
Also see my article “Abolish Political Parties from Our Elections” at http://williamdudleybass.com/abolish-political-parties-from-our-elections/.
Hartmann, Thom. Screwed: The Undeclared War Against the Middle Class – And What We Can Do About It. Berrett-Koehler Publishers. San Francisco: CA. 2006, 2007. Pp. 143 – 148.
Kovacs, Eduard. “Electronic Voting Machines Highly Vulnerable to Man-in-the-Middle Remote Attacks,” Softpedia. <http://news.softpedia.com/news/Electronic-Voting-Machines-Highly-Vulnerable-to-Man-in-the-Middle-Remote-Attacks-224130.shtml>. September 2011.
THN Reporter. “Man-in-the-Middle Remote Attack on Diebold Touch-screen Voting Machine,” The Hacker News. <http://thehackernews.com/2011/09/man-in-middle-remote-attack-on-diebold.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed:+TheHackersNews+(The+Hackers+News+-+Daily+Cyber+News+Updates)&utm_content=Google+Reader>. September 2011.
William Dudley Bass
20 October 2011
NOTE: Revised and reprinted Wednesday, November 23-24, 2011. This was first published prior to revision as “Election Reform is Overdue and Needed Now” in At the Brink at http://atthebrinkwithwilliamdudleybass.blogspot.com/2011/10/electoral-reform-is-overdue-and-needed.html.
Copyright © 2011, 2016 by William Dudley Bass. All Rights Reserved until we Humans establish Wise Stewardship of and for our Earth and Solarian Commons. Thank you.