Shhh! Don’t tell anyone, but there is primary voting going on today in parts of the country. Never mind, be as loud as you want because there is no one there. I just voted in my local primary at 1 pm EST. I was the only customer in the place and my number for the day was 75. That meant at 1 pm in the day, I was the 75th voter at that precinct. The sad part in our gerry-mandered redistricting, several candidates are running against only their fellow party members. If they win the primary, they win the seat as no one from the opposite party is running against them. I don’t know about you, but that is extremely poor form for our country.
It also means we end up with more extreme views and less collaborative people representing us. That is highly unfortunate as we have more than a few of the lunatic fringe in Congress and my state’s General Assembly. And, if you happen to be one of the more reasonable people who sees the other party’s point of view and tries to work together, the extremists in your party will threaten a “primary” against you with money backing a more severe form of the party’s views personified in a person beyond two standard deviations from the norm. Primary has now become a verb with an awful meaning in an awful context with an awful result.
Living in North Carolina which passed earlier this year a Jim Crow like Voter ID bill, which people like Colin Powell and David Brooks, both Republicans, have labeled as something that will be harmful to both minorities and the Republican party, I see today as prima facie evidence of what Powell said at a recent speech in Raleigh, North Carolina. The problem in America is not the wrong people voting, it is not enough people voting. Again, I was the 75th voter in my precinct at 1 pm in the day. And, last month, New Jersey picked a replacement senator after the death of Senator Frank Lautenberg with very few voters making their election.
But even in November elections, not many people vote, unless there is a Presidential election, in which we have a non-substantive majority voting. When you look at statistics around the globe, we average less than 50% with almost every other democratic country in the 70s, 80s and 90s in percentage of voters. Folks, we need to figure out a way to get more people voting. We need to get non-partisan people to look at voting precincts and overhaul them. We need candidates from more than one party. Most of the gerry-mandering the past few years has been at the hands of the GOP, but the Democrats have done this in the past, so they have fingerprints on past misdeeds.
We also need to have automatic run-off voting where you pick second and third candidates, so if one does not get a majority, the run-off can be automatically calculated and save money and have more people with a voice in a run-off decision. Note run-offs are typically as poorly attended as primary elections, so by doing an automatic run-off, everyone who voted the first time has a voice in the run-off election.
Finally, we need to get the money out of voting, shorten the process and make funders and candidates accountable to voters. The Supreme Court made one of its worst decisions to make a bad problem worse. The Koch Brothers should not be deciding elections for us, e.g., but the way things are set up, they and people like them, are the great puppeteers and many voters have no idea who and how powerful they are. We need more Americans with a say in this process. We need the funders to have a less say, or at the very least, have a transparent say in who they are backing. Maybe we need to follow NASCAR or professional golf and have the candidates where patches or logos of their backers. That would be the most honest thing for them to do.
So, please recite with me. The problem is not the wrong people voting. The problem is not enough people voting. Let’s fix the real problem and stop the political posturing.