The time for wallowing is over. It is now time to get into the business of moving on and beginning to fix what has been broken. Some of these things are things a Biden administration can do on their own. They can get back into the Paris Climate Accord. They can get back into the nuclear agreement that they made with Iran.
Biden can also erase many of the executive orders that Trump made over the course of four years. That is the beauty of the executive order. Unfortunately, I don’t see any major partisan legislation passing. The gap in the House has dwindled some and the Senate will probably be pretty close to a 50/50 split. So, anything done will have to be bipartisan.
Realistically, that means getting one or two senators to flip just to be safe. For me, there is one priority for the new Congress to pass. It is what we might call comprehensive election reform. It involves multiple steps, so bare with me as I go through the various steps.
One Person, One Vote
Let’s consider all of the shenanigans of the past week. We are worried about counting ballots in this county or that county in this state and that state. When we went to bed on Tuesday night, one candidate had more votes than the other. It was fairly close relatively, but the difference was more than one million votes. It’s the same one that is projected to win these close states.
I get the concern over how someone could go from up one million to up by more than four million. Naturally, the conspiracy theorists among us will say whatever they want. Yet, it makes perfect sense. You tell people that mail in voting is a fraud and ask your people to vote in person. They voted in person. So, when you count the mail in votes whose name do you think is going to be on them?
Yet, this is all smoke filled coffee house crap. The will of the people has spoken. The will of the people in 2016 spoke. The will of the people in 2000 spoke. We can argue until we are blue in the face about whether California should mean more than Wyoming. The reality is simple. My note should not count any less than anyone else’s vote. It shouldn’t matter whether I’m in Boise, Idaho or Chicago, Illinois.
There are two ways to fix this. The easiest way in terms of solutions is to abolish the electoral college. Unfortunately, it’s not an easy political solution. There is also something called the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact. It binds those states that agree to vote for the winner of the popular vote once their total electoral votes get to 270. About a third of the states have already signed on including California, Oregon, Washington state, Colorado, New Mexico, Illonois, New York, Maryland, New Jersey, Massachusets, Deleware, and Rhode Island. Several other states are considering it. The current count sits at 193 electoral votes. States like Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and South Carolina are considering it as well. If all of those states approve we are almost home.
Let the computers do their work
The elections at the state level are crucial every ten years. Most people don’t know that. The census changes the representative count and then the legislatures get to draw the congressional districts. Whichever party controls the state controls the drawing of the districts. Most states are controlled by Republicans. They have drawn the lines and they draw them to favor their candidates.
I’m not going to get into the effects of this because Democrats do the same thing in states they control. At least, I won’t get into the electoral effects. The effects on our democracy are clear. Current experts assert that less and 200 of the 435 seats are what they would label as competitive. They define competitive as within a ten point margin.
Those same experts assert that you could draw those districts by computer and get more than 300 of those seats to be competitive. That means an independent commission would do it and it wouldn’t rely on Democrats or Republicans. This is something everyone should want. While it might temporarily wrest control away from one party or another by negating their statewide advantage, it would even out over the long haul.
More importantly, if I know that I will be in a competitive race then I have to campaign to my whole district. That means my ideas have to appeal to more people. I have to be reasonable to win. If I have to be reasonable to win then I also have to govern reasonably. I think you see where this is going. One of the many reasons why Congress doesn’t function is that we don’t elect people that want to function. They don’t have to. Their districts don’t force them to.
Unified Election Rules
One of the many sources of confusion this week is how one state can count ballots one way and another can do it completely differently. One state accepts mail in ballots as long as they are postmarked by election day. Others take in ballots that have arrived by election day. Some of them count those ballots beforehand. Others wait unti election day.
These are all legal processes, but the confusion has allowed one candidate to claim fraud and low information voters buy into that. Streamlining the process might seem self-serving to simply Trump proof this thing, but it also makes things simpler for potential voters. You tell voters their mail in ballots have to be mailed in by a specific date. It’s the same date nationwide. You have the same options for dropping off the ballot everywhere. You have the same criteria for who is eligible to vote via mail. Those votes start to be counted at the same time.
Additionally, early voting rules would be the same everywhere. The polls open on the same day and at the same time. They close on the same day and at the same time. They require the same forms of identification to vote. The registration process is the same in all 50 states. If there is a federal election then all 50 states are following the same rules. I think the complaints over IDs, registration, and absentee balloting would stop if we all agreed to the same rules well beforehand and allowed both parties to mobilize their forces around that. There would be no last minute whoopsy changes. There would be no legal sheninanigans designed to suppress the vote. You follow the common rules and vote or you don’t follow them and you don’t vote.
Publicly Fund General Elections
One of the envies of other nations is how they limit the electoral process. Many of them start only a few months before the general election. We aren’t inudated with electoral politics for two years. Some of that is unavoidable. It will be completely impossible to get money out of politics. Citizens United helped out a ton in that regard. You can bypass Citizens United with congressional action.
Publicly funding the general election would be a compromise solution. You could spend a billion dollars to win your party’s nomination. With the way parties are set up, it is next to impossible for Congress to control their process of nomination. Let them worry about that. Once you’ve nominated your candidate for a particular position you are done.
One of the reasons why people favor term limits is because they hate the idea of people being in Congress for 30, 40, or 47 years. This happens because incumbents have a built in fundraising advantage. If I’m a donor I’m going to donate to the person that is going to do the most for me. That’s someone that’s already in government. If both Republicans and Democrats get the same amount of money to campaign then I win based on my ideas and how intelligently I spend that money. We have term limits in this country. It is called the ballot box.