By Don MacGillivray
Voting is the means by which a viable Democracy survives and it seems strange that there is so much controversy around it here in the United States.
One person one vote is a simple, easy to understand concept, yet many people all over the country either choose not to vote or find it difficult to vote.
Throughout the United States there are many people and many ideas for improving a system that most people take for granted. Here are a few of these suggestions.
States that have Same Day Registration do not suffer from significant amounts of voter fraud. When states remove the voter registration barriers more voters turn out.
Eleven states have Same Day Registration. The top six states that have it had the largest voter turnout in 2016, while the bottom five states with the worst voter turnout were where voters had to register three or four weeks prior to election day.
In this day of technological innovations, states should no longer need advanced time to check in with voter registration databases. Oregon is still one of the states where voters must register three weeks before election day.
Oregon was the first state to initiate Vote by Mail in 1999. It wasn’t until twelve years later that the state of Washington adopted it. Since then other states have either adopted it or are experimenting with it. However, in most states the number of absentee ballots are increasing and Vote by Mail is growing in popularity. The practice has been used in European countries for many years.
Imagine election day on the Forth of July. There could not be a more patriotic way to celebrate the birthday of our democratic nation than to have our national elections on this day.
The idea to have Election Day on a Holiday or on a weekend would greatly increase the ability of citizens to vote and it would reduce the lines at the polls for working people. A recent national poll found that sixty-five percent of Americans support having election day on a holiday and it is supported by a majority of both parties.
If we want a democracy that’s more representative of all Americans, we need to make voting easier.
A Vote Center is where voters can show up to vote at any location in their county instead of visiting their one and only polling place in their precinct.
Colorado was the first state to use Vote Centers and now fourteen other states allow jurisdictions to use Vote Centers on election day. Advantages include: voter convenience, less expense, fewer locations, and greater capacity. It is likely to increase turnout as long as the elections are advertised and well run.
Ranked Choice Voting (RCV) is an innovative electoral system in which voters can rank candidates in the order of their preference. It is an important tool to make sure the candidates with the broadest support are elected and will lead to a better sense of the electorate’s overall desires, end the need for runoff elections, and reduce negative campaigning.
If a candidate wins a majority of the votes, he or she is declared the winner. If no candidate wins a majority of first-preference votes, the candidate with the fewest first-preference votes is eliminated. The first-preference votes cast by those voters are eliminated, and their second-preference choices indicated on those ballots are counted. A new tally is conducted to determine whether any candidate has won a majority of the adjusted votes.
This is also referred to as Instant Runoff Voting. Seven states have implemented rank choice voting at either the state or local level. Six other states have adopted it and Oregon is trying it out this year.
Election fundraising can be democratized through public financing of elections. Portland adopted a public financing system a few years back and it was used successfully by Eric Sten and Amanda Fritz. However, another candidate committed fraud and Portland residents voted to repeal it.
Seattle began a public financing program in 2017 that lets each resident receive four $25 Democracy Vouchers to give to any eligible municipal candidate of their choice.
These vouchers allow everyday Americans to influence local elections and reduce the dominance of wealthy contributors. Candidates will no longer need to have expensive fundraisers and spend much of their time asking for large contributions allowing them to spend more time campaigning and speaking with the public.
These types of contributions are a measure of a candidates’ popularity and the results are encouraging.
A problem with modern voting is that advertising and social media messages confuse voters about how, when, and where to vote, and sometimes to not vote.
All have the potential to effect the outcomes of elections, especially uninformed or minority voters. It makes little difference whether these messages come from domestic third party sources or foreign sources. Voters are bombarded with negative campaigning and disinformation about candidates.
Pro-voting messages and better branding would be a way to address this situation. The message should be about “value your vote” or “voting is power” done in creative ways.
Voters need to see positive messages like the Uncle Sam poster that said I Want You or We Can Do It! from Rosie the Riveter. We need public service announcements from election administrators educating voters about how to vote.
Many of these suggestions are in the book Vote for US: How to Take Back Our Elections by Joshua Douglas, professor at the University of Kentucky College of Law specializing in elections, voting rights, and constitutional law.
To confirm you are registered to vote, see vote.org.