So like a month or so ago, I promised to give you a post on how to fix our electoral issues. I think I have finally figured those out, so here’s the second post in the Clinton Vs. Trump: Are You Fucking Serious? series.
As discussed before, right now we have two candidates, both of them disliked by the majority of Americans; Clinton about 55.5% unfavorable, Trump around 58.4%. Even the worst president in history™ has a higher approval rating than these two, between 50-52%. I wrote about how we managed to get into this situation, so let’s take a moment to discuss how to get the hell out of it (not in this election, sadly).
Whomever is elected, it will end up being the first time (at least that I am aware of) where a President starts off as someone who is disliked by over half the population (yes, even George W. Bush was well liked and respected when he was elected).
The United States has a huge problem with disproportionate representation. Whether you’re talking about this years presidential election or Congress, it’s been a long time (if ever) that we’ve had proportionate representation. That is to say if 60% of the people vote for candidate A, then candidate A gets 60% of the vote. The entire system needs an overhaul.
The biggest offender is the House of Representatives.
#1 – The House is not representative
It’s seems like it would be hard to make the House disproportionate. One representative for each district, elected by majority. That seems like it would be pretty representative. However, thanks to gerrymandering, it’s not.
Simply put, gerrymandering is a legislative act that causes district boundaries to be drawn to where they will include a majority of voters likely to vote for a certain party or candidate. Through this process, you can create districts that actually cause a minority of voters in a certain geographical area to become a majority.
Say you have a county that has 300,000 total voters. 200,000 are likely blue voters, and 100,000 are likely red. You need to create 3 districts with 100,000 voters each. Basically, you create one district with 100,000 blue voters, one with 75,000 red voters and 25,000 blue voters, and another with 75,000 red voters and 50,000 blue voters.
“But Erin,” you cry out, “that’s more red voters than there were available! Plus you have 25,000 blue voters left!”
Yup. Because I gerrymandered and I drew a line that followed a highway to another county and scooped up some of their voters. And I will draw another line and scoop up the remaining 25,000 blue voters and put them in a majority red district.
Now you have a county that should have 66% blue representation and 33% red, and made it 75% red and 25% blue.
This is all a very simple example. For a more detailed explanation, check out this CGP Grey video.
The easiest solution to gerrymandering that’s been considered is to take redistricting out of the hands of state legislatures and put it into the hands of non-partisan boards, subject to the approval of non-partisan judges. Another solution is to increase the number of representatives – the last increase was in 1910 when our population was less than 100,000,000 – making gerrymandering less of an issue. Right now we have one representative for every 745,000 people or so, compared to the last increase when it was one rep for every 211,000.
Gerrymandering has a huge effect on the make up of the House, when you compare it to the number of votes actually cast.
In 2014, democrats ended up with 43% of the seats, and got 45% of the popular vote. However in 2012, democrats took only 46% of the seats, despite having a majority of the popular vote. It may not seem like much, but any situation where you win a majority but can still lose is conceived and disproportionate.
#2 – The Electoral College sucks
Speaking of the winner losing… In 1787, the Electoral College was likely a brilliant idea. People were stupid and information was not as easily spread. It made a certain amount of sense to not allow the common man the ability to actually choose a president. People are still stupid (just go check out any comment thread on a story about Obama, Clinton, or Trump), but it’s far easier now to make an informed decision.
The EC is an antiquated, pointless system that does little more than make all but a half-dozen states important in a presidential election. Again, CGP Grey does a great job explaining the stupidity of this system by not only pointing out how it’s disproportionate, but how someone could theoretically win the presidency while getting only 21% of the popular vote.
Okay, you might be thinking, how would this eliminate the issues we’re having this year?
Well first off, in a popular vote only scenario, you’d have a better chance of seeing a third-party get elected. People don’t vote for third parties because they know they won’t win. Under the EC, that’s assured. Unless a third-party can get 50.1% of the state’s vote, then all the people who just voted for them have wasted their vote. Enough wasted votes and the you might end up with a spoiler situation, like with George HW Bush back in 1992 where they claim Ross Perot was the cause of his loss, or in 2000 when people believe Ralph Nader was the reason George W Bush beat Al Gore.
Again, an election system that punishes people for voting for the candidate that they believe best represents them is flawed and should be abolished.
Regardless of your political beliefs, you should be able to vote for whomever you believe will best represent you, without being made to feel like you fucked everything up.
#3 – Primaries need to be abolished
What we would need to replace them is little more than a runoff system in the general election. There are many types of voting systems (another CGP Grey video), but simply making the general election utilize runoffs – as many people as necessary on the first ballot, then if no one gets 50.1% of the vote, the top 2-3 vote getters face off in a runoff.
It would essentially cram the primaries into the general and (we can hope) end this 2-year election process where people end up getting disenfranchised before they’ve even had a chance to vote.
How how likely are changes?
The EC would have to have a constitutional amendment to change it. Which means it needs to not only pass Congress (which has a vested interest in the status quo, especially since the House gets to pick the president in the case of a EC tie), as well as 34 states many of whom would vote against change since smaller states get more EC love, and battleground states get lots and lots of money from advertisements, campaign stops, what-have-you.
Gerrymandering fixes would also likely fail since the party in power in the state legislatures are the ones who draw the lines.
What can and should happen is that voters and those disenfranchised need to stand up and affect change first through their state legislatures and then eventually through a (hopefully) more representative Congress.
Voting for our leaders is one of the most important rights that we have. That vote SHOULD count, and people should never feel that they can’t or shouldn’t vote for whomever they want.