As we wrap up the worst election season in my life, I think it’s time to stop talking about the inefficiency of our voting process and actually fix it.
I’m standing in line at my precinct right now, typing this until they make me put away my phone. Here goes:
Let’s make the next election better
- We need more media coverage of issues and less coverage of “scandals.” I’d like to see an agreement among journalists to responsible election coverage. Commit to spending no less than 50% of words or minutes reporting candidates’ words and documents on policy issues. When the press just chases a “good story,” we get skewed news. And journalists are doing a terrible job of actually pushing issues to the forefront of the conversation, something only the media has the power to do, really.
- Campaign finance reform: I want Congress to pass new legislation to address the Citizens United verdict, and making all political campaign contributions above $5,000 (cumulative, by donor or business) to be public ally recorded and the information available during the election cycle. If you want to invest money in politics, go ahead, but you can’t do it in secret. Or if you don’t like that solution, go pick one of the many others that have been suggested. I think we need to do something.
- Shorten the election cycle via law or regulation. No campaigning may begin for a race until the previous cycle’s November contest has been settled and the vote tallies confirmed. (There’s a petition you can sign if you agree that election cycles need to be shortened.)
- By law or regulation, no reporting on exit polls on Election Day until at least 50% of the polls have closed. I realize Slate disagrees with me, and you can read their argument for why they are dumping real-time information onto the electorate. But I don’t buy the argument that as a voter, I need the same information that the campaigns gather about who’s winning. Maybe it’s irrational, I dunno; but I think this kind of information overload is exactly why the last 12 months have been a living hell.
- Reinstate the full measures of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, barring states from making it more difficult for minirities to get to the polls. The NYT has a Voter Suppression Trail game you can play to experience the frustration. “See if you can make it to the polls!”
- Clarify voter ID restrictions. I want plenty of state flexibility but also to ensure that poor, minority, immigrant or other groups with less likelihood of a photo ID can still get the necessary credentials to vote. I want the feds to lean on states to enforce their already existing laws. It’s not unrealistic for people in certain subgroups to lack some of the documentation necessary to have a photo ID. (And if you’ve ever filed for a passport, you know how frustrating and difficult it is to get a certified copy of your original birth certificate.)
- Extend voting privileges to college students for the state where they attend school, if they choose to forfeit their right to vote in their home town and state. This should be a choice any full-time college student can make if they desire. I realize absentee balloting isn’t too difficult — if you’re already somewhat good at navigating government websites — but some students identify strongly with the area where they’re attending school, and wish to vote there, even though their legal address remains at their parents’ house (perhaps to enjoy the tax benefits of being a dependent – and who can blame them?).
- Encourage states to adopt voting registration laws that provide pre-registration rather than making citizens initiate and maintain the process themselves. For people who are already on the margins of the system, it’s just another set of barriers they don’t know how to navigate.
- Offer federal grant money to states to improve their websites and especially mobile-friendly information about the ballot, candidates, and elections. It’s stupidly hard to get real information about the local races. I saw 3 on the ballot this morning that didn’t turn up in my research, plus one Anderson County referendum that I saw for the first time standing at the voting machine. That’s not good. By the way, I would tie the federal money to requirements that states make their voting registration and polling processes simpler and more transparent.
I realize none of this will wash the horrible taste of Trump vs Hillary out of my mouth, and tomorrow the screaming will just intensify (especially if Hillary wins), but maybe that’ll just push us Americans to implement our legendary ingenuity to fix the damn mess before 2020.