Will Americans Take Action Re Voting Reform?

And, should we take action? Is action needed or is everything fine and dandy? What’s your opinion?

As I watched the post-election events unfold, I told myself that this would serve as a wake-up call. But now I’m wondering. Will we just tell ourselves that it can’t happen again, and do nothing? Will those who are pleased with the outcome feel that no changes are needed?

I expected people who favored the electoral college to change their minds. To me, it is one thing to favor the electoral college system in the belief that the electoral college winner and the popular vote winner will always be one and the same; it is quite another to continue to support this system after it has demonstrated its ability to grant victory to the candidate who actually came in second. But it seems that many Americans do still favor the retention of this antiquated system.

Will we/should we scrap the electoral college, or modify its winner-take-all aspect? Will we/should we provide for runoff elections when no one gets 50% of the vote? Will we/should we abandon the use of punchcard ballots? Will we/should we seek ways to prevent the disenfranchisement of voters that occured in Florida?

What does everyone think-- Will we do anything? Do we need to do anything? If so, what should we do?

Reform is necessary, and has been for many years.

My recomendation: Instant Run-off Voting. It has the same effect that run-off elections would, plus it is cheaper than the current system. The principle is rather than voting for one candidate, votes would rate the candidates. It is that straight forward. The ballots are counted in a series of rounds, so that if your first choice candidate doesn’t get many votes, your second choice would count instead. For a more technical explanation, read this.

My own state of Washington has an IRV legislative bill in the works. Alaska also has a IRV propsal to be put to the voters in 2002.

The electoral college, a vestige of pseudoaristocratic suspicion of the masses, should be dumped but won’t be, as people in places like Montana have the delusion that it gives them some say in Presidential elections.

Punch card ballots will be dumped and a few other superficial changes made toward standardizing the election process, possibly including uniform poll closing times.

I suspect the careless and moronic will always find a way to “disenfranchise” themselves.

The careless and moronic can’t be expected to disenfranchise themselves on their own – they need government help! Consider all those people in West Palm Beach who inadvertantly voted for two candidates. An error like that can’t happen with modern, electronic voting machines. If you touch the screen next to a 2nd candidate’s name (for the same office), the first vote disapears. You immediately percieve your error and cast your vote correctly. Before you can disenfranchise yourself by voting for two candidates for the same office, you need your local government to provide you with a low tech, error-prone voting method like punch card ballots.

IMHO, if a few dozen people make the same error, or even a few hundred out of thousands, I’d go along with the hard nosed response: they goofed; they should have been more careful; it’s their own fault. But when thousands make the same error? Then I’d say that the fault lies with the poorly designed ballot.

[Rick in Casablanca]Hazel, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.[/Casablanca]


I believe the “low-tech” method you’re referring to in this instance is actually the butterfly ballot. Are you proposing state or national legislation to do away with this type of ballot, or just to eliminate the practice of having political party officials (including the Democrat who OKd this one) approve ballot design?

Forget about doing away with the Electoral College. Think about it. We’d need a constitutional amendment, obviously. And all it takes are 13 states to derail an amendment. How are you goint to get all the small states to cut their own throats?

I like the runoff idea, but like Lemur says, it will be impossible to move from the electoral system.

I would just be happy if states (like my state, Florida) would make laws to regulate how a recount should work. I suppose the whole Florida clusterf*ck might have been avoided if there was a state-wide accurate recount, driven by state law.

Jackmannii, the odd “butterfly” design couldn’t be used if one were using modern electronic voting. The problem would not have occured if WPB had not been using punchcards.

I have never understood why anyone thinks it is important or significant that a Democrat designed the butterfly ballot, or that it was approved by a committee including Dems. I’m NOT suggesting that the poorly-designed ballot was part of a plot to deprive Gore of votes! All I’m saying about the ballot is what I said: it was poorly designed. It was designed by amatures who did not consult experts; who may not have known that experts existed. It was a genuine mistake; not a plot.

However, in Florida, even the mistakes were tainted. Some voters who messed up realized their mistake as soon as they made it, and asked for new ballots. Some were denied them. FL law requires that anyone asking for a 2nd, or even a 3rd ballot is to be given one (but not a 4th – 3 tries and you’re out). Who knows how many invalid votes (or unintended Buchanan votes) could have been corrected if poll workers had dispensed 2nd ballots to all who requested them?

I agree that scrapping the electoral college is a tall order; probably impossible. Right now, 48 of the 50 states award electors on a winner-take-all basis. Any state that chooses to can change to porportioning the electors according to the breakdown of votes; 2 states do it this way now. Maybe the thing for concerned citizens to do is each agitate for our own state to make this change.

I like the idea of IRV, but I think it would be a hard sell. The Dems and Repubs will hate the idea, as it would reveal to how many voters they are a 2nd or 3rd choice. They’ll never agree to anything that has so much potential to harm them. Actual runoffs might be more acceptable.

Voting reform is not needed. What is needed is ACCOUNTABILITY.

Despite the best efforts of the Sore/Loserman’s of the world they could not stir up any kind of evil Republican conspiracy.

Do the voters in Fla have a right to be outraged? Of course, but their anger is misplaced. It should be at their local officials who have allowed their systems to fall out of repair.

As for those butterfly ballots, it is relevant that Dems designed and approved them. It shows their hypocracy. They wanna cry foul, but it was their ballot the caused the confusion. I hope the voters of WPB, et al show the Dems how much they appreciate the BFB next election.

As you probably know, Australia has (IIRC) used a IRV style system since Federation in 1901 (we call it preferential, or alternative voting.

Would be interested to hear whether the Washington/Alaska proposals include mandory or optional preferencing.

The biggest buzz when voting in preferential/IRV systems is not so much where your first preference goes as to whom you place last on the ballot. :smiley:

Thanks for the link! Very amusing.

[Casablanca mode on] I am shocked – shocked! – to find that VOTING is going on here! [Casablanca mode off]

Looking on from the north, my guess is that you won’t be getting rid of the electoral college, for the reason pointed out by lemur866 - why would the small states agree to a change that reduces their voting strength?

However, I think it likely that there will be considerable efforts put into updating the voting system itself, to create uniform ballots and voting practices, at least within individual states.

For example, I believe lawsuits have been started in Florida by minority groups, arguing that the current system of leaving the responsibility with the counties means that in poorer areas, there’s likely to be greater inaccuracy in counting the votes, because the poorer counties can’t afford the spiffy new electronic machines and have to rely on the old punchcard systems.

I would also hope that the states would all take a hard look at their electoral laws to try to eliminate the ambiguities that were revealed in the Florida litigations, things like reconciling the deadlines for applying for recounts (which take time) and the deadlines for certification. From looking at the judgments, it seems that the Florida statute, by allowing requests for recounts so close to the date for certification, was just setting up a problem.

But what do I know? I’m just a Canuck.

The noble fight against the Electoral Collage isn’t hopeless.
It’s not as if those small states can just ignore the wishes of the rest of the country with total impunity. If a strong enough perception that their disproportional influence on the Presidency is unfair developed in the rest of the nation, then their representatives could get away with using unfair tactics to convince the small states. Taking away their highway money comes to mind.

This certainly doesn’t seem likely to occur anytime soon but the current political realities that prevent reform could change. I doubt they will, but hey… it could happen.

No theoretical checks, no form of government, can render us secure. To suppose that any form of government will secure liberty or happiness without any virtue in the people, is a chimerical idea. - James Madison

The 2000 election was a wake up call but not how some might envision. Voter fraud was the real story in Florida and thankfully won’t be a problem as technology is utilized to better effect. I look forward to the day of making every vote count, once, through a verifiable system of electronic voting which prevents multiple votes, the “cemetary” vote, convicted murderers voting, ad nauseum, ad infinitum.

The general consensus across america is a profound revulsion of the tactics by trial lawyers attempting to subvert our elections. What can’t be legislated lawfully becomes a simple matter of “Sue the bastards.”

Butterfly ballots don’t look especially difficult to me.In any case, given the “solemnity of the occasion” most people would do well to pay careful attention to what they are doing.

The mass media has been rightfully chastised for a number of gaffes on election night. It looked an awful lot like to this reader they were trying to swing the election in favor of Mr. Gore, for example, by calling Florida for the vice president before the polls had closed, thus affecting voter turnout in the rest of the state, and the West. Completely inexcusable, in my mind.

As far as the Electoral College itself, we might as well ask to do away with the Senate while we’re at it, too, since the 2 senators per state bear no relation to population figures.

The fifth article of the Constitution, the amendment clause, lays out the process for changing the Constitution and ends:

Even 2/3 of Congress and 3/4 of the states can’t eliminate the Senate.
( Though I have heard the argument that this could be done through first amending the amendment clause itself to eliminate the equal suffrage clause and then 2nd amendment to eliminate the Senate. )

Still, those unfair tactics could be tried against the few holdouts on this issue as well. There might be an easier way, however. While the Senate itself is insulated from constitutional change, its powers are not. A constitutional amendment transfering all Senatoral power to the House isn’t proscribed. Then every state could still have their suffrage in an ornamental Senate.

We are pious toward our history in order to be cynical toward our government - Garry Wills


Some individual states might lose “strength”, but others become more important. Take Kentucky, for example–we were worth 8 measly electoral votes, and we were a lock for Bush. As a result, we had only a few token visits from each candidate in between trips to the larger, more contested states.

Had the winner been decided in a nationwide popular vote, every vote in every state would have mattered.


Yes, they should. However, mistakes are going to be made over millions of ballots. The ballot should not only be designed to eliminate as many errors as possible, but also to make sure that the errors that do occur affect the candidates equally. (Rotating the candidates’ names on the ballot would probably work.)

IIRC, they called Florida about 15 minutes before the polls closed in the Panhandle; people would have to have been in their cars on the way to the voting booth, heard the news on the radio, and turned around and went home. Perhaps, given the “solemnity of the occasion”, those people would do well to pay careful attention to what they are doing. :slight_smile:

Besides, why would calling the election early for Bush make Bush voters stay home more than Gore voters? Seems to me that the Gore voters would be more likely to turn around, while the Bush voters would be hoping for a mistake or would want to get in their protest vote. (Hey, I went and voted, knowing full well my candidate was going to lose.) I would think this would make up for the slight majority of Republican voters in the Panhandle.

As for the rest of the West, I still have a hard time believing that it affected turnout enough to make any sort of difference. For one thing, a Bush win was still in the realm of possibility without Florida, especially with California in at least some doubt. For another, the Presidency was not the only race on the ballot; I should hope that people consider Congressional and local elections important enough to show up and vote for.

Did anyone in the media actually dig someone up who decided not to go vote because of the early calls?

As to the OP–I do think some reform will take place, but more in the way of equipment than with process.

Dr. J


The networks gave Florida to the vice president first, not Bush, while polls were still open in our Big Square States out West.

Later on that evening they announced that G.W. Bush had won the presidency,… then, they announced that florida was “too close to call…”

I knew that. Change that sentence to, “Besides, why would calling the election early for Gore make Bush voters stay home more than Gore voters?”

My point makes more sense that way. :slight_smile:


While some changes in how we vote would be welcome, I don’t think that enhanced electronic/computer voting will protect us from fraud. It’ll make shenanigans possible on a scale never dreamed of before.