Voting Reform

 

One of the most disturbing comments made to me by a resident of my town while running for local office was, “They wouldn’t let us vote if it really mattered.” That really stuck with me because I know too many people feel that way and that is a damn shame. However, I understand why they feel that way. Despite the brave men and women who have fought for the right to vote for women and Black Americans, the value of our votes has been eroded, and partisan rifts have fueled voter suppression over the past few decades. Those brave Americans did not get up and out of their homes, organize, march, and protest in the streets for elections to be decided by the minority. I think of these activists when I stand in the booth to cast my own vote. They did not suffer and sacrifice so I could choose the lesser of two evils; they fought so I could enter that booth with excitement and vote for a candidate that shares my values and my visions.  When was the last time you voted with excitement and hope? I tell anyone who expresses cynicism towards voting, “Your voice matters, please vote, even if not for me.”

 

The lack of enthusiasm towards voting is clearly represented through voter participation. We rank 11th in the world for turnout among most other developed nations.  In 2016 only 56% of voter age eligible citizens voted in the Presidential election. Only 70% of voter age eligible citizens even register to vote! There are so many reasons our voting numbers are so bad, and we need a lot of voting reform so that we can have a government that is actually Of, By, and For the people. Otherwise, we will never live in a true democracy. 

 

One of the main reasons we do not have a representative government is because of the electoral college system which gives greater value to votes in more rural states. This overemphasizes their representation in the House and in the executive branch. Congress already has a system to ensure representation of states with smaller populations by having 2 senators for every state and representatives in the House are based on population. Every vote must have the same value for every American. A vote in NJ should count just as much as a vote in Ohio or Iowa. The electoral college is outdated and hurts our democracy and is no longer functioning as intended and congress can and should do away with it.

Unfortunately, due to the misnamed Voting Rights Act, States have the power to set policies regarding their elections which enables those in office to suppress voters who disagree with them. Voter suppression is rampant in many states who make it difficult for certain populations to vote through policies that close polling stations and reduce eligibility. Also, through gerrymandering, they redraw congressional districts to carve out regions that they know would vote against them to make sure they cannot be voted out. We should not have citizens of this country prevented from voting in elections because of the state they live in and those in office should not have the power to quiet dissenting voices. We need standardized voting procedures that maximize voter turnout and representation across the country.

 

Every eligible citizen should exercise their right to vote and to make that happen I will work for the following reforms:


Open Primaries

Partisanship hurts democracy and you should not have to be part of a political party to participate the process of selecting who your candidates are.


All primaries on the same day

I believe primaries should be like general elections. The same day for every state. It is not fair that a handful of states who vote early determine nominees. 


Ranked Choice Voting

Voters rank the candidates they prefer. The candidate with fewest votes is removed, and their votes are redistributed based on those voters' second choice until someone has a majority. This requires candidates to seek support from opponent’s supports and this will work to undo the deep partisan rifts in this country.


Fair Districting

Gerrymandering has redrawn districts to deepen partisan divide and needs to be challenged and remedied in states so that a 3rd party can draw proportional lines that are not biased towards political parties and reflect actual community boundaries. As seen in North Carolina 50% of the vote should not result in 70% of the representation.


Undoing Voter Suppression

Increasing all voting options including automatic registration, online registration, Vote By Mail, polling locations, and early voting. Many States have limited or have removed these policies to consolidate their control and it is unacceptable.


Election Day as a National Holiday and Guaranteed Time Off to Vote

No one should miss their chance to vote because they have to work or go to school.


Restoring Voting Rights

Numerous states deny the right to vote to felons in and out of prison. Whether you have been incarcerated or not, every American should have the right to vote and disenfranchising millions of Americans, especially those minorities who have been overly incarcerated. This is especially problematic because as a nation we have the largest prison population in the world. How can we call ourselves a democracy when so many citizens are denied the right to vote even after they complete their sentences?


Voter ID

Voter ID has been instituted in numerous states under the guise of fighting voter fraud but with the intention to suppress dissenting votes by making them exceedingly difficult to acquire by minority communities. I do believe in having Voter ID and have been made aware of attempts to commit voter fraud. If voter ID is instituted, identification proof should be made available at no charge.