Hey America, Can We Talk About Electoral Dysfunction?


BY JONATHAN VALANIA FOR PHILLY POST Dear, U.S.A. I’d like to talk to you about E.D. — Electoral Dysfunction. I know it’s embarrassing and you like to pretend it never happened after every time it does, but I’m here to tell you it doesn’t have to be like this. These days there are over-the-counter remedies — admittedly, some may cause an election that lasts longer than three hours. But that’s a good thing. Unless your name is Dick Scott or Jon Husted.

Before we get into it, I want to take a moment to congratulate you for once again making history by electing your second black president. I am fairly certain history will smile upon this choice. But let’s be clear: Barack Obama wasn’t re-elected Tuesday night by the American electoral system, he was re-elected despite it.

We seem to only think about the electoral system for one day every four years, i.e. the day we vote, and when that day passes and a winner has been declared it’s out of sight out of mind. It’s like Groundhog Day with dangling chads. Every four years, like clockwork, we are shocked and appalled at how fragile, incompetent, and prone to breakdowns our system for choosing our leaders has become. If our electoral system was a car, we would have traded up decades ago.

So before we go any further let’s replay some scenes from Tuesday: voters waiting eight hours in line to vote in Florida; voting machines in Pennslyvania that recorded every vote for Obama as a vote for Mitt Romney; voters turning up at the polling place where they’ve pulled the lever in election after election only to discover they have been purged from the list of eligible voters; storm-ravaged voters huddled in darkened tents conducting the primary transaction of democracy in the dim beam of a cop’s flashlight. This is unacceptable. This is how banana republics hold elections, not the standard-bearer of modern liberal democracy.

Which is why I am calling on the president of the United States to immediately appoint a blue ribbon commission to diagnose the systemic dysfunction of the American electoral process and carefully consider the following remedies:

1. Get rid of the electoral college. It has outlived it’s usefulness as a quaint totem of federalism. It warps our democracy and reduces nationwide elections to a series of seven or eight battleground states, so that the president of a nation of 300 million is chosen by a fraction of its citizenry. Let every vote count and let We The People be the decider. All the people.

2. Professionalize the voting process. Sure, we all find it cutely Rockwellian that the democratic process of the most powerful nation on Earth is administered by the Lunch Lady Doris and her emphysemic blue-haired gal pals, but it’s become patently obvious they are no longer up to the task. When the election has been decided before people who have waited eight hours in line have had a chance to vote, it’s time for a federal standard for elections administered by well-trained professionals.

3. Remove all partisanship from the administration of elections. Simply put it warps the process because how could it not? In 2004, Ohio was, much like this year, the decider. That year Ken Blackwell, the Ohio secretary of state — the Buckeye state’s chief election officer — was also the co-chairman of George W. Bush’s Ohio campaign. Despite exit polls that strongly favored Kerry, not to mention an inordinate number of irregularities, Blackwell’s guy won Ohio, and with it the whole enchilada. That’s the equivalent of a NFL ref scoring the Super Bowl-winning touchdown. MORE