Voting Rights in the U.S.

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[edit] Collaborative-UNICE: Voting Rights in the U.S.

[edit] Problems:

Summary: There are a wide range of impediments to fair elections, held in place by antiquated, or purposefully inequitable policies.

1. “Winner-take-all” and “first-past-the-post” are terms for the undemocratic plurality voting system passed down from Great Britain to its former colonies. Combined with the presidential system, it forces voters to choose between two factions of a ruling elite, doesn’t require a majority winner, and makes spoilers out of all who dare challenge it. [2]

2. The Electoral College is an inherently undemocratic compromise made to appease slave states at the Constitutional Convention in 1787. It does not allow voters to directly choose their president, warps campaigns by causing candidates to focus on swing states to the exclusion of others, distorts governance, helps suppress parties outside the two-party duopoly, creates spoilers, and does not allow representation according to population, just to name a few of the worst effects.[3] [4]

3. Private money corrupts elections and government: Politicians spend much, if not most, of their their time begging for money,[5] and thinking of ways to serve their corporate masters, all the while distracting the people with war-making, and emotional, religious or nationalistic appeals. Members of Congress spend 2-3 years raising money before they run for office and then spend 3 out of 5 days a week raising money thereafter. Private campaign spending creates a mud-slinging media circus among disreputable candidates who are forced to sell out to become part of the show. [6]

4. Corruption Perception Index: According to Transparency International, in 2016 (even before the inauguration of President Trump), the U.S. ranked 18th on the Corruption Perception Index,[7] mostly due to issues related to its electoral system and the politicians produced by it.[8] Estimates on the average “return on investment” for money spent on lobbying and political campaigns range between 600% and 22,000%.[9]

5. Freedom of speech is abridged: According to Reporters Without Borders, the U.S. ranked 49th in world press freedom rankings, behind such countries as Niger, Burkino Faso and Botswana.[10] [11] Privately-owned media receives huge benefits from campaign advertising, and tends to “sell wars, spin elections, and destroy democracy.”[12] Investigative journalism is expendable because it’s not profitable. Big media is so unconcerned about this that it took Comedy Central’s The Daily Show to report that CNN has eliminated its investigative news department.[13]

6. Influence peddling/revolving door: 100,000 paid lobbyists feast like fleas on the body politic in service to themselves and their masters, many of whom are outside the country.[14] Representative-turned-lobbyist Billy Tauzin was paid $11.5 million in 2010 to lobby for the drug industry. [15] The Loeffler Group, headed by former Texas congressman Tom Loeffler, was paid $10.5 million and Qorvis Communications received $60.3 million lobbying for the Saudi government over ten years. [16]

7. Gerrymandering in single-member districts: Gerrymandering in single member congressional districts, distorts election results. [17]

8. Electoral fraud: In many cases, votes are not counted or stolen. Voters are discouraged, restricted or otherwise kept from voting. [18]

9. Felons and ex-felons are denied voting rights, which interferes with rehabilitation, disproportionately affects blacks and minorities, and is harmful to society.[19]

10. Voter apathy and disgust: Around 60% of eligible voters are presumably so disgusted by some combination of all of the above, they don’t bother to vote, and the other 40% has to choose between the lesser of two evils in single member elections. Turnout of age-eligible citizens in statewide primaries is even worse, averaging less than 15% in 25 statewide primaries in 2014.[20] All three branches of government were at record low approval ratings in June 2014, with the presidency and the supreme court at 29% and 30%, respectively, and Congress at 7%.[21]

[edit] Solutions:

1. Replace winner-take-all with ranked choice voting in single-member elections: Voters would rank candidates in order of preference instead of voting for a single candidate, thus eliminating “spoiled” votes and allowing votes to be transferred for a majority winner and better representation.[22]

2. Create multi-member congressional districts: Replace gerrymandered, single-member congressional districts with larger multi-member districts with proportional representation and ranked choice voting. Virtually everyone would be represented in every district instead of very low representation with the current system.[23]

3. Abolish the Electoral College and replace it with direct, ranked choice voting in presidential elections.[24]

4. Ban private money from electoral politics: Replace with publicly financed, highly-regulated campaigns. Create standardized candidate profiles online, requiring all candidates to provide everything voters should know. All citizens without the internet should be provided with online access and instructed in its use through public libraries. Provide ranked-choice pre-voting of candidates so voters can winnow the field in preparation for publicly funded debates and other access to the candidates.[25]

5. Discourage influence peddling: No person or other entity may offer any politician a bribe, perks, meals, travel, donation, or any other personal incentive. Payments to lobbyists should be so minimal and regulated that it would effectively end the corrupting influence of paid lobbyists and the revolving door in politics. In accordance with the First Amendment, the right to petition the government for redress of grievances, there should be created an easily accessible and free petition process (like UNICE) for citizens and corporations to make their wishes known.[26] [27]

6. Protect voting rights: No citizen should be denied voting rights, including felons or ex-felons. If the aim of incarceration is about rehabilitation and helping people to rethink their relation to society, then denying voting rights is punitive and has no benefit to society. It also disproportionately affects blacks and minorities. [28]

7. Compulsory Voting: All eligible voters should be required to vote in order to: 1. better represent the will of the people; 2. help eliminate the focus on swing voters and; 3. to increase civic engagement. Binding "none-of-the above" choices, and blank spaces are allowed to circumvent any free speech objections.[29] A complaint section should also be included on the ballots for direct input by voters. Those of sound mind who do not vote would be subject to fines or community service. Voting day should be a public holiday.

8. A Voting Rights Amendment would resolve all of these issues. (See Wiki-UNICE topic: [Proposed Voting Rights Amendment])

[edit] References

  1. The author of the first version of this collaborate topic seed topic, “Voting Rights in the U.S.,” is Michael E. Arth, 2-15-15, released under CC license with attribution at This topic was adapted from his book, Democracy and the Common Wealth: Breaking the Stranglehold of the Special Interests. Anyone may edit this version, subject to the Wikipedia and Wiki-UNICE guidelines
  2. Arth, Michael E., Democracy and the Common Wealth: Breaking the Stranglehold of the Special Interests. Chapter 15: “Replace Winner-Take-All,” Golden Apples Media, 2010. pp. 108-117.
  3. Edwards III, George C. “Five myths about the Electoral College.” The Washington Post, November 2, 2012.
  4. Brodarick, Taylor, “It’s time to abolish The Electoral College,” Forbes, November 4, 2012.
  5. Carlson, Margaret "Book review: Harvard law professor Lawrence Lessig offers plan to smash culture of money in politics". Bloomberg News, Chicago Tribune. December 26, 2011 Retrieved 2-15-15.
  6. Arth, Michael E., Democracy and the Common Wealth, Chapter 6: “Take Money Out of Politics,” Golden Apples Media, 2010. pp. 76-85.
  7. Transparency International, “Corruption Perceptions Index 2016,”
  8. Transparency International, Corruption in the U.S.,
  9. Lessig, Lawrence. Republic, Lost: How Money Corrupts Congress -- and a Plan to Stop It., Twelve, 2011, p.117. ISBN 978-0-446-57643-7.
  10. Greenwald, Glenn, “U.S. drops to 49th in world press freedom rankings worst since Obama became president,” The Intercept, Feb. 12, 2015, [1]
  11. Reporters Without Borders, 2015 World Press Freedom Index:!/index-details
  12. McChesney, Robert W, and John Nichols, Tragedy and Farce: How the American Media Sell Wars, Spin Elections, and Destroy Democracy, 2005
  13. The Daily Show, “Investigating Investigative Journalism”
  14. Lee Fang, March 10, 2014, The Nation, Where Have All the Lobbyists Gone? On paper, the influence-peddling business is drying up. But lobbying money is flooding into Washington, DC, like never before. What’s going on?, Accessed March 21, 2014
  15. THOMAS B. EDSALL (12-18-2011). "The Trouble With That Revolving Door". The New York Times. December 18, 2011
  16. Goldberg, Jeffrey, "Fact-Checking Stephen Walt," The Atlantic, December 8, 2010
  17. Mattingly, Johnathan C, and Christy Vaughn, “Redistricting and the Will of the People, Cornell University, October 29, 2014 arXiv:1410.8796
  18. Campbell, Tracy, Deliver the Vote: A History of Election Fraud, An American Political Tradition, 1742-2004, Carroll & Graf, 2006 ISBN-13:978-0-78671-591-6
  19. Felon Voting, pros and cons.
  20. Camia, Catalina, “Study: Voter apathy could mean record-low turnout in some states.” USA Today Politics, quoting the results of a study by the Center for the Study of the American Electorate. July 21, 2014.
  21. McCarthy, Justin, “Americans losing confidence in all branches of U.S. Gov’t,” Gallup. June 30, 2014.
  22. Arth, Michael E., Democracy and the Common Wealth, Chapter 15: “Replace Winner-Take-All,” Golden Apples Media, 2010. pp. 108-117
  23. Arth, Michael E., Democracy and the Common Wealth, Chapter 15: “Replace Winner-Take-All,” Golden Apples Media, 2010. pp. 108-117
  24. Black, Eric, “10 reasons why the Electoral College is a problem,” MinnPost, October 16, 2012
  25. Arth, Michael E., Democracy and the Common Wealth, Chapter 6: “Take Money Out of Politics,” Golden Apples Media, 2010. pp. 76-85
  26. “Should lobbying be banned from politics?”
  27. Arth, Michael E., Democracy and the Common Wealth, Chapter 6: “Take Money Out of Politics,” Golden Apples Media, 2010. pp. 81-82
  28. "Felon Voting, pros and cons,"
  29. Waleed, Aly "Voting Should be Mandatory," New York Times, January 16, 2017,
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