We can do so much better. It isnt that were about to nominate the
wrong candidates, though that is always a distinct possibility. Its
more that the entire election process could be a lot better with a few
minor improvements. For example:
It would be helpful if people actually voted. Primary election
turnouts in Michigan and around the country are embarrassing. If past
trends hold true, significantly less than half of Michigans voters
will bother to vote Tuesday. The farther down the ballot we travel,
the fewer votes will be cast. In some primary elections with more than
two candidates in each party, victory can be had for less than 20% of
registered voters. Thats obscene and not what the Founders had in
Quick now, explain all the good things partisanship has brought us in
the last few years. Exactly. Political parties are an anachronism
whose time has come and long since gone.
Individual candidates can easily articulate positions, liberal or
conservative or anywhere in between, without slapping an R or D after
their names. Those who cannot campaign without the pitiful crutch of a
party platform should never run for office. Voters are perfectly
capable of making decisions based on actual issues instead of party
The ugliness of partisanship is now in full view in Washington, D.C.
despite our best efforts to shield our eyes from it. Non-partisan
elections will help us at least start to cleanse the putrid stench
that now emanates from both Lansing and Washington.
There is something out there known as a third-party independent
campaign in which some group or groups not tied directly to a
particular candidate nevertheless run commercials or send out direct
mail advocating the election of that candidate. The disclaimers
inevitably indicate the advocacy has been paid for by some group with
a clever name like Americans for Righteousness and Decency or
Citizens Who Love Their Mothers or The Committee to Tell You How to
Voters have absolutely no clue who the hell those groups are or who
contributed the money that allows them to be on the air or in our
mailboxes. Its shadow campaigning and for all we know the funding has
been provided by shadowy folks.
Getting involved in elections is a good thing. But if its unions or a
handful of rich people or some business interests buying the ads, we
should know. The disclaimers should provide that information by
including the names of the groups or individuals who provide the major
funding. The disclaimers should be big enough to be easily read and,
in the case of television commercials, on screen long enough for us to
actually read them.
There are now 28 states that offer voters a vote-by-mail option for
most or all elections. Unfortunately, Michigan is stuck in the middle
of the 20th century with an old-fashioned absentee ballot system.
Vote-by-mail is as simple as it sounds voters request ballots (some
states now provide voters the opportunity to be on a permanent
vote-by-mail list), they are mailed to voters, typically two to four
weeks before a given election, and voters fill them out and return
them, by mail, prior to election day.
Signature cards are required and must be checked by election officials
when ballots are mailed in. Ballots are secured and counting is
completed on the same kind of machines used at the polls. This is
especially easy with optical scanning ballots and machines.
There has been no greater incidence of fraud with vote-by-mail
programs than with poll voting, it increases turn-out, gives voters
the opportunity to study ballots as campaigns progress and actually
saves money in the long run. And it eliminates almost every excuse
for not voting.
Fewer numbskull candidates
I confess this is a suggestion with little hope of coming to fruition.
Generally, those willing to put their name on the ballot should be
admired and praised. Few voters understand how incredibly difficult
it is to run for public office or the level of real commitment
But, come on. Both major parties have fielded candidates this year,
both here and around the country, who talk as if they graduated from
the University of Perpetual and Terminal Nincompoopery.
Here in Michigan, specificity left the building months ago and is now
incognito. Those constantly suggesting less government and lower
taxes should tell us exactly what level of government is appropriate
and exactly how low taxes should be. And for all the job growers out
there, someone should give us the specifics on how they intend to do
that. And specific specifics not platitudinous specifics. On the other
side, if were going to help teachers and save services and repair the
infrastructure someone might explain specifically how were going to
pay for all that.
No moment is more important for us than an election. Our future is
quite literally dependent on the outcome. Michigan needs to improve
the process if we really want to improve the results.