American Voting Is Not Very Democratic -- In Fact, It's Pretty Damn Weird

America, We Need To Revise Our Voting System As Soon As Possible

July 24, 2020 Updated July 27, 2020

American-Voting-Is-Not-Very-Democratic-1
Scary Mommy and Shana Novak/Getty

The United States of America holds itself up as a bastion of freedom and democracy, and yet, we have kind of a weird voting system that excludes candidates and actually isn’t very democratic at all.

Starting with:

Voter registration isn’t automatic.

If the right to vote is one of our most sacred, cherished rights as Americans, why isn’t every American automatically registered to vote when they turn 18? We automatically register every working American to pay into social security even though the right to receive social security is not guaranteed in the U.S. constitution, nor in any amendment, nor anywhere else.

Voting rights, on the other hand, are guaranteed by U.S. constitutional amendments. If it’s a guaranteed right, voting registration should be automatic. Some countries, like Sweden, Iceland, Denmark, Belgium, and Germany, automatically register their citizens to vote and have a far higher voter turnout than we do in the U.S.  Here in the U.S., registering to vote is often complicated, time-consuming, and not even standardized across states.

The electoral college gives disproportionate say to majority-white rural areas and silences the voices of the true majority.

I empathize with some people’s reluctance to have progressive city dwellers on the densely-packed coast decide how things go for all the conservative folks in the rural middle. But when a candidate can win the popular vote by 2.9 million votes and still lose the election based on the electoral college, it’s safe to say some adjustment is in order. 2.9 million votes. That was the amount by which Hillary Clinton beat Trump in 2016 in the popular vote. An entire two percent more of the 2016 voter turnout chose Clinton, and yet we’re stuck with this flaming sack of yak shit grinding the country into the ground.

In reality, the majority of Americans—58%—are in favor of doing away with the electoral college. I bet you can guess which political party wants to keep it though.

In some states, convicted criminals still can’t vote.

The attempt to prevent those with a felony record from voting is purely a political move by those who have calculated that felons would not share their voting interests. Criminals are being governed, whether they are incarcerated or not. As such, they should be able to participate in the process of choosing who governs them.

Primaries are weird and dumb.

The democratic presidential primaries begin in February with a single, low-population state—Iowa—and then very slowly inch across the country in seemingly random order, starting with New Hampshire, Nevada, and South Carolina. Then comes super Tuesday, so called because a whole bunch of states hold primaries all at once. Eventually, the rest of the states take their sweet time limping in with their primaries all the way through July. Isn’t this weird? My candidate, Elizabeth Warren, had huge support across the country, but because she didn’t do well on Super Tuesday, she dropped out of running. But only 15 states had completed their primaries—how is that a complete picture? Why doesn’t every state have primaries at once? Or why not have the top three of any party run at once and then apply a system of ranked choice voting?

Voter ID laws disenfranchise the economically disadvantaged.

American Voting Is Not Very Democratic -- In Fact, It's Pretty Damn Weird
Element5 Digital/Pexels

Voter ID laws are seen by the left as discriminatory against those who don’t have access to proper IDs, while conservatives generally maintain that allowing people to vote without ID opens the door to voter fraud.

So, I’m trying to picture what in-person voter fraud would look like. A person would need a collection of names of people that they were certain, first, were not showing up to vote, and second, had not voted early or via mail-in ballots. These people would all need to be the same gender and roughly the same age, and, depending on how much information is recorded at the time of voting, the same race.

Once the fraudster has decided on whom they intend to impersonate, they would then need to spend the day driving around to as many voting precincts as possible. How many could a person reasonably hit in a day? Where I live, accounting for traffic, distance between locations, and wait times, I estimate I’d max out at six. On top of all of this, the fraudster would have to keep all of this secret, which would be tricky because in order to be sure you don’t duplicate a vote, you’d have to somehow verify with the people you’re impersonating that they definitely aren’t voting. This would be a tough secret to keep, and foolish, since voter fraud is a felony with huge penalties. And a coordinated effort of mass in-person fraud thanks to polling locations not requiring ID? Sure, Jan. How about we just let people vote and stop pretending in-person voter fraud is a thing, when it’s fucking not.

Running for president is reserved for the rich.

Bill Clinton only made $35,000 per year as governor of Arkansas when he became the democratic nominee, but that was a huge anomaly, and likely couldn’t be repeated today. Wealth means access to other wealthy people who can donate and support and use their connections to get a person the visibility they need to be a serious candidate. I don’t know how to fix this, I just know it’s classist AF and not democratic.

Voting day isn’t a national holiday.

We hold elections in the middle of the freaking work week, for Pete’s sake. It’s our normal, so many of us neglect to examine how weird this is, but, hello, it’s fucking weird and discriminatory. Early voting and vote-by-mail helps, but making voting day a national holiday would not only ensure everyone who wants to vote, can, but it would also be a way to acknowledge and celebrate on an appropriately grand scale this important democratic right.

We. Still. Allow. Gerrymandering.

Gerrymandering isn’t democratic.

Another Option: Ranked Choice Voting

When it comes to voting, we’ve normalized a winner-takes-all mindset. Of course, winner-takes-all is a very American idea, which is ironic since we Americans pride ourselves on how supposedly democratic we are even though winner-takes-all is a capitalist or authoritarian or dictatorial idea.

The reality is, our two-party, single-candidate-per-party, single-vote-per-person system is fucking weird and binary and totally lacking in nuance. It forces voters to choose based on strategy rather than preference. How many people said they loved Elizabeth Warren but didn’t vote for her because, for whatever reason (she’s a woman was the dominating one I saw), they worried she might not be able to defeat Trump? Was Biden anyone’s true first choice? He’s a gazillion times better of an option than our current dumpster fire of a president, and the only other realistically viable option, so I’ll vote for him. But he wasn’t my first choice. Cue another flood of Jorgensen supporters sending me hate mail calling me a c*nt and telling me to die. That was awesome for my mental health last week.

Anyway. With ranked choice, voters pick their first choice but also select backup candidates. If a single candidate gets more than 50% of the vote in the first round, they win. If not, the candidate with the least votes in the first round is eliminated, and the second choices of the voters whose first choice was the eliminated candidate are then counted and added to the votes of the first round winners. And so on and so forth until a candidate finally wins more than 50% of the votes.

I don’t have all the answers. I just think we need to examine our system and question the equity and fairness of it, and if necessary, revise it. Other countries regularly revise their systems, and it strengthens their democracy and citizen faith in government. Any true democracy should proportionately represent its population and merit the trust of its citizens. The American wealth-driven, gerrymandered, discriminatory, winner-takes-all system doesn’t.