Anytime someone offers a series of ideas for fixing anything, they set themselves up for disagreement and ridicule. But that shouldn’t stop the exchange of ideas on how we might improve our elections, should it? It’s so important, I decided to take that chance and trust the public will be gentle.
On Ballots and Booths
A while ago, KING 5 ran a story on the U.S. Postal Service and how mail is being stolen out of people’s boxes right in front of their homes. When coupled with the plague of identity theft, this again calls into serious question the security of our mail-in ballots and the integrity of our election system.
What people need to know is the Postal Service has no legal requirement to notify a voter that their ballot was late, damaged, lost, not counted, stolen, missing or anything else once that ballot enters a person’s mailbox. Mail carriers are not certified ballot handlers and should not have been required to do this massive job.
Meanwhile, our county auditor, secretary of state and others continue to advocate for mandatory all-mail balloting. But many want to deliver their ballots themselves and for good reason.
One solution could be certified precinct workers who take a CPR-type training class and would be accountable to the county auditors for their ballots and their polling site. Party members should not have this oversight responsibility. Another solution could be every city should have a minimum of one ballot location for every 10,000 population. That means there would be a minimum of one in Sumner, one in South Prairie, four in Auburn and two in Bonney Lake. No one should take this right of ballot security away from the people.
On Ranked Choice Voting
Now that we’ve seen RCV in action, the main reason we should dump it is our having to endure four candidates who each ran five-month elections all the way to Nov. 4. No one can make full sense, or give an understandable explanation of the numbers and how the mathematical algorithms are calculated… and recalculated… and the re-counting goes on.
With RCV, there is also no limit to the number of candidates with made-up party names that can be on the ballot. It could be eight next time, or more. That means several candidates running full-length campaigns, with all their mailers, yard signs, TV commercials and pamphlet information right up to the end. Then, after all that, multiple recounts of 300,000 ballots to recalculate the second and third choices for several candidates lasting into December? Is that the chaos, clutter and confusion we all want? I didn’t think so.
Due to our justified backlash against the “pick-a-party” primary, RCV was the best option we had in 2006. All we wanted was open and free elections for the candidates (and parties) of our choice. While I don’t think we necessarily made a mistake with the information we had at the time, we now have better options since the U.S. Supreme Court approved our top-two primary.
That ruling has made RCV a moot point and a costly experiment we should now move past. The top-two primary is the best solution because Americans understand its fairness and freedom. It’s like the NFL playoffs where anyone can run and the two winners advance to the final round. Everyone gets it. It could be two Democrats, two Republicans or two anything. Fair and simple.
On Primaries and
There has always been a better solution to voter turnout, accessibility and convenience than the mandatory expansion of “absentee ballots.” Why not early drop off at those secure booths starting Nov. 1 and all-day Saturday voting from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on election day?
The traditional first Tuesday in November is outdated in our modern society. The first Saturday in November would work so much better because we’d all be able to get there without the big hassle with work, schedules and traffic. We could go with our families and our children could learn something from the experience.
While we’re at it, the opening and closing of the polls could be time-zone specific so that balloting is simultaneous nationwide. For example, polls could be open on the east coast from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. while the west coast is open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. This way, free speech and media advocates wouldn’t be hindered but exit polling and early results wouldn’t influence the voters in later time zones – like ours.
Another problem is the length of the campaigns and the “creep-effect” of earlier and earlier primary states trying to be first. A solution could be no campaigning starting until Jan. 1 of that election year. We could then have 10 regional primaries (five states per region) on a schedule from May to July to conclude in time for the conventions in August.
This is how it could work. If the northwestern region of five states (Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana and Alaska) had the first primary in 2012, we would rotate to the end of the line of the 10 primaries the next time around in 2016. If the Great Lakes region was second (Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio), they’d be first in 2016 and the turns would rotate accordingly.
That means every region would have a turn at being the first primary every 40 years. For tradition’s sake, we could let the New Hampshire, Maine, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut region go first and the Iowa, Nebraska, South Dakota, North Dakota and Wyoming region could go second to initiate the cycle. This preserves tradition and streamlines the process at the same time.
A political action committee or any other foreign or domestic organization, should not be able to donate more money to a candidate than a private individual.
Most people understand the freedoms of association and speech the courts have addressed in the past several years, but there has to be a balance that doesn’t allow organizations to have more influence on a candidate than the voters.
If domestic organizations, including parties, want to spend their own money on advertising without breaking the “equal donation rule” then it’s free speech and we shouldn’t do anything to stop it. But that doesn’t stop us from taking notes on who they are and what they say.
I appreciate the opportunity to share these ideas with the public and thank The Courier-Herald for allowing citizens to speak in this public forum. My hope for our country is that we consider all ideas regardless of the presumed ideology of our neighbors. My hope for future generations is that we use our time to have a dialogue with solutions in mind.
Our time is now.
Matthew Richardson is a councilman for the city of Sumner.