Midnight Thought on Electoral Reform

This is the Burning the Midnight Oil Midnight Thought for tonight … which will be found in Burning the Midnight Oil for Electoral Reform … but not until later tonight (Monday).

Posted here because … well, Docudharma blogs the future. Yeah, normally further ahead in the future than three or four hours, but if I didn’t already have this part in the draft diary queue, ready to go, I’d have no idea what I was going to say.

And, yes, the two most important parts of the Midnight Oil are, first, the commentary that follows and, second, the diary roll, so what I’m giving you here is a Bronze Medal at best … but thems the hazards. I haven’t finished the diary roll yet, because I am still reading diaries, and I have no idea what direction the commentary is going to take. Third Place is the only part of the future I can see with any clarity.





Midnight Thought

Is the present mess any worse than a National Primary, dominated by 30 second sound byte ads and providing a revenue windfall to television networks, both broadcast and narrowcast, and raising the hurdle for a grass roots popular campaign even higher than they are now?

Well, heck, I don’t know. The present mess is pretty bad but … all in all, given the example that jumping up to the first Tuesday open date on the calendar does not, in fact, make you decisive, and given the example that breaking the rules agreed to by the state parties working together under the auspices of the National Democratic Committee is not the high road to massive influence …

… it seems like we – we, here, means both the body politic in general and progressive populists in particular – would really would end up better off running the the next Open Primary under the current mess than as a National Primary.

So, no, I don’t think that the present mess would be improved by a Mess Media Dominated National Primary (and I am not copyrighting that phrase … I’m releasing it into the Public Domain, so feel free to use it anywhere and everywhere without bothering with attribution … but do attribute it if you are running for President and making a speech … you don’t want to pull a Biden, after all).

But, just because a Mess Media Dominated National Primary is teh suck, doesn’t mean the present mess is the best we can do. Oh, no, there’s plenty we could do better.

And fighting for electoral improvement is, after all, an old Progressive Populist fight.

The National Primary Calendar

First, we can only put this rule into place the year after a Democratic President is elected, because otherwise nobody would dare aggrevate Iowa and New Hampshire.

  • March: the smallest ten states may hold their primary
  • April: the smallest twenty five states may hold their primary
  • May: the smallest forty states may hold their primary
  • June: all fifty states must have held their primary by the end of June

Territories and Districts of Columbias are allocated with the smallest state in the system with a larger population.

No presidential caucuses. A caucus is a reasonable way for a private organization to determine delegates to a convention to make decision, including electing delegates to a higher level convention … but the Two Main Parties are by no means just private organizations. The Two Parties benefit from substantial legal support and government electoral support for a Two Party System. Disenfranchising someone from voting for the nominee of their choice in the party of their choice because they are working a late shift … that flies in the face of progressive populist principles.

And, yes, caucuses in some states, and Iowa in particular, have been effective party building exercises, but we do have to put the rights of populace ahead of partisan political interest, if we are progressive populists.

And, yes, certainly if a party chooses to have caucuses for other purposes, they may do so, and if they choose to have it at the same day as Primary day in their state, they may do so, and if they choose to have hold each caucus at a location convenient to a Primary polling station, so that people may vote in the primary on their way into the caucus, they may do so … but its gotta be a Primary.

No Disenfranchising Marginal Candidates

Allocation of delegates may follow some complex mix of congressional district and statewide proportional allocation … as at present. However, if there is any threshold rule in effect, then there must be Optional Second Preference Voting (OAC Archive post).

Under this system, in addition to voting for their first preference, any voter may also cast a vote for their second preference. If their first preference is eliminated under the threshold rule … or indeed, just because of the way that rounding works in the proportional allocation of delegates … then their second preference vote is counted.

This can be done the hard way, or the easy way. This proposal is to do it the easy way. Apply the threshold, those under the bar are eliminated, and any of their second preference votes for those originally over the bar are added to the total.

This eliminates the whole “how can you throw away your vote” appeals, and allows everyone to cast their first vote for the candidate they wish to be nominated … and also, their second preference vote either for the candidate that is second in their estimation, or if they wish the “top tier” candidate they dislike the least.

Is that it?

Oh, good lord, how could I write a Midnight Thought on Electoral Reform and completely omit Edwards’ Platform?

All votes must be paper ballots, filled out by the voter’s action, and that ballot is the official vote for purposes of auditing and recounts.

And, yes, if the vote is filled in by touchscreen in support of voters who cannot vote by pen and paper, the touchscreen machine prints out the filled in ballot which the voter can inspect before inserting it in the ballot box.

My personal preference would go further, all the way to a normal democracy that counts its ballots by hand in the presence of scrutineers, but I’m not going to press on that point at the outset. However, a paper ballot, the direct result of the voter’s action, as the formal record of the vote … that is not negotiable.

Is that it?

Yup, that’s it. Waddya think?

One Country (1990)

Who wants to please everyone,

who says it all can be done

Still sit up on that fence,

no-one I’ve heard of yet

Don’t call me baby,

Don’t talk in maybes

Don’t talk like has-beens,

Sing it like it should be

Who laughs at the nagging doubt,

Lying on a neon shroud

Just gotta touch someone,

I want to be

So don’t call,


the tune,

I will walk away

OK, so I lied, the Midnight Thought is the fourth most important part. But you got the Bronze Medal anyway, so waddya complaining for?


    • BruceMcF on February 19, 2008 at 02:09

    … generate a good commentary thread of your own.

    Just more are likely to turn up to the Midnight Oil bar and grill.

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