Web Letters | The Nation

Plurality voting

This article completely ignores the most fundamental breakage: the plurality voting system. Until that is replaced with something like Instant Runoff or Approval voting, nothing else will change.

Alan Batie

Corvallis, OR

Feb 23 2014 - 2:08pm

US elections: not the way the rest of the world does it!

It’s a rainbow with only red and blue (and purple). It’s a black and white (and gray) television picture. It’s multiculturalism with just two cultures represented. It’s an ice cream shop with only vanilla and strawberry (I like them both, but where’s the… chocolate, for God’s sakes!). It’s a highway full of two-toned automobiles. It’s either Bush or Clinton.

This project should have begun twenty, thirty years ago, but here we are. Make the best of it, please. El Salvador is going to the second round of its presidential elections because the leading candidate received only 49 percent of the total vote, and 50 percent is required!

Pete Healey

New Paltz, NY

Feb 11 2014 - 7:23am

Expand Congress and its power

One approach within the current constitution would be to vastly expand Congress. You can read about one such idea here  or in the book discussed there. Even if that did serve to reinvigorate democracy to some extent, it would have to go hand in hand with some cultural shift to return to the rule of law and a turn away from the cult of the presidency: fewer executive orders, a more literal reading of the constitution (accompanied by the courage to amend it) with a more assertive Congress (especially on oversight of security and defense issues, etc.).

Mark Hatlie

Feb 8 2014 - 5:58am

End gerrymandering shenanigans

Voter fraud it appears more commonly occurs as a result of rigging the rules by election authorities or rule makers than from individual acts by voters. One example of this is the practice of gerrymandering.

The Problem. The American Constitution neither provides for nor prohibits gerrymandering, the practice of creating congressional districts by artfully tailoring the boundaries of a district for partisan advantage. Gerrymandering amounts to rigging the outcome of the election. State legislatures draw the boundaries for the federal congressional districts from which the United States House of Representatives is selected. In doing this the majority party in both houses of a state legislature makes sure the newly drawn district includes more voters favorable to their party than to their opponents in drawing the electoral district lines.

The Solution. There may be a solution to this problem that can be achieved legislatively and without the need for a constitutional amendment. The Constitution does not require single-member congressional districts. The only constitutional requirement for congressional representation, quoting the Constitution, Article I, section 2, is that representatives “shall be apportioned among the several States which may be included within this Union, according to their [the states'] respective Numbers”—in other words, according to the population. The language is specific as to whom is counted. It says that this number “shall be determined by adding to the whole Number of free Persons, including those bound to Service for a Term of years [indentured servants], and excluding Indians not taxed, [and] three fifths of all other Persons.” The three-fifths reference is to those persons then held as slaves. The census presumably gives the total of all persons. For the sake of counting persons, “free persons” refers to residents and not citizens. Still, today only citizens can vote.

Accordingly, the idea is simply to eliminate congressional district boundaries within the states as the final boundaries for representation in the House of Representatives by federal legislation and have the popular vote represented proportionally in congress on a state-wide basis. Such a solution would not be proportional representation, strictly speaking, but it would be in some sense more proportional. For example, if a state is entitled to eighteen members of Congress, let each party have a representation in exact proportion to the popular vote for that office in the state. If the popular vote for congress is 60 percent Republican and 40 percent Democratic, then congressional representation of the eighteen members from that state would reflect that vote. In the example given, this would mean the Republicans would receive eleven congressman and the Democrats would receive seven. If the results of the popular vote were reversed in the example the Democrats would get the eleven and the Republicans would get seven. Each party could submit a slate of eighteen candidates for Congress (the number used in the example), perhaps following district primaries, and the top statewide individual vote-winners would be seated before those receiving fewer votes, with the winning party's total representation not to exceed nor be less than their share of the popular vote state wide, as nearly as is numerically possible.

Also, for the presidency, eliminate the electoral college.

Richard W. Crockett

Monmouth, IL

Feb 7 2014 - 1:34pm

Cheery prospects

Political scientists and historians agree that our election system is insoluble short of a complete revamping of our form of government, i.e., by initiating a constitutional convention and establishing a parliamentary form of government. Such would eliminate our broken and non-representative bipartite system, with its corruptible Electoral College, and, probably, result in some sort of coup. The latter probability is high, as our current form has incurred a madhouse of divisiveness that is as unlikely to establish a healthy, representative system as are Iraq or Afghanistan. Accepting that, one can only project a takeover by either the extreme right, as powered by the wealthy and driven to rule at any cost, the military, given their extant position of military governance of the world, or some combination of these. With their increasing belligerence, our Chinese creditors may even elect to foreclose.

Charles Riley

Tucson, AZ

Feb 6 2014 - 5:35pm

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