Let's face it, the two party system is outdated. In the past, it helped to narrow down the issues into two distinct decisions. In a time when even the most important news took weeks or even months to get to the rest of the country, deep analysis of candidates was difficult. Today, however, news and analysis are instant, thorough, and can get rediculous. If one so desires, or not, they can know everything there is to know about the candidates involved in an election, which is why I believe the American people and the media can handle more candidates, more issues, and more points of view. This transition will require a massive overhaul in the way elections are conducted.
Updating Our Elections
The fear of people and candidates alike is that more candidates means a split vote. A split vote destroys the number of votes given to the original party, giving the election to the unified party. The result of this fear is the "establishment" (bosses) of the original party fight the people when a grass roots candidate emerges. The resulting battle disconnects the people with the party, and the voters stay home. After losing the elections, the people who rebelled blame the establishment, the establishment blames the people; more elections are lost.
The problem is that politics and economics (polinomics?) have become too complex to leave to just two sides. Communists, socialists, environmentalists, Democrats, Republicans, The Tea Party, Libertarians, etc. all have separate agendas from one another. Instead of the nation having a specific direction, it has a massive cluster bomb of mixed priorities.
A new system is required to handle our complicated politics. A system that encourages the people to fight against their party if they feel forgotten. A system that allows someone to vote for the person that truly shares their beliefs, without "throwing their vote away". A system that the Australians, Fijians, and Irish already use, Preferential Voting.
What is Preferential Voting?
Preferential voting, or alternative voting, is a system that is based on rankings instead of straight one or the other voting. A voter ranks their votes starting with "1" for their preferred candidate and then "2" for the next and so on. If their number one pick does not win, instead of the vote being wasted, the vote goes to the number two candidate instead and so on. For example, suppose a strong environmentalist is voting for President. The first choice would be for the Green Party candidate, then number two could be the Democratic candidate. If the Green Party does not receive a majority vote, the environmentalist's vote would be cast for the Democrat.
Think of how history could have changed if the 1912 election between Woodrow Wilson, Theodore Roosevelt, and William Taft, had been decided in this manner. The Republicans that voted for the Bull-Moose party could have ranked their votes between Teddy, and Taft, using Teddy as their main vote and Taft as insurance. This doesn't necessarily mean that the outcome of the election would have changed, but it would have taken away the fear of many Republicans of casting a worthless vote.
Keep in mind that I am suggesting this system strictly for the U.S. Presidential elections. Each state/province/municipality can choose whatever system they please based on their individual needs. Local elections tend to be much more black and white (new golf course or overpass) and can handle one-on-one races. Presidential races however encompass every concern of every individual in the nation. Gun control, Global Warming, Deficits, Debt, Spending, Taxation reform, Healthcare reform, Homosexual marriage rights, Education reform, Union reform, Entitlement reform, Tort reform, Trade balance, Illegal Immigration, Russian relations, Israeli relations, Gitmo, Somali Piracy, Drilling rights, and many more, are all issues that clash together in one election, and we're supposed to believe that just two candidates can represent all of the issues?
How Would it Work?
All that would change is the ballot. Instead of having the usual options (Republican, Democrat, etc), the ballot would list all available candidates and a list of 5 (or however many) votes for one to cast. Once the list is full and confirmed the vote is cast. Each state would conduct its polls as such, tallying the first count, second count, etc until a winner is found. The winner would then receive all of the electoral votes for that state, the candidates with the most electoral votes is the President Elect.
For those that had to rely on their 2nd or 3rd vote however all is not lost. After the election, candidates and consultants review the numbers in each count. These numbers can help politicians identify the issues that matter to people far better than any 1,000 participant poll that claims it represents the nation.
When put into plain words the idea sounds much less like a radical transformation and much more like an update. It is simple fix to a problem many don't realize we have. Unfortunately without a massive event that puts this on the people's radar, I can't see anything changing. The biggest hurdles however are:
- The system is more complicated than our current system, and being that most voters are elderly, that's a problem.
- Instituting a new voting system will likely require a constitutional amendment, something that hasn't happened since 1992, and that was after 200 years of its submission for ratification.
- With new parties and individuals in the race, money that would be going to Republicans and Democrats will now be elsewhere. The only thing worse than a split vote is split donors.
Despite the hurdles, I still have hope. Every once in a while people side with reason. Who knows though, maybe it's all about marketing; "Vote for President the same way the Academy votes for movies!"