Vote for What?

Joshua Douglas’ new book, Vote for Us: How to Take Back Our Elections and Change the Future of Voting, does not explain when it was that we had our elections or what we can vote for other than “us,” but it does provide a great survey of election reform efforts, who’s working on them, and what’s working, with a list of organizations at the back that you can engage with.

While voter ID laws have spread, the racist stripping of names from polls goes unmentioned, threats and intimidation by fascist presidential candidates would have been hard to address in a book that aims at fairness and balance between the two noble political parties, verifiability of counting is apparently not a major concern, and the unthinkable but widely understood reality that often each of the two approved choices is simply indecent must not be named, nonetheless useful and significant reforms are being made here and there in the United States.

Early in the book, Douglas celebrates a city giving 16- and 17-year-olds the right to vote, which he considers all the more wonderful because none of the elections they voted in were even contested. While the book does not avoid Russiagate, it does avoid the term “Stalinist.” What voting could do to change the world is just not a focus of a book that strives to maintain that increasing voting would be equally good for all interests. But the fact is that radically increased voting and various other minor reforms would at the very least almost certainly result in lesser-evil candidates winning, which would at least be less evil. And more significant reforms would allow the possibility of serious positive change.

I’d like to see a lot more direct democracy, a citizen’s branch of government, the abolition of the U.S. Senate, a Constitution from this millennium, and other dream reforms. But even those would depend on some of the lesser reforms that good-election advocates are advancing. The following is a list of what I think would be useful changes, some of which are now happening in various states and localities. When I say that major change comes outside of elections, but that I’m not against elections, that I think the United States should have them someday, this is what I have in mind:

  • The inalienable right to vote in U.S. elections at age 16 for all residents of the United States or of any nation with more than 100 U.S. troops stationed in it.
  • Short of that, the right to vote regardless of criminal conviction.
  • The requirement to vote.
  • Automatic registration.
  • Short of that, online registration, same-day registration, and pre-voting-age registration.
  • Vote counting verifiable to, and ballot and debate access measuring up to, international standards.
  • A ban on treating the spending of money as protected speech, or a corporation as possessing human rights.
  • Public financing.
  • Free air time in equal measure to candidates qualified by signature gathering.
  • Debates publicly administered without partisan control.
  • A ban on private financing.
  • A limited election season.
  • Ranked choice voting.
  • Election day holiday.
  • To the extent compatible with verifiable vote counting, the ability to vote anywhere in one’s state, to vote by mail, and to vote with equal ease despite any personal disabilities or language skills.
  • A ban on ID requirements.
  • A ban on gerrymandering.
  • The abolition of the Electoral College.
  • Full representation for Washington, D.C., and all of the U.S. colonies in the Caribbean and Pacific.
  • A six-hour work day.
  • A larger House of Representatives.
  • Limited power and terms for Supreme Court justices, and more of them.
  • A ban on legislation by presidential decree or signing statement, Justice Department memo, or any process other than the open and transparent passage of laws or ratification of treaties by Congress or by a citizen’s branch.
  • A minimum of one of these democracy reforms required in the United States for every foreign nation the United States bombs in the name of democracy.

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