Election Reform Ideas: What, How and Why

Lots of discussions in meatspace over the past week on election reform. The obvious one, nix the electoral college, still seems like a pretty good idea, though I’ve come to appreciate there are arguments against it that go beyond the state’s rights bullshit.

Voter suppression is a thing, and it contributed. But I suspect the bigger blocks to turnout were inconvenience and apathy.

To the first, election day needs to be a Federal holiday.

To the second, I’m thinking voting should be mandatory in the USA. I’m normally against mandatory stuff, but this is one area where I think everyone should have to show up or mail-in an early ballot. Even if the people who resent the requirement just write in nonsense, at least the people who would cast a serious vote won’t be as likely to fail to do so simply because they didn’t show up.

Mostly though I’m making this thread because I want to hear your thoughts on how American elections can be reformed. Anything is fair game, from the practical to the quixotic, as long as it isn’t things like repealing the 19th Amendment (if you want to take your chances with the dragon with that kind of bigotry, make your own thread).


As someone from a country with compulsory voting (or specifically, compulsory turn-up-and-get-your-name-checked-off) and all elections on a Saturday, I honestly don’t know why you don’t have these things.

No voter suppression, if you’re working/away on the day you can make a postal vote weeks before…is it just that peculiar American quirk of “preserve all the pointless traditions” keeping things as they are? Or just the whole “major part of how Republicans get elected” thing?


there’s no fixing america so imo while the clock runs down just let people sell their votes to the highest bidder it’s not like it can make shit more corrupt and stupid

Because it’s in one party’s interest that we don’t.


I think that compulsory voting is a good idea, but with one stipulation - citizenship needs to be made explicit. In the US, for instance, immigrants petition for and are granted citizenship. While citizenship is assumed on the behalf of others whether they desire it, accept it, or not. Such a relationship cannot be assumed based upon anything as arbitrary as geography and accidents of birth. IF one chooses to be a citizen, THEN they must vote.


mayb something where people throw different colour fish into the gaping beaks of pelicans

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Mathematical redistricting and publicly financed campaigns.


An easy-ish solution to many of these problems IMO is to have delegates instead of representatives, not unlike the Zapatistas did in Chiapas. Many people are discouraged from voting because representatives only obligation is to hold their abstract office - not to serve the people. It would be foolish to suddenly expect politicians to keep their promises when they never had before. Electing them as delegates means that they are beholden to do just what it was agreed that they would do, or the public has them replaced.

A tougher nut is that no government can be for more than a thousand or so people and have any hope of fairness. Any groups larger than that will always be mostly a captive audience.


The problem here (or perhaps “a problem here”) is that by being dismissive of the state’s rights argument, you are trying to steer the discussion in the direction you want, and that’s not right.

One of the major reasons the electoral college exists is to buffer the lower-populated states against the higher-populated states. To call that “bullshit” is reductive, and not at all helpful. Do you really want the people of the six most populous states making all the presidential decisions? I don’t.

The entire popular majority for Hillary was dependent solely on her landslide in one state-- California-- that hasn’t gone Republican in decades. And even though it is my home state, I don’t particularly want the people of California making all the decisions for the rest of the country.

The reason we have a President Trump is complicated, and I see no purpose in rehashing the same old arguments and dirty tricks here now. It comes down to the fact that neither Sanders nor Clinton was the right candidate to beat Trump this time around. So we’re stuck with an unfortunate decision until we have an opportunity to make it right again.

I wish you luck in reforming the process in a way that you see fit. As for me, I’m comfortable with the way our process works, however poor the decisions we make occasionally. I’m not particularly interested in working to change it. That said, if we as a society want to change it, there’s a process for that, too, and it’s pretty difficult. But I’d probably go along with whatever it looks like the majority is going to decide. This is democracy.


As far as criticism of the popular vote and California goes, you could equally argue that Trump only won the EC because of Texas. Would have been 270-268 to Clinton if she’d won it.


Would this mean that if one doesn’t choose to be a citizen, that one also would not need to pay income tax, or register for the draft?

Or would explicitly choosing to be a citizen only affect whether or not voting would be mandatory?

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Thank you. I think you probably know me well enough by now to know that I appreciate thoughtful push-back. Like I indicated in the original post, I’m not nearly as eager to scrap the EC as I was a week ago. It has problems, but it also has value.

I still think compulsory voting and a Federal voting holiday would have little to no downside and be a huge benefit to both the democratic and republic elements of our government.


Indeed. That’s why I’m participating in this thread. I saw @Medievalist bring up some of these points elsewhere, and the pile-on against him was… ugly. Hopefully the same fate does not befall me here. I’ve been deliberately keeping a pretty low profile in the political threads, because I realize tensions are still running high. I’ve made my peace with the current state of affairs, but I recognize that not everyone else has. And I recognize that I’m a rich white male citizen, so it’s easier for me, even though my political views are far from the current or next administration’s. But until we (the royal we, not you and me) stop treating each other as enemies, we will have no progress.


I think that if you had a popular vote, you might see different results in some states like CA, NY, TX - how many people don’t vote right now because it’s a foregone conclusion where the state’s EC votes are going?

I think all-postal voting is better than a holiday, and the mass disenfranchisement of people needs to be stopped.

Plus transferable voting instead of FPTP and open primaries in one-sided states (maybe everywhere?)

And a redistribution of representatives that matches current population better and an end to gerrymandering.


It would mean that such a person would have none of the obligations to nor benefits from having a government, unless they explicitly joined one or more.


Will publicly financed campaigns ever make a substantial difference without restrictions on private spending? The American public appears to be used to the idea that money is speech and I would expect it to be really difficult to get that toothpaste back into the tube.

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Yeah, a limit on campaign spending and lengths would be great but how do you get around the current understanding of the first amendment?

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What about some modifications. As it is, states get to decide how they disburse the EC votes; a couple choose to split them. How about establishing federal rules to that states over X number of EC votes must split along the vote percentage lines. Or allow a bonus bounty of several votes to the winner of the state but then split the rest along vote tallies. The larger states are still important by sheer numbers but it’s not end-all be-all, and the smaller states keep some of that extra heft still getting to unite on the winner there.

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A few ideas geared toward attempts to reduce partisanship, provide more options, and make it easier and more worthwhile to vote:

  • Single transferable vote.

  • Eliminate voter registration, voter ID, and party affiliation requirements.

  • Do not allow states to prevent any eligible voters from voting by mail and require that ballots be made available up to election day along with places to submit them.

  • Eliminate the ‘two parties only’ and ‘two candidates only’ limited nature of the election. Make it normal for many candidates to run and actually have a chance.

  • Disallow closed primaries. (Or eliminate primaries altogether.)

  • Eliminate gerrymandering.

  • Return to the concept that the candidate with the most votes becomes president and second most becomes vice president. (Not possible as originally designed when the system is limited to 2 parties. Single transferable vote could resolve that.)

I don’t think that we need to nix the electoral college or make voting mandatory. Forcing people to vote might ‘solve’ the turnout problem by making the numbers look bigger, but would do nothing to address the causes behind it. It would just be reducing the signal-to-noise ratio by forcing people to make a decision when they don’t have a stake in it, don’t care about it, or don’t want to, which is not really the best way to make a good decision. If people had more options, their vote mattered more, and it was easier to do, a lot more people would probably vote.


This. So much this. If we’re to pay lip service to this idea of “Get out to Vote”, this is the biggest step we can take. And you know what? We should make it a party. Parades after the votes close, state sponsored buffets at the polls–let’s get everyone together and be social.

It’d be an interesting social experiment, anyways. How would the candidates modify their campaigns to catch the Apathetic votes?