To Save Democracy, We Need to Make Voting Much, Much Easier
To Save Democracy, We Need to Make Voting Much, Much Easier
'Voting should be nothing special when done well,' argues Cashman. 'It is a mundane task that makes sense only collectively, and it should be a task that everyone is compelled to complete via an exceedingly easy, equitable, and boring process.' (Photo: Kara/flickr/cc)
By Kevin Cashman / commondreams.org

Political rhetoric in the U.S. is often characterized by sickly sweet appeals to democracy. Voting is held up as the foundation of democracy, or as the most useful or necessary method of political participation or expression. Judging by that rhetoric, and by the image of the U.S. that is exported around the world, one would think that the U.S. would be able to execute the actual practice of voting well.

But the disenfranchisement that routinely happens — to those convicted of crimes, those without IDs, those that need to work, those that can't find childcare, those that can't travel, etc. — together with the voter suppression that happened recently in Utah, Idaho, Arizona, and Wisconsin, suggest that voting in the U.S. is undemocratic and limited as a means for political participation. The reality is many people are directly and indirectly prevented from casting a vote, and much of the time that disenfranchisement is purposeful.

And even though the winners are supposed to be chosen based on the number of votes cast (though often through undemocratic proxies for votes, like the Electoral College), votes might not even matter. Republicans are openly discussing how to select someone other than their front runner, and Democrats are skewing their primary toward their front runner through the use of superdelegates and through shady dealings limiting the number of debates, limiting access to voter information, and sanitizing coverage of challengers through media proxies. In the general election, an organization controlled symbiotically by Democrats and Republicans puts undemocratic restrictions on debates.

Right now, the opinion of the electorate is paramount only when it aligns with elites' interests, which the Democratic and Republican parties both serve. When what people want challenges those interests, powerful people have no qualms about discarding the democratic pretenses that so many people mistakenly glorify.

For example, businesses often prefer undemocratic, but “stable” places to invest. Many profit via the myriad U.S.-sponsored coups in Latin America and elsewhere, or from U.S.’s autocratic allies. In Honduras, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton empowered the perpetrators of the 2009 coup and used associate Lanny Davis to clean up their image. This was all to the benefit of the Honduran business elites who supported the coup in large part to reverse minimum wage hikes under the democratically elected administration. Saudi Arabia, an autocratic country that sponsors terrorism and conducts public executions (often for what would be considered minor offenses in the U.S.), has strong ties to U.S. business. The U.S.-Saudi Arabian Business Council, for example, includes representatives from Chevron, Morgan Stanley, Boeing, Citigroup, Exxon Mobil, Honeywell, Bechtel, GE, and others.

In the U.S., not only have elites plotted a coup in the past, but a case can be made that a coup occurred with the Supreme Court’s Bush v. Gore decision in 2000: Gore won the election by any reasonable analysis, but a 5 to 4 decision divided down political lines and engineered by Republican operatives overturned the result. Today, business people plainly say they prefer undemocratic politics, and fascism is growing among Silicon Valley technocrats who use technology as cover for disgust of institutions influenced by the public.

Forging a New Paradigm

Getting rid of the two-party duopoly and moving to a fairer electoral and political system would be a start at ridding the U.S. of the corrosive influence of elites. This could mean any number of things like scrapping the Electoral College, moving to a proportional voting or ranked voting system, and de-emphasizing the role of specific people in politics, like the President (which could be done in part by switching to a parliamentary, rather than presidential, system). But what should the act of voting look like?

Voting should be nothing special when done well. It is a mundane task that makes sense only collectively, and it should be a task that everyone is compelled to complete via an exceedingly easy, equitable, and boring process.

This means (among other things):

  • requiring every citizen over a certain age to vote (akin to how jury duty is required);
  • automatically registering voters;
  • getting rid of confusing spectacles like caucuses; and
  • allowing people to vote early and from their homes, either online or via mail.

For those who do want to vote in-person, election days would:

  • be local, state, or national holidays, depending on the election;
  • be governed by strong laws that guarantee time off from work;
  • permit for free childcare;
  • have an adequate number of polling places and poll workers;
  • use up-to-date and auditable technology; and
  • be free from intimidation and interference and burdensome requirements (like using an ID).

This would make the act of voting a solid cultural and political institution; if there were ever lines to cast a vote, it would be a scandal. And since voting would be easy and seamless, those who do not wish to vote could still be required to participate but could nix their ballots without much trouble. 

With voting secure and easy, and with a political system that could do more to neutralize the effects of elites, money, and power, the political participation that does matter — dissent, criticism, organizing, protest, and discourse around class, identity, and culture — could take center stage in the U.S.’s electoral process.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License

Kevin Cashman lives in Washington, D.C., and researches issues related to domestic policy at the Center for Economic and Policy Research. Follow him on Twitter:@kevinmcashman or read his blog here.

0.0 ·
0
What's Next
Trending Today
This Text Message Exchange Between a Mother and Daughter is Pure Gold
Belinda Hankins · 8,798 views today · When Belinda Hankins got a text message from her 13-year-old daughter, who was shopping for period products, it started an exchange that will resonate with women everywhere. Enjoy.
10 Provocative Quotes from Ivan Illich's "Deschooling Society"
Daniel Lattier · 8,375 views today · Ivan Illich’s groundbreaking book Deschooling Society (1971) offers a radical critique of the institutionalization of education within modern societies. Illich believed that we...
What Makes Call-Out Culture So Toxic
Asam Ahmad · 4,604 views today · Call-out culture refers to the tendency among progressives, radicals, activists, and community organizers to publicly name instances or patterns of oppressive behaviour and...
Welcome to Marinaleda: The Spanish Anti-Capitalist Town With Equal Wage Full Employment and $19 Housing
Jade Small · 3,389 views today · With virtually no police, crime or unemployment, meet the Spanish town described as a democratic, socialist utopia. Unemployment is non-existent in Marinaleda, an Andalusian...
When You Kill Ten Million Africans You Aren't Called 'Hitler'
Liam O'Ceallaigh · 2,765 views today · Take a look at this picture. Do you know who it is? Most people haven’t heard of him. But you should have. When you see his face or hear his name you should get as sick in...
What You Might Notice If You Forgot Your Phone For a Day
2 min · 2,488 views today · There is a moment happening right in front of you, right this second, and you just might be missing it
Ikigai - Finding Your Reason for Being
Chip Richards · 1,944 views today · What Gets You Out of Bed in the Morning? When asked what is the single most powerful contributing factor to one’s health and vitality, integrative medical...
Superblocks: How Barcelona Is Taking City Streets Back From Cars
5 min · 1,845 views today · Modern cities are designed for cars. But the city of Barcelona is testing out an urban design trick that can give cities back to pedestrians.
93 Documentaries to Expand Your Consciousness
Films For Action · 1,646 views today · There are over 800 documentaries now cataloged in our library of social change films. That's probably way too many for any mortal to ever watch in a lifetime, let alone a few...
Who Are You? Watching This Breathtaking Video Could Be the Moment You Change Your Life
2 min · 1,495 views today · "Normal is getting dressed in clothes that you buy for work, driving through traffic in a car that you are still paying for, in order to get to a job that you need so you can...
Today I Rise: This Beautiful Short Film Is Like a Love Poem For Your Heart and Soul
4 min · 1,199 views today · "The world is missing what I am ready to give: My Wisdom, My Sweetness, My Love and My hunger for Peace." "Where are you? Where are you, little girl with broken wings but full...
11 Traits of People With High Emotional Intelligence
Raven Fon · 1,170 views today · Lately, new ways to describe human interactions, social behaviours, and many facets of psychology have emerged on the social network scene. One of those descriptions is “high...
Throw (2016)
10 min · 1,105 views today · The first installment of Invisible Thread, an ongoing ELM passion project series, Throw tells the story of an outsider from East Baltimore, an area challenged by gang violence...
Schooling the World (2010)
66 min · 986 views today · If you wanted to change an ancient culture in a generation, how would you do it? You would change the way it educates its children. The U.S. Government knew this in the 19th...
John Lennon's "Imagine," Made Into a Comic Strip
John Lennon. Art by Pablo Stanley · 646 views today · This is easily the best comic strip ever made.  Pabl
Forest Man
16 min · 610 views today · Since the 1970's Majuli islander Jadav Payeng has been planting trees in order to save his island. To date he has single handedly planted a forest larger than Central Park NYC...
The White Man in That Photo
Riccardo Gazzaniga · 604 views today · Sometimes photographs deceive. Take this one, for example. It represents John Carlos and Tommie Smith’s rebellious gesture the day they won medals for the 200 meters at the...
How to Criticize with Kindness: Philosopher Daniel Dennett on the Four Steps to Arguing Intelligently
Maria Popova · 527 views today · “Just how charitable are you supposed to be when criticizing the views of an opponent?”
Touch Isolation: How Homophobia Has Robbed All Men Of Touch
Mark Greene · 492 views today · Homophobic prohibitions against male touch are hurting straight men as well.
Doctors Response to Daily Mail Bigotry is Beautiful
Neil Tiwari · 476 views today · A poetic open letter to the Daily Mail newspaper from Dr. Neil Tiwari, in response to a bigoted attack on his colleagues, is going viral and it's beautiful.
Load More
Like us on Facebook?
To Save Democracy, We Need to Make Voting Much, Much Easier