Now that this election is over, it’s time to face the facts: The state of the greatest democracy’s election process is an international embarrassment. The campaigns lasted too long, got too nasty, and cost far too much money. Plus, there were too many long lines and malfunctioning voting machines, and not enough convenient polling locations. But all of this is easily fixable with these five simple steps:
1. Our primary season lasts far too long, and the gap between the conventions and election day could be shorter as well. This extended campaign period has led to two obvious negatives: first, it has made this election the most expensive in U.S. history and, second, it has encouraged the kind of nasty politics we’ve seen for the last two months. A shorter campaign season, from the beginning of the primaries until election day, would result is less costly campaigns and less mud-slinging. If you’ve only got 9 months to explain what you stand for to voters, you’ll probably spend less time attacking your opponent’s personal life.
2. Campaign finance reform is essential, but it won’t work with the current protracted primary and national election schedule. If Step #1 is implemented, it would dramatically reduce the need for candidates to raise hundreds of millions of dollars in order to run for office. For the national election, give each of the final candidates $80 million and tell him or her that they have 3 months in which to spend it. They should be able to advertise in any way that they like. Chances are that they will understand that they don’t have the time or the money to run negative ads. Voters will benefit from this in a number of ways, including being able to learn more about the candidates’ positions on various issues, as well as not having to listen to relentless defamatory commercials which do nothing but polarize the country.
3. Voting in this country, which is supposed to be the most advanced democracy on Earth, is a joke. Los Angeles Country, an area with more than 12 million residents, had one early voting location for this election. Nevada seems to be the only state that provides genuine early voting on a state-wide scale. Having many polling places in various locales, such as malls, supermarkets, banks and post offices, will lead to shorter waits to vote and that will encourage voter turnout. Voting machines should be junked and sold for scrap metal, and voters should be handed a piece of paper and a #2 pencil so that they can vote like people do in most of the other democracies in the world. if we’ve learned anything in the last 9 years, it’s that technology is no friend of democracy.
4. Because the press cannot and should not be controlled in a democracy, it will probably continue to project results long before the last polls close, and this can have a real impact on turnout in the states voting in the later time zones. For that reason, polls should be open at the same moment from coast to coast. Voting can start later in the east and earlier in the west. Similarly, polls should close at the same moment, no matter what part of the country you’re voting in. If Step #3 is implemented, this should not result in lines and long waits. It just means that the window to vote will be shortened. And that leads to Step #5.
5. Election Day in the United States of America should be a celebration of democracy and a national holiday. Surely, it is at least as important as Labor day, Memorial Day, Martin Luther King Day, or Veterans Day. If necessary, businesses can apply for a tax credit when they give employees a paid day-off to vote which does not count as a vacation day. This will also encourage voter turnout and spread polling place traffic out over the entire voting day.