Our Desperate Need For Election Reform

Life is short. Let’s get right down to business. Three points…

One is that we need to extend the limit on campaign contributions, which is now $6000 per person or entity, to cover the candidates themselves.

In the race for Mayor of Baltimore, David Warnock has spent in excess of $1.5 million of his own money, mostly for broadcast television commercials, and he’s still stuck under 10% in the polls.

On one hand, you might say that, “Wealthy or not, it hasn’t made any difference, so what the heck? Let him spend it. It’s his money to waste.”

True, but you’d be missing the point. That point is that he apparently has little in which voters are interested and yet he’s still managing to suck 7% of the air from other campaigns. He’s only running because he has money and that, in and of itself, shouldn’t be a sufficient reason. Limit his contributions and loans to his own campaign to $6000 and Mr. Warnock would be back in the pack of miscellaneous others no one bothers to invite to candidate forums and debates.

Our second point has to do with election structure. It only takes a plurality, not a majority to win.

“So what?”

In a letter to the Editor published in yesterday’s, April 2, 2016 edition of the Sun, Frank Morgan, an Elizabeth Embry supporter, described an encounter with a prospective voter.

“I think Embry is the best candidate,” the voter told Mr. Morgan, “but I may have to vote for Catherine Pugh to prevent Sheila Dixon from winning.”

Now, come on. Should voters really have to be that clever, that calcuElection Cartoonlating? Unfortunately, that’s what elections with 3 or more candidates do to us. Instead of actually
voting for the person we want to be Mayor, we feel the need to play games, to handicap the election based on polls and pundit commentary that may or may not be accurate. Don’t believe it? Think Donald Trump and the Republican primary race for President.

And if enough people who want to vote for, in this case, Ms. Embry, have similar thoughts? What do you think happens?


That’s right. It could be that, had they all actually voted for Ms. Embry, she would have won outright. But we’ll never know, will we?

And then there is the arithmetic of the plurality election. Only 20% or less of the electorate bothers to show up to vote and the candidate who gets maybe a little as 30% of the votes cast is elected Mayor. We’ve elected a Mayor with only 6% registered voter support. That’s 30% of the 20% who voted. A substantial majority of 70% of the people who voted didn’t want that person elected. In what alternate universe is that an example of “majority rule”?

“This is ridiculous. Uh, the problem, not your article.”

Thanks for clarifying that.

So what do we do? It’s simple. We hold a runoff election if no one gets at least 50% plus 1 of the votes cast. No it’s not free, but it’ll be worth it so that people will feel free to cast their votes for the candidates they think will do the best job.

Last point… We need to do away with early voting.

Early voting this year starts on April 14, just 4 days from now. Election Day is April 26. While we get it that the Legislature and Maryland State Board of Elections are trying to give people more time to vote, what about all the campaigning between early voting and Election Day? What if something happens during the 12 days between the 14th and the 26th, something that effects voter decision-making? Too late if you’ve already voted.

Why don’t we just let people start voting the day after the deadline for filing?

“That would be ridiculous, but I get your point.”

Thank you. Besides, early voting hasn’t effected any appreciable increase in turnout which was, presumably, it’s rationale in the first place. And people have always been able to submit absentee ballots early and that’s had no material impact on turnout.

Early voting is a waste of time and money. People should be allowed to vote online – That might increase turnout. – but only on Election Day. Maybe move Election Day to Saturday, so fewer people would have to take off work. Otherwise, keep in simple. Go to the polls, submit an absentee ballot or vote online when that’s approved, whatever, on just the one day.

Thank you. Now get back to whatever you were doing.

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