Thursday, May 24, 2012

What's wrong with US Politics: Part 3, Voting is too hard

When designing how the democracy in the US works it seems that who ever though it out really went out of their way to make it as complicated as possible.

Something that has always struck me as odd in regards to how voting works in the US is that you have to "register" to vote. This means that sometimes months in advance of an election you have to remember to register with the government your intention to vote. Even more incomprehensible is that you when you do this declare what you intend to vote?!? To me this is completely absurd and I don't understand at all what the purpose of this could be except to keep people from voting.

Before someone start complaining about that the reason for this is to keep voter fraud down I have to call bullshit on that. First of all there seems to be plenty of voter fraud going on already so it doesn't seem to work (Not to the point where it actually changes the outcomes of elections normally though so I don't think it's a big deal). Secondly, in todays age of computers what can you possibly check during a period of a few weeks that you can't check instantly? And I can't imagine that the check being done now to check if someone is eligible to vote is longer than it can't be done on the spot while voting. You don't hear about throngs of people being hired to check voter registration forms around elections do you (Not like the sensus).

The only thing I can think of why this is being done is to keep people from voting. And if statistics is any indication it seems to be working since even in a presidential election usually no more than around 50% of all who can vote do so. This is the lowest voting rate of all countries in the entire world that have "free" elections (Free is in quotes because some of the elections included in the list are not necessarily that free, like for instance Venezuela). From the previous link you can also see that almost all "Western Democracies" have a voter turnout of at least 75% except for the US.

Another thing that I'm sure keeps people away from the polls is that there is simply too many things to vote on. Looking over the ridiculous list of propositions that every voter is subjected to during each election here in California I am not surprised why people opt to stay at home. Even more so at least here in California a proposition doesn't have to be balanced. This means that if there is a referendum you get to choose between two well defined choices, both of which have merit. So here you can have a proposition that just says "Vote yes for lower taxes" with no mention of what needs to be cut in the budget to achieve these lower taxes, or the opposite "Vote yes for more money to schools" without any mention of how to fund it. Who wouldn't say yes to either of these?

In the same vein I find it odd how many petty state functionaries are elected here. For example "City Comptroller", "School Board", the list goes on and on. Most people would probably not have any idea of what most of these posts even do, much less who are running for the posts. Because of this few people vote in these elections which leads to a small but dedicated minority can sometimes completely derail an election by making sure they all vote for a person that hold their minority view. The obvious example of this to me is religious groups banding together to elect people to the School Board who make sure that it is mandated to teach Intelligent Design and other such nonsense as science in schools.

I think the US would be better off if we just elected the politicians with a few occasional balanced referendums (At the very most one or two per election but preferably less) and then let the politicians deal with actually weighing the pro's and con's of the budgets and such problems. And we should definitely stop electing people to posts that would better be filled by bureaucrats. Finally we need to stop this nonsense with registering to vote, it should be enough if you just show up on voting day.

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