I’ve always considered myself a good citizen when it comes to politics — I’ve voted in every local, state, and federal election since I’ve been old enough to vote and have always attempted to stay informed on the most politically-relevant topics.
It wasn’t until the last year or two that I developed a more substantial interest in politics, and more specifically the political process and how it influences the decisions that impact our progress as a nation. As a result, I’ve learned an incredible amount about the nuances and antiquities that have become a stumbling block in today’s political climate, which at times can be incredibly frustrating.
With the potential changing of the guard this January, below is a list of some of the [mostly] non-partisan stumbling blocks that I would love to see addressed during the next administration’s term. Regardless of your political leaning, I think overcoming them represents ideals we should all support as a free, democratic society.
1. Replace the Electoral College
To both citizens and foreigners alike, the Electoral College might be the most frustrating part of the American political process. Established in 1787, it was originally intended to provide individual states proper representation, prevent foreign interests from influencing the election through a single legislative body, and serve as a legitimate, last-ditch effort to prevent tyrants from gaining public office.
It can be argued that the Electoral College has never actually served those purposes, and the frustration that exists on both sides of the aisle is evidence of this. For example, consider California. Individual Democrats in California often feel under-represented given they have roughly ~700,000 people per electoral vote available. Compare that number to a much smaller state like Wyoming, where a single electoral vote represents only ~200,000 people. Similarly, Republicans living in California often feel they have no voice at all as a result of being heavily outnumbered and the entirety of the state’s electoral vote almost always going to the Democratic candidate.
Personally, I’m in favor of replacing the Electoral College with an outright popular vote (see the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact, aptly named “NaPoVoIntCo”), or another similar voting system like ranked-choice voting. In these types of voting systems, each individual can feel like they’re contributing to a candidate’s nomination without feeling drowned out by others in their state.
Oh, and if you’re worried about the lack of state representation, don’t be — that’s what the Senate and House of Representatives are for.
2. Make it easier to vote
The system we’ve implemented for how citizens vote here in the U.S. is simply bizarre. Unless you’re voting by mail, the actual process of voting in person occurs on a single day in the middle of the work week and involves hundreds (often thousands) of people aggregating at a single location to fill out a ballot on often-antiquated voting machines. At times, I get the impression that the system we’ve created was meant to discourage people from voting.
There are a quite a few ways I can think of to optimize the voting process and encourage higher turnout (historically over the last couple of decades, less than 60% of registered voters consistently show up at the polls). I’m not sure what the most ideal system looks like, but here are a few ideas to improve on the existing one:
- Allow online voter registration. This is the first hurdle for a lot people; making it easier to register is definitely the first step to increasing voter turnout. Some also propose automatically registering citizens when they turn 18, which is something to consider.
- Make election day a federal holiday. Even if employers don’t give their employees time off work, there’s still a benefit in recognizing and emphasizing its importance by dedicating a holiday to it.
- Allow multiple days of voting. Some states have already implemented this through their early voting process, but the idea would be to allow people to vote over a period of multiple days. This would encourage more people to participate as one of the eligible voting days would be more likely to overlap with a person’s day off.
- Implement electronic voting. This is probably the most controversial idea on the list and hardest to implement, but I’m including it because finding an electronic system that doesn’t introduce a ton of potential for fraud would substantially increase voter participation.
3. Eliminate the filibuster
The filibuster, a political tactic often deployed by the minority party to delay or prevent a vote on legislature from happening, has become a significant barrier for getting legislation passed in the U.S. Senate. In the last 10–15 years, both sides of the political aisle have regularly leveraged it against their opponents when represented in the minority. It has become a weapon that undermines the power of legislature already supposed to have built-in checks and balances via the nation’s legislative, executive, and judicial branches.
The elimination of the filibuster is often viewed as a partisan stance because in the recent past it has only been endorsed by one of the parties, but the reality is that both sides stand to gain and lose from its elimination as they’d theoretically gain more power to pass legislature when in the majority but lose power to easily block new legislature when in the minority.
4. Grant Washington, D.C. statehood
I don’t have a whole lot to say about this point. Washington, D.C. has a larger population than a few states, pays federal income tax, votes in federal elections, but has no representation in the legislative branch. Granting it statehood seems like a logical step in allowing its citizens a say in the laws and bills they’re governed by — just like every other U.S. citizen.
Any opposition to this solely due to the political leaning of potential D.C. representatives is frankly un-American.
5. Require a supermajority approval for Supreme Court nominees
Regardless of how you feel about the most recent Supreme Court nomination controversy, I think the best representation of the American people on the Supreme Court is a nominee that has bipartisan support. The current system only requiring a simple majority doesn’t guarantee a fair, unbiased candidate that isn’t likely to vote in the nominating party’s interests. Theoretically, these candidates only represent roughly half of the American peoples’ interests at any given time.
Requiring a supermajority for approval would require both parties to reach across the aisle and agree on nominees that have as little bias and prejudice towards their party’s affiliation as possible, ensuring everyone is represented across the board.
6. Restrict federal employees from working for relevant industry stakeholders for a period of time after leaving their role
It’s no secret that money influences many of the political decisions made every single day at the federal, state, and local levels. This doesn’t always involve an immediate, direct exchange of cash, but often a promise of indirect financial benefit in the future. And sometimes, this manifests itself in the form of companies promising government employees future roles in exchange for enabling policy that favors their business in the marketplace.
Right now, there isn’t an actual system that prevents people from doing this aside from active groups of citizens who might be monitoring a given representative’s actions, but we can’t rely on that as a reliable way to consistently keep politicians and government employees in check.
To counter this, we need some form of legislation that restricts or disincentivizes politicians from being able to do this. I’m unfortunately not sure what exactly this policy should look like, but I imagine it should result in politicians not being able to work for businesses impacted by their legislation for at least 5–10 years after leaving government work.
7. Remove party labels from ballots
If we’re ever going to move away from a two-party system, we’ll need to train voters to make informed decisions about who they vote for and ensure they’re not just voting straight party down the ballot every time. An easy way to do this would be to remove political party labels from ballots, which would encourage people to do their research and learn who the candidates are before they vote. It admittedly won’t completely solve the problem, but it’s a step in the right direction.