Recently, as a fun little exercise to pass the time, I wondered how would I – if I magically had the power – change the way we vote here in the US. Now you could say this was a pointless exercise, but thinking of alternative voting styles could lead to story ideas which, honestly, I have too many as it is but I can’t say no to more, but more importantly it can make me wonder how could we go from what we currently have to this “better” system?
First off, I would
make some no-brainer changes. I’d get
rid of the Electoral College, I’d make some standardized methods for drawing
districts to try to do away with gerrymandering, and I’d make Election Day a
holiday. I’d also introduce ranked
choice voting. I think a lot of our
political problems stem from being stuck with a two party system, and ranked
choice would let us explore other, better, options. Another thing I’d do is make some
standardized set of rules for polling places: if a population exceeds X, you
either have to open another polling place, or have the one polling place open
for so many days before the election.
The goal would be to have the time from showing up at the polling place,
checking in, and voting to be measured in minutes, not hours. Worst case scenario, maybe half-an-hour.
Another change I’d
make would be automatic registration.
Once you turn eighteen, you’re a voter.
Speaking of registration, for a few days after this post is posted, I’ll
be having a Voter Registration Drive Book Sale, where I ask American adults to
either register to vote or to check their registration, and as a reward, you
could grab four of my ebooks for free.
Maybe hold on to them so you have something to read while you wait in
line to vote come November. This blog post has all the details. And if you came
across this after the sale, still, register to vote or check your
registration. There are a lot of
problems in this country, and the easiest way to fix some of them is for We the
People to have our voice heard, i.e. voting, which requires you to register. And if you’re not an American citizen, I hope
you engage with your country’s government however you can.
Now, all of these
changes I think make sense, would improve our elections, and could possibly be
done without some divine intervention. Don’t
get me wrong, it would still be a Sisyphean task, but it might be doable. But the automatic registration does raise a
complex problem: keeping track of voters.
Let’s say you’re
building a country from scratch. How do
you keep track of the voters? Well, you
give every voter an ID number. So you
set up this bureaucracy that keeps track of where everyone lives and you give
them a number that people use a couple of times a year, at most. And you make it a crime for banks, or
businesses, or anyone but election people to ask you for this number. And then you set up this entirely separate bureaucracy
that keeps track of where everyone lives for tax purposes. Wouldn’t it be easier to just combine these
bureaucracies and supply everyone with some sort of national ID that works for
tax purposes, and other financial matters, and for voting whenever there’s an
election? But you don’t want the one
number stopping someone from stealing your identity to just be about as long as
a phone number. But if your ID number is
400 digits with multiple internal checks, nobody will remember them. Meaning you’ll have to give everyone cards
with their photo and basic information, and then some QR code. Which means banks and employers will need to
scan your QR code, meaning there will be plenty of opportunity for your data to
be hacked, meaning the need for even more security firewalls, which … wait,
wasn’t I just talking about voting?
I started with
such a simple idea, but even trying to build it from scratch would be a colossal
nightmare. And even without the 1001
special interest groups that would fight against, or try to twist it for their
own purpose, trying to change our current system would be … a colossal
nightmare of a colossal nightmare. And I
think a lot of people realize that, and give up. But that just leaves us at the mercy of those
who won’t give up. So register to vote,
get involved, and maybe together we can make some slight changes for the