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Do our elections serve the people?

Reforming Our Electoral System: A Path to True Representation



By Cliff Hamill

The fundamental question of whether our elections serve the people is a pressing concern in today's political landscape. The dominance of the Republican and Democratic parties raises significant issues regarding representation, loyalty, and the overall health of our democracy. The entrenched two-party system, bolstered by substantial financial support and strategic legislative maneuvers, significantly limits political competition and undermines the principles of a truly representative government.

One of the most glaring issues with the current electoral system is the near-exclusive dominance of the Republican and Democratic parties. These two legacy parties have secured their positions through substantial funding, often running into millions of dollars. This financial backing inevitably raises questions about the loyalty of elected officials. Are they truly serving the electorate, or are they beholden to the parties that financed their campaigns? This scenario suggests that the allegiance of many politicians might lean more towards their party benefactors rather than the constituents they are supposed to represent.

The scarcity of choices on the ballot is another significant concern. Why are there typically only two viable options? The answer lies in the legislative barriers erected by the two dominant parties. These barriers make it exceedingly difficult for other political groups to gain ballot access, thereby stifling competition and preserving the status quo. For instance, the Forward Party has spent years collecting voter signatures to participate in elections, highlighting the challenges new parties face in breaking into the political arena.

A compelling solution to these issues is the implementation of Ranked Choice Voting (RCV). This system allows voters to rank candidates by preference, which can lead to several benefits like eliminating costly primaries, political consensus, and reduced partisan conflict.
The influence of party-funded campaigns is another area ripe for reform. The practice of parties funding candidates creates a sense of obligation towards the party rather than the voters. This dynamic contradicts the vision of the Founders, who intended for elected officials to represent their constituents first and foremost. Shifting the focus of gratitude from the party to the voters could realign the priorities of elected officials with those of the people they serve.

Gerrymandering, the practice of drawing voting districts to favor one party, is a profound betrayal of democratic principles. An estimated 70% to 90% of voting districts are gerrymandered, ensuring that one party dominates. This practice disenfranchises voters whose political affiliations do not align with the majority in their district. For example, in North Carolina, despite having a fairly balanced voter registration among unaffiliated, Democratic, and Republican voters, the state legislature has a Republican supermajority. This disparity is a direct result of gerrymandering.

Proportional representation offers an effective countermeasure to gerrymandering. Under this system, legislative seats are allocated based on the percentage of votes each party receives. For instance, if 45% of voters choose Democrats, 45% Republicans, and 5% each for Libertarians and the Green Party, the legislature would reflect these proportions. This system ensures a more accurate representation of the electorate's political preferences and makes gerrymandering far more difficult.

To restore faith in our electoral system and ensure it truly serves the people, comprehensive reforms are necessary. Implementing Ranked Choice Voting, curbing the influence of party-funded campaigns, and adopting proportional representation are crucial steps toward a more representative and effective democracy. By addressing these issues, we can move closer to a political system that reflects the diverse views of the electorate and upholds the principles of fair representation and accountability.

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