Sitting here next to the ocean, it’s easy to get disconnected from reality with waves hitting the shore, sea birds making their unusual noises, breezes filling the local air with smells of the Pacific. So what you’re about to read may be just the mental wanderings of an old guy drifting along in a fantasy world of his own. But I had these “peculiar” thoughts long before I was told where we’d spend our retirement years.
To wit: give up on this absolute electoral mess we’ve created in the 50 states and vote for presidential and congressional candidates on one, uniform, federal election ballot using the same rules. Fifty states using the same ballot which would have room for their own races but operating under one set of rules. Same qualifications for electors. Same way to determine electors.
Our national elections have devolved into mess after mess - challenge after challenge - lawsuit after lawsuit. But it’s gotten even worse with last year’s SCOTUS decision essentially gutting the Voting Rights Act and various GOP-dominated legislatures reconstructing election roadblocks for minorities. Now, even candidates are talking about suing states over delegate selection and appointment.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m a firm believer in “state’s rights.” But congress after congress - regardless of party dominance - has chipped away at the original intent of “state’s rights” in many programs. State operation of educational and health systems are two major areas where the feds have usurped states in all or partial control. There are many others. That’s not going to change. We’ve accepted the incursions and even gotten used to them.
When it comes to elections, we’ve created a shambles. Some states use the caucus system - others closed primaries - still others with open primaries. One just has a meeting. Anyone who thinks the national convention halls are filled with people accurately representing the folks at home is living in the Land of Oz. We’ve got delegates, super delegates and others - some sworn to this or that candidate and some with no restrictions on whom they’ll bestow their voting “honor.” Horse trading votes at national political conventions is still alive and well.
Personally, I’ve never liked the caucus method. Nor do I see any real benefit to freedom-of-choice in a closed primary. Especially in Idaho where Republicans - in charge of everything - have conned all taxpayers into ponying up $2 million to pay for their closed GOP primary. Legalized thievery. Because they could.
Candidates - national and otherwise - get tangled up in a patchwork of differing laws, unique financial reporting requirements and other obstacles. Trump’s threatening to sue one state. Sanders and Clinton protest some other outcome(s). The whole process is a mess.
We and the candidates should expect - and demand - equity, equality and some common sense be applied to running such important elections. One set of qualifications for candidacy. One set of qualifications for electors. One set of qualifications - caucus or primary - for national parties everywhere.
If you’ve been licensed to pilot an aircraft, you did so federally with the FAA. I’ve often thought a national driver’s license would be a good idea, too. I’ve been licensed in nine states. Those nine exams were pretty much the same. Very little difference. I’ve been told one license wouldn’t work because “Florida drivers don’t have to learn rules for driving in the snow or on ice.” That would be a valid argument if Florida drivers only drove in Florida and never traveled to Denver or Cheyenne.
But to believe in the possibility of one uniform election system is to believe in unicorns. It won’t happen. “State’s rights” don’t you know? We’ll continue to limp along and see it get even worse before those in charge of such things admit the system doesn’t function as it should.
There’s a certain irony here. Seems to me the “state’s rights” believers should be the very voices supporting a uniform national election code to assure fairness and equity in the freedoms they loudly advocate.
Oregon - with its mail and electronic voting system - would be a good model for the other 49 to examine as part of a change to one national set of rules for elections. It’s much cleaner, cheaper to run, easier to vote, no long lines on election day, simple “motor voter” registration and nearly no fraud. Minuscule compared to the Republican-imagined “massive fraud” in other states. Except for a couple of Oregon GOP election officials.
But, again, it ain’t gonna happen. The idea of a clean, uniform, simple national elections code is just - well - a pipe dream. In the head of one old guy sitting on the beach and listening to the waves.