Our favorite guest blogger Ray Link made it through the elections, and now he is asking some very valid questions about whether or not it is time to rethink how we elect our President. With all the change that is coming under President Obama, perhaps this is an ideal time to rethink our election process. Here are Ray’s thoughts:
Just Glad it’s Over. Now Let’s Fix the System
by Ray Link
We have just witnessed an historical moment with the election of Barack Obama. Frankly I am thrilled. Not because he is African-American, intelligent, charismatic, thoughtful, compassionate, and inspires the country… I am thrilled because the election is over!
The country has just opted for change, so what better time to fix our outdated process to elect the President.
The primary process takes 6 months and gives tiny states undue clout while virtually depriving over half the country the opportunity to cast a meaningful ballot as candidates fall out based on the whims of the voters of New Hampshire or the caucuses of Iowa. However, I do not support a single national primary day as that would give a huge advantage to the early big money, big name candidates. If we did that in 2008 the winners would have been Hillary Clinton and Rudy Giuliani. There’s merit in starting out slowly in a few smaller states to allow less well-funded campaigns to gather momentum. A vetting process over a reasonable period of time allows for debate and more candidates to express views.
Instead, let’s start with a few small states that have traditionally had early primaries. These would include Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina, each having a primary election (no caucuses) in February. All delegates would be committed (no uncommitted or “super delegates”) and awarded proportionate to the vote. Each state would have a total delegate count in proportion to its population so all states have equal representation.
Super regional primaries would then occur 3 to 4 weeks apart. The first super regional would include the original 13 colonies (minus South Carolina and New Hampshire) followed by a south and mid-west regional 3 weeks later and including all other states east of the Mississippi. The next would also occur 3 weeks later and include all states west of the Mississippi except those bordering the Pacific Ocean. The last primary would be the first week of May and include Alaska, Hawaii, Washington, Oregon and California and include enough remaining delegates so all voters have a say (perhaps those in the last primary would get the all important final say). This would shorten the process by almost 2 months and have just 5 days of voting compared to 22 we had in 2008. It would also group most of the primaries by region making it easier and less expensive for candidates.
The conventions could continue and still be valid, especially in situations where no candidate has a majority of the delegates. Absent that need the convention would be more of a pep rally to finalize platforms and confirm the selection of the Vice President.
The next and most antiquated system is the Electoral College, adopted in 1787 as a compromise to balance power between large and small states and to give greater power to the “well-informed” elite. With the advent of 24-hour cable, the internet, and a literacy rate of nearly 100%, it’s clearly time to move on from a 220 year old idea and return the power to the people directly. It’s ridiculous that it’s theoretically possible to elect a President with fewer than 25% of the vote and the “loser” getting 75% because the “winner” got 270 electoral votes. There is also no requirement for the electors to vote the candidate they were elected to support. The person with the most votes is the only logical way to elect anyone, including the President. I can’t fathom how anyone can disagree with “most votes wins” as this is how we elect over 100,000 political offices in every other election in America. The Senate, with each state regardless of size getting two representatives, is the balancing mechanism in place for small states to have more say in government. We don’t need another.
Let’s act now, otherwise we will never fix this broken system.
Ray Link is the CFO of FEI Company, a leading manufacturer of electron microscopes, and a former city councilman from Florida and a 30 year member of the Republican Party.