As I’ve been talking about the upcoming presidential election here this week, I was asked by a pal of mine: If I were given Constitutional leave to remake the presidential election system here in the United States, how would I do it?
Well, there are lots of different ways to do it, all of which are flawed in one way or the other. That said, what I would want to do in remaking the election system is to try to balance the popular vote with the (I think) legitimate need for state representation via the Electoral College, and to minimize the influence of money in creating electoral choice. So here’s one way to do it.
1. The presidential election is to be non-partisan. A candidate may belong to a political party, but would not be running as that political party’s candidate and would not be allowed to coordinate their campaign with that party.
2. No one other than individual humans may contribute money to a presidential candidate’s campaign. The amount would be no more than $2,000 per candidate per election, indexed to 2012 dollars.
3. Those wanting to run for President must announce their intention by July 1 of the year prior to the election and file such intent with the federal government by that date.
4. Between July 1 and December 31 of the year prior to the election, they must gather signatures from at least 1% of each of no less than two-thirds of United States (i.e., 1% of the population of each of 34 individual states). This is to ensure the candidate has widespread appeal. The signatures must be from US citizens of voting age. Each person may offer their signature to only one potential presidential candidate.
5. From January 1 to June 30 of the election year, all candidates who have met the qualifications outlined in point 4 will be official presidential primary candidates. The US government will allot a television and radio channel in each media market reserved entirely for the airing of information by the candidates about their positions. In addition, a similar channel must be carried on all cable/satellite services. All candidates will have equal allotment of time on these stations, with the times allotted generated randomly on a daily basis. Likewise, all candidates will be offered equal access to the Internet to create sites to carry their information. Additionally, all qualified candidates will be allowed equal space in a voter’s information packet, printed by the government, to be mailed to every household in the United States by May 15.
6. On June 30, the United States will hold its primary presidential election. Registered voters in all states will choose up to three candidates for the office of President. The results will be tallied and the three top vote-getters nationwide will be declared Final Presidential Candidates. The nationwide balloting ensures the people have a say in the final candidates.
7. From July 1 through the first Monday of November of the election year, the Final Presidential candidates will make their case to the people. The US government will again allot television, radio, internet and print access to each candidate in the manner described in point 5. Additionally, each candidate will be require to participate in no less than three debates with the other two candidates, of no less than two hours length, to be made widely available through all media. Final Candidates must choose their vice-presidential candidates no later than August 1.
8. Election day, the first Tuesday of November, is a national holiday, to allow the largest number of voters access to the polls. All voters who cast ballots will have the option of ranking the Final Candidates by preference, in an instant runoff style. The votes shall be tabulated first in first-past-the-post style: Whichever candidate in each state has the highest number of votes shall be awarded the electoral votes for that state. If by tabulation in this manner one candidate reaches the sufficient number of electoral votes to be declared winner (currently 270), then that candidate will be the next president.
9. However, if no candidate has a sufficient number of electoral votes after the first counting of the votes, then the candidate with the fewest number of votes nationally will be dropped from the ballot, and their votes reapportioned to the two remaining candidates in a manner consistent with instant runoff voting. The ballots will then be recounted, with the highest vote getter in each state winning that state’s electoral votes. Whichever candidate reaches the sufficient number of electoral votes will be the winner.
10. In the event of a tie in this case, the vote is then thrown to Congress in a manner consistent with the Constitution.
Complicated? Sure. More complicated and insane than the current electoral process? Probably not. I figure it would be worth a shot anyway.