Sunday, October 31, 2010

Negative ballots

We have a general election coming up. Every four years we go through this whether we need to or not. We don’t really have any choice. Our Constitution says we must do this. So once again we will go through the dreary business. It’s dreary because Congress, as usual, has failed to implement the Resident Curmudgeon’s plan for reform of the election process.

The inability of Congress to understand the brilliance of my reform plan is disheartening. Of course, there are those who say that the US Senate couldn’t recognize a good idea if it jumped up and bit them. Others say that the House of Representatives are so busy running for reelection they don’t have time to consider anything of merit. For whatever reasons, they have failed to enact the most fair, innovative, democratic, representative change to the American political process since the repeal of prohibition.

My reform is very simple. We need negative ballots. How many times have you gone to the polls, looked at the ballot, and decided that all the candidates are scoundrels? Yet our election process requires that you vote for one of them. (Or 2 or 3 in multiple seat elections). How many times have you decided that none of them are fit to hold office? But, in the end, you have to vote for somebody. My proposal will let you vote against somebody.

Now think about this. Wouldn’t that make you feel better? Sure, one or more of the scoundrels are going to get elected, but it wasn’t your fault. You voted against them! Even better, in the process you did not help any of them get elected! In a multiple seat election, like in a County Commissioner election, where there are 5 candidates, and the ballot says vote for 3, you would be allowed to vote against 3. Even better, you could vote for 1 and against 2. Or vote for 2 and against 1. That would be pure Democracy in action. You could really make your preferences known.

I predict that if my reform plan were implemented, it would increase America’s Gross National Product, decrease the number of divorces, increase church attendance, and probably reduce the amount of smog in North Carolina.

This proposal is really not so far out. In some of the more progressive states, some judges do not run in a contested election. Instead, they run against their record. The question is: Should Judge Blank be returned to the bench: yes or no? Now that, in essence, provides a negative ballot. You can vote against returning the rascal to the bench.

There is one very important caveat to my reform plan. If any candidate ends up with a net negative total (that is, more people voted against him/her than voted for him/her), then he/she will never again be allowed to run for any public office. Now that would be a major improvement.

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