Anyone who follows elections and politics closely knows that there are several problems with the actual process of elections in America:
- Voter participation is down, and not equal to the levels of what should be a healthy democracy. In 2004, 60% of the American population aged 18 or older turned out to vote. While that was praised as a high number, and better than almost any other election since 1972, even that total is not good enough. Midterm elections in America now regularly see voter participation under 40%. Off-year and primary elections now regularly see voter participation under 20%. The lowest turnout rates tend to happen among low-income groups, young groups, and minority groups. That is not good for America, and it is not good for democracy.
- Our electoral infrastructure does not guarantee that every vote in counted. In fact, pretty much every election in America will have at least 1% of the people who tried to vote not see their votes counted, and in some cases the numbers will be much higher. Through bad machines, bad ballots, cancelled registrations, "spoiled ballots," too few voting machines, challenged ballots, and many other means, in every election millions of votes are not counted in our electoral system.
- Fundraising. Despite some improvements, large donors still hold far more sway over our electoral process than average Americans. We still need comprehensive voting reform that frees candidates from having to spend to much time raising money, prevents special access from large donors, and still allows average activists to have agency withint he electoral system.
All of these problems, voter retrenchment, campaign finance reform, and making sure every vote is counted need to be solved in order for our democracy to become healthier. We need leaders in Congress, leaders in states, and leaders in counties and precincts to make this happen. People need to believe in our electoral system, and they need to actively participate in our electoral system. Right now, that is not the case for millions of Americans, and we need to take steps to rectify the situation.In my post last night
, I offered up one solution: for progressive, grassroots activists to take charge of their local electoral infrastructure. I absolutely believe that is the most important step in helping to fix our electoral system, but I admit that is not the only step. Nationwide confidence in our electoral system is not going to increase unless local activism is gradually drawn together in a national movement and narrative of real hope to fix our electoral system. This is never going to happen unless people nationwide are willing to start talking publicly about what tens of millions of Americas already believe: our electoral system does not work well enough. Trust and accountability are not going to be restored unless people start talking about what we already believe: our electoral system does not work well enough . As Ketih Olberman said in RFK Jr.'s article
:Olbermann attributes the lack of coverage to self-censorship by journalists. "You can rock the boat, but you can never say that the entire ocean is in trouble," he said. "You cannot say: By the way, there's something wrong with our electoral system."
Depending on the election, between 40% and 80% of Americans do not believe that our electoral process is worth participating in. This isn't because they do not see a difference between the two parties. Long-term NES data shows that now, more than ever, Americans believe there is an important difference between the two parties
. This isn't just because Americans think all politicians are corrupt, or that their vote does not make a difference, or that their vote will not be counted, or that politics does not impact their life. It is, instead, all of these reasons. Different reasons for different people, and multiple reasons for some.
What we need is a national movement that not only takes control of local electoral infrastructure, but also a movement that gives hope to many Americans that there are indeed good reasons for participating in your electoral system. That movement will never happen if people are not active in local politics. That movement will never happen if no one talks about the problem. That movement will never happen if the people who talk about those problems throw their hands up in the air and say that it is all hopeless because the fix is in.
By helping to break the seal on this subject, RFK Jr. is part of a new movement of hope to restore faith in our electoral system. I hope that everyone who reads his article, and is thrilled by his article, will become part of that movement as well. Take charge of your local electoral and party apparatus. Realize that people have many different problems with our electoral system, and not just one. Talk about ways to fix the system, and then carry out those discussions with action. Actively work toward real solutions, and always emphasize that real solutions can be achieved. Most importantly of all, emphasize hope over blame, and the future over the past.
These problems can be fixed, but they will not be fixed by silence, by inaction, by hopelessness, or by over-emphasis on singular causes to our problems. There can be a day when we have a transparent electoral system that really is accountable to the American populace, and RFK Jr's article is part of the movement toward that goal
. Stay hopeful and active, because, as I have seen in my experience, this is a problem we can fix.