I can't. Mostly because I'm a Canadian citizen, and an American resident. Which means I get to pay American taxes, but have little say in nature of government that will manage them:).
This election has been an incredible experience (even for a non-voter like me). I began to get interested towards the end of the Clinton-Obama primary contest, and it's been hard to let go ever since, though more like trying to ignore an accident on the highway vs. wanting to watch the first moon-landing.
Two questions right up front:
- Why does it take so long to do this?
- Why does it require so many elections to select a leader?
Is this an outcome of history? Is it because the current election "system" was defined in the 1970s when communication was limited, TV, radio and newspapers were infrequently experienced, and it simply took time for the entire electorate to get a sense of the candidates and their platforms? Is it because we've become obsessed with the reality TV culture and need to spend months on end living in these bizarre people's lives? Or is it because we're more interested in the process and not the outcome?
From my very naive and external point of view, it seems to me that we can create some simple rules about an election given the nature of communication today, and the profusion of information and communications technology (ICT).
What if this were the new 2012 American election system - a-la Shafeen (assuming a Nov 6, 2012 election & 200 million eligible voters):
Duration (61 + 97 = 158 days):
- Party primaries begin June 1, 2012, and needed to be completed by July 31, 2012. All the states vote together, and it happens on the last Tuesday in July.
- The National election begins August 1, 2012, and goes through election day.
Funding ($25m X # of candidates in primary + $150m = $450m total (assuming six primary candidates/party)).
- Total available funding for each candidate equals the total number of eligible voters X $0.50 = $100m max.
- Candidates can spend a maximum of 25% (1/4) of their budget for the primaries ($25m max).
- Therefore, only two candidates will spend 100% of the budget.
- Fund-raising for the primaries is private. There are no donation limits, but all donors must be identified. There are no anonymous donors, and donors must be American citizens or American organizations (i.e. based in and pay taxes in the USA).
- The 75% ($75m each) for the candidates in the national election is publicly financed.
- Candidate advertising may only take place during the time allocated for the election.
- Total accountability of all monies spent by all candidates is required, and their budgets must be posted on their website and is subject to audit.
- Candidates for lesser offices are bound by these same rules, their budgets are based on the size of their local electorate.
- Can not advertise on behalf of the candidate. Of course no-one can suppress freedom of speech, but advertising on behalf of (or against) a candidate can only be funded by the candidate's budget per above.
- The DNC/RNC are equally constrained. Their only latitude is the ability to use advertising to neutrally encourage voting.
- Oh - there's no such thing as registering voters anymore. Now every voter who is eligible is registered automatically.
- Voting comes with accountability - each person's vote is cast and recorded, and connected back to them.
- Voting technology: in 2010 the next generation of mobile phones and ATMs emerged that identified people via thumb print or retina scan. These became very rapidly prolific due to risks of hacking for older-style devices. 90% of voters in 2012 now have one of these devices, and will vote at their leisure. There will be limited polling places for those that don't - these will be City Halls, Libraries, and Post Offices, where a voter can use similar technology (finger print/retina scanner to identify themselves and then choose their candidates) to cast their "ballot".
- Miraculously in 2009 the President listened to a 23-year-old Computer Science PhD student who described his PhD thesis, which is a very safe algorithm for secure voting based on the technology that underlies ATM networks. So voting is now relatively secure, and results can be known within minutes of the polls closing.
In 2012 the election costs a relatively fixed (though still egregious) amount of money, it takes much less time, and results are audited and delivered to the public very shortly after the polls close.
Why isn't this possible??