Do elections reflect the will of ‘the people’?

Going back in our young country’s history we all know only wealthy landowners who happened to be male were allowed to vote.  We recognize and have often discussed the pros and cons of the Electoral College.  Voter apathy has a tremendous impact on whether or not elections actually reflect the will of the majority.  Some voters cast their votes based only on social issues like abortion or gun control.  Money, or lack of, all too often dominates who runs and who is elected.  The candidate who may be nominated for POTUS doesn’t appeal widely enough to win at the national level, while the candidate who is moderate enough to be elected doesn’t ‘pass muster’ in the nomination process.

Earlier this month, California voters approved an open primary for statewide and congressional races starting in 2011. In the current system, each party has a closed primary, with only Democrats deciding who should be the Democratic nominee and only Republicans choosing their nominee. In the new system, all candidates for each office will be listed on a single ballot regardless of party (although candidates can list their party affiliation after their names, if they want to). The top two vote getters will advance to the general election, even if both are Democrats or both are Republicans.

Kansas Republicans hold a closed primary and we know this year the results could be skewed by disgruntled Democrats who desire a voice (even tho limited) in who will be the next Senator from Kansas.

What are the pros and cons you see in today’s elections?  What changes do you think might have a positive impact?  Will elections ever reflect the will of the majority of the people?


Filed under Elections

16 responses to “Do elections reflect the will of ‘the people’?

  1. And what in the hell happened in the recent primary election in South Carolina?

    I think some cast votes without having a clue.

    Or was this possibly South Carolina Republicans wanting the presumed weaker candidate to be listed as the democratic choice in the general election?

    My question above brings up the subject of our upcoming Kansas primary. Is this Hartman guy the one Kansas democrats might be able to beat? Does that mean he is who should get my vote at the primary level?

    And why can’t we have someone we want to vote FOR instead of so many we would like to vote AGAINST?

    • Mr. Hartman may indeed be the “weakest” but go there with caution. It does appear to me that should he win the primary, he’ll likely not want for funding for the general.

      Frankly, while Mr. Goyle seems charismatic and a good candidate, I don’t like his chances outside Wichita in the general. Calling ’em as I see ’em.

    • I “see ’em” the same way you do. In fact, Jean Schodorf is a candidate I want to vote for.

      • Prairie Pond

        Fnord, Mean Jean voted in favor of the hate amendment in Kansas, and was one who said “yes” to putting it on the ballot. AFTER she told us she would vote against it. She broke her promise to us.

        Do you really want to vote for someone like that?

        But then, I guess EVERY repuke on the ballot down there would vote to kill the queers if they could.

      • No, I don’t want discrimination of any kind to continue, but I live in Kansas where options for equality are fewer, with people who tout their loving kindness and will show you in their Bible who should be excluded from such.

    • I’m also well aware that Republicans out number Democrats and getting a better Republican is a good thing!

  2. Given the view of the Founders, elections on the federal level (except, it might be argued, the election of members of the House of Representatives) were never intended to reflect the “will of the people” (or of all the people, at least). That was intentional.

    Fast forward to 2010. Over the 200+ years of the Republic, there has been a move to a “democracy”, one that IMO had been beneficial until the perceived need for expensive campaigns arose (think television advertising). This gave contributors even more influence in the elections. I place the recognition of the shift to the 1972 Presidential election; others may well disagree.

    Now, I wonder (on many levels) whether the attempt to democratize elections is, in fact, in the best interests of the country as a whole. Bluntly, I do not think so.

    We are, however, where we are. Thus, my suggestions to increase participation:

    1) There should not be an election day as such; an election weekend, or week, should be the norm.

    2) Should a specific day be required constitutionally, then it should be (in the case of a federal election) a holiday.

    3) The Oregon approach should be studied and, if there is no indicia of increased occurrence of voting fraud, considered for more wide-spread adoption.

    4) Somehow, some way, the SCOTUS decisions dating back to the 1870s which hold a corporation to be a “person” for various Constitutional protections need to be reversed.

    5) Some thought needs to be given to the effect of presidential primaries. I don’t facially champion the “smoke filled room” nomination process, but the problem identified in the lead is mitigated to some extent at least. For those who wish to consider a historical perspective, consider Robert Taft v. Dwight Eisenhower for the 1952 GOP presidential nomination. I subscribe to the thought Taft would have been the nominee if a primary system was then in play.

    6) Increased participation by eligible voters entitled to vote seems to be the “golden fleece” of many. Thus, a review of voter registration statutes and requirements is needed. My jury is still out on “election day” registration, but the rolls should not close 60 days (or more) before the election, as I understand the laws in some states.

    There you go; I could do more, but that should be sufficient.

  3. tosmarttobegop

    I do feel just having the name and no indication of party is somewhat deceptive.
    Though it does play into the way many actually vote, the one who says the best is who is voted for.
    During the campaign they say what you want to hear but are as honest about what they say as the two dollar Tijuana hooker who said “sure baby I love you!”.

    I say of Todd Tiahrt want to know where he stands? Simply give him a indication of where you stand and he is right there beside you!

    Shockingly some years ago, the party actually told candidates local, State and federal to not put on their signs or ad that they are Republicans.

    In a college level government book I read that the founding father set the two houses as representing the two classes of people in the United States. The Senate to be for the interest of the rich and land owners.

    And the House of Congress to represent the common people.

    The Electoral college was established because of the lack of faith in the common man’s common sense.
    Because of the danger of the masses electing someone that is a total idiot.
    So the electoral college could negate the popular vote if need be.

    Kind of how I see the super delegates in the Democratic party.

    In case you lowly and simple minded Liberals vote some one in that the power brokers do not like.
    We Republicans do not have such bothers, we just allow the hand picking of the candidates and never let the unwashed masses of the party know they have no choice.

    In the case of South Carolina is oddly funny, Greene received the majority of the popular vote.

    Then like the morning after a night of wild drinking the hung-over drinker questions what the heck do you say I did?

    The majority voted for a complete idiot so it must have been the fault of the Republicans!

    Not the fault of the uninformed voters or how people actually vote?
    His was the first name on the ballot and he got the most votes.

    Like the source for their information, the average voter gives about two seconds thought to who they mark in the voting booth.

  4. I find the diversity of opinions among those who do pay attention to be fascinating! I frequently wonder how we all read, heard, saw that and came away with ______. 😉

    But I appreciate that diversity too and think it works as a good balance. Just like I appreciate at least two very strong political parties who work to keep one another balanced and in check to a degree.

    I know we can’t force education on anyone, but I do see how an informed voting populace might bring different election results than what we get now.

    I’m also frequently surprised how many vote straight party tickets and when asked about that party’s political philosophy they don’t really know. But their parents voted that way, or someone said…

    • tosmarttobegop

      How true, most party line voters actually do not know or heard about the actual stances or policies of the party.

      I keep predicting the the moment will come when finally the average Republican does notice what some of the elected officials are say and take a stand against it.

      I confess that for the most part I was a single issue voter when it came to a choice between the two candidates I had no idea who or what they said they stood for. My shock and surprise as to when I finally started paying attention is beyond belief.

      • My theory on why Republicans don’t question their elected Republican leaders is that they haven’t done anything to question. Start a war, well Republicans are big on military so why question that? Give money to corporations, yeah, those are the people who create jobs (never mind they now send most of those jobs overseas).

        Exactly what was the latest legislative accomplishment of the Republicans? Name just one that you are proud of, name just one that benefited America and her citizens; hell, just name one.

    • Prairie Pond

      You must be reading my shallow mind, Fnord. This is an excerpt from my column this week:

      “In the spirit of pulling the wings off helpless flies, I’ve come to enjoy making a single comment on BP’s tragedy in the gulf. When a known conservative gives me the “aint it awful how little Obama is doing” I like to look at them blankly, with a kind of Sarah Palin-ish “nobody’s home”, stare and solemnly intone “drill baby, drill”. The following sputtering is priceless.

      Anyone who knows me knows I am no Obama fan, and I do think his administration should have cleaned house and purged Bush appointees from the regulatory agencies long ago. And we all know his own folks have been approving off shore drilling permits like there is no tomorrow. I can’t imagine that a republican administration would have handled this any worse.

      I do find it amusing, in a gallows humor kind of way, that so many conservatives are whining petulantly about the “blame Bush” sentiment regarding this oil disaster. One of my fellow liberals said this week that he’s discovered the perfect answer for the question of “how long will liberals blame Bush for everything?” He drawls that “we’ll stop blaming Bush about eight years after the conservatives stop blaming Clinton ” for all the world’s ills.

      I know. Both statements are nuts, but it brings up a point. ALL presidencies have an affect on the world long after their term of office ends. To not acknowledge this is to not live in the real world. Believe me, I blame Clinton for the repeal of the Glass-Stegall Act just as much as I believe the then Republican held congress that set the banksters free to rob us all blind. In the same vein, I blame Bush and Cheney for turning a blind eye to mountain top removal in the coal industry, and the dialing back of safety regulations that used to temper off shore drilling.

      I’m an equal opportunity blamer. Sometimes, the consequences of bone head decisions are apparent immediately after the decision. Sometimes it takes longs. But in all cases, it’s important to go back and look at the root of the problem, not just who was tending the henhouse when the chickens came home to roost. Denying the cause and effect of political and regulatory decisions is just an invitation to do the same things over and over and expect different results. And from the economy to the environment to education to, war; we see how well THAT is working!

      I’m always amazed at the mental gymnastics it takes for some people to switch what they claim are their core beliefs simply by having a different party in the oval office or controlling congress. Deficits were no big deal under Bush, yet under Obama, there is great wailing and gnashing of teeth among Republicans about deficit spending. The wars of choice in the Middle East were a VERY big deal to liberals during the reign of Bush. Now, under Obama? Not so much of a big deal among Democrats. Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell was a huge problem under Bush. And now with Obama dragging his heels in repealing that Clinton-Bush mistake, it’s no big thing. Woof.

      I have a general dislike of politicians of all stripes, but my real ire is saved for the fair weather, political party drones who really don’t know what to believe until they look for the icon of the donkey or elephant to tell them. No wonder our country is circling the bowl right now if our “core values’ depend on which party is in control. It’s the partisan voters who should be shouldering the real blame. For crying out loud, when your party blows it, admit it. When the other party does something good, admit it. Until then? We’ll be doing the one step forward and two steps back waltz.”

      • WSClark

        Tee hee! On that “Nameless Blog” one Con/Republican was blaming the energy crisis and lack of progress towards alternative sources on…..

        Wait for this…………………………………………

        Jimmy Carter.

        Jeez, since Carter left office we have had twenty of thirty years under Republican administrations, but the blame for failing to address the issue belongs to Jimmy Carter.

        OOOOOOOOOOOOOOO – kay!

  5. mvymvy

    The current system of electing the president ensures that the candidates do not reach out to all of the states. Presidential candidates concentrate their attention on a handful of closely divided “battleground” states. In 2008, candidates concentrated over two-thirds of their campaign events and ad money in just six states, and 98% in just 15 states (CO, FL, IN, IA, MI, MN, MO, NV, NH, NM, NC, OH, PA, VA, and WI). Over half (57%) of the events were in just four states (Ohio, Florida, Pennsylvania and Virginia). In 2004, candidates concentrated over two-thirds of their money and campaign visits in five states; over 80% in nine states; and over 99% of their money in 16 states, and candidates concentrated over two-thirds of their money and campaign visits in five states and over 99% of their money in 16 states.
    Two-thirds of the states and people have been merely spectators to the presidential elections.

    Candidates have no reason to poll, visit, advertise, organize, campaign, or worry about the voter concerns in states where they are safely ahead or hopelessly behind. The reason for this is the state-by-state winner-take-all rule enacted by 48 states, under which all of a state’s electoral votes are awarded to the candidate who gets the most votes in each separate state.

    Another shortcoming of the current system is that a candidate can win the Presidency without winning the most popular votes nationwide. This has occurred in one of every 14 presidential elections.

    In the past six decades, there have been six presidential elections in which a shift of a relatively small number of votes in one or two states would have elected (and, in 2000, did elect) a presidential candidate who lost the popular vote nationwide.

    The National Popular Vote bill would guarantee the Presidency to the candidate who receives the most popular votes in all 50 states (and DC).

    Every vote, everywhere, would be politically relevant and equal in presidential elections. Candidates would need to care about voters across the nation, not just undecided voters in a handful of swing states.

    The bill would take effect only when enacted, in identical form, by states possessing a majority of the electoral votes–that is, enough electoral votes to elect a President (270 of 538). When the bill comes into effect, all the electoral votes from those states would be awarded to the presidential candidate who receives the most popular votes in all 50 states (and DC).

    The bill uses the power given to each state by the Founding Fathers in the Constitution to change how they award their electoral votes for president.

    The bill has been endorsed or voted for by 1,922 state legislators (in 50 states) who have sponsored and/or cast recorded votes in favor of the bill.

    In Gallup polls since 1944, only about 20% of the public has supported the current system of awarding all of a state’s electoral votes to the presidential candidate who receives the most votes in each separate state (with about 70% opposed and about 10% undecided). The recent Washington Post, Kaiser Family Foundation, and Harvard University poll shows 72% support for direct nationwide election of the President. Support for a national popular vote is strong in virtually every state, partisan, and demographic group surveyed in recent polls in closely divided battleground states: Colorado– 68%, Iowa –75%, Michigan– 73%, Missouri– 70%, New Hampshire– 69%, Nevada– 72%, New Mexico– 76%, North Carolina– 74%, Ohio– 70%, Pennsylvania — 78%, Virginia — 74%, and Wisconsin — 71%; in smaller states (3 to 5 electoral votes): Alaska — 70%, DC — 76%, Delaware –75%, Maine — 77%, Nebraska — 74%, New Hampshire –69%, Nevada — 72%, New Mexico — 76%, Rhode Island — 74%, and Vermont — 75%; in Southern and border states: Arkansas –80%, Kentucky — 80%, Mississippi –77%, Missouri — 70%, North Carolina — 74%, and Virginia — 74%; and in other states polled: California — 70%, Connecticut — 74% , Massachusetts — 73%, Minnesota — 75%, New York — 79%, Washington — 77%, and West Virginia- 81%.

    The National Popular Vote bill has passed 30 state legislative chambers, in 20 small, medium-small, medium, and large states, including one house in Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Michigan, Nevada, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, and Oregon, and both houses in California, Colorado, Hawaii, Illinois, New Jersey, Maryland, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington. The bill has been enacted by Hawaii, Illinois, New Jersey, Maryland, and Washington. These five states possess 61 electoral votes — 23% of the 270 necessary to bring the law into effect.