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This is Paul Hirsch

Paul Hirsch

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The Ultimate Guide To Ending Election Corruption

The presidential election process is a sham. I know it. You know it. That’s the price we pay for living in an oligarchy, where we refuse to put together a decent set of rules that prevent an election from being bought instead of rightfully won.

The good news is that it can be repaired! The bad news is that it’s probably never going to happen. But if we were to take election reform seriously, the following is a set of rules for how a fair system could be used to ensure the will of the people is accurately measured and enforced. This guide assumes all candidates will caucus with an established national party. It does not assume those parties will be DNC and GOP, but in the near future, this is likely to be the case.

Pre-primary registration and Spending Limits

Set a campaign spending limit of $10m (the actual amount is debatable and would be adjusted over time for inflation) for all candidates leading up to primaries. If a candidate wants to spend it early in order to build a bandwagon, go for it. If the candidate wants to spend it late for a last-minute surge, that’s their prerogative. If the candidate wants to spend it evenly, that’s a viable strategy as well. But $10m is the limit, from the date the candidate officially registers, until the date of a national primary election (more on this later). All candidates would need to be registered by the date of the party’s first debate. Independent candidates would need to register and select the party with which to caucas by that party’s first debate.

Super-PACs

The current contribution limits of $2,700 per person would extend to Super-Pacs. If you blow your contribution on a Super-PAC, that leaves nothing for an individual candidate. So be it. A Super-PAC is recognized as such if it endorses a candidate, endorses a party, or endorses an anti-candidate/anti-party position. Any money spent by an organization on advertising or technology that expresses a campaign bias of any sort is included (this needs to be defined more closely, but this is the general idea).

We don’t want rules that prevent free speech, but putting limits on the purchasing power from which a candidate may benefit means that speech is better representative of the people and not a small handful of businesses monopolizing campaign-related messaging. If a Super-PAC that backs a candidate is able to raise $50m in small donations, then it’s reasonable that it is speaking on behalf of a larger popular interest than one that raises $5m. The candidate gets an advantage, but it’s earned.

National Primary

The first Tuesday in August is National Primary Day. It is a national holiday (we can trade one of our existing useless holidays for it, like Columbus Day). All eligible voters may vote online, by mail (must be postmarked within 30 days of primary day) or through a polling center. You may refuse to vote by checking a single box that says you are waiving this right, but you are required by law either vote, opt out of voting or register an exemption based on extenuating circumstances (those circumstances and penalties for non-participation are a discussion for another day).

Voting fraud for online voters is minimized through a process similar to the one used to run free credit reports. It may be a bit cumbersome, but the 5 minutes you spend verifying your identity is much less than the time spent traveling to a polling center.

The top three candidates, by popular vote, regardless of party affiliation, move on to the presidential election, so long as they account for at least 50% of the popular vote in total. If they don’t, then additional candidates are added until at least 50% of the nation’s choices are represented.

Primary Spending Limits

Each remaining candidate is given $20m (this amount is also debatable) to use as he or she wishes in the remaining three months prior to the national election. This is a line-item in the national budget. Campaigns may no longer accept donations, and any remaining money in all candidates’ accounts accumulated prior to primary elections is sent to their caucusing party for their operations.

National Election Day

The first Tuesday in November is National Election Day. It is run exactly like primary day.

Regardless of whether the electoral college is used or if we switch to popular vote (which I favor), if a candidate receives 50% support, he or she wins. If not, a run-off takes place between the top two candidates, again regardless of party affiliation.

National Election Run-Off

If necessary, the first Tuesday in December is reserved for a run-off between the remaining top two candidates, with the same requirements as the previous two elections.

Benefits

The biggest benefit of this system is it eliminates the “wasted vote” quandary we now face during primary elections. You no longer need to be concerned that voting for a less popular candidate in the party of your choice will prevent a more popular candidate from moving forward, since the top three+ candidates that move on may come from any party. You can simply vote your conscience.

The second benefit is that everyone’s voice is heard, including those who choose to express themselves by boycotting the election process.

The third benefit is this prevents a candidate from overpowering others by simply outspending them. And because the limits reel in how much a candidate may spread his or her propaganda, it stops them from beating us over our heads with their rhetoric. It’s just enough to get the word out, and from there, it’s up to the people to decide how much or how little they want to pay attention to debates, news and candidate/independent Web sites.

The fourth benefit is it prevents voter disenfranchisement. You no longer need to register to vote in the national election (local/state is another issue for another day). If you have a social security number, and you are 18+ years old, you vote, period. If you want to vote by mail, you’ll need to register your address  in order to receive your ballot, but showing up to a polling center or voting online (any computer may be used, including publicly accessible computers at libraries, etc.) means the federal government doesn’t even need to know where you live in order for your vote to count.

The final benefit is that voters who wouldn’t be able to participate in voting due to employment, financial circumstances, etc. would have every available opportunity as those who have the liberty to do so.

There are plenty of details missing from the guidelines above that would need to be hammered out in order to ensure a fair, representative election, but this is a pretty strong starting point for election reform that makes our electoral process representative again.