Monday, May 12, 2014

Voting Rights: A Case for Party-List Voting Instead of Candidates.

In many countries, elections are not conducted in the same manner as they are in the United States.  Actually when looking at other nations' electoral systems, The States are actually a black sheep.  Most nations have some form of parliamentary system.  Canada does, most of Europe does, Russia does, Australia does, New Zealand even does.  But what does this mean for the United States exactly?

There are several types of ways to elect candidates in parliamentary systems.  One is by direct election of representatives like we do here...and like many other electoral systems do.  Then, there are other ways like party voting.  Party voting basically means that you elect "the party" to govern.  The party then keeps a list of candidates to represent each "riding" or district.  

For example, say Washington decides it wants to do party-voting.  Washington would place all political parties meeting the criteria be placed on the ballot, on the ballot, your elections for the State's congressional delegation.  On your ballot, you would see something like this:

For Congress, do you prefer Republican or Democrat?

You would check either of those as your choice.  Your party then would have a list, a candidate for each district.  After tallying all the votes, the number of representatives sent to Washington would be proportional.  So if it's 70% to 30%, Democrats to Republicans, and Washington has 10 congressional districts (it has 11, but for math's sake)...then we would send 7 Democrats and 3 Republicans based on a State-wide vote.  Its a system that does away with the concept of gerrymandering because the drawn districts are no longer relevant to the electoral process other than to round up 700,000 people and declare "this is a district, drawn for logistical purposes and nothing more."

So now the next question...what about primary elections?  Instead of sending out a state-sponsored election ballot for election day, your party would send out ballots to vote for the list if people it believes best represents the party's views.  The first round of singling out candidates for consideration would be to have the party's convention affirm a list of about 20 potential candidates.  Then after receiving a majority from the party caucus, those candidates would move to a kind of General Primary election, where those voters decide which 10 of those 20 chosen will move on to the general election list.  A list might look like this:

Please number from 1 to 20 which candidates you would like to see represent you in the House of Representatives

Candidate A _____
Candidate B _____
Candidate C _____

and so forth til all 20 names are numbered 1-20.

Then at the general election, You vote Republican or Democrat, and the top names on those party's lists are sent to WA DC to serve as our representatives.  No gerrymandering, no disenfranchised voters, no voter fraud.  Every vote matters, every vote counts, and every voice has a voice.  

It's a system that would entirely do away with the idea of gerrymandering, and ensure that voices in Congress are representative of the will of the voters.  It's a completely non-partisan way.  It also gives potential for 3rd party candidates to gain office without the hassle of needing 5% of the vote to be put on the ballot, because every political party would be permitted to be represented on the ballot.  All they would be required to do is to attain enough votes in the general election to win a seat...which currently is about 700,000 votes.

Gabriel Givens
@gdgivens for Twitter

Thursday, May 8, 2014

A New Challenge Being Made to the Affordable Care Act

In a stunning, yet extremely technical loophole may have been found to completely derail the revenue portions of The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.  In December 2013, a complaint was filed by the Pacific Legal Foundation, a right-leaning legal foundation, that charges that the ACA originated in the wrong house of Congress...which, if justices agree with the argument, could render parts or even the entire law invalidated.

In their complaint, they assert (truthfully) that the ACA was passed first by the Senate, then by the House, which according to the strict reading of the Constitution is not permitted.  Article One, section 7 states "All Bills for raising Revenue shall originate in the House of Representatives; but the Senate may propose or concur with Amendments as on other Bills."  This means that Congress went in the wrong order when passing, at very least, the tax provisions of the Affordable Care Act including, the tax provision which requires citizens to pay a penalty tax for failing to buy health insurance as mandated by the law.

The Pacific Legal Foundation is one of the many front groups for Charles and David Koch and is funded by a great deal of corporate donations.  Exxon Mobile has coughed up $110,000 for the organization since 1998.  It is one of the many interconnected legal organizations that swing the right-wing club in the name of "freedom".  They litigate a large array of issues against government including environmental regulations, affirmative action mandates, tax policy, and so on and so forth.

This latest attack on the Affordable Care Act threatens to undo billions of dollars in public investment and threatens the very hope of affordable healthcare in this country.  We can only hope that the Supreme Court puts the people first as this law looks like it could be, once again, on the edge of a cliff.

The case is Sissel v. United States Department of Health and Human Services

By Gabriel Givens
The Center-Left Field