A Better Way To Pick Who Appears On The November Presidential Ballot
By David Grace (www.DavidGraceAuthor.com)
In September of 2016 I asked the question:
Why Are These Unpopular People Our Choices For President?
I answered that question with this column:
How We Got Stuck With Two Candidates We Don’t Like And How We Can Stop That From Happening Again
It’s again Presidential Primary Season which makes it a good time to re-visit how we pick our Presidential candidates.
Two Private Organizations Shouldn’t Pick The Candidates For The Rest Of Us
My complaint from September 2016, which I still have today, is that the 56% of voters who classify themselves as either Democrats or Republicans get to choose the two candidates that, as a practical matter, the other 44% of the country will have to choose between.
That’s like giving a vegetarian a dinner choice of either the steak or the pork chop. It’s not really a choice at all.
Yes, some minor parties may also get a candidate on the ballot, but the reality is that under our party-primary system the next President is going to be either the Democratic nominee or the Republican nominee.
Of course, in some states independents can vote in either party’s primary, and in nineteen states registered voters don’t select a party preference at all which means that they can vote in either party primary.
But, by and large, the people who think of themselves as Democrats or Republicans vote in the Democratic and Republican party primaries that choose their party’s nominees for President, one of which nominees is going to be the next President no matter what the rest of us may think of them.
Less than 60% of Registered Party Members Vote in Their Party’s Presidential Primary Elections
Let’s do some math: About 28% of registered voters classify themselves as Democrats X 60% who vote in the primaries = 17% or less of self-described Democrats X 51% = about 8.5% of America’s registered voters could pick the Democratic candidate for President.
Yes, the real numbers are not this cut-and-dried, but when all is said and done, nationwide, the votes of probably less than 15% of all registered voters will have ended up picking the Democratic Presidential nominee who will face Donald Trump in the general election.
Today, Bernie Sanders is getting around a third of the Democratic primary votes. For the sake of argument let’s say that those primary votes actually do mirror how all the people who think of themselves as Democrats would have voted if they had bothered to show up.
If that were true, it would mean that Bernie’s support among the general electorate is approximately 35% X 28% or about 10% of all registered voters.
But, let’s say that Bernie Sanders has the support of 51% of all people who consider themselves Democrats. That would mean that he was the choice of about 15% of all registered voters.
Should someone who is supported by only 15% of all registered voters be designated as Donald Trump’s opponent in the general election?
Are you starting to get an idea about how this weighted system picked Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump as the two principal candidates for President in 2016?
Another Way To Pick Who Is On The Presidential Ballot
How can we fix this minority control of who is on the ballot for President? How can we give the choice of who the two principal candidates will be back to a majority of the electorate instead leaving it in the hands of the special interest groups, money people, party insiders and political true-believers who currently pick the candidates nominated by the Republican and Democratic parties?
By Having One Primary System Instead Of Two
Here’s how we could do that.
Everybody who wants to run for President can run for President. They can all go out and campaign and debate and advertise as they choose. At some point, maybe May 1st, everybody who has a 10% or higher rating on any one of three respected, independent, national polls would qualify to be listed on that General Primary ballot.
A First Choice Candidate & A Second Choice Candidate
Thirty days later every state would hold the General Primary election. Every registered voter would be entitled to vote and each voter would select a first-pick candidate who would get two votes and a second-choice candidate who would get one vote.
So, if I picked Tom Steyer first and Elizabeth Warren second Tom would get two votes and Elizabeth one vote. If I picked Donald Trump first and Bill Weld second, DT would get two votes and Bill would get one vote.
We would total all the votes for each candidate and if the top two vote-getters together received a total of at least 70% of all votes cast, those two would be the candidates on the ballot on Election Day.
If the top two candidates collectively didn’t get at least 70% of all the votes cast then two weeks later there would be a run-off primary between the top primary candidates who collectively got at least 70% of the votes, again with voters selecting a first choice and a second choice.
The top two vote-getters from that run-off would be on the ballot in the General Election.
Why Everyone Should Get A Say In Which Two People Are On The Ballot For President
This type of system would give all voters, whether closely aligned with a party or not, a say in picking the principal candidates for President instead of giving that power to the true believers and party stalwarts. Under this kind of a system the two candidates might be a Democrat and a Republican, a Socialist and a Libertarian, an Independent and a Green Party member, or whatever.
The voters would choose the candidate and the candidate would choose which party he or she identified with instead of the parties choosing the candidates who then woo the voters.
In other words:
Voters → Candidates → Party
Parties → Candidates → Voters
The Country Belongs To The Voters, Not The Parties
The country belongs to all of us not just to the committed members of the Democratic and Republican parties.
Under the current party-primary system, by the time the independents or apolitical citizens go to the ballot box in November the show’s already over.
We all should have a say on the choices for President rather than being forced to pick between two politicians that a bunch of other people have chosen for us, two candidates we may both dislike — cough, cough, Donald & Hillary.
Instead of the carnivores controlling the menu and giving everyone only a choose between the steak and the pork chop, a large number of diners would prefer a system where they could create a menu that offered the choice of either a steak or the veggie lasagna.
— David Grace (www.DavidGraceAuthor.com)