Sunday, January 24, 2010

Solve the Campaign Finance Problem by Getting Rid of the Campaign

Probably all the readers have heard that the American Supreme Court has ruled that corporations can campaign for or against candidates for election, but they still cannot contribute directly. Both Daniel Shor, senior columnist of NPR and the President of the United States, Barak Obama, have said this undoes a century of campaign reform.

I propose several reforms of the campaign, not the financing of itself. Many of these, although dramatic in effect, can be done without a Constitutional Amendment. (Although I see no reason not to attempt an amendment of the Constitution.)

  1. Allow a random selection of individuals to do the voting for office holders. This would be large enough to avoid brib4ery and to provide a random sample. But it would be small enough that a candidate for congress, senate, governor, etc. could contact all of them at reasonable cost. Possibly they could even visit with all of them at reasonable cost. (If we assume a group of one thousand voters making the decision, at 200 hours per month, a congress person candidate could visit with each of them for one month in a five month campaign.) Article One, Section Four of the United States Constitution provides that "Congress may at any time by law make or alter Regulation determine the Time, place or manner of holding the elections for senantors and representatives." So this can be done by Congress, or even in a specific state.
  2. Of course an alternative is to simply randomly select the House of Representatives
  3. Or, perhaps we could have three houses, the first two being our house and senate and the third being chosen by sortition
  4. But perhaps, the most radical idea is to have two elections, the first in each state would decide how to decide. The second would be the actual election for whatever percentage the voters in that state decide should be elected and not chosen by sortition.
Individuals would vote what percentage of their state delegation would
  1. be elected in the conventional manner, from geographically-based districts
  2. elected at large
  3. chosen by sortition as described by one above. That is modest-size randomly-selected groups would elect the representatives as described above.
  4. selected randomly
Particularly, for small states, Conress would have to increase the number of representatives. Our Constitution allows Congress to have one representative per thirty thousand population. Wyoming, our smallest state by population, has 544,270 population and would choose eighteen people. This would be a reasonable number, allowing a few to be selected by each of the above such mechanisms, based upon the votes of the population.

But California would send a whopping 1192 representatives instead of the 53 they now do. (Many people would consider this unwieldy.) The solution would be to allow a single CongressPerson to represent many districts if they can achieve the popularity. Thus, the larger state delegations would consist of a few popular mega-congress persons that would have have tens or hundreds of votes out of a total delegation of a thousand individuals. The popular congress persons would be pretty much guaranteed being returned to Congress. They would campaign to get more votes. There would also be those representing what most would be considered fringe ideas or groups and a few new people starting out, getting 30,000 or 90,000 votes in their first campaign and hoping that leads to being a mega-congressperson one day.

This would also encourage more competition for safe seats. Each mega-representative could increase their number of votes by getting a few more votes than they did last time. Safe seats are a problem in many countries and voters don't have an opportunity to have a meaningful voice. For our readers who are United States voters, imagine being one of the twenty percent republicans in certain urban congressional districts that have voted democratic for many years. Major Owens in New York's Eleventh congressional District, my mother's old district, won relection with over eighty five percent in every election from 1998 to 2006. But the problem is not confined to the United States. Canada has safe seats with 75% for the incumbent and Australia has a safe seat with the incumbent getting 67.7% voter and the rival getting 12.5% of the vote.)

In the same participatory democracy spirit, we can allow the states to determine the minimum size for a representative. There would be a trade-off. On one hand a state would allow minority viewpoints to be heard and new candidates to make a start by getting 30,000 votes and a seat in the House of Representatives. On the other hand, such a state would probably have a few embarassments. If Texas, New York and California all allowed representatives who would be seated with merely 30,000 votes, I am sure one of them would seat a Congressperson from the Nazi party.

I will discuss Proportional Representation in another post.

1 comment:

  1. Rick Ungar had a great article on the view of corporations was in 1787 United States, Lincolns views of bankers. I agree with his analysis of his problem. But he trots out the standard solution of government financing of campaigns, not reforming campaigns themselves as I have.