On Tuesday, Floridians will flock by the tens to polling stations across the state to choose who will be running for various partisan elected seats.
I will not be one of them.
Sure, I’ll go to the polls, but I am only allowed to vote for non-partisan positions this year. I belong to a third party that is not fielding any candidates in the districts in which I vote.
This is a shame, not because my particular party has zero candidates, but because the system is set up to make it nearly impossible for people who aren’t Republicans or Democrats to be serious candidates. Yes, I remember Ross Perot and Ralph Nader – they made well-publicized runs for the White House. I also remember how they were best known as spoilers.
Some say they were each responsible, respectively, for Bill Clinton and George W. Bush’s first victories, but they were never serious candidates. When was the last time a vote for a Democrat or a Republican was considered a wasted vote, except for Michael Dukakis?
There is a solution: Scrap the party system. All elected positions need to be non-partisan.
This is not unreasonable. The value of non-partisan posts is already apparent and in practice. Judges and school board members already run this way. These positions are considered too important to allow partisanship to interfere with serving constituents. The positions of governor, senator and congressman are no less important.
The race for governor of Florida is a prime example. There is a set of candidates from each major party duking it out for the right to smear the candidate from the opposite party come September and October. This has produced four candidates who spend almost all of their time explaining why the other guy is a dirt bag, but no time explaining how their ideas will benefit Florida and how they will implement them.
The result after the primary will be two candidates for whom nobody wants to vote. Many times, people vote for someone simply because they hated the candidate’s opponent more.
The problems of partisanship get worse after the general elections and truly start to eat away at effective governance. A member of Party X is in each elected office, except for judges and school board members. For example, a member of Party X proposes an idea. Almost always, members of Party X will support it, members of Party Y rally against it.
There may be members of each party who would rather vote the other way, but party whips make sure those elected officials understand there is a price to pay for disobeying the party: If they want support from the party for the next election, they must fall in line. Even the most seemingly rebellious party members will fall in line when faced with this punishment. See Sen. John McCain or Sen. Joe Lieberman for further reference. Ending the party system will eliminate such instances.
An outright ban of political parties would violate the freedom of assembly clause of the constitution, and thus is not the solution. People, including candidates, should be able to join whatever organizations they choose. However, there is no requirement for ballots to be organized into party affiliation, or even to mention party affiliation.
But without political parties, how would elections be run?
Simple: like a tournament. A “March Madness” of politics. The first round of voting would include anyone who could recieve 1,000 signatures on a petition. Voters would go to the polls and vote for their favorite candidate for each post, just like they do now. Sure, it would be a big ballot, but our republic is worth the extra paper and ink.
The votes would be tallied and any candidate receiving at least 20 percent of the vote would move on to the next round. This round would be held soon after the first, which would limit the amount of time a candidate has to attack his opponents while also giving poll workers time to prepare.
In the second round, any candidate receiving more than 50 percent of the vote is elected. In races where no one gets 50 percent, the top two candidates would move on to the third round for a run-off. It would again be held two weeks later.
This sounds complex, but there would be no more than three elections. On the other hand, the benefit would be extraordinary.
Imagine candidates explaining why they are best qualified instead of how the other candidate is a bed-wetter. Imagine voting for a person because she has innovative ideas and not because she belongs to the Bull Moose Party. Imagine senators debating and voting for bills not as cogs in their party’s machine, but as Americans rationally discussing what is best for America.
This can be a reality – it only requires action.