Larry Bradley’s Ezine #367 Should Political Parties Pay Their Own Way?

Weekly Ezine #367

What Lessons Does the Missouri Primary Election Illustrate?
Should Political Parties Pay Their Own Way?

Notice: The thoughts offered in this Ezine are not intended to either support or oppose any individual candidate for the 2016 election. The thoughts are, instead, (as always) intended to demonstrate the inadequacy of our current election processes and offer solutions to make those processes better.

What Lessons Does the Missouri Primary Election Illustrate?

Last week’s Missouri Primary Election illustrated once again the points we have made before and clearly support our argument for election reform.

We note first of all voter participation. Missouri has a little over 4 million registered voters. The Presidential Primary was held back in March. The highest office on the ballot was that of Governor. Including the Libertarian Party turnout, the total number of voters was 1.011,386. This is approximately a 25% turnout.

Missouri has open primaries. An Independent Voter could (as I did) choose a party to help select its candidates. Registered as a Party member or not, 3 out of every 4 registered votes declined to participate in choosing the people who will write their laws, approve their budgets and set their taxation rates.

The race to determine the nominee for Governor within each Party was varied. Chris Koster was a decisive majority winner for the Democrats. Cisse Spragins ran unopposed among the Libertarians and got 3,503 votes. The 4 way Republican contest illustrates once again what happens when 4 competitive candidates run using a winner take all ballot.

The result was as follows. (As shown on the MO Secretary of State’s website on Aug 6, 2016.

Catherine Hannaway 136,350 5.32%
Eric Greitens 236,250 34.56%
John Brunner 169,425 24.79%
Peter D. Kinder 141.498 20.7%
Total 683,523

What these results show is Missourians are once again having to vote in the general election for a plurality winner of a nomination. In fact, in some states Greitens’ inability to get a clear 35% of the vote would call for a Party Convention to determine a winner.

If Missouri were using Instant Runoff voting, then a majority winner could be found by the voters themselves and not by Party insiders. Who would Catherine Hanaway’s voters have voted for if they had a second choice? If they voted predominately for Peter Kinder, then they could have potentially moved him from a third place finish to first place.
As it is, Missourians will never know if Greitens is the consensus choice of Missouri Republicans or merely the leader of a motivated minority.

That’s why all states need to change their election law to allow Instant Runoff Voting.

Should Political Parties Pay Their Own Way?

I had intended to use Larry Sabato’s Electoral College map to illustrate the impact of our proposed changes to the Presidential Election Process.

Then I saw this column by Dave Helling in the Kansas City Star. Accordingly, I decided to hold off another week on my Electoral College offering. In writing this, I re-state that I am a registered Independent.

Helling is saying something that seems to be gaining more support. (See this link. This web site has a lot of similar offerings. ) Helling is saying Political Parties are sponging off Independent Voters by having taxpayer funded Primary Elections. Political Parties, says Helling and others, are private institutions and should pay for their own Primary Elections. Whoever wins their Primary can then be voted on by the general tax paying public in the general election.

While compelling, I disagree. Here’s one reason why. I once was conducting an Army drug and alcohol education session. One of my sergeants said he would always choose alcohol over illicit drugs. His reason was because when he opened a container of booze it had a seal of government approval. “I know what I’m getting,” he said. “I don’t have that confidence with some drug I bought off the street.”

In a similar way, having government run Primary Elections serves as a validation or legitimization of what the Parties present to voters in the General Election. Without the government playing an impartial role in the process, there could be significant concern over the legitimacy of candidates. There would be much time and energy diverted to ensuring the integrity of the election rather than being focused on candidates.

We do not have a problem with election because we spend too much on elections. We have a problem because we don’t invest enough in our elections and their process. That lack of investment results in voters being forced to choose between the lesser of two evils. Sufficient investment in voting automation and process would enable voters to mandate majority winners over plurality winners. Voters would have more choice and candidates would have to face more and better competition. Gerrymandering could be eliminated. All 50 states would be competitive for the Presidential Election.

In a similar vein, we do not have a problem with Political Parties either because they exist or there are too many of them. We have a problem because there are too few competitive Political Parties. There are too few competitive Parties because our political process is flawed.

There are those who argue for the abolition of Parties. Those who argue for abolition fail to comprehend the geographic vastness of this country, its cultural diversity and the realities of how our Constitution shapes policy making. Expecting a single representative to the U.S. House or Senate or a President to bring your vision for government into being on their own is a fantasy. Bringing a political vision into being requires majorities in both the House and Senate and (hopefully) a President who agrees with that vision. Lacking an agreeing President necessitates even larger majorities. And the path to getting those majorities is best provided by the synchronized activities of Political Parties, not lone wolf individuals.

Force Political Parties to pay for their elections? Maybe instead Parties should charge voters for the work they do that three quarters of voters are unwilling to do, such as belonging to Parties and voting.

We gravitated to two Parties after the Constitution was approved because we retained the British First-Past-The-Post (FPTP) ballot. That ballot lends itself to either or choices. Given the simpler nature of the time and the difficulties in communication and travel, FPTP was an adequate choice then. The choice is no longer adequate for a nation with the diversity and sophistication we possess.

We now need competitive third Political Parties. Competitive third Parties will never be able to emerge until we get rid of the FPTP (a.k.a. Winner Take All) Ballot and replace it with Instant Runoff/ Ranked Choice Voting.

So let’s quit arguing about who should pay for Primaries and instead focus on making Primaries more competitive and engaging.

See you next time.


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