How Fair are Elections in the United States?
Merriam-Webster defines an Oligarchy as:
… a country… …that is controlled by a small group of people…
The need for election reform in the United States is a long-term issue which has yet to be addressed in any meaningful way.
In 2000, George W. Bush won the Presidential election, despite the majority of Americans voting for Al Gore. Gore received over 500,000 more votes than Bush. However, the Electoral College ignored the will of the American people and determined Bush was president.
This wasn’t the first time where the majority of American citizens voted for one candidate and the Electoral College ignored them. It was the fourth.
Put simply, you can’t call yourself a democracy and ignore the citizens.The Electoral College compromises our democracy by ignoring the will of the American people regarding the most powerful elected position in our country. It transforms our democracy into an oligarchy at the highest levels.
While this is a major issue, it’s not the only issue where the United States elections need help.
In 2007, the Foundation for Democratic Advancement (FDA) was created in Canada to hold political candidates and parties accountable during election periods and to raise public awareness of issues involving democracy. However, it has shifted away from election audits on candidates and parties to election fairness audits on electoral systems themselves.
In 2011, the FDA found the United States federal election system received an overall score of 30 percent out of 100. This is lower than Russia, who scored 35 percent in 2011. Even worse, Venezuela, a country long described as a dictatorship, scored 85 percent.
While this may not seem objective, lets provide some context:In 2012, Jimmy Carter
said: “As a matter of fact, of the 92 elections that we’ve monitored, I would say that the election process in Venezuela is the best in the world.”
Why should we put any weight behind President Carter’s statement?
The Carter Center, President Carter’s foundation, has been working in Venezuela since 1998 (16 years) and helped the United Nations to mediate the 2002 Venezuelan election crisis. He knows what he is talking about and doesn’t have a proverbial “dog in the fight,” which is about as objective as one can get.
The 46-page 2011 FDA report on the United States found:
The unfairness of the U.S. federal system is concentrated primarily in the political content of public and private media and electoral finance laws
In regard to private media, the report found:
The US electoral finance laws for private and public funding favor, severely, dominant candidates and parties. Though the US media and broadcasters are required equal media access and opportunity to candidates and parties, that access and opportunity is based on the ability to pay. The US major private media and broadcasters can be partisan and provide incomplete and imbalanced electoral coverage… … The FDA electoral fairness audit team reached consensus on a score of 2.5/10.
How does this compare to the “dictatorship” government in Venezuela?
the 2011, the FDA report on Venezuela found:
The Venezuelan score of 90 percent for the political content of the media and broadcasters means that the political content of media and broadcasters in Venezuela is significantly more fair than unfair.
So Venezuela got 90 percent, the United States scored 25 percent in media fairness.
Think about this.
Regarding electoral finance laws, the 2011 FDA report found:
The United States received a failing score of .5 percent for electoral finance
That is not 50 percent. That is 0.5 percent out of 100 -- half of one percent!
US public electoral spending favors dominant candidates and parties, and private electoral spending with no limits on electoral expenditures favors significantly wealthy candidates and parties.
It goes on:
US spending limits on citizens favor significantly wealthy citizens, just as candidates’ donations to their own campaigns do as well. The unfairness of the US electoral finance laws is a dominate feature of the US federal electoral system, whereby it impacts negatively most other aspects of the system.
In 1776, Benjamin Franklin was asked: Well, Doctor, what have we got, a republic or a monarchy?
A republic, if you can keep it.
If we want to keep our democratic republic, I believe the Electoral College needs to go. It undermines the will of the people. Both electoral finance and media fairness laws need real reform and credible enforcement so Americans can be accurately informed on issues related to government.
These are solutions that all activist organizations, from the NAACP to the tea party, can get behind. I would question the democratic values of any organization or person who wouldn’t support such reforms.
Photo retrieved from trendhunter.com
About the Author
Bob Lewis is a single father from Washington State. He hopes his writing will inspire deeper inquiries into the issues he writes about.