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OPINION: Partisan Games are Damaging Our Democracy - Here’s How We Can Fix It

by Neal Simon, published

It has been one month since the 2018 midterm elections were decided. Much in our politics has changed: the Republicans built on their majority in the US Senate, while Democrats won back the House of Representatives and flipped several governorships and state legislatures.

Political news coverage has also included topics such as the Mueller investigation, trade negotiations with China, new appointments in the Trump administration, and potential Democratic Presidential candidates in 2020. Meanwhile, while we are all distracted by these issues, in several states there are significant, and very troubling, electoral issues.

Since the polls closed on November 6:

  • The Republican-controlled state legislature in Wisconsin has approved laws that would shift electoral oversight from the incoming Democratic governor to the state legislature. These bills can be signed by outgoing the outgoing Republican governor before his successor is inaugurated.
  • The election supervisor of Broward County, Florida, a Democrat, was suspended and eventually fired due to negligence and incompetence, including flawed ballot designs, the destruction of ballots from previous elections, and a failure to submit recount totals on time.
  • The House of Representatives election in North Carolina’s 9th District has not yet been certified due to the discovery of potential election fraud involving the Republican candidate, who is narrowly ahead by less than 1%.
  • And, in my home state of Maryland, the Democratic attorney general is appealing a federal court decision requiring the state to redraw a horribly gerrymandered district. Despite the admission that the electoral map was drawn to favor Democrats, the attorney general is working to preserve them rather than work to create fair and rational congressional districts.

These are not isolated incidents. They are the most recent examples in a long list of efforts by both major political parties to use their power to skew the electoral process in their favor.

While political leaders and pundits are quick to cry foul when the opposition party is at fault, they are nowhere to be found when it is their own party playing these dangerous partisan games. This is, of course, because neither party is truly interested in ending them.

So, what needs to be done to fix a broken political system that is overwhelmingly disapproved of by voters? The answer is to shift power away from the two party duopoly when it comes to conducting and overseeing elections, empowering instead officials who will act independently of the two parties.

We need independent redistricting commissions who will create sensible congressional districts, rather than gerrymandered maps to favor a political party; you need those in charge with supervising elections to be unaffiliated from a party, rather than the vocally partisan individuals that often are put in place by elected officials; and we need there to be serious consequences for those who attempt to interfere in elections, consistently applied without regard for politics or political parties.

Additionally, we need reforms that will increase the likelihood of electing more moderate representatives, including opening primaries, using ranked choice voting, and enforcing transparency in campaign funding.

In the thirty days since the 2018 midterm elections, Americans across the country and political spectrum have made it clear that they lack confidence in our electoral system. If we ever want truly free and fair elections, we need to come together and demand that the two parties end the political games and put the American people over partisan politics.

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