Now that he’s won a second term, I feel that it’s important for President Obama to attack election reform. As I see it, there are three areas that need to be addressed:
According to the Center For Responsive Politics (CRP), the 2012 election is the most expensive in our country’s history at around $6 billion. The Presidential election is 43% of this total at around $2.6 billion.
CRP explains that the reason for this increase in election expenditures is the huge influx of money coming from outside organizations after the Citizens United Supreme Court ruling.
The N.Y. Times study The 2012 Money Race: Compare The Candidates shows the money raised and spent through September 2012. Pro-Romney outside groups spent $255.7 million against President Obama, almost 4 times more than what Pro-Obama outside groups spent against Romney ($69.4 million).
President Obama obviously ran a brilliant campaign and Romney was a weak candidate who ran an incompetent one. But what happens if in 2016 (and beyond) we have an intelligent, competent Democratic candidate who is not a good campaigner (remember Kerry in 2004) and/or the GOP has a Tea Partier that they’ve had time to disguise in a more moderate package (think Marco Rubio)?
We, as a country, cannot afford to have elections be decided by big money donors like corporations and Super Pacs. Citizens United must be repealed. The question is: How?
The GOP voter suppression tactics must be stopped and, if need be, prosecuted. Florida, or as I now call it The Messed-Up State, with its long lines, long ballots, reduced number of voting machines in Democratic precincts, and reduced early voting days should be investigated and its election process overhauled. While some citizens of Florida have signed a petition to impeach Governor Rick Scott, there should be a state/federal process in place where any public servant suspected of voter suppression is suspended, investigated and criminally charged if proven guilty.
Another possible weapon against voter suppression is to make voting compulsory, at least for Presidential elections. In this way, states would need to comply with federal regulations to ensure that all registered voters get to vote.
In his hateful post-election statement Mitch McConnell stated that, “[The American people] gave President Obama a second chance to fix the problems that even he admits he failed to solve during his first four years in office, and they preserved Republican control of the House of Representatives.”
I suspect that it was not the American people who preserved Republican control of the House, but GOP governors and state legislatures. According to Roll Call:
One more point, redistricting solidified incumbents who otherwise would have been vulnerable. Those changes almost certainly benefited Republicans dramatically, improving their bottom-line prospects and making it more difficult for Democrats to net the 25 seats needed to win back the majority.
Partisan domination of state legislatures and improved technology to design contiguous districts that pack opponents into as few districts as possible have led to district maps which are skewed towards one party. Consequently many states including Florida, Georgia, Maryland, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Texas have succeeded in reducing or effectively eliminating competition for most House seats in those states.
However, of the three areas to address, redistricting might be the easiest one to fix, meaning that it will probably end up fixing itself, although it will take a few years. Re-districting usually takes place after the 10-year census in order to accommodate population changes. Since the 2010 Census showed that the “Hispanic Population Grew Four Times Faster Than Total U.S. Population,” Hispanics are overwhelmingly Democratic, and by 2020 Hispanics will represent 66.3 million people, redistricting that favors the GOP will become harder and harder unless they succeed in attracting a big portion of the Hispanic community to the Republican party. Wow, the GOP really does need to “hablar Español.”
There are no easy solutions to any of the three areas I’ve mentioned. Furthermore, only campaign finance can be addressed at the federal level. Efforts to reduce voter suppression and ensure fair redistricting would mean a stronger involvement by the federal government in states’ affairs. This would cause an outcry from the states—especially red states which believe in less [federal] government.
But if those same states are not behaving in the best interests of its citizens, then the federal government needs to come in an protect them. Beyond being citizens of a state, to be an American citizen means to belong to the United States of America, one country, where all citizens should have the same rights and the same freedoms, regardless of where they live.