JP Observer: Election system problems at the root of Trump’s ‘win’

Since Donald Trump was inaugurated just over a month ago, Jamaica Plain residents are joining people around the country to take action against his appointments and his almost daily controversial actions.

Unfortunately, in addition to tackling his outlandish behavior, people who are concerned need to battle the convoluted process that put Trump in the White House.

The presidential election system in this country is such an outdated, incoherent wreck it hardly deserves to be called a “system.” Unless changes are made—from conduct of primaries to vote recounts—from municipal to federal levels—by political parties and government—we should be worried about the outcomes of all future national elections.

The fundamental problem is not voter fraud; it’s chaos.

Government agencies at federal, state, and local levels have a say-so about voting standards and operations in about 10,500 jurisdictions across the country, according to the final report from the Election Observation Mission (EOM) conducted by international observers from the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights. The group was invited by the U.S. government to observe our general election starting in May.

“The legal framework for elections is highly complex, with significant variations between states and differences in practice within states and counties,” a preliminary report stated.

Because no one government entity is in charge of elections, voters are not treated the same place to place. Elections are conducted differently, including: voter registration deadlines and requirements; voter identification needed; methods of voting (mail, schedules and times, types of machines, etc.); technologies and voter databases; voter rights and qualifications; recount rules; budgets; and procedures.

The incoherency is confusing to a skeptical public and expensive and awkward for political parties and candidates. Without uniform oversight, voter disenfranchisement can happen easily. Alleged abuses often have to be taken to court. Much of that litigation is not resolved by Election Day, the EOM final report pointed out.

In primaries, mechanics are extremely garbled. States set their own qualifications to vote in primaries. States and parties use a wide range of methods, schedules, and rules for primary voting.

The fundamental wrongness of the Electoral College—whose choice for president has been contrary to the will of the majority of voters twice in the past 16 years—has to be fixed.

Without a constitutional amendment, either of these changes could increase Electoral College accuracy and make all states important—not just “battleground” ones: 1) Laws and/or court rulings could forbid states from having winner-take-all electors, because that is in violation of one person one vote or 2) “National Popular Vote” interstate compact, where states agree that the candidate who received the most popular votes in all 50 states (and the District of Columbia) would receive all their electoral votes, would work. So far, 11 states with 165 electoral votes, including Massachusetts, have signed on. A total of 270 votes are needed to put it into action.

Many other formidable problems—gerrymandering, campaign finance, voter suppression and more—haunt our elections. Building awareness of the need for clear election oversight and reforms with the public, government officials, parties, and advocacy organizations is required if we want future presidents and elections to truly reflect the will of the people.

[Sandra Storey is founder and former publisher and editor of the Jamaica Plain Gazette.]




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