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Life Arts    H2'ed 10/6/16

Brainstorm: Isn't It Time We Designed an Election for the 21st Century?

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Americans have so drifted away from the two-party system that about half of them are now independents, though 95 percent of them do vote for one of the two major parties, said Bouie. We have to regain their trust, said Lithwick. The problem is the "lame stream media"! The federal government could help if the states trusted them.

Bouie brought racial and ethnic divisions to the table and the voter fraud scare that is disenfranchising so many of them. Is it a coincidence that we have elected a black president twice in the previous eight years?

Ranked-choice voting was suggested, an option that Epstein favors because more political parties can be considered. With it, as many candidates as qualify are all listed on one ballot. Voters rank the candidates according to their preference. If one candidate scores 50 percent or higher, he/she is declared the winner. If not, the lowest-scoring candidate is eliminated and the rest ranked again and again until one of them receives the majority of votes.

After 10 years of use, the software stopped working. It's difficult to implement, said Epstein, and there's no guarantee that it will work.

Lithwick brought up the elimination of straight-ticket voting in some states, which will add to voters' wait time, the amount depending on how many candidates are involved. Remember the trouble this might have put us through with the old lever machines?

Amid this sea of tribulations, Schmitt asked Lithwick for input. Courts always get the "one person, one vote" principle wrong. To read the Shelby County v Holder decision is dispiriting. The language is so partisan and pernicious. "The court has its thumb on the scale for the rich guy." Courts make the system rigged.

Another point of despair is the filibuster option of U.S. Senators, said Bouie, which confuses and depresses voters.

And what of technical innovations? asked Schmitt. Might they raise voter confidence? Epstein said he was most worried about the popular option of Internet voting, an infinitely hackable process. Bankers spend millions on their Internet systems and have calculated how much they expect to lose. Overseas voters are numerous enough to affect election outcomes, and some of them are already using IV.

Then there is the "scientific precision" with which the North Carolina engineered its notorious voting restrictions after the Voting Rights Act was disabled in 2013. The restrictions were aimed quite accurately at keeping black voters from the polls.

Bouie brought up the case of a community where two-thirds of the population were black but the council representatives were all white. Why? No one in the black community knew when the elections were held--the decision to keep it a secret was calculated.

Ten years ago, said Epstein, Internet voting was attempted in one community in Hawaii and turnout dropped by 83 percent. In other words, one-sixth of the usual number of votes were received.

And so, the L.A. solution is a patch of blue in a very cloudy sky.

But I mentioned that everyone at this event voted before the panel discussion began. We voted during happy hour, and it is perhaps because of this that the majority of voters favored IV.

We had been given one marble each and were presented with four containers to choose among. One container offered the option of continuing to vote as we do now, on antiquated, infinitely hackable systems. Another container offered Internet voting. The third offered an algorithmic system in which a computerized device decides the voter's choice on the basis of a list of questions asked. The fourth option was voting with marbles.

I chose that. It was the closest to the solution I favor, hand-counted paper ballots

Perhaps there's another option--than voting, that is?

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Marta Steele is an author/editor/blogger who has been writing for since 2006. She is also author of the 2012 book "Grassroots, Geeks, Pros, and Pols: The Election Integrity Movement's Nonstop Battle to Win Back the People's Vote, (more...)

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