Will We Ever Solve America’s Broken Election System?
By: Nikolas Kluver
October 23rd, 2021 marked the first day I have canvassed since the start of the COVID-19 Pandemic. It’s felt like (and has been) ages since the last time I was able to talk to voters one-on-one. And today, while re-engaging with often fiery citizens, made me realize how starkly divided this country is. More importantly, it displayed the dysfunctional, inegalitarian nature of our electoral system. Many registered voters do not bother turning out because they feel their votes are “useless.” While canvassing today, I experienced this first hand in having doors slammed on my face numerous times. Or people seeing me, and refusing to even answer.
And who’s to blame them? Three out of every four House of Representatives incumbents win with 60%+ of the vote. Party-line voting in Congress is at a record high, at 85%. Parties are drifting further to the ideological extremes, because they know they can win by only capturing a small segment of voters. The voters that do vote now pick a side, and stick firmly with it, so much so that they vote against the other side rather than for their own.
But how do we create tangible change, when most voters statistically don’t even go to the polls? Unfortunately, the answer is...it isn’t. President Biden’s move into the Oval Office last January renewed the calls for national electoral reforms, especially to the Electoral College. An increasingly popular idea is to change elector awarding from “winner-take-all” to “proportional” (to more accurately reflect voters’ will). However, this idea has gone nowhere.
The For the People Act (HR 3863) was introduced by Rep. Don Beyer in the 117th Congress in June 2021, based on similar principles to proposed Electoral College reform: it would enable the adoption of proportional ranked choice in House districts. However, this idea has gone nowhere. It is stalled in the bureaucratic clutter of Congressional legislation.
Its sister bill, the For The People Act (HR 1) would have expanded voting rights, cut the influence of big money in politics, and significantly, ban partisan gerrymandering once and for all. It was considered one of the most formative pieces of legislation in the 117th Congress, and as such, was the very first bill introduced in the Session. Huge, lopsided districts which discourage voters also would be a thing of the past. However, this idea has gone nowhere, similarly stalled in Congress.
Change starts at the bottom, because every vote counts. Getting voters to actually vote might be the first (and best) step in ensuring this change is overseen. Time will tell how future reform alternatives will play out, including automatic voter registration, expanding early voting, and reaffirming the 1965 Voting Rights Act.
Nikolas Kluver is a Freshman from Pembroke Pines, Florida, majoring in Public Policy.