The Universal Notebook: How to fix our rigged elections

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If we are ever to restore integrity to the American electoral process we are going to have to take it back from the extremists who hijacked it. That would mean undoing at least 30 years’ worth of their dirty work.

When Donald Trump charged that the 2016 election was “rigged,” he knew what he was talking about. It was rigged in his favor, and not just by his Russian co-conspirators.

A good start at fixing U.S. elections would be to reinstate the Fairness Doctrine. In 1987, the Reagan-era Federal Communications Commission abolished the Fairness Doctrine, which required anyone with a broadcast license to air multiple perspectives on issues, thus opening the door to conservative talk radio, Fox News and fake news, the most corrosive forces in our democracy.

Then we might think about getting rid of the Electoral College, an anachronism that empowers unqualified candidates. Trump likes to think he won in a landslide, even though he lost the popular vote by 3 million. He won the Electoral College vote 306-232. That may seem like a big difference, but it really came down to a razor-thin margin of 107,000 votes in three swing states – Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania.

The problem with the Electoral College is that it takes the election out of the hands of the American people and gives it to states. States should not have the right to vote.

Most of Hillary Clinton’s popular-vote margin came in California, but, under the Electoral College system, the votes of citizens in large states like California and Texas do not count as much as the votes of people in small states like Wyoming and Vermont. Wyoming’s three electoral votes each represent just 186,000 people while California’s 55 electoral votes each represent 670,000. So if you live in Wyoming, your vote counts 3.5 times more than the vote of a California resident.

Another reform necessary to restore the integrity of our elections would be to overturn Citizens United, the single worst decision in Supreme Court history.

In Citizens United, the court affirmed the bogus ideas that money is a form of free speech and that corporations have the same rights as individuals, even though the Constitution does not even mention corporations. So now the wealthy and corporations are free to buy U.S. elections.

In a fair campaign-finance system, only individuals would be allowed to contribute a limited amount to a candidate and no soft money would be allowed at all, soft money being the fuel behind the most toxic forms of false political advertising.

Not sure how you fix gerrymandering, but the extreme partisanship in Washington is largely a result of the masterful job Republicans have done in redrawing congressional districts so they can’t lose and don’t have to appeal to moderates.

To rig district lines, the GOP first had to win governorships and state legislatures. How did they manage to do this? The same way they did in Maine, by appealing to prejudice and fear. But while Republicans now hold power, they are demonstrating every day that they are incapable of leading, let alone governing. That’s because you can’t move forward with your foot on the brake and the gearshift in reverse.

Finally, we are going to have to confront Republican voter suppression, their highly effective way of keeping the poor, the elderly and minorities from voting.

They use dirty tricks – requiring photo IDs, eliminating same-day registration, and reducing the number of polling places – in order to create long lines and long waits. In Wisconsin, where Trump won by a mere 30,000 votes, it has been estimated that Republican-backed voter ID laws kept 300,000 eligible voters from voting.

Republicans defend these practices as attempts to prevent voter fraud, but there is no measurable fraud in American elections beyond Republican monkey-wrenching.

The reason conservatives make such a fuss about the United States being a “republic” and not a “democracy” is that they fear majority rule. As the system is currently rigged, a Republican minority is able to dictate the rules, and rule.

As Rebecca Solnit writes in an essay called “Tyranny of the Minority” in the March issue of Harper’s, the Republican Party “isn’t changing its strategy in order to win a majority; it is intensifying its efforts to suppress the majority. It has committed itself to minority rule. As the non-white population swells, Republican scenarios for holding power will look more and more like those of apartheid-era South Africa – or even the antebellum South.”

And that, ladies and gentleman, is how we ended up with a white nationalist demagogue in the White House.

Freelance journalist Edgar Allen Beem lives in Brunswick. The Universal Notebook is his personal, weekly look at the world around him.

  • toto

    Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker in 2015 was correct when he said
    “The nation as a whole is not going to elect the next president,”
    “The presidential election will not be decided by all states, but rather just 12 of them.

    Candidates have no reason to poll, visit, advertise, organize, campaign, or care about the voter concerns in the dozens of states where they are safely ahead or hopelessly behind.

    With the end of the primaries, without the National Popular Vote bill in effect, the political relevance of 70% of all Americans was finished for the presidential election.

    In the 2016 general election campaign

    Over half (57%) of the campaign events were held in just 4 states (Florida, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Ohio).

    Virtually all (94%) of the campaign events were in just 12 states (containing only 30% of the country’s population).

    2016 was won by intentionally targeting critical counties within the battleground states of Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Florida. In doing so, a relatively small number of votes (less than 130,000 or just under .6% of all ballots nationwide) flipped the electoral votes of these states and the presidency was won by the “legal” gaming of the winner-take-all system.

    Now that this type of surgically targeted campaign strategy has proven effective, and impressively less expensive, it will likely be the way all future presidential campaigns will be run under the Electoral College winner-take-all system. It saves time, money and all that hassle of listening to as many voters as possible.

    In the 2012 general election campaign

    38 states (including 24 of the 27 smallest states) had no campaign events, and minuscule or no spending for TV ads.

    More than 99% of presidential campaign attention (ad spending and visits) was invested on voters in just the only ten competitive states..

    Two-thirds (176 of 253) of the general-election campaign events, and a similar fraction of campaign expenditures, were in just four states (Ohio, Florida, Virginia, and Iowa).

    Over 87% of both Romney and Obama campaign offices were in just the then 12 swing states. The few campaign offices in the 38 remaining states were for fund-raising, volunteer phone calls, and arranging travel to battleground states.

  • toto

    There have been hundreds of unsuccessful proposed amendments to modify or abolish the Electoral College – more than any other subject of Constitutional reform.
    To abolish the Electoral College would need a constitutional amendment, and could be stopped by states with as little as 3% of the U.S. population.

    Instead, pragmatically, The National Popular Vote bill is 61% of the way to guaranteeing the majority of Electoral College votes and the presidency to the candidate who receives the most popular votes in the country, by changing state winner-take-all or district winner laws (not mentioned in the U.S. Constitution, but later enacted by states), without changing anything in the Constitution, using the built-in method that the Constitution provides for states to make changes.

    All voters would be valued equally in presidential elections, no matter where they live.
    Candidates, as in other elections, would allocate their time, money, polling, organizing, and ad buys roughly in proportion to the population

    Every vote, everywhere, for every candidate, would be politically relevant and equal in every presidential election.
    No more distorting, crude, and divisive and red and blue state maps of predictable outcomes.

    The bill would take effect when enacted by states with a majority of the electoral votes—270 of 538.
    All of the presidential electors from the enacting states will be supporters of the presidential candidate receiving the most popular votes in all 50 states (and DC)—thereby guaranteeing that candidate with an Electoral College majority.

    In 2017, the bill has passed the New Mexico Senate.
    The bill was approved in 2016 by a unanimous bipartisan House committee vote in both Georgia (16 electoral votes) and Missouri (10).
    The bill has passed 35 state legislative chambers in 23 rural, small, medium, large, red, blue, and purple states with 261 electoral votes.
    The bill has been enacted by 11 small, medium, and large jurisdictions with 165 electoral votes – 61% of the way to guaranteeing the presidency to the candidate with the most popular votes in the country


  • toto

    A survey of Maine voters in 2009 showed 77% overall support for a national popular vote for President.

    In 2008, the Maine Senate passed the National Popular Vote bill

    Most Americans don’t ultimately care whether their presidential candidate wins or loses in their state or district. Voters want to know, that no matter where they live, even if they were on the losing side, their vote actually was equally counted and mattered to their candidate. Most Americans think it is wrong that the candidate with the most popular votes can lose. We don’t allow this in any other election in our representative republic.


  • Queenie42

    Open up a weekend to vote and make voting mandatory with a fine unless there is a good reason. The fine could be tacked on to tax bill or deducted from refund.
    Also, no reports of winners until ALL votes counted and confirmed.

  • danmaine

    Wow, you really amaze me Ed. Did you pay any attention during your American History classes way back when? The States are the power that drives the United States as a Country. Our entire Government was structured to favor States rights over the Federal Government.

    Another way that we can look at the Election results is that a few highly populated counties provided a high margin of popular votes for one candidate. We actually have an Election process in over 50 separate jurisdictions, each with slightly different rules. The winner wins a majority of these jurisdictions. Our current process supports our Representative Republic. We are NOT a true Democracy, our brilliant Founders knew from studying history that Democracies only survive until the masses can vote themselves the belongings of the few.

    If you were really concerned about Election Integrity you would be very concerned about voter registrations and voter integrity in these same high population areas. I’m sure that you know that we have millions of people on election rolls that are either dead or registered in multiple jurisdictions. Every other Country that uses voting requires ID to vote. An ID is required to do almost every significant activity in our daily lives yet Liberals don’t feel that it is anything other than a desire to disenfranchise minority voters. To me this reeks of the despicable racism or low expectations of the Liberal Left.

    • EdBeem

      Voter integrity is conservative code for voter suppression.

      • Moishe the Beadle

        Nonsense. That statement is just as ridiculous as saying illegal immigrants should be welcomed here even if they’ve broken the law, illiterate welfare dependent refugees add to the fabric of our multicultural society or that Islam is a religion of peace.

        • EdBeem

          There is no voting fraud. It’s just a ruse to keep the poor and minorities from voting.

          • Moishe the Beadle

            “That’s so funny, I forgot to laugh.” Was that Roseanne Roseannadanna or Pee wee Herman?

          • EdBeem

            It won’t be funny when the fool you elected starts WWIII.

  • Jimmy_John67

    Angry Ed Beem the bully out in full force with this column! Ramping up his hate and ignorance of anyone and anything he doesn’t agree with. So sad to see a person so overcome and consumed by hate and intolerance for others. I always thought it was the 40+ years of smoking that prematurely aged Ed but now I am thinking it is more likely the effects of 40+ years of hate and anger towards his fellow man that has broken him down from the inside out.

  • Moishe the Beadle

    Wow! This is one of the most ignorant and biased columns Beem has ever written and that’s saying a lot. He still clings to the communist-based mantra that Obama, Clinton, Pelosi, Schumer, Reid, King, Perez, Ellison are the answer. What a maroon (I wanted to say moron, but it would probably be deleted by the monitor)!

    • EdBeem

      Communists? But you don’t care that Trump is Putin’s puppet? We have a fascist government run by Russians.

      • Moishe the Beadle

        Keep making fools of yourselves. It’s to our benefit.

  • justanotherfakename

    I don’t see anything insulting in pointing out that Republican’s rig district lines, that’s a proven fact. Let’s look at what was reported by a right of center news source. ‘A federal court says voting districts drawn by Wisconsin Republicans are unconstitutional in a ruling issued Monday, November 21, 2016. A three-judge panel tossed maps drawn by Republican lawmakers five years ago, saying they violate the voting rights of Democrats.’ _ from a Fox News report.

    In Pennsylvania, Democratic candidates took 51 percent of the vote across the state’s 18 districts in 2013, but only five seats. The odds against Democrats emerging at an eight-seat disadvantage are 1,000-to-1 with 51% of the vote. Pennsylvania was not alone. According to the Princeton Election Consortium analysis, gerrymandering helped Republicans secure 13 seats in six states – including Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Virginia and North Carolina – The prove is conclusive that Republican’s have engaged in immoral barely legal, and at times quite illegal cheating to gerrymander. In other words, Trump was correct when he said the election was rigged, but he was wrong on who was doing the rigging.

  • Moishe the Beadle

    “Why on earth would Russia prefer a loose cannon, untested president like Trump to an utterly corrupt politician, who’d already shown she could be bought? The more corrupt you think Russia is, the more Putin ought to love Hillary as president.” -Ann Coulter

  • yathink2011

    “A good start at fixing U.S. elections would be to reinstate the Fairness Doctrine. In 1987, the Reagan-era Federal Communications Commission abolished the Fairness Doctrine, which required anyone with a broadcast license to air multiple perspectives on issues, thus opening the door to conservative talk radio, Fox News and fake news, the most corrosive forces in our democracy.”

    It’s such a relief to know that we always get to read multiple perspectives on issues in The Forecaster, and never, ever, ever, have to read any “fake news”.

    This is one of EA Beam’s funniest columns ever.

    • EdBeem

      Columnists John Balentine and Halsey Frank have very different points of view than I do and the ownership of the paper does not share my view either. The fact that I am, always have been and always will be a liberal does not mean that there are not other views in the paper.

  • poppypapa

    Quote below: “A survey of Maine voters in 2009 showed 77% overall support for a national popular vote for President.”

    In a related matter, a survey of Beem supporters shows 89% overall support for free lunches.

    Hey, Eddie; when are you going to give us your wisdom on filibusters? Seems like it’s time, since you just lost that battle. You can do your research on the subject by looking up Cherokee Warren’s history on the subject; in her brief career leading us, she’s come down hard on both sides of the issue, depending on who was about to win and who was about to lose.

    The Electoral College issue is handled pretty much the same way. Your side loses, it’s time to rid us of the relic because it’s unfair. Your side wins, we must preserve this sacred guardian of the concept of United States.

    Maybe you’d like to have a President elected by the United State of California, but I’d just as soon not.

    Lastly, anyone who swears there is no such thing as voter fraud is not qualified to lecture the rest of us on the subject. And don’t hang your hat on legalistic definitions of ‘fraud.’ The issue is improper voting & registration by those who are not qualified to do so in the jurisdictions where they do. And the abysmal maintenance of voter rolls. Added to incompetence in vote counting, whether intentional or unintentional.

    I’m pretty sure your concern about rigged elections is as one-sided as the rest of your concerns.