Monday, November 12, 2012

How Do We Start?

How do we start? The task ahead certainly seems daunting. Well over 99% of the public officials in our country identify as Republican or Democrat and few of these people would even entertain the notion of running as an Independent. So how do we shift the mindset? What is the proverbial push to get things moving? I believe it starts with the small things; primarily, reducing or eliminating the benefits to running as a party affiliate.

One of the first and most immediately attainable goals on our list should be to remove the option of voting a straight ticket in the states where doing so is an option. This list is as follows: Alabama, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Michigan, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Texas, Utah, West Virginia, and Wisconsin. Where is the benefit to an individual considering an Independent status when his or her opponent will collect votes from voters who not only are uneducated on the issues, but have never even seen the candidate's name? It is a travesty that such an option still exists in a country that claims to want bipartisanship and cooperation. Straight ticket voting encourages divisiveness and uninformed voting.

To truly eliminate straight ticket voting, our next objective should focus on removing party affiliation from accompanying candidate names on the ballots. Even without a "vote straight ticket" bubble, voters can scan down the ballot and select only those candidates who are endorsed by their respective party. The majority of states have party affiliation listed next to candidates on the general election ballot. Such blatant partisanship should offend anyone who wants a free-thinking and educated electorate. How can policy be based on fact and reason when our politicians are more worried about differentiating their positions from the opposition? The result is an inefficient and polarized electorate.

The next step toward Independent predominance is the most obvious: encouraging and rewarding local officials for running as Independents. The basis of change is a strong foundation. Whether it be a city mayor, district representative, or county commissioner, it is important to build a pool of qualified Independent candidates to have a realistic opportunity at making any significant change. As I've mentioned previously, this movement is not about replacing the existing people in office. It is about the existing people in office replacing their party and developing support for new candidates who wish to run as Independents.

Another change I believe would improve the representation of constituents in this country is the breakdown of state electoral votes into districts. This model has already been adopted by the states of Nebraska and Maine and has already shown that constituents are better represented this way. In the 2008 election, Nebraska's 2nd Congressional District voted for then-Senator Barack Obama despite John McCain having carried the state by 15%. McCain received 4 electoral votes while Obama received 1. The constituents of the 2nd Congressional District were certainly better represented by this method.

In all, there are many ways in which we can encourage and develop real change for better representation of voters in this country but it all starts with calling, emailing, and sending letters to your local, state, and federal representatives. No matter your personal beliefs, values, or interests, a representative that is not beholden to a political party is better able to represent those who vote him/her into office. The solution to partisan gridlock and inefficiency is not moderation or collecting majority, it is dissolution of the parties themselves.

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