The two presumptive presidential nominees have begun campaigning for the general election. As the primary process draws to a close, the natural progression is for the country to turn its attention to the November election.
I think it is important for us to take a moment to reflect on a flawed primary process and what can and should be done to make the system more fair, transparent and accessible.
The system cries for uniformity. Party leaders and state legislators should not control election rules and the nomination process; a universal election process should be established across the country.
For starters, there should be a single primary date. Why should Iowa and New Hampshire have as so much influence by kicking off the primary season, when they are not at all representative of our nation in terms of demographics or even issues? Why should Californians vote long after the nominations have been secured?
Voting procedures and voting rights should be consistent from state to state. Some states hold primaries, other caucuses, and some even hold both. In states that hold both, it is entirely possible for a candidate to win the caucus but not the primary or vice versa.
This year, in states where caucuses were held, troubling issues arose. For one, the process is not conducive for large voter turnout. In some cases, voters were turned away because the facility was unable to accommodate large crowds. In other cases, nominees were determined while voters still stood in line. In some precincts where the race was too close to call, dice were rolled or a coin was flipped to determine the winner.
The primary process also has its failings because individual states can choose who can and cannot vote. Independent (or 3rd party) voters are precluded from voting in closed primary states, such as Pennsylvania, unless they surrender their independence and actively join one of the two major parties.
Then there is the issue of delegates.
The presidential election process is not a direct election. Voters elect delegates who will represent specific candidates at the party conventions. The two parties determine how these delegates are selected and allocated in each state. Democrats elect pledged delegates–individuals who run on the ballot, pledging support for a particular candidate. Republican delegates, on the other hand, are not bound to any one candidate. Voters vote for a republican delegate not knowing who he/she will support at the convention.
The controversy over super delegates in the Democratic Party also cannot be ignored. Super delegates are party leaders given, in essence, two votes: one at the ballot box and one at the convention. Super delegates may, and often do, pledge their support early on to steer the direction of the primary process. They may switch their support to another candidate but are not required to do so (even when a candidate receives overwhelming support in a given state). There is no denying the intent of super delegates: so party leaders may influence the outcome of the nomination process.
Voting rights in America are also in peril. This election year comes on the heels of the Supreme Court’s decision to strike down key components of the Voting Rights Act, which precipitated passage of new voting restriction laws in 16 states.
There is little justification for these laws as confirmed cases of voter fraud are extremely rare. Instead, these restrictions result in voter suppression, disproportionately impacting the poor, the elderly and minorities. More often than not, these laws are politically motivated and are intended to dissuade voters of a particular political party.
Long lines have also plagued the primary process leaving voters to wait for hours, due to an inadequate number of voting facilities.
All this doesn’t take into account the unprecedented deluge of campaign contributions in our democratic process as candidates, super PACs and special interests are poised to spend billions to sway the outcome of this election.
We like to believe our democracy superior to all others; yet the process for electing our president, the leader of the free world, is extremely flawed. It is time to put democracy ahead of politics and overhaul the system.