Thursday, October 18, 2012

voter apathy

it's election season, people! and we are in the thick of it. with only a few measly weeks left before the big day, things are really heating up on the national stage. one can barely even listen to the news these days when all anybody wants to report on is which candidate gave which speech where and how everyone reacted to it. i, like many others, am looking forward to a return to normalcy, after things have all died down and we can get back to focusing on the words and actions of more than just 2 people. like, the rest of the world and all the news-worthy things that are going on.
anyways, i suppose i should be grateful i live in a democracy and, if nothing else, have a chance to write whiny blog posts about how the system is broken. which it is, and that's what i'm doing. part of the reason i can do so is that i have all this free time on my hands due to being underemployed, like many recent college graduates find themselves these days. and the other part is the first amendment. i like one of these things much better than the other. you can figure that one out for yourself.
i haven't heard as much about voter apathy in this Presidential election as i did in previous ones, but i know it's there. maybe the reports on voter apathy have been waylaid by all the hubris over voter fraud (that non-issue that was blown up in a arguably key states). i can't talk about that too much or i'll let this be overtaken by my political leanings, which is not the purpose of this post. i'm sick of people taking up individual grievances about the candidates. when are we going to take up a mass grievance with the system?
voter apathy is a plague, and i've got a few suggestions on how to treat the symptoms.

1) fix the electoral college
anecdote: i actually had a well-educated, card-carrying voter joke to me the other day about how funny it would be if one candidate carried the electoral lead but lost the popular vote. who would win the election? my misguided friend quipped.
maybe he was in a coma during the Bush-Gore debacle.
the point is, not all of us were paying attention in 9th grade government class when it became clear to me how flawed the system was. because you can win the popular vote but lose the election. it happened. and whatever reason the system was put in place MANY MANY years ago, it is shocking that it has not been rectified all these years later. ESPECIALLY after the Bush-Gore debacle. if you were trying to explain the electoral college to someone from another country, once you got to the part where you actually had to say "the person who gets the most votes doesn't always win" they'd think you were joking. or seriously confused about what this whole "democracy" thing means.
if people are going to vote, they want to feel like their vote counts. a great way to make them feel this way is by having their vote count. you know, for an overall tally. because swing states shouldn't be the sole focus of the candidates during their last precious days of campaigning, election after election. issues should.

2) bust up the 2-party system
America's government is in desperate need of a face lift. of some fresh air. how many years can we see the conventions, where each party polarizes, and the swing during the debates where each candidate misrepresents his views to appeal to the moderate "undecided" voter? what's the point of working so hard on the party platforms is you have to dance around them later, then explain them away anyways? over and over again, people make the complaints about having to choose between 2 candidates that basically offer the same views and ideas presented just a little differently. and they're not wrong. whatever the candidates' individual views may be, they are usually not manifested until after the elections.
but if there were a few more parties thrown in the mix, candidates would have to stand by their views and ideas simply to make themselves stand out. we'd get a clearer picture of what each candidate stands for. and there wouldn't be such bi-partisanship in congress that we can hardly pass any legislation. because we can't have a stagnated government much longer. how can america foster a multiple party system? they can invite all 3rd party candidates on the ballots to the debates, to begin with. the media can cover more than just 2 candidates on the campaign trail, giving 3rd party candidates more publicity and viability. how many 3rd party candidates do you read about in the paper? how many can you list off the top of your head?  the government can more closely monitor campaign contributions so it no longer costs millions or billions of dollars to run for president in a country with a struggling economy. and so lobbyists and private donors would have a harder time putting puppets in the race for their private gains. just a few ideas to get the ball rolling, america.

3) limit election ads until 4 weeks before the election
you know, to keep voters from having the message shoved down their throats when they're trying to enjoy sitcoms? to keep the mud-slinging from starting in June? to make the campaign shorter so those in power can spend more time governing what they've previously been elected to govern?  to keep costs down for Presidential hopefuls? it sounds crazy, i know, but maybe people should be looking for political information somewhere other than a 1-2 minute blurb designed to appeal to the lowest common denominator.

4) have fact-checkers at the debates
this one is probably just a pet peeve of mine. i can't even justify how this would help with voter apathy. it might help with voters being informed, but those are not the same things. anyways, although Candy Crowley was out of line in her role as a moderator on Tuesday night, it would be awesome to see both candidates get called out on their twisted versions of the truth, in real time. because i know not everyone gets the chance to listen to panels of experts analyze both candidates statements for "truthiness" on NPR the next morning

5)free pizza
if all else fails, do what the Red Cross does. provide everyone with a warm, cheesy incentive to get out there and hit the polls.