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Election ‘Reforms” Are Usually One Party Trying To Rig The System (Washington Examiner) June 22, 2018

Posted by daviddavenport in Op/Eds, Politics.
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The election games have begun. Not just the obvious jockeying that takes place in the primaries and the general election. No, look below the radar at the several so-called reforms and improvements in the rules of voting and how elections are carried out. That sort of political gamesmanship, like June, is bustin’ out all over.

One reason we miss important electoral changes is our failure to understand that even what we call national elections are actually 51 separate state (including the District of Columbia) elections under the Constitution. With federalism the order of the day, there can be large variances in election practices from state to state and many important proposals are in play.

In big blue California, for example, progressive reformers led the charge for a top-two, sometimes called a “jungle,” primary in which the two candidates with the most votes in the primary election, regardless of party, advance to the general election. The “reform” argument was that this would force parties to run more moderate candidates and reduce polarization in the legislatures. In fact, there is little evidence that this has happened since Republicans and Democrats still vote for their own party offerings rather than search for some reformers’ ideal of a centrist candidate.

But an unintended (or was it intended?) consequence is that the general election often offers no real choice at all: two Republicans or, more likely in California, two Democrats in the final vote. This fall’s race for the U.S. Senate, for example, features two Democrats, just as it did in 2016. With apologies to Jim Carrey, I call it “left and lefter.” Many races for the state legislature feature two Republicans or two Democrats with few real differences on issues. Louisiana, Nebraska, and Washington also have some version of the jungle primary system, and Maine has adopted a ranked voting system.

Another progressive brainchild under consideration in D.C. is allowing 16- and 17-year-olds to vote. A handful of cities already permit this in municipal or school board elections but, since DC is considered a state for voting purposes, a change there would allow 16-year-olds to vote for president, a significant change indeed. Since young people tend to vote a more liberal ticket than older voters do, Democrats are especially enthusiastic about this election reform. With 11 Democrats and 2 liberal “independents” on the Council, this could well pass and trigger similar efforts elsewhere.

The big progressive election reform is one you’ve never heard of: the National Popular Vote Bill.  Connecticut recently became the 12th state (including the D.C.) to enact the bill. All the states are on the blue side of the political color wheel, having voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016. When signed by enough states to total 270 electoral votes, a compact comes into force requiring each member state to cast its electoral votes for the winner of the national popular vote. This clever end run around the Electoral College established by the Constitution is high on the Democrats’ agenda since they have lost the presidency twice in this century, despite winning the popular vote.

Republicans have their own election games in play. They are accused of trying to limit voter eligibility and turnout, since larger vote totals often favor Democrats. This week a federal judge ruled a Kansas statute requiring proof of U.S. citizenship for voter registration was both unconstitutional and a violation of the National Voter Registration Act. Other states have similar voter ID laws that may now come under closer scrutiny. Recently the U.S. Supreme Court upheld purging voters from the registration rolls if they had not voted in several elections in the important political battleground state of Ohio. “Use it or lose it,” Ohio says, and the Supreme Court, in a 5-4 decision, said we will not interfere.

Beware so-called election reforms — they are more often than not attempts by one party or the other to rig the game in their favor.

David Davenport is a contributor to the Washington Examiner’s Beltway dential blog. He is a research fellow at the Hoover Institution.

To read the column at the Washington Examiner:

https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/opinion/election-reforms-are-usually-one-party-trying-to-rig-the-system

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