Election Commentary

What if we actually democratized the electoral system?

The Supreme Court of the United States advanced voting rights in Reynolds v. Sims (1964) by ruling that state legislatures must redistrict so that congressional districts contain roughly equal represented populations, with continued redistricting as needed after censuses. State lawmakers to this day stack the odds in their favor and against the electorate be gerrymandering districts.

The 24th Amendment passed in 1964 outlawing poll taxes as a condition for voting, and the next year in 1965, Congress passed the Voting Rights Act forbidding states from implementing discriminatory restrictions on voting, including a provision requiring legislators in states with a history of discrimination against minoritized voters to get federal permission before changing their voting procedures. The 26th Amendment followed in 1971 lowering the voting age to 18, won primarily by young people who rightly argued that if the federal government could draft them into military service where they could possibly lose their lives in foreign wars, they most assuredly must also have the right to choose their leaders. Still to this day, residents of some U.S. territories, though granted U.S. citizenship, do not have the right to vote in some important elections.

Democracy in the election process suffered a serious setback when the Supreme Court of the United States ruled in a vote of 5-4 in 2010 in the case Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. Since the First Amendment prohibits the national government from curbing independent political expenditures of nonprofit corporation, the ruling has extended this to for-profit corporations, labor unions, and other organizations. The result of this decision has been the almost unlimited corporate funding funneling into the election process to disproportionately affect elections.

The Anti-Democratic Electoral System

Even with all the advances in the U.S. electoral process over the years, “one person, one vote” stands merely as a distant mirage completely out of reach of the electorate. Just some of the seemingly endless array of obstructions in the democratic voting process, we witnessed the recent stripping of the Voting Rights Act by the Supreme Court, state voter suppression laws, the state presidential caucus systems, the ways major political parties determine delegates to their conventions, and the Electoral College system. 

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