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Voting system reform; Fair ballot access; No partisan identification on ballot; No public financing of partisan processes; Elimination of campaign finance restrictions

Section 1.
Voting is not a simple nor self-evident process. In fact, there are various voting systems (plurality, approval, range/score, ranked-choice, Condorcet, etc.), and they can produce very different results. Some systems can even deteriorate the dynamics of democracy within the voting population by incentivizing the voters to vote strategically rather than authentically, which in turn enables certain interest groups to artificially divide the public and exploit that for their own advantage. The worst of these systems––and ironically, the one that is most commonly used in public elections (at the time of writing)––is the plurality voting system (each voter has only one vote to cast and the option/candidate with the most votes wins).
     That being the case, we must switch all public voting processes to the approval voting system as the default (in some specific applications, other systems might be more appropriate). To clarify, approval voting means that every voter can vote for, or “approve”, all options/candidates that they prefer, and the option/candidate with the most votes becomes selected by the voting population (it is also possible for more than one option/candidate to be selected this way). This system is just as easy to implement as plurality voting, with which everyone is already familiar, and it has none of the flaws of the other systems. Also, due to its technological simplicity, it is available to us at the lowest cost. Taking all relevant factors into account, the approval voting system is one of the most important steps we can take to enhance the democratic process.

Section 2.
An extremely important aspect of making elections fair is equal ballot access for all candidates. Specifically, in some places it is standard practice that established political parties and candidates have a much lower signature requirement on ballot petitions than new parties and candidates. The main argument in favor of this practice is that making ballot access too easy will generate too much ‘noise’, which will confuse the voters with too many new and ever-changing options, while established parties are more deserving of the voter’s attention. However, this argument is an absolute absurdity, and this practice is nothing but a strategy for those in power to hold onto power. Furthermore, it is already very difficult for new candidates and political brands to garner sufficient public support to actually win an election.
     Therefore, if we want elections to be fair, then the standards for being listed on the ballot must be equal for all petitioning candidates. However, if the ‘noise’ from too many options on the ballot is indeed a problem, there is a very simple solution to this: the top five petitioners make it on the ballot, with a minimum of at least five signatures of support. After several election cycles, this method will establish an equilibrium, and candidates will have an approximate knowledge of how many signatures they will need to be listed on the election ballot for any given government position.

Section 3.
In order to encourage a more informed electorate and to disincentivize uninformed party-line voting, the party affiliations of political candidates should not be listed on the voting ballot. While this may result in some voters voting randomly or superficially (such as based on the gender or ethnicity of the candidate’s name), the pollution from such votes will, for the most part, cancel out itself. However, the overwhelming advantage of this arrangement is that it will weaken the superficial brand-recognition of established political parties and that it will force all political parties to be more competitive in developing better solutions to our problems and in engaging the public in their processes.

Section 4.
In certain countries, most notably the United States of America, the candidate nomination processes of established political parties––a.k.a. primary elections––are funded at the expense of the public. This practice is an outrageous exploitation of public resources and must be completely eliminated. The internal decision-making processes of any political party should be solely their own burden, and using publicly funded primary elections is nothing more than a way for them to gain a huge unfair advantage over the competing parties.

Section 5.
Legal restrictions for campaign financing must be completely eliminated to make elections fair for all competitors, especially those with the smallest budgets. While arguments have been made that regulating campaign financing is necessary to make elections fair, experience has shown these arguments to be flawed and the regulations to be ineffective. The fact of the matter is that ‘big money’ will always find a way to get to where it wants to be because it can afford to discover or create new ways of getting there (such as through Political Action Committees). Conversely, legal regulation of campaign financing imposes a disproportionately high burden on low-budget political campaigners because they must expand their limited resources on regulatory compliance to ensure that they are not jeopardizing their own personal security and safety simply for trying to serve their nation and country.
     However, this is not to say that the influence of money in politics cannot be controlled at all, but the solutions should be cultural, organizational, and technological, rather than legal. For example, the offices of elected officials should convene weekly deliberative democracy meetings for their constituents and other stake-holders to develop the best solutions for their administrative districts, ideally with the help of information “crowdsourcing” technologies, such as Egora. This solution would be tremendously more effective at fostering real democracy than legal regulation of campaign financing. However, this solution also demonstrates that there is a great danger to relying on legal methods for all public matters because the law can give us a false sense of security and make us neglectful of what should actually be our civic duty.

To participate in developing new ideas and more specific proposals about Election Reform, please join the "Election Reform" Egora community.

For a video explanation of Approval Voting, please watch:

For a very informative and highly entertaining comparison of different voting systems, please read:
Gaming the Vote: Why Elections Aren't Fair (and What We Can Do About It) – by William Poundstone
Approval Rating
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