Monday, November 12, 2012

Change Management & the US Election

Does He Have The Answer?
Well, I'm glad that’s over.  After several years and over $2 billion dollars Americans finally elected the President of Ohio.   

Will the post 2012 election finally address issues in the US electoral process, such as:

  • Disenfranchisement
  • Administration
  • Outcome
I think the answers are: no; yes; and maybe.  Let me explain.

Disenfranchisement – the anachronism of the Electoral College
The unsustainability of this relic is now obvious.  The two parties spent about a billion dollars each trying to sway a very few electors in about half a dozen swing states. 

The spending sweep stakes winner this year seemed to be Ohio and its 18 electoral votes.  I live in Texas.  It has 38 electoral votes.  If it wasn’t for the evening news citizens of Texas wouldn’t have known this to be an election year.  Texas, for the moment, is bright red Republican.  Why waste campaign effort when you know the answer?

The Electoral College not only ignores vast numbers of voters, it also treats then differently.  Because it is based in proportional representation rather than per capita, each vote in Wyoming is more than twice as powerful as those in California.

Isn’t it time to get past “states-rights” in a national election for President?  I think so, but I don’t see it happening any time soon.  Who has the political will to take on this monster?

Administration – joining the world of Developed Nations
Administration of federal elections is a third world business in the US.  I’m astounded when I hear that American delegates participate in election oversight in developing nations.  This is America at the height of arrogance.

As I understand it, “elections” are the right of the states – through their partisan Attorney General down to each county – it is not an exaggeration to say that each of America’s 13,000 counties runs its own election.  Yet, “voting” in US federal elections is within the purview of the federal government.

The current state control of “elections” makes the system wide open to partisan abuse that starts with gerrymandering and runs through any manner of voting restrictions from when, where, and how you can vote.  In highly contested counties there is a lot of formal and even informal pressure that can be put on blocks of voters. 

If a tenant of democracy is voter participation then the US federal election is not a model.

In future election cycles is it possible that the US Congress will use its “voting” responsibility to make change in how the election is run?  Will the US do what most mature democracies do?  Is it possible that the US will establish an independent federal election commission to prescribe: standard voting days and hours, consistent ballot formats, and a single voting technology. 

Citizen should not feel suppressed.  Making changes is not a mystery.  Best practice models for election administration abound.  All the US needs to do is to look north to my native Canada where Canadians figured this out years ago.

Outcome – does the Vote really Matter?
This is the core question.  Do the mechanics of elections matter.  Is it important whether we have proportional or per capita representation?  Does it matter whether elections are fair?

This question is central to optimism and the defeat of cynicism in the US today.  Does the voice of the people matter; or will powerful vested interests maintain the policy gridlock of polarization?

There is urgency in America today.  It is faced with huge issues, and the world is watching to see how well it does.  The “fiscal cliff” is looming and behind that is a national debt that needs to be pared.  Success correlates with economic revival; failure correlates with depression. 

This is a test for change management.  Everyone knows the game; but can the players get out of their own way.  Is there room for collaboration that leads to resolution?  Was the voice of the electorate strong enough?  Maybe?

For me the final words for this election go to the political philosopher John Stuart Mill:  “In all intellectual debates, both sides tend to be correct in what they affirm, and wrong in what they deny.”

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