Friday, March 23, 2007

Blog Entry #3 - Elections & Voting

The assertion that the current state of elections and voting in this country reflect a Republican model of government in which the priviliged run for office and the wealthy control who has access to the political system may still be largely accurate, however I think democratic aspirations over recent decades have diminished this to some extent, and perhaps need to continue to diminish it further.

Upon drafting the constitution and defining the political framework that exists in this country the framers undoubtedly had a republican model in mind and made efforts to limit the extent the average citizen had upon changing the political landscape. For example, even though the constitution begins with the renowned words 'We The People...' it is interesting to note that in that day 'the people' who were empowered to participate in the voting practice were white, land owning males. Non-whites, females, and non-land owners were excluded from voting. In essence a vast minority of the population were charged with making choices that would impact all peoples of this nation, regardless of their voting status.

Democratic movements over the decades have removed these obstacles. Non-land owners were first ushered into the voting bloc of citizens followed by women followed by blacks, and in the most recent decades suffrage has been extended still further, to Native Americans and younger voters. This model of voters rights was never intended by the framers of the constitution but has none the less become the model of voting that exists today.

Possibly the greatest controversy that still exists in the need for electoral reform is the continuing survival of the electoral college, a system designed and implemented into the constitution by the framers designed to limit popular consent in the selection of the President of the country. By this model the popular vote for President actually elects state electors to the college who then cast the deciding vote for President. Again, democratic ideals and movements in recent decades have seen the electors largely expressing the will of the popular vote of the people and electing the candidate for President that the people would have elected.

However, the very cumbersome system does not always adequately reflect the will of the people as a whole. The 2000 Presidential race was won by President George W Bush having 500,000 less popular votes than Al Gore. It is therefore arguable that the electoral college needs to be reformed.

I think, largely speaking, we take the right to vote very casually in this country. Voter turnout is very low compared to many other developed countries. Perhaps this is also a reflection of the barriers to participation that also exist in this country, such as the need to be registered before-hand to vote, but the argument may still be valid that we do not view voting as seriously as did our forebears who struggled for such rights. And perhaps further still, we feel a disconnection from the candidates we are asked to vote for for various reasons. There are many factors that contribute to our low voter turnout, but I believe it is important none-the-less to participate.

Whether you believe the system to be flawed, our political candidates to be even more flawed, or feel it too cumbersome a process, I believe we all should participate fully in the selection process. We all have opinions to air, and beliefs to uphold and all are affected, whether we like it or not, about the decisions those we elect to make in our stead, actually make. So, do we have any right to complain, to criticise, to praise when we have not participated in that other right of exercising our suffrage?...I think not!


Anush B said...

Andrew, I can see whet you mean when you say the constitution was written with republican model in mind and how funny it is to say “We The People…” but mean only a small number of white men, who owned properties as “people.” But then again, I think the constitution represents the time they were living in, I mean they wouldn’t just write things in it that would change every right of all of the citizens in a day or even in a year. It took so many years for some, for example colored people or women, to have the rights that they have today. Besides, I think in any period of time the way the things are look better than after some period of time passes by. I mean, I think at that time everything probably pretty much looked perfect to them, but now even after all these hanges, we still think there are lots of things that could be improved. But after watching the video from Goldman’s lecture and imagining what would happen if we started changing things in the constitution I kind of think maybe we should just leave it alone. Than again we do have the right to live the way we want, vote for whomever we want, and be sure that our votes will make difference in the elections.

hastings101 said...

Great post!

I agree with Anush that for the time that the constitution was written in, it was progressive; however, this progress did slow down as others moved forward and did things like eliminate slavery and discrimination far before the United States. The question is, can a constitution written in an era that was so limited in what it meant by "the people" work today, when "the people" is so much bigger than what it once was?