Vote ‘no’ on apathy

The Democratic process in this country has always had its flaws, but lately it seems more and more like a sick and dangerous joke.

We’re not just talking about the insane circus of the California recall, where any loser off the street who can find just 65 signatures has a shot at becoming governor. The entire voting process in America has become a sad tale of 30-second attack ads, billion-dollar babies pushing pet projects, corporate lobbyists buying the law and party bosses exploiting centuries-old loopholes.

Legislators across the country redistrict themselves into untouchably safe seats; Congress passed a campaign finance reform package that is meaningless; our president was chosen not by the voters but rather by his father’s friends on the Supreme Court.

All these tricks and shenanigans add to voter apathy, which leaves fewer and fewer to decide who gets to run things. It’s a vicious spiral that needs to end before some crafty politico figures out how to lock the people out of the process entirely. If one thing comes out of this ridiculous recall, it should be that California leads the nation in finding ways to bring regular people back into the political process.

Some ideas to look at:

• Add a small fee—say $5—to tax bills that is refunded when a taxpayer submits proof of voting. In Australia, non-voters have to pay $25 tickets, which funds elections, ensures high voter turnout and gets people paying attention to the issues.

• Get rid of the Electoral College—it’s outdated and undemocratic.

• Implement instant runoff voting, where voters choose a second and third choice as well as their favorite.

• Mandate free TV and radio air time for viable candidates.

• Place a limit on campaign expenditures.

Maybe these reforms will fly and maybe they won’t. But please, folks, for Democracy’s sake, let’s try to fashion an electoral system that actually works.