Friday, April 22, 2016

The system actually is rigged

Much ado has been made in recent days about the electoral process in the state of New York.

Starting with complaints from Donald Trump's children that they were unable to switch their party affiliation to vote in the Republican presidential primary on Tuesday, then with a complaint from Common Cause/NY that the closed primary system disenfranchises independent voters (link), and finally from Bernie Sanders saying essentially the same thing.

This, of course, is on top of the general discontent from Trump and Sanders supporters about the primary election process at large -- with Trump's supporters saying the system is rigged against their candidate by party insiders and Sanders' supporters saying Hillary Clinton's superdelegates give her an unfair advantage. Not to mention the alleged disenfranchisement of over 100,000 voters in Brooklyn on Tuesday.

And then you've got third-party candidates like Libertarian Gary Johnson complaining that the two-party system is destined to keep him and fellow third-partiers out in the cold come the general election. He is unlikely to be included in the presidential polls or debates.

Also, there is the oft-mentioned argument that the Electoral College can override the people's will, essentially robbing them of their right to vote.

They're all right. The election system is rigged. But it isn't rigged against Trump. Or against Sanders. Or even so much against third parties. It's rigged against you.

It's rigged against you on a federal level when the Congress fails to ensure some sort of equal protection for voting in a presidential primary. Each party in each state is left up to its own devices on how and when voting should take place for their candidates. Different parties have different systems and allow for voting on different days. Some states allow voter registration on the day of the election. Others -- like New York -- require party switchers to change their affiliation months in advance.

I'm all for states' rights and allowing each state to essentially govern itself. But when it comes to electing someone to a federal office, some Congressional oversight sure would be nice.

In New York, it is certainly rigged against you on a state level. The "closed" primary system that Sanders and Common Cause/NY complained about makes sense to me, personally. As a registered Libertarian, I don't think I should be allowed to vote in a Democratic or Republican primary. And I don't want to. Everyone has a party and they be part of that party. But I find it somewhat ironic that in a "fusion" state where a candidate can run on the Republican, Conservative, Independence, Liberal, Libertarian, Democrat, Working Families, and God-knows-what-else lines -- all at once, that we the voters would be limited. If my state Senator, Rob Ortt, can claim to be a member of the Republican, Conservative and Independence parties, why can't I? Why can't you?

And when it comes time for the Commission on Presidential Debates to come up with rules for the debates heading into the general election, the process is rigged against you in that they only want you to hear from their candidates. Yes, the commission has candidates. It is actually a nonprofit corporation controlled by the Democratic and Republican parties. It's in their best interest to keep the other candidates out. That's why the rules for inclusion are so stringent. You usually have to be polling at a certain percentage (usually about 10 percent) to be included. Of course, to poll at 10 percent, you have to be included in the poll -- and have name recognition. Which leads to ...

The media has rigged the system against you. For convenience (also known as laziness) sake, the media focuses almost exclusively on the two major parties and those parties' candidates. Someone like Gary Johnson is never going to get to 10 percent if there's no ink on him. No ink means no name recognition. Which means poor polling numbers. Which means no debates. And therefore no votes. Low voter turnout for third-party candidates then gives the media cover, allowing them to continue to ignore the candidates: "Why should we report on something no one cares about?"

To make a long story short, the system is rigged against you. It's a self-perpetuating problem fueled in part by malice (by Republicans and Democrats) and in part by laziness (by the media -- and frankly, the voters).

Let's fix it.

Scott Leffler is editor and publisher of All WNY News. Tweet him @scottleffler or email him at scott.leffler@allwnynews.com

This story was originally published on All WNY News