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America's Voting System is Broken. It's Time to Overhaul It


America's Voting System is Broken. It's Time to Overhaul It

Trevor Timm

There’s no debate at this point that Hillary Clinton has won the popular vote and the delegate count to win the Democratic primary. But even Clinton supporters should agree that our supposedly “democratic” system for picking nominees for president is terribly broken and should be dramatically overhauled.


Timm's ideas are fine, but the rot in the USA is far deeper than his efforts would address. i do not see Timm's ideas as an "overhaul" of the US system, but more like tinkering around the edges.

Astonishing that Timm makes no mention at all of plurality voting, which unnecessarily creates the stupid "wasted vote" and "lesser evil" situations that seem so much like a "natural" part of voting in the USA. For these reasons, plurality voting very strongly tends to resolve into a two-party duopoly.

With score voting, approval voting, or rank choice voting - all perfectly simple and understandable systems, that are successfully in use by numerous organizations and political entities - there is NO SUCH THING as a "wasted vote" or a "lesser evil." Every voter can vote their actual preference, and the election is over in a single round.

Timm also makes no reference to the ridiculous, multi-year "campaign season" that is unique to the USA.

And he makes no reference to ballot access. Who can get on the ballot? The process should be extremely simple, with a short list of qualifications including citizenship, residency, age, and a number of petition signatures based on a percentage of the size of the electorate. Any individual, organization, or political party would have precisely the same right, and the same process, to place a candidate on the ballot.

And obviously, the largest elephant/donkey in the room, is the plutocracy that dominates every aspect of society including the political system. When "money is speech" and "corporations are persons" it is no mistake that the political system is so utterly stupid. It is utterly stupid ON PURPOSE.

Frankly, i don't think any seasoned observer can conclude that there is any prospect at all for effective electoral reform in the USA. "Electoral reform" can only take place in the context of a larger struggle for social, economic and political revolution.


Let me add a note on ballot access. There is NO LEGITIMACY to state involvement in political party processes. There should be no party primaries. Political parties should have the right to get party candidates on the ballot, but there should be ZERO state resources given to political parties, or party nomination processes.

And winning a party nomination should not grant ballot access. A party nomination should be an internal party process. The candidate would then still need to gain ballot access by generating the needed number of petition signatures. The state should grant NO PRIVILEGES to any political parties.

It would be sweet if Timm would respond to these ideas here! i'm sure he's conversant in all these ideas.


I agree with you, webwalk, that Trevor Timm makes some good criticisms and suggestions in this article. But I strongly disagree with his article's subtitle that mistakenly claims that "Hillary Clinton squarely won the democratic nomination. "Squarely" as in honestly and fairly? I don't think so! In my opinion (and many other people agree), Hillary Clinton (and the DNC and her various 1% system supporters) STOLE the Democratic nomination, in many ways and in many states. I made a list of nearly 30 ways Hillary's claim to the nomination is grievously suspect and illegitimate and should be investigated, rejected, and disrespected by everyone.

I won't list all 30, but here are 10 points to consider carefully:

1) The polls for the past two weeks said that Hillary led Bernie in California by only 2%, yet she supposedly won by 12.6%. How and why the big difference?
2) Bernie had many rallies in California at which 10,000 to 30,000 (or more) supporters showed up. Hillary reportedly had small meetings or rallies at which only a few 100 to 1000 people showed up. So how did Hillary get more votes than Bernie?
3) There were no exit polls to check if voters' reports of their voting matched the results announced by the authorities. Why?!
4) The U.S. has a shameful, criminal history of stolen elections. So why should the voters simply trust the authorities and accept the announced results when there have been so many instances of election fraud in the past year(s)?
5) There have been major instances of election fraud this year in Iowa, Nevada, Arizona, Massachusetts, New York, etc.
6) There were reports that many "No Party Preference" voters in California were given "Provisional Ballots" which are not counted. Why are there even Provisional Ballots at all if they are not counted?
7) There have been many reports this year of voters having their party affiliation mysteriously changed so that they were made ineligible to vote.
8) There have been thousands of voters in Arizona and Brooklyn who were prevented or made unable to vote.
9) All of the many election frauds this year (that I have read about in the news) favored Hillary. This is highly suspicious.
10) The U.S. has the most brutal capitalist class of any western nation, by far the worst (most brutal) concentration of wealth and power (and gap between rich and poor) than any western nation, the most brutal military and most numerous war-making of any western nation, and so on. Is it any wonder that the U.S. elections are the worst or among the worst (in terms of honesty, cleanness, and accuracy) of any western nation (according to impartial international rankings I've read)?

For these reasons (and others), I believe Hillary STOLE the California election, STOLE the Democratic nomination, and should not be viewed as having won honestly and fairly. (The California primary needs to be independently, fairly, and completely investigated, along with the elections in Arizona, New York, etc.)

Beyond Hillary, the U.S. is not a democracy, it's an oligarchy. So say Political Scientists Dr. Gilens and Dr. Page, and so says former U.S. President Jimmy Carter. The corrupted election processes in the U.S. are an inevitable result of U.S. politics and government being controlled (or overly influenced) by the 1% and corporate MONEY and systems-machinations. We U.S. voters are caught in a Catch-22 trap: how do we vote ourselves out of a corrupt and rigged voting system? We the people of the U.S. might be to forced by the 1% to resort to protest marches, sit-ins, boycotts, and strikes, etc. "All we are asking" is for a true democracy and a fair, humane society!


Hi posthuman,
I was typing as you posted your comment about "won squarely." Kudos for commenting on that point.


He spoke of extending the vote to all here:

"Voting doesn’t have to be complicated. Just look at Oregon. As Rolling Stone’s Tim Dickinson reported, Oregon has one of the best voting set-ups in the nation: everyone is automatically registered, there are no voter ID laws, you can vote by mail – no lines, no hassles."


Well-done synopsis.

Then, when anyone mentions these machinations, the following takes place through the corporate media's punditry class:

"The response of establishment pundits and politicians, especially those within the Democratic Party, is not to investigate, verify, or confirm whether claims of irregularities. Instead, Sanders supporters are pathologized as wild-eyed conspiracy theorists who cry, “Rigged!” every time Clinton wins a state."

(The above comes from today's article by Kevin Gosztola.)


How do we get out of this cycle? Well, it starts with making the Hobson's choice of working to make sure that Hillary Clinton NEVER BECOMES PRESIDENT. I'm no Trump fan, and would never vote for him, but I also refuse to ever again hold my nose and vote for a "lesser evil", of which I'm not so sure Hillary is a lesser one. I came out for Bernie, and absolutely refuse to stay for Hillary. The Green Party is my refuge of choice, and if they registered a historic vote total in a Clinton loss in November that would send a clear and unmistakable message at our dissatisfaction of the "choice" we were given.

As for changing the way we do elections, I agree with what most have proposed. Sadly, much can't be done without changing the Constitution, and not just about elections, there are First Amendment, free speech issues involved - like how do you time limit campaigns without stomping all over the First Amendment? Any changes have to come from changing who is in office to make the rules, so we're back to Bernie's "political revolution" challenge. That is going to have to happen to even begin addressing the many, many electoral problems we have. So, I say again, Hillary must LOSE in November, period! Real, systemic change is never painless or easy. #NeverHillary.


Thanks, Siouxrose11, and thanks for adding those important additional facts.
It's outrageous and disillusioning (in both senses) that election fraud is routinely ignored,
and that Sanders' supporters are pathologized for complaining about rigged elections.
So many corruptions in the U.S. political-economic system are creating a breaking point!


Here's how i think we time-limit campaigns:

With a basic structure in place for candidates to get on the ballot as outlined above, the state sets a date on which it announces which candidates have qualified for the ballot. The election takes place 60 days (or 90 days, or whatever reasonable time period) after the qualified candidates are announced.

Agreed generally about US Constitutional issues. States in the USA are currently empowered to run elections any way they want, and we need a constitutional amendment to change that (or a successful campaign to demand and institute a good system in all the states).

Hopefully a constitutional amendment - (or a new group of actual humans on the Supreme Court) - will overturn the "corporations are people" and "money is speech" absurdities that have been imposed. But i think again, that can only happen in the context of a massive powerful movement, that we need to organize as if our lives depended on it.


Thanks, and i totally agree, but i didn't reference the right to vote. i referenced the path for candidates to get on the ballot.


I agree, genedebs:

I would hate and fear a Trump presidency, but would hate and fear a Clinton presidency even more. I think Hillary Clinton would be "the more effective evil." Like you, I will never again vote for "the lesser evil." As Joni Mitchell sang, "Life is for learning" and I have learned from the painful experience of voting for Obama in 2008 (but Jill Stein in 2012) to NEVER AGAIN vote for a corporate Democrat, because in their own ways they are as hurtful to people and all living things as the vicious Republicans are. After angrily witnessing the dirtiest Democratic primary season in my entire life this year, I have emphatically ended my thus-far, lifelong membership in the Democratic Party and I will register as a member in the Green Party this week. I've read that if enough Bernie supporters switch to (and vote for) the Green Party to increase from 1% (in 2012) to 5% (in 2016?) in election share, that the Green Party will be on future ballots in all 50 states. Do you know if this is true? Anyway, I will vote for the Green Party candidates from now on (not the corrupt corporate Democrats). I hope the Green Party candidates this November will be headed by Bernie Sanders and Jill Stein -- and I hope they win! : > )


Our lives DO depend on it..... the future that NeoCons / NeoLibs have planned for us is NOT good....


"Hillary Clinton squarely won the democratic nomination."

Things you never hear together: "Voters were dropped off the rolls. Some had their parties changed. There weren't enough ballots and people had to use provisional ones. The number of polling places was reduced dramatically from the prior election and Bernie won big."

Anyone else notice that when there are numerous problems voting, it's just about always in places where Clinton wins?

The only exception to this rule that I can recall is Hawaii.

So no, Clinton didn't "squarely" win.

And if you think she did, you probably think she's a progressive who gets things done - and who'll work hard to overturn Citizen's United.

If you even know what Citizen's United is.


Yes, Sanders generally did better in caucuses than Clinton, but that doesn’t mean he shouldn’t be pushing for them to be banned just the same. Caucuses are dumb – everyone admits this. Get rid of them.

Absolutely. Less than 400 people voted in North Dakota and 18 delegates were awarded. That's ridiculous. For every 20 votes Sanders and Clinton were awarded a delegate. And some caucuses don't used secret ballots. You vote by moving to a corner of the room or something like that.. In Iowa several delegates were awarded by flipping a coin. Where has Bernie been on this? Yes, it was only because of the caucuses that he ran anywhere close to Clinton in pledged delegates but still this way of choosing delegates makes no sense.


She's 180 votes shy of the Pledged Delegates she needs to go into the Convention as the Nominee.

How is it that there's "...no debate that she's won the ...delegate count.?"


That is simply not true. The LA Times/USC poll ending 5/31 had Clinton ahead by 10 points. The results of that poll turned out be very close to the actual results. They got it right, several others didn't. That isn't unusual.


Again, qualifications for the ballot are determined by each state, so the rules for getting on each state's ballot are different. Many have a very high bar which is why even though the Greens have been around nationally for about 20 years they are still only going to be on about 36 state ballots although that is theoretically enough to get them to 270 electoral votes. In Ohio, a party has to get at least 3% of the vote in the previous election to automatically qualify for the next statewide election. Something the Greens were able to do in the 2014 gubernatorial election because the Democratic candidate was such a turkey that it was obvious he was going to lose to Kasich by 30 points months before the election, so many of us had the foresight to vote for the Green Party candidate to make sure they would be on our ballot this year. Some states deliberately just make it next to impossible for minority parties to qualify for their ballots at any level, and that is one of the first things we have to change.


She squarely won? You gotta be kidding me. What does one mean by "squarely"? Rampant corruption gave it to her!


Well-said, ctrl Z!! Rampant fraud went on. I was on twitter, and it's astounding how much there was. We have to be honest if we are going to talk about a broken voting system.

The writer cannot declare that someone squarely won -- and have a title of "America's Voting System is Broken". The writer believes a BROKEN system squarely delivered the win to someone? The article loses credibility then.