If you look back at the history of voting, as recent as 1930 there were places where you’d walk into the Town Hall and announce your vote to someone like a Deputy who tallied the votes often right in front of several officials in the town including the Sheriff.
This creates an obvious problem, if you didn’t like the Sheriff, how likely might you be to vote for his competition? If he wins despite your vote, then what?
Obviously voting in secret is an important part of American democracy. Our kids practice this in grade school. I mean, it’s so obvious that other kinds of voting, including voting using technology has been rejected because of the fear of vote buying, intimidation ect. I read something that said at the turn of the last century 5% of votes cast were paid for. The mechinisim at the time gave people receipts for votes. Someone might offer a few dollars each for a vote receipt with a particular persons name on it. Obviously this would appeal to the poor. Once we got rid of receipts that practice largely ended.
So here is a question for all of you. Think about all the reasons that secret balloting is important and ask yourself. Why does our Congress vote in public? Sure, we all want to know if our Congress person is doing what we ask, but when you look at the statistics, it becomes obvious that our Congress is under the influence of wealth.
Is this a problem with government, or the power of wealth?
Would the problem be solved if we took power away from the Federal Government and put it back into the hands of the states? Honestly it’s not really the question for this post, but I’ll just say, I’m not sure how that would solve this particular problem since state and local government vote largely the same way, publicly. Now there may be a lot of other good reasons to move things to the states, but that is not what I’m arguing, I’m simply saying that moving things away from the Federal Government won’t solve the apparent problem.
Of course this creates a new worry. If I can’t see how my Congressman voted, how can I know if he is voting the way that I want him too? How can I know if I should vote for him again?
I don’t have the answer to that question, one of the reasons I posted this here.
Clearly the system we have now is broken.
So the question is:
Allow public officials to vote privately just like citizens (and for many of the same reasons)?
Remove money from the political process by instituting government funded elections?
Congress has an approval rating of 7%, just leave things the way they are.
Do you have a better idea? I’d like to hear it.
The charts below (allegedly) illustrate how little affect a voter has on the process.
On the bottom of each of the three charts they are labeled 0-100%. This shows how much a particular group might favor legislation or not favor a particular piece of legislation. At the left the chart shows when groups are against a bill as it approaches 0% and as it approaches 100% shows when a group heavily favors it. Notice that when the average citizen really likes or really hates an idea it seems to make little difference in the outcome. Congress always seems to vote with the average person about 30% of the time. Now look at how often Congress votes with special interest and the wealthy. Notice that if these groups really don’t like something it almost never passes. At the other end it passes about 60% of the time, or about twice the influence of the average citizen.