Vote Early, Vote Often… Or Pay the Fine
Voting should be made as easy as possible, but it should also be compulsory and have results withheld for a time.
- Elections should start at least 3 weeks before “Election Day”, be available through any potential method technology allows, and be made as convenient as possible.
- The results for elections should be withheld for at least a week under penalty of treason.
- All eligible voters should be automatically registered to vote and be sent election materials and ballots; but also be required to vote under penalties to be determined by Congress.
Now that the Electoral College would be no more, there are other parts of the Constitution that will need immediate cleanup. This begins with modifying the clause related to setting the election date:
By Amendment to the Constitution of the United States, Article 2, Section 1, Clause 4 shall read:
The Congress may determine the Time of <strike>chusing the Electors</strike> holding elections for the President and Vice President, and the Day on which <strike>they</strike> the people of the United States shall give their Votes; which Day shall be the same throughout the United States.
This is a pretty straightforward change making note that it is now the people of the United States who are voting for President and Vice President, but Congress still controls that day. If you recall, we did not address this with Congress, but now we should do so:
By Amendment to the Constitution of the United States, Article 1, Section 4, Clause 1 shall read:
The Times, Places and Manner of holding Elections for Senators and Representatives, shall be prescribed <strike>in each State by the Legislature thereof; but the Congress may at any time by Law make or alter such Regulations, except as to the Places of chusing Senators</strike> by Congress and the Day on which the people of the United States shall give their Votes; which Day shall be the same throughout the United States.
Right now, this is the law anyway. First, Congress set the day for the elections of President and Vice President in 1845 as the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November, the date we are all familiar with:
Acts of the 28th Congress
January 23, 1845
Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That the electors of President and Vice President shall be appointed in each State on the Tuesday next after the first Monday in the month of November of the year in which they are to be appointed: Provided, That each State may by law provide for the filling of any vacancy or vacancies which may occur in its college of electors when such college meets to give its electoral vote: And provided, also, when any State shall have held an election for the purpose of choosing electors, and shall fail to make a choice on the day aforesaid, then the electors may be appointed on a subsequent day in such manner as the State shall by law provide.
Further clarifications were made as time went on, but it is important to note that the same day was extended to the House of Representatives in 1872 in time for the 1874 election.
2 U.S. Code § 7
The Tuesday next after the 1st Monday in November, in every even numbered year, is established as the day for the election, in each of the States and Territories of the United States, of Representatives and Delegates to the Congress commencing on the 3d day of January next thereafter.
Finally, this same law was automatically extended to the election of Senators with the 17th Amendment in 1913.
As such, this Amendment is not impacting anything we already have, just codifying it into the Constitution and further clarifying that Election Day on the Federal level is the same day no matter what except whether it is a Presidential year or a Congressional year. States, Counties, and other local municipalities would still have the option of having their elections on other days, though it is most likely that at least on the State-level that elections would try to align to the same Federal dates to defray the costs and increase voter turnout.
To further drive this home, we now return to the new Article 8 of the Constitution. Another Section is necessary to enumerate the rights and expectations of the Federal elections:
By Amendment to the Constitution of the United States, Article 8, Section 2, Clause 1 shall be added.
The Day chosen by Congress for holding Elections for Senators and Representatives shall be the same Day for holding Elections for the President and Vice President; only separated by the Years as prescribed in the Constitution and relevant Amendments.
Again, this is just a forced codification and makes sure the law is uniform across the United States. Per the Constitution, Congress would still control what the day the election is and there is no recommendation to change that here. Many people complain that the day is stuck in a 19th century mentality of market days and when agrarians would be available to vote. Others point to the fact that almost all other western representative democracies have their election on a holiday or a weekend. Of course, all these people are right!
So are the people who say that elections that are on a weekend would disproportionately eliminate poorer Americans who work Saturdays, Sundays, and “off hours” at a far higher rate that more well-to-do Americans. One way or another, some group of people is going to be negatively impacted by a single day election. Therefore, the problem is not the day, but the timeframe in which the election happens. We need to build on what is law with an Amendment to get more people involved, and we start with the timeframe of elections:
By Amendment to the Constitution of the United States, Article 8, Section 2, Clause 2 shall be added.
Elections for Senators, Representatives, and the President and Vice President shall start at least three weeks before the Day chosen by Congress for holding Elections. The Election timeframe may be extended by law but shall not be shortened for any reason. Election polling must be made available as most convenient for the People of the United States and include hours and days in which the majority do not make labor.
Elections being on one day is truly the issue at hand because it limits the options for people voting in person. Instead, elections should happen for at least 3 weeks before whatever day is chosen as the “official” election day. Based on the current system, this would put elections starting in mid-October and would go through several weekends. That is also where the second part of this Amendment comes into play to have polling stations available at a time that is “most convenient” in that it is the time that “the majority do not make labor”, in other words: off-hours.
One of the issues in the past has always been pegging government functions to the behaviors and customs of the time, but those do change over the decades and centuries. The voting laws were set up with an agrarian society in mind and a much more limited voting pool. Our country now is a mostly service economy with a greatly expanded pool of voters (age, gender, race, etcetera), so the current setup does not completely make sense. Flexibility is key, so if Congress sets polling stations to be open between 12pm and 8pm every weekday and 10am and 4pm on the weekend, then it should cover the vast majority of Americans without as much interference in the workday (Potentially, Congress or a local polling authority could also alternate days with different hours to allow more flexibility for different groups of people). And if you will recall, the earlier Amendments forced any law to be reviewed every 20 years, so these days and times would at least be revisited that often as habits of society change.
Ranked voting can help determine your order of preference, but negative voting can eliminate the candidate that you…
The important thing is the plasticity of having voting available and good timeframes to get as many people involved as conveniently as possible. For those who scoff at the cost of doing this, my question for you then is: what should the government spend money on that is more important than having an active, engaged and represented populace? What is the point of having a government at all if it is not spending its funding on being involved with the people who are the true rulers of this country?
And do note that this Amendment does allow Congress (or any other local municipality) to expand the timeframe even further. Thus, if it makes sense to vote for two months, then that is what will happen; just at a minimum there should be three weeks. During that time, though, there might be a desire to release preliminary results, and this must be stopped at all costs:
By Amendment to the Constitution of the United States, Article 8, Section 2, Clause 3 shall be added.
The governing body of each election — Federal or otherwise — shall maintain the secrecy of ballot results until at least seven full days have passed from the Day of Election. This timeframe may be extended by law or in order to have the appropriate time to verify the results, but shall not be shortened for any reason. No member of the governing body of each election may share results or estimates of the elections during this timeframe under penalty of treason.
As previously noted, the turnout rates in Hawaii are far below the other States and Territories. While one part of this is definitely the “my vote does not matter” impact of having an area solidly with one political party, the other is the time-zone differential of the elections. Hawaii is six hours behind the East Cost of the United States and as the years have gone on news outlets have been declaring winners of elections within seconds or minutes of polls closing. If the President is already decided before you get a chance to go vote after work, why would you even bother to do so?
This plays out all over the country and even within States. Releasing even tentative polling results discourages people from going out and voting because there is a feeling of uselessness. While there is nothing that can be done to stop the press and other pundits from making estimates, taking polls of their own, and making projections, the government does not and should not be part of the process. Additionally, trying to put out election night results puts undo strain on workers that can create mistakes. The process of counting votes should be slow, deliberate, and careful such that by the time the official results are given they are 100% accurate, or as close to that as humanly possible.
Since the elections are in early November and the government does not take its positions until early January, what is the rush to get the results out the door? The only reason is because we are in a society that demands instantaneous satisfaction and information. Patience is a lost concept in a world where every bit of media is available by saying a few words to an Artificial Intelligence living inside of a hockey puck. To be fair and safe, ballots should be protected for a detailed count, re-count, and verification process. And there may be times to extend this process in incredibly close races or if absentee ballots have been delayed (such as when troops are deployed in a war zone). Every vote should have a fair chance, and every voter should have the feeling that their vote matters.
You will notice here that we have again added the penalty of treason. Doing anything to undermine the election, even the simple act of releasing polling information early, is an attack upon America. As shown, this release causes (at least in part) a suppression of voters and depresses turnout, and that should be discouraged at all cost — including the cost of being accused of treason. This penalty and all the other rules around election results would extend to all levels of government, ensuring that this same level of scrutiny would be applied to the local sheriff race as equally as the President of the United States.
However, there are other key elements that are used to stop people from voting, not the least of which is getting and staying registered:
By Amendment to the Constitution of the United States, Article 8, Section 2, Clause 4 shall be added.
All eligible voters of the United States shall be automatically registered to Vote and be provided all necessary materials and information in order to give their vote.
Why does anyone need to register to vote at all? There is nothing in the Constitution that says voter access should be restricted; quite the contrary, the 14th, 15th, 19th, and 24th Amendments all deal with removing restrictions on voting in one form or another. The 24th Amendment, Clause 1 in particular states:
The right of citizens of the United States to vote in any primary or other election for President or Vice President, for electors for President or Vice President, or for Senator or Representative in Congress, shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or any state by reason of failure to pay any poll tax or other tax.
It could be (and has been) argued that registering to vote is yet another type of tax. Tax does not have to be money, but it can be time or meeting criteria that States set up. There are active lawsuits that deal with States setting up restrictions for voter registration, for purging voter rolls, and other forms of refusing people to vote due to so-called discrepancies. Voting should not be abridged in any way and the Constitution already does not give any leeway in this. Now, this Amendment would codify that certainty and not just sustain it implicitly.
The easier it is to register, the higher the turnout. Looking at the VAP turnout percentages for 2016, the eight States with the highest values all had same day voter registration (Maine, Minnesota, New Hampshire, Wisconsin, Iowa, Colorado, Vermont, and Michigan). Among all the States with same day voter registration, the VAP was 56.1% compared to 54% of those States without. If we exclude California and Hawaii — two of the three lowest VAP (Texas being the other) because of reasons of their geography and lack of competition — that value jumps to 61.7%. Those numbers are clear: the easier it is to register and vote without restriction, the higher turnout is. It is so clear that since the 2016 election, four more States have already added the same option.
Much later in this document we will return to how to better keep track of people so that voter rolls are accurate, but for now the focus is just on the fact that everyone should be set up with no effort as a service of the government. Also as a service of the government is a note above for all related material. In order to be an informed voter, the government often prints out materials to explain particular items or what is being voted on — in other words, a voter’s handbook. Again, all of this should be readily available to the people.
That is not the only material that should be provided, though. One of the best ways to understand what is going to be on the ballot is to have the ballot, and as such the following Amendment should be added:
By Amendment to the Constitution of the United States, Article 8, Section 2, Clause 5 shall be added.
All eligible voters of the United States shall be provided a ballot at the commencement of the Election timeframe. This ballot shall be able to be submitted by all methods as have been made available by law during the Election timeframe.
There are not a lot of examples in the United States, but the three States that do have automatic mail ballot voting (Colorado, Oregon, and Washington) have a combined VAP of 61.2% compared to the rest of the States with 54.3%. It should be noted that Colorado also has same day registration and is a “battleground” State, so it is hitting all the right checkboxes. Additionally, another 19 States have laws that allow counties or other municipalities to have entirely vote-by-mail elections if they so choose, but it is up to each area. Altogether, the data is probably not enough to base a statistical analysis on, especially since that is not the complete point of this Amendment.
States like Colorado do not just force everyone to vote by mail. While the ballots are sent out to all eligible voters, the voters can then mail it back, drop it off at a designated polling box, or vote in person at a polling station. And that is what the second part of this Amendment is taking about. Today, the ways to vote might consist of by mail, by a drop-box, early in person at designated location, or directly at the polling stations. In the future, though, maybe elections via the Internet will be safe and secure. Perhaps there is another method we have not quite figured out how to implement yet that would be easier and more accurate. In any case, all methods should be made available to the people to vote.
Therefore, sending out the mail ballot ahead of time could be considered just another piece of election material. In the (at least) 3-week timeframe that voting would happen, voters could use any of the methods available to them, not just the mail ballot itself — which then could just be informational in that case. It will give voters the opportunity to be informed and no excuse that every opportunity was not granted to get their vote in.
That said, there is one last measure that can be used to increase turnout and participation.
By Amendment to the Constitution of the United States, Article 8, Section 2, Clause 6 shall be added.
All eligible voters within the United States are required to vote in Federal elections unless unable to physically or mentally do so or have been granted an exception by law. Congress shall lay a levy on those who fail to submit ballots without meeting an exception.
You did not think you were going to get away without having a responsibility in all of this, did you? Yes, for the past 99% of this document the onus has fallen on the government to change, but that does not mean there are not civic duties for the people.
Compulsory voting would be impossible in the United States right now because it would violate the 1st Amendment. One could easily argue that forcing someone to vote is a type of speech that someone may not want to give. Because of that, an Amendment would be needed to make it part of the Constitution in order to have equal weight.
Others think of compulsory elections like those used in North Korea. Yes, everyone must “vote”, but there is only one item to vote on and the answer is “Yes” no matter what, so it is not a real democracy. However, countries closer to our own like Australia, Belgium, Brazil, and others do have a compulsory system and see voter turnout rates in the 90% or above range. One of the key difference makers is the fine for those who fail to vote. Many countries that have compulsory voting do not have a fine or do not enforce it, and the rates of participation are noticeably lower.
Some may fear the idea of an uneducated or uninterested class of people being involved in the voting process who would not otherwise do so. Studies show, however, that because of compulsion, interest in the political process and desire to have one’s views be heard increases. If we look back at our legislative section and see how people with low net worth, low education levels, and young ages have no or almost on representation, one can see that compelling these groups to vote may actually create the type of party that expresses their needs. And yes, the correlation is there that those who are more disadvantaged are less likely to vote and thus perpetuate the cycle. Just giving them the ability to have their voice be heard is one step, but it is another entirely to fuse their voice to the chorus.
There are exceptions, of course, that must be accounted for. Being in a physical state where voting is impossible or having a mental debilitation could be reasons for exclusion. Others may have religious reasons for not voting, or there are laws that restrict certain classes of people (think people in prison). As such, Congress would be allowed to create and maintain that list of exceptions — which in turn would be reviewed at least every 20 years when the law came due.
Plus, nothing is stopping someone from returning their ballot blank or filling it in with nonsense. Nothing is stopping people from doing that now! There were over 763,000 write-in votes for President in 2016, and a large number of votes were for fictional characters like Mickey Mouse and Elmer Fudd, or non-humans like the deceased gorilla Harambe. Again, though, studies have shown that while disengaged people may start off this way, over time they tend to vote for real candidates. Consider the reason for many of these joke votes — even among the limited constituents — as a response to living in an area where their vote makes no impact on the outcome. If we add in proportional representation in Congress and ranked voting for President, if we keep voting figures tied down, and if we make everyone vote, suddenly these excluded people will carry a large weight and an impact.
Of course, there will always be jokers, anti-establishment types, and general protesters, but that is their right. Should we find that compulsory voting in actuality is not effective, Congress could always lower the fine to $0 and therefore there would be no compulsion mechanism. That is one of the reasons for allowing Congress to control the rate as opposed to building it into the Constitution.
The government has a responsibility to the people of the United States; but how can the government be responsible if the people do not fulfil their duty to it? And the duty of the people is to vote.
TO BE CONTINUED…