Friday, May 11, 2012

Political Parties Cannot be Defanged

... unless you adopt the following plan and get it on your state's ballot as an initiative:

I.  Eliminate government-conducted partisan primaries.  Require nomination by petition only for all elected positions.  Ballot-access petitions work for city governments, and independents generally have to use them.  Why not save the expense of one entire election every two years?

II.  Eliminate partisan labeling on ballots.  This will make it harder for semi-informed partisan voters to influence elections.  This is probably best combined with a free voters' pamphlet with a page or so of information provided by each balloted candidate; otherwise, you may end up with a lot of non-informed voters.

III.  Use approval voting.  Under this system, each voter is able to vote, once, for as many candidates as he or she likes.  One advantage of approval voting is that works equally well for both single-member and multi-member constituencies.  Furthermore, it allows philosophical allies to run in the same race without spoiling each other's chances, thus eliminating one of the main justifications of political parties.

IV.  Require legislators to arrange themselves regionally, rather than ideologically, on the floor of their chamber.  Ban the use of capitol rooms and facilities by partisan or ideological groups.  Rather than formalizing party blocs, legislatures could ensure that the minority is represented (on a committee, say, or among floor leaders) by using multiple-winner, one-member-one-vote systems.

This is not a ban on political parties per se.  I'm not in favor of banning parties or any sort of association.  This proposal simply aims to put parties cleanly on the civic side of the state-civic divide.  Parties could continue to endorse candidates, hold caucuses and fundraisers, and generally do as they please, as long as they don't breach that divide.

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