The campaign for President is the biggest media event in America. For a full two years, the news media is super-saturated with all manner of information about it—opinion, polls, speculation, gossip, conflicts, etc. There is so much information, it can be difficult to make sense of it all, and it is nearly impossible to escape hearing about it, even if you try. On the other hand, information about campaigns for low profile state and local offices is practically non-existent. It can be nearly impossible to find good information about them in the news media, even if you try.
Most people learn next to nothing about the job responsibilities of low profile offices, or of the candidates themselves, so when it comes time to vote they can’t help but make bad decisions. In addition, campaigning for high-level offices such as the Presidency is a grueling process that requires the candidates’ full-time attention for a long period of time. This forces candidates currently holding office to shirk the responsibilities of their current office in order to mount a campaign. For these and many other reasons, any objective look at our current system of elections reveals that they are so illogical and dysfunctional it’s frightening.
Elections under a system of Local Electors would be the polar opposite.
The most obvious benefit of Local Electors related to elections is that Local Electors would be dedicated full-time to working in government and getting to know office holders and potential candidates. In addition, since the ratio of Local Electors to office holders would be small, quality personal interaction with candidates would be possible. Local Electors would be in an ideal position to make good hiring decisions. Elections would be much like job interviews in a business, with the candidates coming from inside the organization.
The Sequence of Elections
Currently, general elections occur on a single day every November, and candidates for all positions are on the ballot. This requires voters to be informed about many candidates for many offices. Ballots tend to be long, which can overwhelm voters and make it difficult for them to make good decisions for each office. To help put this into perspective, imagine if a business required managers to interview several candidates for each of 10 very different jobs over a period of months, and then make their preferences known all at once on a single ballot—it wouldn’t be easy.
Holding all elections at once also makes it difficult for office holders who are currently occupying one office to run for a higher office without sacrificing their current office. They must either win, or they’re out of the game altogether. This has the effect of removing some fine people from office simply because they attempt to make it to the next level.
Under a system of Local Electors, elections would be spaced out so that those responsible for doing the electing could focus on candidates for one office at a time, and put into a sequence that would accommodate existing office holders who have been nominated for higher office. Since all of the electors (Local Electors or lower level office holders electing higher level office holders) participating in an election could fit into an auditorium, the evaluation and election process for each office could take place within a matter of days, and perhaps even a single day. The election sequence would span a period of weeks or months, depending on how much time is needed for electors to make good decisions.
The first office up for election would be the highest: the Presidency (if it is a Presidential election year). Elections would then proceed in steps from the highest level office to the lowest. This would allow people holding a lower office to be considered for higher office without being forced to forgo consideration for reelection to their existing office. For example, the mayor of a city could run for Governor, but if he is lost that election, he could still run for reelection as mayor, since the election for mayor would happen after the election for Governor. If the sequence were reversed, the mayor would first have to run for reelection as mayor, and then if he won the subsequent election for Governor, a second election would need to be held to fill the job of mayor.
The length of term for each office would be the same as it is now, but the year the election for each office occurs would be distributed across years to even out the election workload for each year. With community elections for Local Elector and the CLB being the lowest level positions, they would be held at the end of the sequence.
The election sequence would occur towards the end of the term so that new electors would have enough time to work with office holders and get to know them. This way the Local Electors would be able to make good decisions when election time comes.
Nominations Rather Than Campaigns
As discussed in “Elections for Local Elector and the Community Leadership Board,” elections would be based on nominations rather than campaigns. In order to be considered for office, all candidates would need to be nominated by the electors. Once nominated, candidates would participate in a series of group interviews where Local Electors could ask questions of the candidates. Elections would then consist of one or more rounds of voting that would allow the best candidate to rise to the top; or an instant runoff vote, which is a type of voting that has the runoff built into a single vote.
In order for elections to be about substance and good decisions rather than influence and manipulation, it is important that all elections occur within small groups. This means that Local Electors would not cast votes for many of the offices that we are accustomed to voting for today. They would only be responsible for (voting for/hiring and managing) offices that have a constituency of no more than 22,500 (150 citizens x 150 Local Electors). Those office holders in turn would elect higher level office holders.
Today, the number of offices we have in government is somewhat arbitrary. For instance, North Dakota, one of the smallest states has 141 state legislators while California has 150. New Hampshire has the most with 424 and Nebraska has the least with 49. Source. If we base the number of office holders on exponents of 150, to the extent that is possible, we can reduce the number of office holders to only the number that is necessary.
In this case, since North Dakota has 534,626 citizens who are eligible to vote, only 11 state legislators would be needed. This is calculated by dividing 534,626 by 22,500, which comes to 10.4, and then rounding up. The state would be divided into 11 districts consisting of 150 or fewer Local Electors, and each district would elect one state legislator. If 11 is a sufficient number of people to get the job done, it seems hard to imagine why more would be needed. If more people are needed, the number of districts could be increased.
With 28,631,583 people eligible to vote in California, things get more complicated. When the number of people eligible to vote is divided by 22,500, the number of districts needed comes to 1,273. This is unacceptably high. One possible solution would be to have a legislature of 9 people (1,273 divided by 150) with 1,273 people acting as mid-level representatives in groups of 150. If 9 people can get the work done, that should be sufficient. If, let’s say, 100 people are needed to get the job done, then the ratios could be broken down to accommodate that. For example, the ratios could be 150 citizens x 100 Local Electors x 50 2nd tier representatives x 38 3rd tier representatives who elect 100 legislators. How to structure this would need to be considered within the wider plan of how other office holders at all levels would be elected. Mid-level representatives could be responsible for one or more offices in one or more branches of government at one or more levels (local, state, national) of government.
Comparing this to the way we do things now can be difficult since it is so different. But if you compare it to how large corporations are structured with layers of management it is much easier. It’s simply a hierarchy turned upside down, with the citizens being the CEOs, who channel their will through layers of representatives in order to manage the government.
Removal From Office
Just as owners and managers of businesses have the ability to let employees go if they are not performing, electors should have the ability to remove their representatives from office if they are not performing. This is an important tool that every constituency should have as a way of holding their representative accountable. Two-thirds is the proportion that the Framers of the Constitution specified as needed for Congress to remove one of its members, and this seems like a reasonable proportion throughout a system of Local Electors as well.
Should members of Congress be able to remove one of their own members? It seems that this would be important in a disconnected political world. But if all representatives are elected by constituencies with small ratios, as they would be under a system of Local Electors, it would only be appropriate for those constituents to have the power to remove their representative.
Compared with today, these elections would be quite boring to the outside observer. Citizens and the news media would sit on the sidelines. Little time would be required of candidates, creating only a minor distraction from their current jobs. Personal attacks by candidates would be unthinkable, just as they are in job interviews at any respectable business. Ambition would be rewarded only to the extent that it is channeled into public service. And with the small number of participants, fraud and vote suppression would be nearly impossible. The whole process would be very clear, logical, and professional. Accountability would be built into the system, and good government that works in the interest of the public would be the inevitable result.
These are some initial thoughts about how elections would work under a system of Local Electors. Much public discussion is needed to improve these ideas and come up with new ones.