A third Open Letter to Senator Gillibrand (D-NY)
An open letter to Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York:
Dear Senator Gillibrand,
Voting is a problem in America, and we all know it. It is a known fact that there are disparities in voting rates on income level, race, and age, among others. In February of 2016, you among others supported a bill to try to minimize the effects of gerrymandering, which as you know acts to practically disenfranchise individuals. The Electoral College seemingly tears away at the democratic principles of our nation every four years, producing presidents that didn’t even receive a plurality of votes. Voter registration and the increasing popularity of Voter ID Laws further limit our republican system. Although each of these issues may appear glaring, one is more paramount than all others – the failures of our first past the post voting system.
The first past the post voting system (FPTP) seems fair, democratic, even logical upon first glance, but its upon viewing its minutiae and possible results that you realize its problem – it creates unrepresentative politics and politicians. Sure, it may make sense that the person with the most votes wins, but that more often than not can leave voters unhappy and dissatisfied with the results of races.
Among many more problems associated with it, the first past the post voting system creates spoiler candidates. Although a majority of the populous may lean in one direction, whether it be conservative or liberal, Democrat or Republican, left or right, one minor party candidate can split the votes of one major party candidate, causing another to win. Best exemplified in the 1992 Presidential Election, this leads to a president who ideologically has the support of less of the country than their opponent.
A second problem associated with the first past the post voting system is the creation of a two party system. Now, this is not meant to be accusatory – I understand that most politicians are members of the two main established political parties, including yourself, but would you not agree that at least a plurality of Americans do not overwhelmingly support a single party’s platform? A Gallup Poll taken just last month has 42% of the population considering themselves independent, exemplifying this point. Would it not be more democratic and representative to have parties representing a myriad of political beliefs rather than the current essential dichotomy of simply “left” and “right” views? By allocating only one vote to each voter, the first past the post voting system essentially forces individuals to vote for one of two major parties, as a vote for any other candidate might as well be a vote for the opposing side.
In this same manner, the first past the post voting system further encourages use of the strategic (clothespin) vote, wherein people vote for the “lesser of two evils”. Why must we vote for an evil? If we replace such a system, perhaps individuals can be encouraged to vote and be proud of their choice, rather than silently regretful and disdainful.
It is for these reasons that I urge you to consider sponsoring a bill changing our voting system from first past the post to a ranked-choice voting system wherein a voter’s preferences are taken into more consideration than their top vote. If this were to be implemented, individuals
would no longer need to utilize a clothespin vote. They’d be able to vote for any party without sacrificing a vote to the strongest candidate from their side of the political aisle. Spoiler candidates would be a thing of the past, and within enough election cycles America could shed the nightmare of a gridlock inducing two party system.
In my all too short experience insofar, I’ve learned one thing – the issues not spoken of are often the most fundamental. Although not often mentioned, I believe that the voting system used in America is more important an issue than any others in our admittedly flawed election process. Albert Einstein worded it best when saying “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them”; by this same token we cannot fix our elections using our same election process. Please consider the unconsidered and sponsor a bill to end such an elusive method of disenfranchisement.
For the Next Generation,