Saturday, October 30, 2010

Solving All the Problems

It's pretty common for people to identify problems in the United States electoral system. Our current system allows extremists to drive the discussion and our government. Fox News' shows have high ratings and are clearly important in the political discussion. They have viewers that range in number from 1-4 million. About 80 million people will vote in 2010 (much lower than in Presidential years). So the Fox News viewers represent about 5% of voters, but they drive a huge part of our political discussion.

We could go on an on about the issues with out political discourse. Issues that range from information, to decision making, to the two party system, and on and on. However, it's really hard to think about ways to remedy it. We could think of things that individuals could do to help, but we can't just lecture people and expect them to do what we want, we need systemic solutions that can be implemented.

So here's my simple suggestion that we can implement:

After every federal election 10 voters are randomly selected and given $10 million.

It's a lottery, where the only way to get a lottery ticket is turning out to vote.

Hundreds of millions of dollars are spent in the US during an election year. The vast majority of this money is directed at the most important election factor: Getting Out The Vote (GOTV).

Campaigns are becoming more and more GOTV driven. Mobilizing and energizing the base is what really matters. People don't change their minds easily, so campaigns spend their resources to identify supporters and turn them out to vote.

So what happens if we implement a voting lottery? The theory is that it massively increases voter turn-out. The worry is that this drives tons of 'ignorant' voters to the polls. But, it also frees up hundreds of millions of dollars that are currently being spent on GOTV. In theory this money would have to be spent on actually convincing voters. Most of the voters will feel a desire to investigate these elections.

Additionally, our system might actually need a does of more apathetic voters. If we are worried about extreme rhetoric and the polarization of issues, than current non-voters might be essential to diffusing the situation. These are not people who feel passionately about hot-button issues. It's unclear exactly how they will make their voting decisions. Maybe we get more people voting based on who they'd like to have a beer with. But it seems like just as many would do their homework and some basic research online. Especially with candidates and political parties spending all of that GOTV money in attempts to convince voters.

Am I positive this will fix everything? No. But, I am positive that frustrated lectures from bloggers and columnists won't fix everything. Plus, giving 10 people $10 million probably counts as an economic stimulus package.

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