tutor2u | Voting Reform (US)

Study Notes

Voting Reform (US)

Level:
A Level
Board:
AQA, Edexcel, OCR, IB

Last updated 22 Mar 2021

Voting Reform in the US has taken many different shapes with different groups demanding different changes to the electoral system. There are some organisations that operate at a national level and many which operate at a state level.

There are perhaps four main issues where groups seek reform in order to make the system fairer, more transparent and more representative.

1) Overturning Citizens United 2010

The ruling in Citizens United v FEC 2010, which allowed the creation of Super PACs for independent expenditure is a major source of contention with electoral reform groups. Several groups have expressed support for a change, namely via a constitutional amendment so it could not be overturned by a court. In the 112th Congress 17 constitutional amendments were initiated to bring about change, another 17 were submitted in the 113th Congress, and currently there has been 13 attempts in the 114th Congress.

2) Abolition or Reform of the Electoral College

Concerns with the Electoral College have existed since the very formation of the process. The main concern is the disenfranchisement of those people in safe states over those in swing states. There are several methods of change which are being proposed including outright abolition and replacement with popular vote deciding the President. However this would require a constitutional amendment, and smaller states are unlikely to support these measures, as their influence will be diluted.

Another method would be to replace the winner take all system that applies in 48 states with the plurality systems in place in Main and Nebraska. This would mean candidates for election would have to compete in all states, almost on a district by district result. (See blog post on this method and the 2012 election)

3) Instant Run Off Voting

Instant Run Off voting or IRV is known as the Alternative Vote in the UK. This campaign would ideally see every race for office replaced by this method. The idea is make the winning candidates gain the support of a majority of the people. FairVote is an organisation that supports this and counts President Obama and John McCain among its supporters. Some local races in the US use this method.

4) Gerrymandering

In many races, office holders will represent a district. Many organisations want an end to partisan redistricting or gerrymandering so to allow competitive elections and end of safe districts. Supporters include the FairVote organisation.

There isn’t really a consensus for voting reform in the US, and it is likely to remain this way for some time. The abolition of the Electoral College is unlikely due to the influence that small states can command in the process. Voting reform therefore seems like a pipe dream for many in the US at the moment.

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