Friday, April 3, 2009

A proposal for a truly non-partisan, modern elections system for Ohio

Hello all, Kadim here. Barga has been kind enough to allow me to post on the blog.

You have likely heard by now State Senator Husted's (now candidate for Secretary of State) plan for a bi-partisan redistricting commission as well as a bi-partisan elections administration system to replace the Secretary of State's role in elections.

Undoubtedly, it's an improvement. But it's a fairly minor improvement. One can argue it's not an improvement at all.




There is good reason for why the Senator's approach is "bi-partisan." By putting both parties in control he makes it likely he can get his ideas to the voters.

Unfortunately, it makes our elections system even more beholden to the politicians who get to benefit from it. Elections are run for the benefit of the people, not the politicians. At least, that's how it should be.

What I propose instead of the bi-partisan redistricting commission and the bi-partisan elections administration is something much more radical and independent. It draws on the some of the world's finest elections systems, yet goes further.

I call it the Elections Branch. It draws on the idea that the multiple governmental branches were created by our wise founders as a balancing mechanism. The Elections Branch adds a fourth branch to Ohio government. A limited branch, the only thing it does is administer elections and decide Ohio elections law. (The US did of course invent the three branch model, but some countries have expanded on it and have added a fourth and fifth branch. A fourth elections branch is not unheard of.)

At any rate, my idea creates a non-partisan elected board to oversee elections administration and the entirety of Ohio elections law. As long as we let politicians write elections law we'll continue getting unsatisfactory, partisan results. To say that it's a conflict of interest that those who benefit get to write the laws is an understatement. A non-partisan board would not be encumbered by political issues, and would write fairer and more stable elections law.

Here's the proposal:

The Elections Branch will:

• Create an election system based on modern standards for free and fair elections, while bringing more stability and thoughtfulness to election law and administration.
• Be free of the conflicts and ethical considerations common to our current elections system.
• Run elections for the benefit of the people of Ohio, and not for politicians.
• Preserve the privacy and dignity of the voter and their registration.
• Be an independent, non-partisan fourth branch of government.
• Administer Ohio elections and create election law.
• Be completely open and transparent to public scrutiny.


And here are the details:

• The Elections Branch is run by a board of eleven elected individuals, representing districts. The laws under which they’re elected , as well as their pay, are set by the State Supreme Court.
• In order to increase the competence of the members of the Elections Branch, elected branch members shall not take office for one year after they have been elected. During this year, they shall be trained and apprenticed in modern elections law and administration. [This is one of my favorite parts. We keep electing people to offices which they have absolutely no preparation for. The extra year of training is essential. If it were up to me, I'd require the same for newly elected members of the General Assembly.]
• The term of office shall be seven years, and it may be served twice.
• An Elections Branch member may be removed with an election to be initiated with a petition containing the signatures of 10% of Ohio voters.
• An Elections Branch member may be removed from office for serious violations of elections, ethics, or criminal law. The State Supreme Court impeaches a member, and the trial/removal of the member is done by a panel of seven individuals who do not participate in Ohio elections, to be chosen by the State Supreme Court.
• The Elections Branch administers Ohio elections, and creates Ohio election law, which includes, but isn’t limited to, electioneering, campaign finance, ballot eligibility, electoral districting, voting methods, voting systems and voter eligibility/registration.
• The Elections Branch may submit election related Constitutional Amendments to the ballot for voter approval.
• Where an election law mixes with or is dependent on a non-election law, or an election decree mixes with or is dependent on a non-election decree, the Elections Branch can convene a joint conference with the Legislative Branch or the Executive Branch, and co-write law or decree as necessary.
• The Elections Branch may refer a proposed law to the State Supreme Court to receive confirmation of its constitutionality, if the proposal’s constitutionality is under question.
• The first election of Elections Branch members shall take place in November, 2011. The elected members shall receive training during 2012, and take office in January 2013, at which point this amendment is fully enacted.


To be as non-partisan as possible:

• For purposes of transparency, members of the Elections Branch shall cast public ballots.
• For purposes of maximum impartiality, the non-voting chair of the Elections Branch, and chief electoral officer, shall be selected by the State Supreme Court. This individual may not participate in or have any interest in the results of Ohio elections.
• No person may be elected to the Elections Branch who has participated in politics in the last two years preceding an election, and they shall not participate in politics for three years after their term. This includes, but isn’t limited to, volunteering or contributing to a campaign, being a member of a political party, legislative or executive lobbying, or working for an organization which participates in legislative/executive lobbying.

Like anything, I keep on re-writing the idea (though what you see here is largely the text of the proposed amendment.)

So feel free to comment...and who knows...if there's enough interest, it could put it on the ballot as a competing amendment. :-)

1 comment:

Barga said...

Tis barga's blog (me), not Whalertly's... maybe you should read the intros

anyways, i went in and edited that, i also redid the format to fit the 'read more' link

good job, but you still need to make an intro post

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