Voting in USA is a mess 
By Walter Sorochan Emeritus Professor San Diego State University

Posted November  Disclaimer[This article was drafted before November 6, 2018.]

Voting for candidates, propositions and measures is an election mess. It has to do with lack of common sense and common good for all people.

Our system for choosing presidential nominees makes little sense. As Brookings Institution senior fellow Elaine Kamarck 1 wrote recently, "There are many different ways to organize a presidential nominating system and almost all of them are more rational and orderly than the hodgepodge of systems that voters experience today." Every two and four years we see the chaos of American elections, but nothing really changes.

Here is a brief summary of what is wrong with our election system and poor voter turnout:

1. Our ballots can be as long as a dozen or more pages. Why are there are so many issues on the ballot? Why do we need to vote on so many all at the same time? Most persons accept the idea of voting for political candidates and presidents by ballot, but a simple ballot voting for mid-term candidates is made complicated when the voting system attaches other junk issues like propositions and measures to the voter ballot, making the candidate voting system confusing and frustrating.

2. Voting system varies from state to state. In some places the system uses paper ballots, and in some these are electronic.

3. Electronic voting machines are insecure, are prone to hackers and many machines can block voters from voting.

4. Election Day always falls on a Tuesday – a working day. Why not change the day of election to Sunday when most people have a free non-working day to vote? And avoid long waiting lines!

5. Not enough election workers at voting polls. Long voter waiting lines limit the number able to vote on election day.

6. The current voting system perpetuates manipulation, fraud and misleading information, lacking truth in its process. Election booth places are often shifted and manipulated. 2

7. Voters are not asked for identity, only address in many states.

8. No one is really an independent referee giving the voter the truth about each issue and candidate for office. The current voting system perpetuates manipulation, fraud and misleading information, lacking truth in its process.

9. Why do we have to go to election centers to vote? Well we do not. Oregon votes by mail, not voting booths. The state of Oregon in 2018 is issuing mail-in voting ballots for everyone in their state and will have no voting booth areas on day election. People have a whole month of time to get informed about candidates and issues and then mail in their ballot in secret. This approach is much less expensive, more secure and it allows all eligible persons to vote and be counted, regardless of where they live in Oregon. 3 

10. While the United States Constitution does set parameters for the election of federal officials, state law, not federal, regulates most aspects of elections in the U.S., including primaries, the eligibility of voters (beyond the basic constitutional definition), the running of each state's electoral college, as well as the running of state and local elections. All elections—federal, state, and local — are administered by the individual states. 4  While such voting flexibility seems reasonable, such flexibility adds to nationwide confusion.

11. Voting is not a right, it is a privilege. But privilege is tied to responsibility of being informed about all issues that make for a working democracy. When we have so many issues on the ballot by vested groups peddling their own issue; and no clear independent pros and cons about each issue, then it is most difficult for voters to consider both sides of the issue and become informed.

12. Why do we have to have a two party political system?  5  6   Why are candidates from only two political parties allowed to debate? The democratic process of open debate for all political candidates has broken down.

13. Why do voters have to declare and register their choice of a political party? Why isn't this a personal secret? Why not vote for the best person instead of a political party?

14. There are also millions of eligible voters who no longer believe in the two party system of democrats and republicans. They stay home and do not vote. Many from both political parties have declared themselves as Independents [NPP]. Here is a graphic example of how people have changed their party affiliation in California [on left] and the county of San Diego, California [ right].

voting Calif     

15. INDEPENDENT VOTER TREND: Voters are registering No Party Preference [NPP] in record numbers. San Diego NPP group [on the right side] is now at 30.4 percent of the electorate, larger for the first time ever than Republicans and only 5.6 percent — the closest ever — behind Democrats. Similar trends are unfolding elsewhere in California [graph on the left side].  7    8   Statewide, no-party registration has gone from 20.2 percent in 2010 to 26.8 percent this year [2018]. This is an unfolding revolution taking place throughout United States.  9   10  It reflects that many voters have lost faith in their government and the two party political system. Voters feel that the two political parties are inflexible and not representing them.  11   Yes, an argument can be made as why do we really need political parties!

16. We have been electing a minority government. Democracy is based on having informed citizens who participate. Well, our American democratic government has sputtered for the past 30 years. No wonder this country is fortunate to get 40 to 50% of the eligible voters to vote on election day. Only about 64% of the U.S. voting-age population were registered in 2016, according to the Census Bureau report.  12   Although registered to vote, at best, only about 50 % of Americans voted.  13  

17. Voters lack good information: The biggest difference between voters and nonvoters is not partisan ideology but information, suggests Brennan. “The crop of people who are not voting are less informed than the people who are voting right now.”   14  

18. You, the reader, may now think that all aspects of voting have been covered now. But there is still perhaps the biggest voter omission of all. It is how the political system is maneuvering the voting agenda to mislead, misinform the general public and keep them ignorant. The five most important issues of our time were not mentioned nor covered as voting topics in the 2018 mini-election. Robert Samuelson of the Washington Post   15   summarizes, below, the first three only as:

    a) No mention of the runaway budget deficit that keeps mounting each year as we keep borrowing more money we do not have and our inability to deal with it.
    b) Then there is the immigration and citizenship issue of resolving the millions of those illegally in the country.
    c) Global warming and climate change ignored by not limiting fossil fuel pollution.
    d) Gun control legislation ignored as mass shootings takes place.
    e) Mental health issues of veterans and others are being ignored.

All five issues are politically sensitive. By ignoring to inform voters about the role of government and how it should be financed, political leaders are failing to face reality and act responsibly in informing the public of the truth about mounting debt. Global warming has been covered up and made to look insignificant and a hoax by vested interests. Only three states had regulating fossil fuel on their ballot. Vested interests block gun control while innocent children and adults continue to be gunned down. Mental health is an embarrassment that is swept under the carpet.

We no longer have the luxury or time of ignoring what we do not like or find inconvenient or expensive. So voting on the issues on the ballot in the 2018 mini-election are really somewhat irrelevant compared to the five critical and imminent issues not on the 2018 ballot. This revelation should make all of us wonder who is really running the government? Yes, how we vote is a mess.

Voting has become just too complicated, too biased and corrupt. We need a change not only in how government works but how we select issues to be voted on and how we elect candidates for political office. We need to return to civility, honesty and the truth in electing and supporting honest and responsible candidates who make up the government.

Your response is most appreciated.  Thank you: E-mail author

Go to main menu


1  Garofalo Pat, "The U.S. Has a Primary Problem -Primary elections, from the presidential level on down, are a total mess," US News, February 19, 2016.  

2  Miks Jason, "America's election process an international embarrassment," CNN World, November 14th, 2012.  

3  Richardson Dennis, "Voting in Oregon," Oregon Secretary of State, General Election Guide, November 6, 2018.  

4 Wikipedia, "Elections in the United States."  

4  DeSilver Drew, “U.S. trails most countries in voter turnout,” Pew Research Center, May 21, 2018.  

5  Drutman Lee, “Why America’s 2-party system is on a collision course with our constitutional democracy,” Vox, March 26, 2018.  

6  Heller Zach, “The Hidden Problem with the Two Party System in US Politics,” Medium, April 13, 2017.  

7  Sego Renata, "Sick Of Political Parties, Unaffiliated Voters Are Changing Politics," Politics, February 28, 2016.  

8  Wilkens John, Lauryn Schroeder, Michelle Gilchrist, "The shifting allegiances of San Diego County's voters," The San Diego Union-Tribune, November 4, 2018.  

9  Seitz-Wald Alex, "California's GOP is collapsing. Is that a sign for Republicans nationwide? News, June 4, 2018.  

10  Pew Research Center, “Who votes, who doesn’t, and why,” Pew Research Center, October 18, 2006.  

11  DeSilver, op cit.  

12  Pew Research, op cit.

13 DeSilver op cit.

14  Greenblatt Alan, "What Would Happen If America Made Voting Mandatory?" Governing, February 2016.  

15   Samuelson Robert J., "We already know who lost the midterms. We all did," The Washington Post, November 4, 2018.