Thursday, May 17, 2007

Realizing the duopoly does not work

Tuesday was primary day in Pennsylvania. As I stood at the electronic voting device I had one of those moments of realization that there was something seriously wrong with our two-party system.

I had to vote on two screens of items, the majority of which were selecting my party's candidates for various offices. In a large number of instances my party had no one to offer as a candidate. No one. Not even a chance for me to throw some support behind an inexperienced volunteer who might have views that vaguely overlap some of my own.

The error-checking software on the voting machine made me painfully aware of how few choices I was actually able to make. It kept telling me that I had not made some choices, and I kept re-checking my ballot to make sure that there was not some place on those two screens where I had missed an actual chance to say yes to someone's willingness to stand for public office. I had not missed anything.

The two-party system that produces mediocre choices for high offices apparently produces no choices at all for many local offices. It disempowers public participation.

And, speaking of disempowering, yesterday's VND print edition had a story ("The Old Switcheroo" by Jenni Easton) about a badly publicized change in a polling place over in Arnold. Westmoreland County met the minimal notice requirements by publicizing the change in legal notices in papers in Greensburg and Ligonier. And it appears they did not go any further, not even to inform the poll workers ahead of time.

The stuff Dimitri Vassilaros has been saying about the duopoly limiting our choices is starting to make sense to me. The "major" parties often don't even produce candidates, and get embarrassingly low voter turnouts for the candidates they do find. Why should those parties have special privileges when it comes to putting names on the official ballots?

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