Like many people, I struggle to understand the political issues that we're facing. However, while day-to-day issues are problematic, I'm more concerned with long-term meta issues. That is to say, I'm more worried about the problems with the system that generates the problems we get distracted with on a daily basis. When I think about these issues, I keep in mind an idea that mathematicians, physicists, software engineers and others have realized time and time again: the simpler and more elegant the solution, the more likely it is to be correct (or for the software engineers: the more likely it is to make a problem tractable).

While thinking about this, I also started thinking about voter intimidation laws and realized they contain a solution that is simple, elegant, and probably impossible to implement. Nonetheless, I think the simplicity of the idea might appeal.

From 18 USC ยง 594 - Intimidation of voters:

Whoever intimidates, threatens, coerces, or attempts to intimidate, threaten, or coerce, any other person for the purpose of interfering with the right of such other person to vote or to vote as he may choose, or of causing such other person to vote for, or not to vote for, any candidate for the office of President, Vice President, Presidential elector, Member of the Senate, Member of the House of Representatives, Delegate from the District of Columbia, or Resident Commissioner, at any election held solely or in part for the purpose of electing such candidate, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than one year, or both.
Now this sounds all well and good, though I confess that I have reservations in that the lenient penalties are hardly a deterrent. That being said, I would make two changes to the law.

The first change is that any person who engages in voter intimidation is barred from holding public office for a (to be determined) amount of time.

The second change requires some explanation.

I'm sure that most of you who debate politics at one time or another have commented about the state of democracy and had someone speak and imperiously state "the US is a Republic, not a Democracy."

There are two interesting points about that statement. First, it's true. Second, it invariably contributes fuck-all to the conversation at hand, aside from allowing someone to feel a bit superior.

However, this is one time when the fact that the US is a Republic and not a Democracy becomes important: you generally don't vote on laws; the people you elect vote on laws. It is very illegal for me to intimidate you into voting for my candidate, but said candidate, representing perhaps millions of people, is often intimidated by their party into casting a party-line vote.

Well, isn't that interesting? We have a lovely loophole in the law which only allows voter intimidation when it affects the masses, not the individual.

What if the second change to voter intimidation laws would be if we were to extend voter intimidation laws to include those who vote on our behalf? This would not get us proportional representation. This would not remove the money from politics. It could, however, be a sea change in how politics is conducted and could remove some of the corrosive influence of party politics.

It's simple. It's elegant. It will never be enacted into law.



Should we extend voter intimidation laws to include votes cast by our elected representatives?

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