Since tonight's debate is a town hall debate, I started thinking about the questions I would ask the candidates if I had the opportunity. I came up with 3 questions that I think are very important. Maybe I'll be surprised, and the first one will come up in some form, but I wouldn't bet on it. The second and third probably stand no chance, but that's how these things go. I'm sure we'll hear about jobs and the economy, the wars, women's rights, and a number of other issues, but I want to get at something more fundamental. The questions I would ask have to do with the nature of our elections, and our very form of government, and who it represents. Questions after the break.
1. It is projected that nearly $3 billion dollars will be spent on this year’s Presidential race alone, much of it by special interest groups and wealthy individuals. Many attack ads in particular are being funded by groups that are not required to disclose their donors, so the public does not know who is responsible for them. Many Americans feel not only that they are being bombarded with often divisive and misleading advertising, and that their voices are being lost in this flood of money, but even more importantly, that their elected officials have become dependent on these special interest groups and wealthy individuals, and are too often forced to choose between doing what is right by the people, and doing what will keep these large campaign contributions flowing. So, what would you do to address the out-sized influence of special moneyed interests over our democracy?
2. There was a stir-up in the media this week about Ms. Crowley’s role as moderator after she discussed her role in the debate, saying she would ask follow-up questions as necessary to guide the debate. When both campaigns expressed their concerns to the Presidential Debate Commission, saying this was outside the scope of what the candidates had agreed to, many reporters expressed their opinion that the campaigns are using the format as an excuse to try and avoid tough questions. Indeed, when the League of Women voters stopped sponsoring the debates in 1987, they issued a statement that read, in part, “It has become clear to us that the candidates' organizations aim to add debates to their list of campaign-trail charades devoid of substance, spontaneity and answers to tough questions,” and that “the demands of the two campaign organizations would perpetrate a fraud on the American voter.” Since then, the Presidential Debate Commission has been run by the heads of the two major parties, making it extremely difficult for third party candidates to participate, even if their name appears on the ballot in enough states to give them a shot at winning the election. Do you believe this is an issue that needs to be addressed, and how would you address it?
3. There have been many new restrictive voter ID laws passed throughout the country since the last election, purportedly to stop in person voter fraud at the polls. Yet the rate of actual in person ID law is incredibly low; since 2000, only 10 people have been found guilty of in person voter fraud. The sanctity of the vote is important, but clearly, this is a solution without a problem. Not only do these laws have the potential to disenfranchise tens if not hundreds of thousands of U.S. citizens who are legally allowed to vote, but one Republican State Legislator even stated the goal of the law was to help Governor Romney win. In addition to this, many feel their vote for President does not matter because they live in a solidly Democratic or Republican state where the outcome of the election will not be close, and Electoral College votes are cast in an all-or-nothing fashion. Do you believe that voter fraud is a problem, and if elected, what if any reforms would you advocate for to ensure all citizens are given an equal opportunity to vote, and have their vote count?