Open primary and rank order voting don't go far enough

I read with interest the article about legislation to allow Baltimore to authorize open primary and rank order voting (“Legislation would allow 'ranked choice' voting in Baltimore, a new way of counting ballots,” Jan. 7). I support this effort, but think we can actually do more. There are a number of things we could do to make our elections more democratic.

Why can’t I vote for different parties for different offices?

Why do I have to declare a party affiliation before I can vote in primary elections? Why can’t I vote my preference of a Democrat for governor, a Republican for county executive and a Socialist for my county council seat or school board? I understand that this open primary system creates the opportunity for me to vote for the weakest candidate of a party opposing my true preference, but I think the advantage of primary elections selecting the candidates of broader appeal would outweigh any contrarian voting disadvantages. I could vote for a weak opposition candidate now by simply registering as their party. And why can’t I rank order my preferences in each case?

Why can’t we priority rank in the general elections statewide?

This would make a lot of sense. Why shouldn’t I be able to make my first preference a Green Party candidate and my second choice a Democrat and my third choice a Republican? If no candidate receives a majority of votes on the 1st choice round, all votes for the candidate receiving the least number of votes would use the 2nd choice in the tabulation. Repeat until you have a candidate with a majority of votes cast.

Why can’t we remove other structural impediments to electing a more truly representative democracy?

Gerrymandering: Gerrymandered election districts at local, state and national levels are widely acknowledged to be constructed to favor the political party in power at the time of the creation or adjustment of districts. Therefore, my district is likely to be favoring a particular party. Why can’t we have impartially drawn election districts?

Conflicted Offices: Why can’t I elect officials who represent me directly? Why does my school board contain members appointed by the governor? This dilutes the power of my elected representative to represent me. If I am opposed to school board policy, do I have to lobby the governor for a change in school board members? Why do my elected school board members have to have the education budget approved by the county executive? I don’t think that we will ever be informed enough to elect every official serving in government, but I think I could cast an informed vote for school board.

Uninformed Voting: Why can’t I be informed about the full impact of my vote? In the recent Baltimore County election, there were multiple bond issue questions which asked if the county could issue bonds for this or that purpose without any information about what these bonds would cost me. While I want good school facilities, streets and public utilities, I also want to know how much my taxes will increase (or not decrease) if the bond issue is approved. How hard do I have to dig to inform myself about issues that are completely unknown to me until I am in the voting booth? And, why do I not have a say in why and how much I am being taxed?

We live in a “representative democracy” — a republic. Right? That is what I am told. Political parties, businesses, associations, professions, etc. all attempt to speak to government with louder voices. Politicians strive to increase their power. Political power is increased at the expense of others. So I would like to regain some of the power that has been gradually usurped. So why can’t we change the structures that limit the power of my vote? Whoever is currently holding the advantage will not want to make these changes. Only if we insist that resisting change will cost them power, will our currently elected representatives consider doing what is best for our state and nation instead of what is best for their party or interest group.

Oh! And what about the Electoral College? Winner take all electors? Political caucuses? PACs? Campaign finance?

Larry Williams, Towson

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