Tuesday, December 16, 2008
Paper beats Recall
I've mentioned how I feel that the at-large recall process perverts the proportional representation process, so what are some alternatives?
Unfortunately, folks are going to conflate discussion of the recall process with the current recall election. Those who want a different process will probably line up pretty closely with those who disapprove of this recall, and the opposite will be true of those who think the current process is great.
But now that we have folks' attention, let's pretend like they care about process. There's really no way, through the recall election process, of ensuring that a successful recall represents a change in the views of voters. Taking that as a requirement, what can be done?
One approach is to simply make it impossible for voters to remove a Senator. Since terms are only one year long, requiring voters to deal with a Senator they don't want as one voice in twenty isn't a huge cost.
Another is to hold a whole new election for the Senate. If X voters sign a petition saying they disapprove of the current Senate makeup, a new election could be called for (along the lines of a vote of no confidence in many parliamentary bodies). This isn't an exact parallel, as a such a vote would typically be used to oust a suddenly unpopular party, but it could also perform the recall function. It would be a broader tool, but would also preserve proportional representation in a way that recalls do not. If a senator's supporters no longer support him, they can throw their weight behind someone else rather than simply losing their vote.
An immediately apparent drawback would seem to be cost, but it's not clear that such an election would actually cost any more than a recall election. With computerized voting, the cost of an election is pretty much independent of the size of the ballot. There would probably only be slightly increased advertising costs.
The other effect would be another campaign season, though probably a more muted one, due to the limited time scale and lack of executive races. While this would make things suck for the heavy campaign machines, most of campus would see that as a feature, not a bug.
While we're on the topic of replacing Senators, the current process of passing the Senate seat to whoever is next in line (whatever rule is used) also subverts the proportional representation process, as the votes for the resigning senator are lost, and not transferred. With computerized counting, it's not difficult to simply rerun the election with resigned senators removed to preserve the votes of their supporters. One consequence of this would be that a resigning senator can potentially remove other senators from the Senate, depending on how those votes transfer.
Neither of these change would ever actually happen, of course. The senators themselves suffer drawbacks for both of them, so the major parties would never approve them, regardless of what it means for student representation.
. . .
. . .