Changes would boost freedom in elections

I read with interest the column in the Thursday, May 12, 2016, Daily Reporter under Another Viewpoint. The column presents the idea our primary election process needs to change and proceeds to state why and what must change.

I find this interesting in and of itself. I also find it interesting because this column is about this same topic.

While I applaud the ideas presented in the column in the May 12 paper, I do not believe it goes far enough.

Our democracy is in a sorry state of disrepair. In some respects it has been that way for a very long time. Some of that disrepair is more recent. While the United States is one of the largest and one of the earliest democracies in the world, there are ways in which we are not the most free. We have allowed processes to creep in to our electoral system that keep voters from freely and openly participating in the democratic process. And that must change.

With the intervention of the Electoral College and party conventions, outcomes can be taken out of the hands of the people of this country. The Electoral College is an invention of our early leaders to mute the influence of the less educated or intelligent on the electoral process. Party conventions also took the popular vote out of the hands of the electorate. This more recent invention solidified the two-party system. Essentially your vote only counts if your vote agrees with an obscure group of people, either the Electoral College or party delegates.

Another part of the electoral process that reduces our freedom is the requirement to declare a party affiliation. This is changing in open-primary states. But these states are still in the minority. Open primaries allow a person to vote for anyone on the ballot for a particular office, no matter what party that person represents or even if the person does not represent any political party.

So what is the problem for voters, particularly in a county like ours? If I voted for one of the Democratic Party candidates for statewide or national offices this primary election, I had to declare I am a Democrat. Since Hancock County is a one-party county, that means I will have no opportunity to vote for local candidates. I hardly feel this is the kind of free election we should expect in our democracy.

Besides what is done in open-primary states, other countries with democratic institutions have other ways to elect their leaders. Voters can vote for anyone on the ballot for a particular office for a particular election. The top one to three candidates for each office are then sent on to the general election. There are no Electoral Colleges and no party conventions to intervene. It is one vote for each person. It is a purely democratic process.

The column from May 12 proposes another solution: Rolling primaries by region. And the order of primaries would change each election cycle. I do agree this would help increase voter turnout as voters in many states, including Indiana, often feel they have little to no say in who is elected by the time their primary rolls around.

So how do we see change happen? We challenge candidates to share their views on these and other possible changes to our electoral process. We challenge people in office to sponsor legislation to enable these changes. And, if we do not see a willingness to help make these changes, we do not vote for candidates who refuse to support these changes, and we do not re-elect people who do not support these changes.

Democracy in action — it is our right and our duty.

Jim Matthews is a long-time resident of Greenfield. You may share your comments at