As a public interest attorney focused on constitutional law, I have devoted my career to upholding the wisdom and principles that led the Founding Fathers to declare independence from England and then to adopt the U.S. Constitution. But when I consider the way our political systems have functioned in recent years, it is clear to me we desperately need to remember the wisdom the founders shared about the dangers of political factions.
In his farewell address, George Washington warned if Americans were not careful, our politics would cease to serve the population as a whole. Instead, they would become tools through which parties seek to dominate their rivals, ultimately leading to “a frightful despotism” and “the ruins of public liberty.” I believe the political dysfunction we are now observing in Jefferson City and Washington, D.C., are symptoms of this great political illness that Washington described 226 years ago.
The status quo protects parties and special interests, not the people as a whole. This is why the existing system has produced toxic, polarized groups of partisans that treat anyone who voices even the slightest disagreement with their faction’s leadership as “the enemy,” even if those views do not really reflect the preferences of a majority of voters.
But this year, Missouri voters will have the chance to improve our elections and make our elected officials more accountable to us. Voting YES on the Better Elections initiative will secure the integrity of our elections while also empowering voters to cast a meaningful vote for any candidate they choose in our most important elections.
The Better Elections Amendment will:
- Give voters the freedom to vote for any candidate they choose in August primaries;
- Send the top four candidates with the most votes on to the general election, regardless of party;
- Give voters the power to rank the final four candidates from first choice to last, OR just vote for their first choice,
- Require that vacancies be filled with special elections, instead of by political appointment, and
- Ensure that all electronic voting machines be tested and certified as secure before they are used, require a paper trail of individual votes in every election, and require that representatives of all political parties be present whenever paper ballots are counted or placed in storage.
Those of us who believe in the power of free markets understand that having more choices is a very good thing — and we could certainly use more choices in politics today. The powers the Better Elections initiative would give voters means that they, not party insiders or special interests, will choose the final four candidates to represent us in our Missouri Legislature, U.S. Congress and Senate, and other statewide offices.
These reforms will promote accountability by incentivizing candidates to speak to the concerns of all voters, not just their party’s base. Requiring candidates to earn the support of a majority of voters will encourage them to focus on explaining why their ideas are better than their opponents’ rather than to focus on the sort of relentlessly negative campaigning that plagues our elections today.
The Better Elections initiative also includes key provisions to safeguard election security and restore confidence in the legitimacy of election results. The amendment will require voting machines to be checked and verified before any votes are cast. It will require a verified paper trail for each ballot from the moment it is cast to the moment it is counted, and representatives from all political parties will have a right to watch whenever ballots are counted and handled. These reforms are crucial for ensuring the integrity of Missouri elections.
This amendment won’t fix all of our political problems — no single measure ever could. But it offers a clear, innovative improvement over the status quo. I invite you to learn more about the campaign at www.betterelectionsmo.com. If you support the initiative, please add your name to our petition circulating in person around the state so we have the choice to vote on these needed reforms.
David Roland is the treasurer of the Better Elections committee and director of Litigation and co-founder of the Freedom Center of Missouri; he also serves as the president of the Freedom Center’s Board of Directors. Dave earned undergraduate degrees in political science and Biblical studies at Abilene Christian University before studying law and religion at Vanderbilt University, where he received his law degree and a Master’s in Theology in 2004.