Staples of the United States’ current election process include attack ads, a laser focus by parties on campaigning in states believed to hold greater sway in elections and a dizzying amount of money poured into campaigns. But the American people are burnt out and tired of the current way of doing things. Many overwhelmingly view our electoral process and political system in negative terms. In a 2023 Pew Research study, when asked to identify a strength of the U.S. political system, one-third of respondents gave no answer, and another 22% wrote that there were no strengths. 

The list of problems with our current system is long. Our political parties encourage and reward division and polarization. Extremism is pushed to the forefront over moderate candidates who promote compromise. Representatives do not accurately represent the country they stand for. 

It’s clear the United States’ election system needs an overhaul. This may seem like a monumental task, but it’s not impossible — elections have changed plenty over the years and they can change again. Here are some ways to fix the election game: 

Shorten the election season 

An overwhelming 72% of Americans believe recent presidential elections have lasted too long. In the U.S., presidential campaigns can last almost two years. For example, Donald Trump announced he was running in the 2024 presidential race in November 2022, a full two years before the election. His fellow Republican candidates, Vivek Ramaswamy and Nikki Haley, announced their candidacies in February 2023. But it doesn’t have to be this way.  

Drawn-out election seasons only began in the US in the 1970s, when Jimmy Carter announced in candidacy for the 1976 election in December 1974. Other countries like Canada and France manage to elect a leader of their country in less time. 

So how do other countries manage to have such short election seasons? Many have laws restricting the length of elections. Mexico, for example, has a presidential system like the U.S. and passed a law in 2007 restricting the main election season to 90 days, with an additional 60 days allowed for the equivalent of our party nomination process.  

Restricting funding also helps achieve this because millions of dollars are required to maintain a campaign for so long. By limiting the flow of money into campaigns, it is much less likely that candidates would be able to afford the current two-year-long campaigning. They would be forced to begin campaigning later, and Americans would escape the slog of listening to candidates squabble for years on end. Our government would benefit too. Incumbents could spend less of their time campaigning and more governing, which is what they’re there to do, after all. 

Reel in campaign spending 

The Citizens United v Federal Election Commission Supreme Court ruling declared corporations count as individuals under U.S. law, and as such, they can spend unlimited amounts on elections. This decision opened the door for greater political spending from outside groups and contributed to the infusion of even more money into elections. 

Super PACs are large organizations that help campaign for candidates. Officially, they do not coordinate with formal campaign committees, though they are often very closely affiliated. Through super PACs, wealthy donors and corporations have huge power over the election. Further, these huge organizations increase the possibility for corruption of the electoral process. “Dark money” — money which cannot be traced back to its donor — is common, decreasing transparency. 

Implement ranked choice voting 

Ranked choice voting, or RCV, allows voters to rank candidates in order of preference rather than choosing just one. RCV systems require candidates have a majority of the vote to win, and it accomplishes this through “instant runoffs.” In this system, if no candidate wins a majority of overall votes, the candidate with the fewest first-preference votes is eliminated. Those votes then go to whoever the voter ranked second or third. The process continues until one candidate wins the majority vote. 

RCV could lead to the election of candidates with greater broad support. RCV incentivizes campaigning to a wider variety of people and trying to find a middle ground in politics. It also encourages voters to look past political parties. Since they can rank all candidates on the ballot, voters may also consider voting for third-party or independent candidates. Currently, many people avoid voting for a third party because they believe their vote will be “wasted.” Further, many third-party candidates are discouraged from running to begin with because it is believed they will siphon votes from one of the two major parties. But ranked choice voting eliminates this hand-wringing, allowing for voters to choose who they truly want as president without worrying about “wasting” their vote. 

Elimination of the electoral college in favor of the popular vote 

The electoral college has a myriad of issues: faithless electors, under-representation of people in certain states and over-representation of those in others. For years, eliminating the electoral college, which is a system in which Americans vote for electors who then vote for president, has been touted as a potential solution to these issues. In fact, 65% of Americans support changing the way we elect the president so that the winner of the popular vote wins the presidency. Though Democrats are much more likely to support elimination of the electoral college than Republicans, even Republican support is at an all-time high of 47%.  

With the movement to a popular vote, candidates would be forced to adjust their strategy. Rather than ignoring some states because they reliably fall for one party or the other, every individual vote would count.  

Inevitably, there are varied arguments both for and against each of these potential reforms. And, certainly, there are valid concerns about each one of these reforms that must be debated and thought through before changes are made. But my hope in writing this article is to get people thinking about the possibilities. The U.S. election process is tiring and confusing, but it does not need to be this way — we must use our imagination to break free of the confines of our current process to consider alternatives.  

Samantha Camire (she/her) is a freshman studying journalism with a minor in Spanish. 

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