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Akst: Who really lost the election

Thank God that’s over.

I don’t mean Sandy. I wish Sandy was over, but we’re years, billions, and incalculable anguish away from healing from that wound.

I’m talking about Election Day, because in my humble opinion, Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2012, is a date that should really live in infamy.

That’s the day America showcased just how dysfunctional our election system has become (but props to DeKalb County, where voting went as smoothly as ever). The country that put a man on the moon and other countless wonders can’t manage to manage a national election.

Forget storm-ravaged regions. While the power is off, it’s freezing, and people have no homes, but they STILL manage to vote, they can bend the rules a bit, as far as I’m concerned.

But where voters stood in line for up to nine hours to exercise our most fundamental right – I’m looking at you, Florida – this is atrocious.

This isn’t liberal hand-wringing. The fabric of our country is seriously frayed. Listen to somebody who knows about elections:

“I don’t know what went on in Florida, but I do have to say that in this day and age, it’s inexcusable that in this country, we have anything like this going on. I’ve led delegations around the world to watch voting and this is the kind of thing you expect in a third-world country, not in the United States of America.”

That’s former New Jersey Gov. Christine Todd Whitman, a Republican, talking to MSNBC on Monday. Whitman dismissed voter suppression allegations, saying, “I don’t believe it’s a big Republican plot because if it is, it backfired mightily and others might want to take a good look at it.”

So, a few suggestions to make national elections better four years from now, if we start today:

1. A federal minimum of at least 14 days (weekdays and weekends) for early voting.

2. Change Election Day to Saturday for major elections (or declare it a holiday). Constitutional framers were visionary, but there’s nothing magical about “the Tuesday following the first Monday in November.”

3. Remove blatant voter suppressors like Ohio and Colorado secretaries of state Jon Husted and Scott Gessler, and Houston-based True the Vote. Gessler and True the Vote are already the subjects of investigations.

4. Abandon the Electoral College. According to the Federal Register, over the past 200 years, over 700 proposals have been introduced in Congress to reform or eliminate the Electoral College. The American Bar Association and public opinion polls have long favored abolishing it. In its origins and now, as author Thom Hartmann notes, the Electoral College is about cheap labor. “When it was put into place in 1789, it was to give slaveholders a greater national voice – part of a compromise with the slave states to keep them in the union. ... But it’s still about preserving cheap labor in America … it’s still all about giving more power and influence to the barons of the cheap-labor states.”

5. Convert to a publicly financed election system, and remove the corrupting cash. Even the Supreme Court is wrong sometimes. Corporations are NOT people. An estimated $6 billion was spent in this election cycle. What could $6 billion have fixed?

6. TV commentators: when you have something to report, please do so. If not, please be quiet. You’re making my head hurt.

• Jason Akst teaches journalism and public relations at Northern Illinois University. You can reach him at

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