Tag Archives: Congressional terms

Time for a Change

There are lots of suggestions for changing the way we Americans conduct elections.

We debate nonpartisan commissions to replace partisan redistricting (gerrymandering), making election day a holiday, changing to a vote-by-mail system (Oregon votes by mail and the turnout in Oregon last Tuesday was over 69%), eliminating the Electoral College, and efforts to get big money out of politics, starting with a Constitutional amendment reversing Citizens United. All of these, and many other suggested changes, have their merits.

Here’s another suggestion, one that I heartily endorse.

In a New York Times op-ed written before the midterms, a Duke University professor and one of his students make the case for eliminating the midterms entirely, and extending Congressional terms to four years from the current two. They begin by pointing out that barely 40 percent of the electorate will bother to vote, “even though candidates, advocacy groups and shadowy “super PACs” will have spent more than $1 billion to air more than two million ads to influence the election.”

There are few offices, at any level of government, with two-year terms. Here in Durham, we elect members of the school board and the county sheriff to terms that are double that length. Moreover, Twitter, ubiquitous video cameras, 24-hour cable news and a host of other technologies provide a level of hyper-accountability the framers could not possibly have imagined. In the modern age, we do not need an election every two years to communicate voters’ desires to their elected officials.

Agreed. The op-ed authors make several other arguments, all persuasive, and the piece is worth reading in its entirety. But the bottom line is that the people who win these off-year elections will immediately begin fundraising for the next election cycle. No time to breathe, let alone time to consider issues of actual governance. Just dialing for dollars, and not-so-incidentally trying not to do anything that will piss off big money donors.

Many of the reforms being debated should be implemented. This is one of them.