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The Wichita Eagle

Kansas could gain from election reform

Kansas is once again on the sidelines in a national election. The presidential race here is a foregone conclusion: George W. Bush will win the state, and he'll receive all six of its winner-take-all electoral votes.

The votes of Kansas Democrats and third-party members in this historic contest arguably don't matter, and Republicans' votes are taken for granted.

That's not just depressing, it's anti-democratic.

Maybe Kansas should take a page from Colorado, which has placed an initiative on the Nov. 2 ballot to change the state's winner-take-all electoral system to a proportional allotment based on the popular vote.

That change, if widely adopted in other electoral "safe" states, could give Democratic voters a voice in states like Texas and Kansas and Republicans a voice in states like New York and California. And it would make politicians work harder to connect with all voters, not just those in "swing" states.

Whatever the merits of the Colorado proposal, we hope this election raises awareness about the need for broader Electoral College reform and greater voter participation. Some other ideas worth considering:

Instead of proportional electoral voting, what about dumping the antiquated Electoral College altogether and replacing it with a direct vote, perhaps combined with instant runoff voting to ensure that candidates win a majority rather than a simple plurality of votes? Instant runoffs also would eliminate the "spoiler" role of third-party candidates (see fairvote.org for more details on instant runoff voting).

The present front-loaded primary system should be replaced with a national primary or rotating regional primary system to allow all states to have a say in the party selection process. Why should a few states such as Iowa and New Hampshire have so much clout in picking our nation's leader?

Address the overwhelming money advantages and unfair redistricting practices that make most congressional incumbents nearly unbeatable. It's scandalous that only a few dozen of the 435 House members up for re-election this year face serious challenges.

Make it easier to vote. Kansas Secretary of State Ron Thornburgh helped fashion a key national election reform law in 2002, which ushered in new voting machine standards and other improvements, but it's still too difficult and confusing to vote in this country. Implement same-day registration, as well as consistent practices on voter identification requirements and other rules.

As Florida in 2000 showed, America's election process is far from perfect. Let's continue to find ways to make our voting system more inclusive and democratic.

For the board, Randy Scholfield


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