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All About Elections

Ralph talks to Democratic Congressman, Jamie Raskin, about what issues the Dems have to run on to take over the House. And editor of Ballot Access News, Richard Winger, explains how the two major parties conspire to keep third parties off the ballot. Plus, listener questions!

Jamie Raskin represents Maryland’s 8th Congressional District in the House of Representatives. He is the Vice-Ranking Member of the House Judiciary Committee, and serves on two Judiciary subcommittees: the Subcommittee on the Constitution and Civil Justice; and the Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security, and Investigation.  For more than twenty-five years, Congressman Raskin has been a professor of constitutional law at American University’s Washington College of Law. He authored several books, including the Washington Post bestseller Overruling Democracy: The Supreme Court versus the American People” and the highly-acclaimed We the Students: Supreme Court Cases For and About America’s Students.”

“What we (the Democrats) need to do is to put our agenda forward in terms of defending Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid against their clear effort to pay for their (the Republicans) atrocious tax legislation – which was a trillion and a half dollar giveaway to special interests – by cutting people’s benefits… We’ve got to advance the minimum wage and fight for that in order to give America a raise. And we’ve got to remind everybody that they are not anti-regulation. They would love to regulate the poor in a way that would give them no access to their nutritional benefits. They would love to regulate women’s healthcare, so women and their families would not have access to Planned Parenthood.” Maryland Congressman Jamie Raskin

Richard Winger is an advocate for more equitable laws allowing access to the ballot for minor parties. Winger has testified on behalf of these issues in court cases across the country and has been published in journals ranging from the Journal of Election Law to the Fordham Urban Law Review. In 1985 he began publishing Ballot Access News, the national monthly newsletter covering developments in ballot access law and third parties in general. 

“Poor Gore. He didn’t know. None of us knew there were seven thousand Florida voters who both exed the box next to Gore’s name and wrote him in. So, the machine had thought the voter had voted for two people and it was an invalid ballot. But, obviously, if somebody votes for Gore twice, the intent of the voter is clear. That should have been counted for Gore. And he never got credit for those votes, because unfortunately, he only asked that the under vote be counted. He didn’t think to ask that the over votes be counted. There were three thousand people who wrote in and exed the box for George Bush, but that was a four thousand net gain for Gore. That would have made all the difference, and we never even knew.” Richard Winger, editor of Ballot Access News.


  1. Kenneth Paderewski says:

    America is like the sinking Titanic. The oligarch entrenched system maintained by KOCH etc. cannot be taken out by US elections. All 535 members need to be fired if Congress is to free itself from influence by money.

    Born in 1954 in Hartford, Conn, already knowing about Ralph Nader’s good work sitting in our 4th grade class, by 1972 my only desire was to leave the US.

    Short of successful armed revolt, democracy is lost in North America except for Canada. However, rather than resort to violence, America’s vast population of democracy starved people will simply fade into the sunset, one generation after another.

    At some point social democracy outside US boarders will abandon associations with the American inverted totalitarian monster and leave it to pronounced isolation.

  2. Kenneth Paderewski says:

    Sadly – America is like the Titanic sinking . The entrenched oligarch system of well over 50 years cannot be taken out by US elections no matter how many voters in the two-party system go to the ballot box. All 535 members need to be fired and replaced if Congress is to free itself from influence by corrupt money infusions by a mafia style ruling elite.

    True, President Eisenhower first gave us a warning of what was to come. Nobody took it to heart.

    In my view, short of successful armed revolt, social democracy is a lost cause in North America except for Canada. However, rather than resort to violence, America’s vast population of social democracy starved people will simply fade into the sunset, one generation after another, throwing their hands up in the air out of despair because ballot box efforts failed.

    At some point social democracy outside US boarders will abandon its association with the American inverted totalitarian experiment and leave the US to pronounced isolation. But this will still take time. At best the US gets a gratuitous birthday card greeting from outside its boarders.

    The fight is not to plant social democracy in the leftover settler society of America built on slavery, genocide and mainstream violence – the US is too far gone for that effort – but to prevent the corrupt near psychopathic US oligarch system from depriving Europeans of social democracy or any other part of the world that chooses social democracy over American inverted totalitarian influence i.e. rule by the corporate state.

  3. Afdal Shahanshah says:

    Instant Runoff Voting (what Richard Winger imprecisely calls “ranked choice voting”) in fact DOES NOT SOLVE the “spoiler problem”. At issue is that IRV is essentially still plurality voting–it just has an automated runoff system. Not only does it still have plenty of spoiler problems, but it actually invents some new counter-intuitive tactical voting scenarios that have the end effect that, in spite of IRV being slightly superior to basic plurality voting, it still has enough tactical voting that it is incapable of empowering third or fourth parties on its own. Maine is going to find this out the hard way after several years.

    In all the municipalities and countries that have adopted IRV without proportional representation, including Ireland, Australia, and Malta for instance, third parties have completely failed to get meaningful electoral representation. Australia has used IRV for single-winner election districts in its House elections for over 70 years now and it is still completely dominated by two parties. If you ever pay attention to Australian House elections, the parties and candidates often try to give people very complicated strategic voting flyers in order to maximize their candidate’s chances of winning (and the strategic voting isn’t “just order your preferences honestly”).

    There are superior alternative voting systems to IRV that have less tactical voting and are expressive enough that they ACTUALLY DO empower more than two parties when in use, without the need for proportional representation. Proportional representation is a very difficult reform to get on a national level due to the way our constitution describes. Changing the voting system should be the first priority, and unfortunately IRV is not the stepping stone to proportional representation that some people might like to believe because it can’t break through the two-party system. Please look into Approval Voting and Score Voting. Overcoming the systemic problems that give us Duverger’s Law is an incredibly important issue for every third party advocate and it’s up to us who push for voting reform to responsibly educate ourselves on which solutions are best and which may be inadequate.

    And socialism is not “when the government does stuff”. Good grief it’s 2018, you don’t have the Red Scare preventing you from getting educated anymore.

  4. Ken Pentel says:

    Hi Ralph,

    Thank you for the wonderful show.

    I liked Richard Winger; more on PR would be a wonderful ongoing series.

    Also, WWF Living Planet Report is a vital work on the extinction rates; may be a good show too.

    Take care,



  5. What’s needed more than a 3rd Party is a 0th Party, like that which won the last populist revolution at the state level, namely the Non-Partisan League, as described in detail at my website.