Something to think about, you need to prove proficiency for lots of jobs before you take them.
Barbers, paramedics, police officers, electrician, plumber, architect, lawyer, civil engineer, surveyor, realtor, insurance agent, dental hygienist, teacher, nurse, school superintendent, truck driver, private investigator, pharmacy tech, massage therapist, social worker, appraiser, hell, you even need a permit to beg in the city of Dayton, but, you don’t need to pass any test, take a class, or even demonstrate basic knowledge of the office you are running for, from school board all the way up to president of the United States.
But, that’s only half the problem. The people who hire these fools often don’t understand the jobs they are bestowing on these candidates either. When was the last time that civics was a mandatory class in school? And, if we can’t teach sex ed or birth control, how the hell are we going to effectively explain the clusterduck of political jurisdictions and how they all fit together in 12 weeks? We’ve got cities, townships, counties, state reps, state senators, sheriffs and auditors, recorders and treasurers, secretaries of state, governors, prosecutors and attorney generals, judges and Educational Service Centers. What do all these positions do for the average voter, other than trash the city with their yard signs, fill the airwaves and your social media feeds around election time with bad advertising that’s less than informative.
Want to do an informal study of how well this is working for you? Go ask random people to see if they can name all their elected representatives from school board up to senators (State and Federal). See if they can explain the difference between the auditor, treasurer, recorder positions and can name all three? How about meeting schedules of their school board and or city commission or township trustees? And, what’s their public speaking policy? Who do you turn in a public records request to? How much do they make, what’s the time requirements of the position? How do they get on the ballot, or what’s it take to remove them from office?
Can you find out who gave money to whom? And who hedged their bets- giving to both sides? How much money did they spend to get elected, what was the final vote count and who were their opponents?
The reality is, while we claim democracy is great, how we practice it isn’t. It’s become so arcane that a guy who was appointed by 40 hacks in a back room is currently making an argument that he gets to stay in office for 11 months after he looses an election and his opponent shouldn’t take office immediately, despite 130,000 people saying he should be the duly elected treasurer of the county.
But, back to the actual people on the ballot. To be president of the United States only requires you be born here and at least 35 years old. For almost every other public office, there are barely those requirements- 18 and live in the jurisdiction and gather some signatures of registered voters and you’re on the ballot.
Things that win elections? Being an attorney, being rich, having a well known name, having an Irish name (in these parts), being endorsed by a political party or a union, being the party that the district has been drawn to favor, being tall, being telegenic, having won and held lower office, being able to raise money.
Note, no mention of having great ideas, being able to win debates (what are those anymore?), or actually having accomplished something in life other than being elected.
As to qualifications for being a voter? Being 18, a citizen, and not incarcerated for a felony and registered to vote.
Unless of course, you’re an immigrant who has become a US citizen, where you have to pass a test to prove you understand all this. The test, by the way, just got more difficult, thanks to the Trump administration (the one that hates immigrants).
Maybe it’s time that we create a test for public office, to make sure that candidates actually know something about the office they are running for, what their responsibilities are and what rules apply to them as elected officials. In Ohio, we require all elected officials to take a 3 hour class on the Sunshine Laws (open meetings, open records) but, since these laws are all bark and no bite- who cares? We don’t require proficiency in Roberts Rules of Order, which most public bodies nominally follow, nor do we require any understanding of public finance (it’s not the same as either business or personal for a multitude of reasons), nor do we have any kind of standing job description or “company handbook” available to help them do their job well. It’s almost as if we want our politicians to fail. There are no other jobs that affect this many people and risk so much, that require no preparation, training or qualification. We believe noobs to be our best option for public leadership.
Somehow this does not compute. It’s why along with starting the 501(c)(4) Reconstructing Dayton to try to bring sanity and better candidates and forms of government to Montgomery County, we’ve just founded a 501(c)(3) The Modern Policy Institute to work on plans and policies to create a system that actually provides us a chance to select from the best and brightest to make decisions that will affect us all.
It’s time for voter information systems that work. It’s time for voters to select their leaders, not the other way around, and it’s time for your vote to mean something, even if you want to choose someone who isn’t mainstream. One of our first initiatives is to bring ranked choice voting to Dayton. Here’s the video: