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Tags: fdr | integrity | election | perplexichess

Partisan Voting Rule Changes May Yield Unintended Results

all votes count

(Sheila Fitzgerald/Dreasmtime)

Paul F. deLespinasse By Tuesday, 15 June 2021 06:18 AM EDT Current | Bio | Archive

Republican state legislatures are enacting changes in voting rules which they hope will benefit their party. Democrats have been trying to change the rules at the federal level, also in hopes of benefiting their party.

But either of these efforts, if successful, might produce results that were not intended.

This is often the case in politics.

Supreme Court appointees, for example, have sometimes been terrible disappointments to presidents who selected them. FDR was very unhappy with Justice Felix Frankfurter, and Eisenhower with William J. Brennan, Jr. Several recent appointees have been denounced by the president who chose them for failing to overturn the election he had lost.

Legislation can produce equally surprising results. This is neatly demonstrated by perplexichess, a game I invented to make chess more like politics.

We used it in my college classes, at a pre-law institute for high school juniors, and at regional middle school math contests.

Perplexichess is a team sport played on seven chessboards, each starting with its pieces in their usual locations.

Each team has one person playing each chessboard and a grand strategist with one or more assistants. The game begins with the usual chess rules applying on each chessboard.

But instead of moving a piece, each player has the option of changing a rule of chess (within certain limits) for that board, which can change the entire situation on that board.

Meanwhile, the grand strategists at any time can pick up a piece (except for the King) of their own team's color from one board and plunk it down in the same location — if it is unoccupied — on any of the other chessboards. Their goal is to win a majority of the boards, which may involving sacrificing chances on one board in order to get into winning positions on other boards.

(For the complete rules of Perplexichess, go here.)

Surprisingly, rule changes as often as not turned out to benefit the other side, which could opportunistically use them to do things the rule-changer had not thought about.

Likewise in politics.

Given the uncertain results changes in voting rules might produce, members of both parties should avoid exaggerating the desirability of their own proposals and the dangers of their opponents' proposals.

Modesty by all concerned here would be refreshing.

Thanks to uniform opposition to the proposed For The People Act by Senate Republicans and by Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., it looks as if it will be impossible for Congress to overrule the state level Republican legislation.

But bipartisan federal legislation might still be possible.

President Biden could announce that he will support any Republican proposals for federal rules enhancing election honesty as long as the legislation includes measures guaranteeing that all eligible voters can vote, as desired by Democrats.

For example, the legislation could include voter ID requirements, but would have to ensure that the necessary cards could be obtained by all citizens who are eligible to vote without any expense or time-consuming bureaucratic hassles.

The ideal solution would probably be a uniform national ID card. This would allow verification that the someone had not voted in more than one state. And it could easily be updated when someone moves from one state to another.

If voters don't have confidence in the integrity of our elections, we will be unable to continue using elections to determine who will hold high offices.

The system needs to be iron-clad enough that bad losers claiming that an election they have just lost was "rigged" would be laughed out of town by a bi-partisan mob of aroused citizens.

If the parties cannot agree on such legislation we can forget about democracy and assume our well-earned place as a banana republic.

Paul F. deLespinasse is Professor Emeritus of Political Science and Computer Science at Adrian College. He received his Ph.D. from Johns Hopkins University in 1966 and has been a National Merit Scholar, an NDEA Fellow, a Woodrow Wilson Fellow and a Fellow in Law and Political Science at the Harvard Law School. His college textbook, "Thinking About Politics: American Government in Associational Perspective," was published in 1981 and his most recent book is "Beyond Capitalism: A Classless Society With (Mostly) Free Markets." His columns have appeared in newspapers in Michigan, Oregon and a number of other states. Read Prof. Paul F. deLespinasse's Reports — More Here.

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If voters don't have confidence in the integrity of elections, we will be unable to continue using elections to determine who will hold offices. The system needs to be iron-clad enough so that bad losers claiming that an election they have just lost was "rigged" would be laughed out of town.
fdr, integrity, election, perplexichess
Tuesday, 15 June 2021 06:18 AM
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