Better get comfortable, this may take a while.

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U.S. Needs More Democracy, Fewer Elections

Jonathan Bernstein is a Bloomberg View columnist. He taught political science at the University of Texas at San Antonio and DePauw University and wrote A Plain Blog About Politics.
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It was Election Day -- again -- in my little corner of San Antonio. I voted at a deserted polling place, late morning; I was only the fourth voter in my precinct today.

It’s all Barack Obama’s fault. After Julian Castro resigned as mayor of San Antonio to become U.S. secretary of housing and urban development, two state legislators gave up their seats to run to replace him. That meant special elections for those vacancies (with at least one candidate resigning from his office to run in one of those races, so it continues to cascade down).

No one voted? No surprise. The election was only called in mid-December. We received several mailers, but otherwise the campaigns were invisible. Granted, I might have missed something since I was out of town last week, but so were plenty of other registered voters, and it’s hard to believe the rest of them were paying much attention to politics during Christmas and New Year’s weeks.

This is an all-comers single election, with no party primary to narrow the field, so it’s particularly hard to guess which candidate to vote for. The polling place had only a handful of billboards. (And, alas, no bake sale.)

The stats: Today is the first election day in my precinct this year and in the two-year cycle, but it's already the eighth of the four-year cycle -- that is, the eighth since November 2012. Just one vote to cast today, which brings me to 133 votes cast in that four-year cycle so far. And it isn't letting up: This one needs a majority vote or else it goes to a runoff. Then the city mayoral election, which will also likely have a runoff, is scheduled for the spring.

Granted, these elections are for important offices, and by-elections happen everywhere, but that's too many votes to cast on too many different days. The U.S. style of Madisonian democracy, with federalism and separated institutions sharing powers at all levels and bicameral legislatures, is going to have frequent elections no matter what, and that's a good thing overall.

But adding judicial elections (which should be ended) and ballot measures, among other things, and then failing to consolidate elections on the same day, just puts unnecessary burdens on voters. 

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Bloomberg View's editorial board or Bloomberg LP, its owners and investors.

To contact the author on this story:
Jonathan Bernstein at jbernstein62@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor on this story:
Katy Roberts at kroberts29@bloomberg.net