Watch CBSN Live

Real Election Reform Is In The Cards

Waterford, Calif., may go down in history as the place that inspired real and meaningful electoral reform in this country. What happened there last week could change the way elections are held all over the country — maybe all over the world. Last month in Waterford, two mayoral candidates — Charles Turner and Pat Fisher — tied with 546 votes. Because the town had no special rules set up to handle ties, California law calls for the winner to be decided by chance.

Last Thursday, they brought out a deck of cards, shuffled, and then the candidates cut cards. Turner drew a queen of diamonds, and Fisher a ten of hearts. (Another close election). So, Mr. Turner became the mayor, and Mr. Fisher remained a private citizen.

No costly run-off elections, no appeals to the courts, just a cut of the cards. What could be fairer?

In fact, the process in Waterford was so pure, so unencumbered by spin doctors, so removed from smear tactics and dirty campaigns that we should think about using this method for elections the first time around — not just for run-offs.

Considering how few Americans vote, most people obviously don't believe it matters who wins our elections. How often have you heard (or said), "I don't care who wins. They're both no good?" If we don't really see the difference between candidates, if we don't care about their policies, if so many people don't even bother to vote, why not save all that time, money, and energy used for elections and just bring out the deck of cards?

Think about it in terms of the last Presidential election. If they had just cut cards, we never would have heard of a hanging chad. We wouldn't have had to see those maps of red and blue states over and over again, or watch attorneys on both sides twist the law like a pretzel. We wouldn't have had to watch Republican politicians pretending to be comfortable in cowboy hats and Democratic politicians pretending to be comfortable period.

If both candidates know that the winner is going to be determined purely by chance, neither of them would be tempted to lie during the campaign. There would be no reason to bad-mouth the other candidate. They could tell us what was in their hearts and minds on every issue without worrying that it might cost them the election. We could start having honest and clean campaigns!

I know what you're thinking — the television networks won't want to give up all that drama. I'm way ahead of you. We get Regis Philbin or the star of one of those shows like "American Idol" or "America's Sexiest Naked Person" to be the host of the High Card Presidential Selection Ceremony. Do it in Las Vegas, the home of games of chance. Throw in some dramatic music and a few close-ups of the candidates' sweaty foreheads, and the ratings will be sky high.

Another advantage to adopting the high card selection election is that those people who are too busy to take fifteen minutes to vote every few years would not have to feel guilty about it. Those who care about politics and government could no longer call the non-voters irresponsible. No more arguing among co-workers or family members, no more heated political discussions. The whole country would be united as one big group of apathetic people completely uninvolved in the electoral process. Actually, I guess that's not that big of a change from the way things are now.

Lloyd Garver has written for many television shows, ranging from "Sesame Street" to "Family Ties" to "Frasier." He has also read many books, some of them in hardcover.

By Lloyd Garver