Sunday, December 02, 2007

Two Dumb Ideas to Improve Congress: Remote Voting and Random Drug Testing

Today's Post article on the upcoming legislative calendar ("A Daunting 3 Weeks Ahead for Congress") has this gem about how the travel schedules of the presidential candidates are throwing a wrench into actual lawmaking:
"In the Senate, where schedules are famously unreliable, leaders have to jump at any opportunity to hold final votes. On Nov. 8, at 11 p.m., when such a window opened suddenly to confirm Michael B. Mukasey as attorney general, not one of the five presidential candidates was on hand to vote.


Even before the sprint to the Iowa caucuses, the senator-candidates have been increasingly absent from the chamber. McCain has missed more than 53 percent of roll call votes this year and has not cast a single vote since Oct. 24. Biden, Dodd and Obama have missed more than a third of all votes this year, according to's congressional database. Clinton has missed just 18 percent of votes, but was on hand for only three days of voting in the month leading up to the Thanksgiving recess."
This is nuts. Are we still living in a world where messages travel via horseback?

To remedy this, I suggest that we allow remote voting for members of Congress. Naturally, you'd need to enforce some kind of limits, and to ensure some measure of transparency, you might require telepresence or secure videoconferencing.

I'm sure others can tell me how many people have previously suggested this and why it's a bad idea.

In return for this revolutionary measure to ease the lives of members of Congress in the 21st century (no doubt linked to generous contributions made to me by the electric telegraph and horseless carriage lobbies), I would extract one significant concession:

Mandatory Drug-Testing for All Members of Congress.
Naturally, a testing regime would have to be ironed out, but there would be regularly scheduled drug tests, with additional random tests to keep members of Congress... honest.

If members of Congress objected to the indignities of monitored urine tests (though I don't see why any patriotic, non-drug abusing person would -- I think the American voting public has the right to know that their representatives are not voting under the influence of illegal drugs), they could make provisions for using hair tests (which have the bonus of substantially longer detection windows).

I've never had to take a drug test either for school or work, but it always irked me that the people who said mandatory drug testing was such a great idea were rarely the people who actually had to piss in cups.

So in the grander scheme of things, if you're a legislator, elected official, school administrator, athletic commissioner, senior executive, whatever -- if you're pushing for mandatory drug testing, you also have to undergo mandatory drug testing.

Mandatory drug testing in return for remote voting. What say you?

(Because of the ridiculous pre-emptive presidential primary scheduling situation, I was going to throw in a third idea about how a state's position in the primary schedule should be determined by its number of electoral votes -- with the states with the fewest votes going first -- but that's already been covered by people more politically in tune than me.)

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