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Political Campaigns Need Reform

Peace, harmony, and lifelong learning are Liz's passions. She's outspoken on education and childhood and is an activist in local politics.

A Look at Numbers

As of this writing in February of 2011, the most recent election campaign is behind us by a few months. The heated rhetoric is over, the decisions made.

Has anyone ever stopped to consider the enormous waste of resources in this process? I did! I submit that it is far past time for a cool-headed look back, with an eye to improving the process in the next election.

Let's begin with some basic statistics. (The numbers get just a bit fuzzy due to discrepancies over the available information; what is available, and when.) For example, the current 2010 resident population from the U.S. Government Census Bureau lists our population at 308,745,538.

Of that number, the best number available lists 146,000,000 as being registered to vote. Some allowances must be made between the actual population number and the fact that the most recent registered voter information is from 2008. Obviously, the population has grown since then, so I won't list percentages, as that would only add a further complication.

  • Total current U.S. Population: 308,745,538
  • The U.S. Population over age 18, and eligible to vote: 206,000,000
  • Number of eligible persons actually registered to vote: 146,000,000

Keep these numbers in mind. They will prove important shortly.

Hoping To Be Elected...

Each candidate wants to win; is sure their strategy is the best, and that they will win. They must believe they are the one, or they would never enter the race to start with, knowing all the money they would waste for naught.

I'm sure most of them have good intentions. But with the campaign "season" now extending to several months, the onslaught of political advertising has gotten out of hand.

This past election, I saved every single piece of campaign material sent to my home. Precious few candidates sent only a single mailing, and I salute them for that! Most sent a minimum of two, and some as many as five.

Ballot measures, their proponents and opponents were as bad or worse. It seemed as if every other day there was yet another mailer arguing the point of some ballot measure or another, about which we'd already received more than one mailing.

Some of the mailings were a single-sheet flier; some were brochures on glossy stock; some were extra-large postcards; a few were letters in envelopes. Some were addressed simply to 'voter at xx address'; some sent duplicate mailings--one each for my husband and myself.

Once the election was over, and no more mailings were arriving, I weighed the stack. It weighed two pounds! I was stunned. It prompted me to get out my calculator.

Weighing in on Stacks of Paper


The Results

At two pounds of paper per registered voter, that's a lot of paper. 292,000,000 pounds, to be exact, or 146,000 tons. Let's look at some numbers:

  • 146,000,000 registered voters
  • 2 pounds of paper mailers per voter/household
  • 146,000 tons of paper used
  • Gross tonnage of the Queen Mary: 83,243 tons
  • This past election's campaign mailers outweighed the Queen Mary by 62,757 tons!
  • It takes about 24 trees to produce 1 ton of virgin office-grade printing paper
  • 146,000 tons of paper, then, use up about 3,504,000 trees!

That is a huge amount of wasted trees, water, paper, ink, man-hours, postage, electricity and other incidental costs.

A Better Use...

...for all that money spent and materials used, would be to put that money and those raw materials towards education. Our schools are hurting, and need help.

No jobs would be lost, only re-directed into printing educational materials for our schools. Recycled paper could be used instead of office-grade or slick magazine stock, thereby saving millions of trees.

The burden on the post office and postal carriers would be reduced, enabling better efficiency as well as savings on their fuel costs. (Paper is heavy; a larger-than-normal mail load means less gas mileage in their trucks and delivery vans.)

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Nationwide, these alternate uses would mean significant monetary savings, as well as a reduction in pollution. With all the "politically correct" emphasis these days on "going green," that should score points somewhere along the decision chain!

What Can We Do?

"They" (meaning our elected officials) pass laws for the rest of us, forcing issues such as using only fluorescent lights; recycling programs that are laughable at best and pass mandates about handling toxic wastes without making it the least bit convenient.

I propose a few new rules:

  • Campaign mailings may not be sent prior to 2 months before a state election; 3 months for a national election
  • Each candidate (including any group acting on their behalf) is limited to a total of a single mailer
  • These mailers must conform to a single standard of size; use recycled paper; (no trying to "out-shine" the other candidates with flashy campaign pieces); and be only a one page letter; content must persuade on substance
  • Each ballot measure issue is limited to a total of 2 mailers; one from each side of the issue, regardless of how many pro/con groups are involved

Think about it. Take action. Write or call your representatives to come up with some new rules to prevent this waste. All the politicians are on this 'green living' bandwagon, yet expect themselves to be exempt.


Now, it is 2018, another election year, and there is a multitude of issues on everyone's mind.

Public funding of elections; flipping districts; 'going green' continues to be mentioned; a possible impeachment; etc.

However, nothing has changed in the 7 years since this article was originally written. How sad.

While there are a great many vitally important issues, such as getting the voters out to vote, this issue also remains important; it is part of the environmental 'go green' effort.

© 2011 Liz Elias


Liz Elias (author) from Oakley, CA on May 14, 2012:

Hello, Vidushi tomar--

Thank you for your input; I'm glad you like these ideas. However, that is where citizen action comes into play. It is up to us to MAKE the politicians "take notice," as with the "Occupy Wall Street" and similar spin-off movements.

Vidushi tomar on May 14, 2012:

like the innovative ideas but it will be benificial only if the authorities take any notice of it.

Liz Elias (author) from Oakley, CA on February 12, 2011:

David, Fossillady, Nell;

Thank you all for stopping by and leaving your comments. I appreciate the input.

Nell Rose from England on February 12, 2011:

Hi, I know what you mean, we get loads over here too, and I hate to say it, but most either goes in the rubbish bin or in the recycling, they only have to tell us once, why do they do it? cheers nell

Kathi Mirto from Fennville on February 09, 2011:

Great write with good ideas we all can live with, Thanks for sharing!

David Martin on February 09, 2011:

Absolutely a great idea--how to get this to pass? See if some legislators would be willing to bring it to the floor of the Congress--this is the right time, before we are in any further elections(a relatively calm before the next storm).

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