Pushing a person out of the legislature should be easier.

Every time a legislator needs to leave for almost any reason – from a high-paying new job opportunity to a prosecution to sexual misconduct, as in the case on Thursday of Tony Mendoza – the departure is complicated. But it shouldn’t have to be so complicated – if California had a different system of electing legislators in the first place.

The fundamental problem with our system is that while our elections are really about electing a party to control the legislature (or to stay in the minority), we insist upon electing specific individuals. Few of us know anything about the individuals we vote for—we are voting for a party. Only a tiny fraction of Mendoza’s constituents would recognize him on the street, and an even tinier group of people knew anything about his behavior. Our lives are too busy, and there are so many elections and so little press, that it’s next to impossible to know enough about your state legislator to make an individual judgment on him or her.

But still, we insist on voting for these individuals. And we let these individuals control the seat. The individual decides if he or she remains in almost all cases; Mendoza held on – on leave – and then resigned before facing expulsion. And it wasn’t clear expulsion would have passed legal muster.

This is the American disease, which we inherited from the British: one person, one seat.

But think about how much easier this would be if we did what modern democracies do—and voted for parties instead of individuals.

The best way to do this is to vote for lists of candidates put up by a party. This allows party people – who actually may know candidates, and know if they are, for example, sexual harassers – to decide who gets to run and serve.

And if one of the people who gets elected on the list happens to be caught up in scandal or illegal actions? Replacement is easy and automatic. You just replace the bad apple with the next person down the party list.

That’s good because it means that no one is less represented. Under our current system, millions of Californians don’t have representations right now because of leaves or resignations that result from scandal. Costly, low-turnout special elections take months to organize, delaying a replacement. In the Mendoza case, such an election will fill the seat for only a few months before there is a November election.

Why bother?

Mendoza’s troubles are of his own making, and it’s good that he has been held accountable. But the mess that his resignation leaves isn’t his fault. It’s the fault of all Californians who cling to a system of elections and representations that doesn’t make any sense.