Proposal for Saturday 12/10 General Assembly: Politics & Electoral Reform – People Before Parties: Recommendations for Electoral Reform

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People Before Parties: Recommendations for Electoral Reform

A proposal of the Politics and Electoral Reform group at Occupy Wall Street

Government of the people, by the people and for the people has been transformed into government of the people, by the parties, for entrenched interests. The centralization of political power in the hands of two narrow political factions at all levels of government is neither democratic nor republican. No party system whatsoever is mandated by the U.S. Constitution. The two-party system is incapable of providing adequate representation for the many diverse interests constitutive of the American electorate. Lawmakers representing these entrenched factions have rigged our electoral system to ensure their continued monopoly on public office in the United States. Our government does not represent the interests or will of the people. It is time to institute free and fair elections in the United States.

In the federal system, the states are the laboratories of democracy. We urge the people of states, localities, and General Assemblies nationwide to begin a series of bold new experiments in democratic self-government. We urge assemblies across the country to deliberate on radical reforms that can help break the ruling political monopoly in government through free and fair elections, and put people before parties. We urge the people of states, localities and general assemblies nationwide to demand the implementation of electoral reform and begin a series of bold new experiments in democratic self-government, from the bottom up.

We recommend experimentation with (in no particular order):

Alternative voting methods. Our voting systems should promote honest participatory democracy.  There are alternatives to plurality voting, such as ranked choice voting, approval voting and range voting, liquid democracy and so on.

Independent, nonpartisan redistricting. Voters should choose their representatives, lawmakers should not choose their own voters.  A bipartisan commission is not a non-partisan commission.  Independent council and computer drawn districts can remove partisan bias from the redistricting process.

Smaller and more localized districts.  It is time to expand the number of representatives in local and state government and in the House of Representatives. This will ensure a closer relationship between the people and their elected officials, putting the latter on a shorter leash.

Proportional representation. Winner-take-all, single member district plurality voting has allowed narrow political factions to wield disproportionate influence within our system of government.  Proportional representation has been used in the United States in the past to break up party monopolies.  It can be implemented again.

Expansion of franchise.  Laws that restrict the right to vote should be repealed.  Those who are denied the right to vote because they have, for example, served time in prison, should be re-enfranchised. Participation can be encouraged through simple reforms such as election day voter registration.

Term limits. Election to public office is not a lifetime appointment.  Fortunately, the people need not wait for officials to implement laws limiting their own terms.  The people can impose term limits at any election by voting for alternatives to the representatives of the entrenched factions.

Ballot access reform.  Ballot access laws that favor the major parties and discriminate against independent and third party candidates, which are common in all fifty states, should be repealed and replaced with fair and reasonable alternatives. The default state of the ballot should be open.

Primary election reform. A public election should be open to the public.  If parties desire to hold closed primary elections, they can provide for their own caucuses or conventions.

• Initiatives and referenda. The people retain the right to originate ballot initiatives and referenda and to recall any elected official.

Vote counting.  Electronic voting machines are produced, operated and serviced by a small number of corporations with significant ties to powerful political factions.  Unless there are significant controls to protect against the rigging of such machines, hand-counted paper ballots should be re-introduced into our voting systems.

Holiday voting. Voting should be encouraged not discouraged.  Election day should be ruled a holiday to encourage voter turnout.

Fusion voting. Parties should be able to nominate the candidates of their choice across party lines.

Combination and synthesis. A liquid democratic primary with an instant runoff between the top four candidates from the primary in the general election. Countless other possibilities.

This list is not exhaustive.

We urge assemblies across the country to deliberate on reforms that can help break the ruling political monopoly in government through free and fair elections, and put people before parties. We urge the people of states, localities and general assemblies nationwide to demand the implementation of electoral reforms and begin a series of bold new experiments in democratic self-government, from the bottom up.

This proposal was developed by the Politics and Electoral Reform group at Occupy Wall Street between September and November 2011. It contains input from nearly 200 individuals who attended group meetings at Occupy Wall Street as well as others from across the country and around the world who influenced the proposal through online discussions.  The document was produced through a collaborative writing process.  It was approved by the Politics and Electoral Reform group with full consensus support on November 6, 2011. It was further edited, by consensus decision of the group on December 4th, before being presented to the NYCGA. 

To contact the Politics and Electoral Reform group, email: politicsandelectoralreform@gmail.com

To attend a group meeting, join us in the public atrium at 60 Wall Street, Sundays at 3pm and Thursdays at 8pm.

4 Responses to “Proposal for Saturday 12/10 General Assembly: Politics & Electoral Reform – People Before Parties: Recommendations for Electoral Reform”

  1. Dan Long

    Well, considering that the person with the largest amount of campaign contributions wins the elections in the majority of cases, I would say that every one of your suggestions above have no value at all. Until corporate campaign contributions are either forbidden, or taxed at a 90% rate, the election process will continue to be managed by money and not by the voters themselves.

  2. s.t.

    hi Dan,
    actually, it’s in over 90% of the cases.

    campaign finance was specifically not addressed in this doc, because as you may very well agree, it is a hornet’s nest, and it takes time to approach how to properly untangle it. is it a bill going Congress? is it an amendment going through Congress? would it require an Article V Convention? all of these issues are being currently discussed, but with no consensus resolution.

    so, this particular proposal does not negate the need to also strike the root, but takes an alternative approach to the issue: how to diminish one of the primary effects of the centralized money flow. the cornerstone of every democratic society is free & fair elections. the above doc lists possibilities on how to make them more free and more fair. how does this not have value?

  3. Rob

    Money’s influence is greatly diminished when you replace winner-take-all elections with proportional representation. The fact is that most voters in fact do not change their decisions based on campaign ads. That’s what makes most states “safe” for one party in presidential races and the great majority of congressionall distritcs “safe” for one party.

    The fact is that all that money gets its power from changing the votes of perhaps 5% of voters in 20% of states and 20% of districts.

    So great job on having proportional representation there. FairVote sees the combination of voting changes that have the greatest power being:

    * going from winner-take-all to proportional representation for legislative elections
    * going from plurality voting to runoff systems (instant runoff and 2-round) for executive offices
    * going from the Electoral College to a national popular vote
    * providing for automatic, universal voter registration

    That sets the table. Then it takes the hard work of getting out there and earning more votes. Campaign spending certainly should be addressed in it, but its impact should not be overstated.