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[LAAMN-ANN] 12 Ways to Democratize the System

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  • Deborah James
    Dear Friends, As we gear up for the DNC in Los Angeles, please find here a new document we have just finished on Twelve Ways to Democratize the US Political
    Message 1 of 1 , Aug 1, 2000
      Dear Friends,

      As we gear up for the DNC in Los Angeles, please find here
      a new document we have just finished on Twelve Ways to
      Democratize the US Political System. I hope that we were
      able to make it a document inclusive of what the various
      movements are prioritizing, both campaign finance reform
      as well as social and economic justice issues as they relate
      to democracy. If there are any comments, please feel free to
      email me at <deborah@...>.

      Thanks and see you in LA!

      Deborah James, Fair Trade Director
      Global Exchange
      415.558.8682 ext. 245


      Twelve Ways to Democratize the US Political System

      12 Ways to Democratize the U.S. Political System

      Elected officials have grown so dependent on big money
      for their campaigns that they have sold our democracy
      to corporate special interests. Most Americans want a
      government that is truly of, by, and for the people, where
      community interests such as health care, quality education,
      civil rights, and environmental protectionare prioritized
      above corporate interests. We believe in creating a real
      democracy where people can shape the policies that affect
      their lives regardless of the size of their pocketbooks.

      1. Demand full public funding of political campaigns at
      federal, state, and local levels.

      In 1998, winning candidates in the Senate spent nearly twice
      as much as their competition, and in House races three times
      as much. In 1996, 92% of House races and 88% of Senate races
      were won by the candidate who spent the most on the election.
      We need to rein in political contributions -- especially
      unregulated soft money donations to parties. In 1996, the
      Democratic and Republican parties raised $260 million in
      soft money contributions. That number is expected to triple
      for the 2000 presidential election. Find out who has
      contributed to your elected official and how that money has
      influenced their votes. We need a political system where
      candidates who agree to forego private contributions and
      accept spending limits receive full public funds to run for
      office. Support a comprehensive campaign finance system that
      eliminates the need for fundraising, provides a financially-
      level playing field for candidates, and closes loopholes.
      Call for a constitutional amendment acknowledging that
      money is not speech.

      2. Abolish the electoral college.

      The President is not directly elected by voters, but rather
      by the Electoral College. Only 26 states require electors
      to follow the popular vote. Most state constitutions award
      electoral votes on a winner-take-all basis. For instance,
      if two-thirds of a state's public vote for a Democrat and
      the other third votes for a Republican, and the state has
      6 electoral votes, then all 6 of that state's votes go to
      the Democratic candidate. Three times historically, the
      electoral college elected presidents who ran second in
      popular votes. This could happen again in a close race.
      The electoral college should be abolished to allow
      direct Presidential elections.

      3. Promote third parties to create a real multi-party

      Both the Democratic and Republican parties support major
      corporate interests at the expense of the public. For real
      debate and democracy, we need more parties representing a
      broader range of interests. Many Americans abstain from
      voting because they are alienated by the two mainstream
      parties, whose candidates are pre-selected by wealthy
      contributors. We should make it easier for third parties
      to get on the ballot, participate in debates, get media
      coverage and receive public funding.

      4. Promote ethics, disclosure and information sharing.

      Political appointees are far too often large campaign
      contributors, representing commercial interests rather than
      the public interest. The public needs complete, timely and
      accessible information about government appointments. We
      need stronger federal anti-bribery and gratuity statutes to
      ensure that special interests cannot use gifts to gain favor
      with public officials. Comprehensive and detailed financial
      disclosure by public officials is needed to help prevent
      conflicts of interest. We need to stop the revolving door
      between government and corporations.

      5. Institute proportional representation & instant runoff

      Our legislative elections are based on winner-take-all
      districts, meaning that the one candidate who gets a
      plurality of votes becomes the sole representative of
      that district. Minority viewpoints aren't represented in
      Congress or in state legislatures because new parties and
      perspectives are effectively shut out. With proportional
      representation, parties would receive seats in proportion to
      the percentage of votes received. All voters are represented
      -- not just those voting for the winner. It's easier for
      small parties to win seats, so political debate becomes
      broader, new issues can be introduced more easily, and more
      people come out to vote. This system is used by most of the
      world's democracies and should be instituted in the US. When
      voting for a single position, as in a presidential race, we
      should use the instant runoff system, in which voters rank
      candidates in order of preference. If your first choice does
      not receive a majority, your second choice is counted, and
      so on. This encourages people to vote for their preferred
      candidate without fear of "wasting" their vote.

      6. Democratize media access.

      Television and radio greatly influence the public's ideas
      about candidates and their positions. The candidates, in
      turn, require millions of dollars in contributions to buy
      political advertisements and reach the citizenry. The public
      has the right to hear all viewpoints regardless of the funds
      available to the candidates. Radio airwaves and television
      channels are public property. We must democratize access
      to the media by providing free or reduced-cost radio and
      television time to all candidates.

      7. Educate citizens to participate in the democratic process.

      An educated citizenry is an essential element of a true
      democracy. We need to realign national budgetary priorities
      to ensure that all citizens attain an educational level that
      would allow a true democracy to flourish. We need to provide
      civic education that encourages active participation in the
      democratic process beyond just voting, so that elected
      officials are accountable to the majority's interests
      rather than those of corporate lobbyists.

      8. Reduce wealth inequality.

      Inequality in economic power distorts the democratic
      process. In a system where money controls politics, the
      concerns of poor people, particularly people of color,
      are not adequately addressed. People who are struggling to
      survive often do not have the time, education, or resources
      to fully participate in the political process. We need
      a national living wage so that all citizens have the
      opportunity to take part in our democracy.

      9. End discrimination in the criminal justice system.

      Discrimination in the criminal justice system distorts
      democracy. As our judicial system continues to arrest,
      prosecute, and convict people of color at disproportionately
      higher rates than whites, and incarcerated people are barred
      from exercising their rights to vote, communities of color
      are further marginalized. Twelve states ban former prisoners
      from voting for life. No other country in the world
      permanently disenfranchises ex-offenders. Close to four
      million Americans are now excluded from the political
      process, including roughly 13 percent of the country's
      African American men. We need to repeal laws that
      disenfranchise former prisoners to allow them to
      have a stake in the democratic process.

      10. Institute voting and citizenship rights for immigrants.

      Citizenship and voting constitute the most fundamental
      rights of our society, and no one who lives here permanently
      should be denied those rights. The Constitution gives states
      the right to determine the qualifications for voting. In the
      nineteenth century some states granted non-citizen immigrants
      the right to vote in elections. Immigrants should have the
      right to vote or to become citizens within one year. The
      U.S. should also join other countries in recognizing dual
      citizenship in order to make it easier for immigrants to
      participate in our society without having to repudiate
      their homeland.

      11. Make voting easy.

      Politicians tell us that the U.S. is the world's leading
      democracy, but most countries have higher rates of voter
      turnout. Only 38% of eligible voters participated in
      the 1998 elections -- and only 17.4% voted in the 1998
      primaries. Apathy and cynicism increasingly threaten
      our democracy. Voter apathy is caused by a confluence of
      factors, including corporate control of politics through
      campaign contributions, lack of diversity in parties
      and candidates, and logistical hurdles to voting. Voter
      registration should be easy, available until the day before
      an election, and automatic every time we move. We should
      have voter identification cards -- not driver's licenses
      -- as our primary means of citizen identification. Voter
      registration drives should reach out to register people
      in communities of color and poor communities who have
      been traditionally marginalized from the electoral process.
      Voting day should be a national holiday, or on the weekend.

      12. Ensure freedom of political expression.

      People should have the right to express their political
      opinions without fear of state repression. Police officers
      should work to ensure that our First Amendment rights
      to freedom of speech, including political protest, are
      guaranteed. Police should be prevented from harassing,
      intimidating or using violence against peaceful


      Organizations working on these issues

      Common Cause
      http://www.commoncause.org (202) 833-1200
      Common Cause is a nonprofit, nonpartisan citizen's lobbying
      organization promoting open, honest and accountable government.

      Public Campaign
      http://www.libertynet.org/kwru (202) 293-0222
      Public Campaign is dedicated to sweeping reform that aims
      to dramatically reduce the role of special interest money in
      America's elections and the influence of big contributors in
      American politics.

      Center for Responsive Politics
      http://www.opensecrets.org (202) 857-0044
      The Center conducts computer-based research on campaign
      finance issues for the news media, academics, activists,
      and the public at large.

      Fannie Lou Hamer Project
      http://www.flhp.org (404) 624-0100
      The Fannie Lou Hamer Project is a part of a national
      grassroots movement that connects the history of earlier
      voting and civil rights struggles to the ongoing struggle
      for campaign finance reform. The Project serves as a vehicle
      for traditional civil rights organizations and communities
      of color to engage in campaign finance reform initiatives.

      Alliance for Democracy
      http://www.afd-online.org (781) 894-1179
      The AfD works to free all people from corporate domination
      of politics, economics, the environment, culture and
      information; to establish true democracy; and to create
      a just society with a sustainable, equitable economy.

      Citizens for True Democracy
      CTD is committed to improving our elections' fairness by
      replacing the electoral college with direct elections,
      reforming campaign finances, establishing proportional
      representation for House elections, and improving voter
      registration, education, and turnout.

      Center for Public Integrity
      http://www.publicintegrity.org (202) 466-1300
      The Center for Public Integrity's mission is to provide the
      American public with the findings of its investigations and
      analyses of public service, government accountability, and
      ethics-related issues via books, reports & newsletters.

      Free Democracy Network/Democracy in Motion Roadshow
      The goal of the Roadshow is to make connections between
      corporate globalization, labor, the prison industrial
      complex, campaign finance reform, and other domestic
      inequalities and injustices; to support local organizing.

      Global Exchange
      http://www.globalexchange.org (800) 497-1994
      Global Exchange is a San Francisco-based human rights
      organization promoting economic rights, democracy and
      an end to corporate rule in the US and internationally.

      United for a Fair Economy
      http://www.ufenet.org (617) 423-2148
      United for a Fair Economy is part of a broad social movement
      of people concerned that the concentration of wealth is
      hurting our nation. Its goal is to revitalize America
      through a more fair distribution of wealth.

      Call to Renewal
      http://www.calltorenewal.com (800) 523-2773
      Call to Renewal's mission is to invite the churches
      and other faith-based organizations to join together in a
      biblical commitment to overcome poverty, dismantle racism,
      promote healthier families and supportive communities, and
      reassert the dignity of each human life.

      Kensington Welfare Rights Union
      http://www.libertynet.org/kwru (215) 203-1945
      KWRU is a multi-racial organization of, by and for poor and
      homeless people. KWRU is dedicated to organizing of welfare
      recipients, the homeless, the working poor and all people
      concerned with economic justice.

      Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles
      chirla@... (213) 353-1333
      CHIRLA works to advance the human and civil rights of
      immigrants and refugees and to foster and environment
      of positive human relations in LA.

      Fairness in Accuracy and Reporting
      http://www.fair.org (212) 633-6700
      FAIR works to invigorate the First Amendment by advocating
      for greater diversity in the press and by scrutinizing media
      practices that marginalize public interest, minority and
      dissenting viewpoints.

      Independent Media Center
      Indymedia is a collective of independent media organizations
      and hundreds of journalists offering grassroots, non-corporate

      Direct Action Network
      DAN is organizing mass mobilizations to protest the
      Democratic and Republican conventions.


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