Disenfranchised Berners Need to Push for Election Reform NOW!

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So we lost the Democratic primary.

Bernie Sanders is out and Hillary Clinton is in. She will almost definitely face Donald Trump in the general election for President.

If you’re like me, you’re still in shock.

She drew crowds of hundreds. He drew crowd of tens of thousands.

Exit polls consistently showed him winning, but when the votes were counted, he ended up losing.

There have been consistent reports of rampant tampering with voter registration resulting in hundreds of thousands of voters being removed from the rolls; party affiliations being changed without voter consent so they cannot cast a ballot; polling places being reduced significantly so voters have to wait for hours resulting in voters leaving before casting a ballot. And that’s not even counting the mainstream media’s portrayal of Clinton as inevitable by conflating superdelegate votes (which at this point are only non-binding polls of how these party insiders MIGHT vote in July) with actual votes that are already tallied and unchangable.

Really it shouldn’t be so shocking.

Our democracy has been a smoking shell of itself for a long time now.

In 2008 when Barack Obama beat John McCain, we saw some of these same shenanigans. We had language barriers, invented rules, long lines sometimes hours long, and, in some cases, voting machines that changed people’s votes.

By the end of election night, hours after victory was declared, Obama said to supporters in Chicago, “I want to thank every American who participated in this election. Whether you voted for the first time or waited in line for a very long time.” As the crowd roared, Obama declared: “By the way, we have to fix that.”

And now eight years later, we’ve done absolutely nothing to “fix that.”

If anything, the situation is much worse. While Obama voters met hardships, just as Al Gore supporters did in 2000, those were extra-party elections. They were examples of Republicans disenfranchising Democrats. But now we have something new – Democrats suppressing other Democrats!

From the beginning Sanders has said that his campaign was not about himself, it was about starting a real progressive movement. “Not me, us,” the slogan goes.

Now is the time to start cashing in on that idealism.

While Hillary supporters call for unity, we, Berners, must push the terms.

I don’t know if there is truly anything Clinton can do to get my vote short of stepping down. Like many Berners, the very idea of supporting someone so opposed to my views is repugnant. But if Clinton is going to have any shot, she and her supporters need to agree to finally fulfill Obama’s promise.

Let’s fix that. Let’s fix our broken and moldering election system.

It’s not like it’s any big secret how to do so.

Robert Steele, Jim Turner, Ralph Nader, Christina Tobin, Howard Zinn and a host of others have had available a series of common sense reforms for almost two decades. It’s time we push the Democrats to get behind them:

1) Open Ballot Access. Historically, third party candidates have had a harder time getting on the ballot than Democrats and Republicans. Even the popular Green Party Presidential candidate Dr. Jill Stein isn’t on the ballot in every state.

Open ballot access means that no matter what party a candidate represents, he/she has to do the same things to get on the ballot. No more can we accept only Democrats and Republicans to be on the ballot in every state. Ballot access requirements should be the same for every candidate, irrespective of party affiliation. This should also apply to initiatives and referenda, as well as primary and general elections.

2) Holiday Voting. Voter turnout in the land of the free is a disgrace. Much of that has to do with the fact that people are working too hard and too long to easily get to the polls. Election Day should be a national holiday. This way every voter should be able to vote easily and won’t have to worry about missing work and/or transportation issues. In addition, Early Voting should be universally available. No long lines. Vote at your leisure and even spend some time getting involved in the political process.

3) Paper Trail. ALL ballots must either be on paper or otherwise subject to physical re-count. It is too easy for votes to be miscalculated without any reliable recourse for reasonable challenges and/or recounts if there is no paper trail. Too many voting machines in use do not meet this standard. If voting machines are used, each vote must produce a physical paper footprint subject to recount. If there is any attempt at voter suppression, it should be easily provable and remedied.

4) Honest Open Debates. Americans demand choice in almost everything in their lives except politics. Go to the grocery store and there are 20 different kinds of frosted flakes, but go to the polls and you only have the choice of Dems or Repubs. Another way to end the current monopoly of the major parties is to mandate debates include all political parties – even third, fourth, and fifth parties.

5) Tightly-Drawn Districts. We must end the corrupt practice of gerrymandering, replacing it with compact computer drawn districts determined by independent non-partisan commissions. And we should expressly prohibited any voting district to be drawn to favor or disfavor an incumbent or political party.

6) Full Public Funding of Diverse Candidates. Get the money out of politics. Eliminate all corporate financing of campaigns, and all political action committees. No more PACS, Super PACS, Citizens United, all of it! Instead all state and national campaigns should only be publicly funded.

7) No Legislation Without Consultation. The most frustrating things for voters is when politicians pass legislation without reading it first. The next most frustrating thing is that this legislation isn’t easily available or accessible to their constituents. We can eliminate special interest dominance of the legislative process, by ending the practice of passing legislation such as the Patriot Act without its actually being read. Moreover, end all earmarks. All legislation without exception should be published on line with an easy to understand one-page summary, one week prior to its coming to a vote, to include explicit geospatial pointers for all “earmarks” each of which must be publicly announced and offered for amendment to the voters in the relevant district at least one week prior to the passage of national, state, or county legislation affecting them. Similarly, no public privileges should be granted to any corporation or other entity without full public consultation and public polling or balloting.

8) End the Electoral College, Superdelegates and every representative voting system where possible. When you go to vote for something that should be it. You’re not voting for someone else to vote for you. You’re voting for that candidate outright. Yes, our system of Republican government essentially involves people voting for us. But we don’t need to add extra levels of distance between us and our representatives. Eliminate the middleman. Eliminate the possibility of further disenfranchisement.

There are certainly other reforms we can add to this list. I do not mean it to be exhaustive. But I do think it represents a good start.

And we mustn’t wait. We need to push for it NOW!

Millions of people have just had their votes stolen from them. Clinton and the Democrats are calling out for unity.

Okay. If you want even the possibility of it, prove you’re on our side. Work with us to ensure that people like you can never again gain power in the manner that you just did.

If you want my vote, respect it.

Otherwise, I’ll just give it to someone else.

Dr. Stein, are you with me?

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16 thoughts on “Disenfranchised Berners Need to Push for Election Reform NOW!

  1. Whereas we the people are created equal, and
    whereas we the people are endowed with certain inalienable rights, and
    whereas we the people instituted a government to secure these rights, and
    whereas we the people lay the foundation on such principles, and organize its power in such form, as to us shall seem most likely to effect the above objective, do require the following Bill of Rights for Voting Equality.

    1.
    Each citizen of the United States at or exceeding the age of majority has the right to vote in any public election in the jurisdiction where he or she resides. That right shall not be denied or abridged by the United States, any State, agreement, person, or entity. After incarceration all rights shall resume.

    2.
    a) All citizens of the United States, residing in all states, shall have equal access, (the same requirements), to creating a political party and achieving a ballot line.
    b) All candidates and parties shall have equal time constraints to qualify for ballot access.
    c) All proofs will be received by a multi-partisan regulatory board, such as the Board of Elections.
    d) All citizens that desire to be candidates, shall register at their local Board of Elections.
    e) The Board of Elections shall divide equally, the campaign tools for election purposes. All tools must be properly labeled as having been provided by the revenue stream and not a direct private donation.
    f) Elections shall be publicly funded. No private money may be used for a public office, or seat in the government. The citizen must have full confidence that no bribery or appearance of bribery is taking place.

    3.
    The District constituting the seat of Government of the United States shall elect Senators and Representatives in the Congress in such number and such manner as it would be entitled if it were a State.

    4.
    All citizens must be able to verify that the vote has been counted accurately. All ballots must be counted by hand. All counting must be supervised by multi-partisan personnel and recorded.

    5.
    a) There shall be at least one Representative to each Thirty Thousand citizens, per state.
    b) Each state shall divide its population by 30,000 to determine its number of representatives.
    c) Each Representative shall have the voting power equal to the number of citizens that voted for them.
    d) Congress shall be unicameral, and the Senate shall be dissolved.

    6.
    All citizens shall have equal early voting hours in which to cast their vote. sufficient voting places, materials, and personnel shall be provided to reduce the voting time to within an hour.

    7.
    The Presidential/Vice-Presidential election shall be counted by (score or approval) counting.

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  2. I do think there are some practical problems with some of these reforms.

    1. There are well over 400 currently announced candidates for president (see this list: http://www.politics1.com/p2016.htm ) Allowing them all on the ballot would be impractical, and automatically placing them on the ballot would likely encourage even more to run.

    2. Making election day a holiday does not seem to increase turnout. See https://www.princeton.edu/ceps/workingpapers/181farber.pdf

    3. Seems like a good idea

    4. At least eighteen political parties have announced presidential candidates. I think having that many parties at a debate will not make the debates less, not more useful. Automatic inclusion will also encourage more political parties to form.

    5. Seems like a good idea. My favorite idea here is to simply require districts to be convex, that is all the points on a line connecting any two points in a district must also be in the district.

    6. Full public funding of all 400+ announced candidates?

    7. I can’t make my students read their assignments. I am not sure how you can make your legislators read the bills. As for public posting, we can not get people to vote, so I am not sure how many would spend the time reading the content of legislation on line.

    8. Hillary won the popular vote in the 2008 democratic primary, but lost the nomination. Hillary won the popular vote in the 2016 democratic primary and won the nomination. Eliminating superdelegates and our geographic quota system would change things, but given low voter turnout it would likely increase the power of enthusiastic fringe voters.

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    • I hope you have also read the “reasonings” for each rule at the accompanying website. THE PETITION
      https://www.change.org/p/bill-of-rights-for-voting-equality These are not my own brain child. These rules are from several organizations with better knowledge than I. What I did was put ALL the ideas together because they are wasting time trying to do one thing at a time.

      We definitely CAN have this many representatives, if need be we don’t have to pay them as much. We don’t have to offer payments after they leave office. And retirement packages that are better than some of ours. Only those deeply committed to serving the public will stay. They don’t have to work full time. They mostly would be being paid to read bills And debate them in committee. Also I believe the house and senate rules need to change as well. Giving power to the group that has the majority is a ridiculous thing. The power of the majority is that you win when you vote. It should NOT be that you CONTROL what gets to be VOTED ON.

      We have over 800 choices for television channels and we manage, Having more representatives means you could actually make an appointment with one and get to see them. It would be their job to bring your problem to the next committee meeting.

      Remember while the populace needs to have secret ballots (hand counted paper ballots H.C.P.B.) the representative may have public ones and can use electronic voting.

      Remembering that also that we do not actually have to GIVE MONEY to the candidates. We have public access television for their debates. We have public colleges for their speeches. We have government vehicles and drivers to travel from state to state, and we have brochures that we mail out on every candidate (which need to come out earlier) That is all the candidate needs.They are free to make a website about themselves

      I also don’t think making election day a holiday is any great thing but many people seem to want it. EARLY VOTING is what not enough people take advantage of.

      We might dedicate a channel to having the bills read to us, and having people explain it to the public as well. These rules may not make people participate, I believe we should add MANDATORY voting. I haven’t figured out HOW to write it yet. Join us on our facebook page BILL OF RIGHTS FOR VOTING EQUALITY and help us add more or tweak what we have.

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      • I forgot. Choice of Representation (C.o.R.) has NO DISTRICTS. You vote for the representative that you think best speaks what you want spoken. Any representative can help you with a problem. And problems WITHIN you state locally should be handled by your STATE representative which COULD have districts, probably the best districts are the zip codes.

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      • Marcia,

        One thing you might think about is how low pay for legislators would shape the group of people willing to run for office. My state has relatively low pay, so people who depend on their own labor to make a living have a difficult time becoming a legislator. Most of our legislators have to get income from owning a business or have retired.

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  3. If we want to fix the political system, the first thing we have to do is pry and push, by force if necessary, the wealthiest 0.1% out of the two major political parties. A good place to start would be to strip them of most of their wealth with a 90% tax on anyone who earns more than $10 million annually with no loopholes or deductions. A 90% flat tax on the 0.1% based on their gross worth no matter where it is invested. And no one inherits any more than $10 million. When the super rich die, so does their fortunes. No non-profit foundations that are mostly tax shelters used to hide the wealth of the super rich.

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    • And we need a Supreme Court that will overturn the Citizens United decision. Corporations are not “people,” I don’t care what the Supremes said.
      Public funding of elections would be the way to go. Get the “big money” out of politics.
      And, oh, yeah, I agree, raise the top marginal tax rate, raise it way high, and tax the corporations more (and stop the stupidity of them being able to shelter their profits by moving them overseas, or moving their “corporate headquarters” overseas).
      I don’t even mind if someone inherits more than $10 million, but I would tax the ever-loving shit out of anything more than, say, $1 million. First $1 million is “free.” After that, more and more escalating inheritance tax as you inherit more and more.

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      • In the BRVE (pronounced brave) Bill of Rights for Voting Equality http://brve.us we have called for Publicly Funded Elections. If this is in the constitution we will in effect have eliminated Citizen’s United. Then we need to work on eliminating MONEY altogether– Free World Charter

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    • We could easily push the major parties OUT by refusing to USE any party that takes money from corporations. As soon as we have the majority of membership they will realize that their money means nothing if we don’t elect them. Basically we have to turn having money in politics into something as disgusting as child rape. DON’T TOUCH IT!

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  4. Well said and mostly agreed. The one problem I see is that declaring a holiday doesn’t mean that no one works. Some people, in fact, work more because it’s a holiday: restaurant, hotel, airport and other travel and tourism workers (mostly low-wage workers, of course).

    Anyway, I share your dismay about Hillary and something has to give. I’m feeling pretty hopeless at the moment and this article only makes that moreso, but it’s important to understand to comprehend what’s happening with Hillary: http://www.alternet.org/comments/election-2016/hillary-clinton-donald-trump-and-why-market-and-wealthy-win-every-time#disqus_thread

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    • True, Dienne. That would argue for a couple of days available for voting, as well as easily available early voting and absentee voting.

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      • The BRVE calls for EQUAL ballot access rules for every citizen (no more state mishmash of rules) EQUAL early voting times for every citizen, and enough offices to be opened so that no citizen waits for more than an hour to vote.

        We can set up a system that allows you to vote from anywhere in the state. But if a person is told that they have voted already, there needs to be an immediate remedy, such as an investigatory agent on every election site. Perhaps your photo will be taken every time you vote and added to your file and the location of where you voted. Then they can pull it up and say there you are voting and if it’s not you… and if it is you’re in trouble. This is what we discuss at https://www.facebook.com/groups/supportthebrve/

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  5. I have no issue with the Electoral College; I think it’s a necessity given the size of the electorate. However, it should be required to vote for the candidates proportionally based on the actual vote count in each state. The real problem with it is the “all or nothing” rules.

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    • Choice of Representation: this is how I understand it. It was created by Jim Mueller, find him on facebook group with same name.

      Districting is done to satisfy the “one man, one vote” concept. It makes the representatives equal but makes the citizens unequal-some have the representation of their choice and most do not. The theory is that because the population in each district is nearly equal then each person has the same proportionate share of a representative (a representative that they may have voted against and vehemently dislike).

      Gerrymandering aside, great expense and effort goes into making legislative districts as close to equal in size of population as possible. The result is that many counties and municipalities are divided up into more than one, sometimes several districts. This creates more work and expense for the Election Officials in printing notices and ballots, setting up the machines, etc. The existence of districts makes campaigning more expensive by dividing up media markets into several districts or having a district span parts of several markets.

      So all of this work goes into making them equal and what is the first thing that they do? They give up a lot of their power by electing a leader who gets to decide a myriad of details including who is on what committees, which offices legislators are assigned to and what legislation will be scheduled for a vote and which bills will die without being voted on.

      In our relatively free market system people obtain the goods and services of their choice that they can afford to purchase or retain. Representation (Attorney, Personal Representative, Executor, Proxy, Agent, Guardian) involves the agent being legally bound to conduct themselves in the best interest of the client.

      In our election system, the government designates people as representatives even though the client (voter) is certain that the “representative” will not act in his or her best interest and will use force if necessary in order to prevent the other candidates from representing the people who voted for them.

      That’s Forced Representation.

      By declaring that people have the Right to CHOICE OF REPRESENTATION, we establish a principle which people can aspire to, we expand the number of people who care about the outcome of elections and we show that this is not a partisan effort.

      CHOICE OF REPRESENTATION makes the voters equal. They all get the Representation of their Choice and make the representatives unequal by assigning them voting power equal to the number of people who voted for them.

      In discussions of CHOICE OF REPRESENTATION, we use the term Representative Denied Office (RDO) for those people who have run for office, received votes and have been denied the opportunity to effectively represent the people who voted for them. The RPO’s (Representatives Permitted Office) are sworn in.

      Personally I think that having a representative of your choice is much more important than having the same number of people in each district.

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