Getting the Cure Right for a Sick Democracy

Here’s what I think we need:

  • No private election spending.
  • Free media air time on our air waves for candidates qualified by signature gathering.
  • Public financing, ballot access, and debate access for candidates qualified by signature gathering.
  • No gerrymandering.
  • Hand-counted paper ballots publicly counted in every polling place.
  • Election day holiday.
  • Limited campaign season.
  • Automatic voter registration.
  • Full representation for Washington, D.C., and all of the U.S. colonies in the Caribbean and Pacific.
  • Voting rights regardless of criminal conviction.
  • National popular vote with no electoral college.
  • Mandatory voting with an option for “none of the above.”
  • Abolition of the Senate.
  • A larger House of Representatives.
  • Direct public vote on important matters (national initiative).
  • Ban on war profiteering.
  • Ban on secret budgets and agencies.
  • Ban on executive power use by vice presidents.

Here’s how we could get it: Declare the current system so broken that you will invest not a minute and not a dime in trying to elect anyone president of the United States. Instead, put all that effort and money into a policy-driven nonviolent activist campaign for these reforms and other urgent policy changes (peace, the environment, etc.) at the local, state, and federal levels.

A “Democracy Slam” planned for April 22 at American University is a step in the right direction, mostly. Let’s take a look at their proposals:

“Reform #1: Fix current primary election system with ranked choice voting: Rob Richie of FairVote on his paper with Stanford’s Larry Diamond why traditional primary rules and California Top Two model should be fixed with ranked choice voting and forms of Louisiana Top Two model. Rebuttal: Peter Rosenstein”

This is 100% well-intended but conflicts with hand-counted paper ballots publicly counted in every polling place, except in cases — such as small local elections or caucuses — in which there is only one polling place. In those cases, this reform should absolutely be used. In other cases, I think backers of this reform will find that the collection of reforms listed above accomplish most or all of the intended results.

“Reform #2: Shareholders, not CEOs, decide on corporate political spending: Lisa Gilbert of Public Citizen on reforms for SEC rules to ensure shareholders have a right to know and engage with how their CEO’s are spending money they invest in politics. Jamie Raskin on his “Shareholders United” proposal.”

This is a good partway step toward no private election spending. Here’s a place to support it in your state right now.

“Reform #3: Guarantee access for a third candidate to presidential debates: Alexandra Shapiro of Change the Rule on guaranteeing third candidate in presidential debates based on ballot access and signature collection. Rebuttal: David Lublin”

Of course, on its own this is not going to fix much. The third candidate will make the debate better or worse but not seriously contend for the election under the current system. What’s needed are debates open to more than three candidates, under a system in which the financial advantage of the current big two parties is eliminated. Such a reformed debate system could include a final debate between a small number, perhaps even two — which makes a certain sense under the winner-take-all system — but the finalists would have to be determined by fair public voting or polling. (Whether to keep the current system or switch to a parliamentary one is optional, of course. There would be big advantages to de-emphasizing the executive. I don’t list that change above because I don’t think it’s strictly needed to rid the U.S. system of its corruption.)

“Reform #4: Factor women candidates in Voting Rights Act case remedies: Dania Korkor of FairVote on why representation of women candidates of color deserves consideration in decisions about Section 2 voting rights remedies.”

Also non-millionaire candidates.

“Reform #5: Reduce impact of money on elections with voting rule reforms: Mark Schmitt of the New American Foundation on his paper with FairVote’s Rob Richie on why reform of voting rules and ballots should be pursued to reduce the demand for money in elections. Rebuttal by Lisa Gilbert, Public Citizen.”

This may be #1 again.

“Reform #6: Free courts from redistricting thicket w/fair representation voting: Drew Spencer of FairVote on “Escaping the Redistricting Political Thicket” paper, written with Cam Ferrante, on the legal argument for fair representation voting to free courts from choosing among competing redistricting criteria. Rebuttal: Trent England, OCPA.”

This sounds like an effort to advance the cause of no gerrymandering.

“Reform #7: Require all citizens to cast a ballot: William Galston of the Brookings Institution makes the case for compulsory voting and the impact of high voter turnout elections. Rebuttal: Sarah John, FairVote.”

This isn’t necessary, but I think the pros outweigh the cons if there’s an option for “None of the Above.”

“Reform #8: Best state reform of Electoral College is National Popular Vote: John Koz of National Popular Vote and state senator Jamie Raskin debate Trent England of Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs and Sean Parnell of Impact Policy Management, with audience vote on merits of National Popular Vote and final words from participants.”

Yes, good idea.

Reform #9: Right to Vote Amendment: Congressman Mark Pocan (WI-2) Rebuttal: Reading of paper excerpt from Heather Gerken, Yale Law School. Rebuttal response: Shuya Ohno, Advancement Project.”

Yes and it should be a right that is not stripped away for any reason.

“Reform #10: Government By the People Act Small – Donor Empowerment and Public – Match Financing: Congressman John Sarbanes (MD-3) Rebuttal: Sean Parnell, Impact Policy Management.”

This is an attempt to work around the bribery system without simply banning private spending. I wonder if it could have an impact, that is if it could keep up with the soaring pricetags of elections.

“Reform #11: Independent redistricting – Lessons from Arizona and Iowa: Aaron Scherb, Common Cause.”

Good: no gerrymandering.

“Reform #12: Fair representation voting – Lessons from cumulative voting in Illinois: Rob Richie, FairVote.”

Presumably Richie will argue against cumulative voting, so it’s not really a reform proposal.

“Reform #13: Forms of Top Two primary – Lessons from California and Washington: Harry Kresky, Open Primaries.”

This seems not to reform anything either.

“Reform #14: Ranked choice voting – Lessons from civility study of local elections: Grace Ramsey, FairVote.”

This is a return of #1, again.

“Reform #15: Collaborative legislative policymaking – Lessons from 2014 study: Andrew Douglas, FairVote.”

This might be a step in the general direction of national initiative, of greater citizen participation.

“Reform #16: Greater gender parity – Lessons from legislatures with more women: Cynthia Terrell, Representation 2020.”

This sounds like a question of whom to vote for (or what to aim for with reforms) more than how to design an election system.

“Reform #17: Fixing primaries by boosting turnout in a national primary: John Fortier, Bipartisan Policy Center.”

A lot of these reforms could do some good, but in many cases would not be needed in combination with others. And some important reforms are missing. The package of reforms listed at the top of this article would give us free, fair, open, verifiable elections.

The tricky part is that we won’t have the resources to work for these reforms unless people do something that I’ll repeat here because it is nearly incomprehensible to many: Boycott the presidential election of 2015-16. Leave it alone. Don’t fund it or promote it. Fund and work on real activism instead.<--break->

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  • ClubToTheHead

    The accomplishment of these reforms would require passage of laws.

    But lawmakers capable passing these laws became capable of passing laws by means of the corruptions these reforms are intended to eliminate.

    One might as well suggest that CEOs fire themselves for overcompensating themselves.

    This situation has no solution that one may speak of.

    Why does treason never profit? For if treason profits, none dare speak its name.

    • toto

      More than 2,110 state legislators (in 50 states) have sponsored and/or cast recorded votes in favor of the National Popular Vote bill.

      The bill has passed 33 state legislative chambers in 22 rural, small, medium, large, red, blue, and purple states with 250 electoral votes. The bill has been enacted by 11 jurisdictions with 165 electoral votes – 61% of the 270 necessary to go into effect.

  • m4orgot

    I’ll only vote again if there’s a ‘None of the Above” or “Kick them all Out” check box. I’m so tired of people who keep putting the blame for all the problems on non-voters … somehow it doesn’t occur to them that THEY are the ones perpetuating the problems by voting corrupt criminals back into office. It’s a rigged game for incumbents. Plus, it really doesn’t matter who wins the election because the unelected bureaucracy keeps the neocon/globalist/war agenda going.

  • Bill Frank

    Perhaps a bit of wishful thinking, David. The list is admirable, but there’s zero chance of this becoming reality. Too little, too late.

  • Bev

    All candidates should demand hand counted paper ballots counted in precinct on election night, because many people know by now. All solutions must first apply to Primaries, then you will have better candidates in the General.

    David Swanson, thanks for all your wonderful work. If you have not yet talked to Jonathan Simon, you should. And, Richard Charnin, Brad Friedman, Lynn Landes, Bev Harris, Mark Crispin Miller, Victoria Collier, Ralph Nader, Oliver Stone, Michael Moore and others. All are for hand-counted paper ballots posted in precinct on election night under public observation. If you all get together, it is a bigger voice.

    For a broader audience, Jonathan Simon’s current campaign (updated) has almost met its goal with $11,586. raised out of $12,000. needed with just 5 days to go. Thanks to all who donated.
    Get CODE RED, and spread the word about it, or give up any chance of salvaging US democracy!

    To stop election theft before it really is too late, we must come together and make our voices heard. CODE RED can play a major role in that but only if it is widely read. And that is where your support is so important.

    Our Kickstarter Campaign is live–spread the word please!

    Please donate. Every gift helps and encourages others to participate. If you cannot donate, you may know people who can–please reach out!

    We must reach our goal of $12,000 in 30 days to receive the funds and move forward with our work to educate the public about the very real dangers of secret vote counting on computerized equipment and mobilize our citizens to restore observable vote counting in America.

    I am afraid that those far right wing corporate and political owners and operators of e-voting, e-scanning, e-tabulating machines are actual authoritarians/fascists/nazis. And, it seems media and politicians have accommodated that situation because they are being bribed, blackmailed, or worse.

    How to make it safe for media to break with their abusers, and report the truth? And, Congressmen too. How to undo the power of the law passed recently that allows politicians to lie to Americans without any legal consequences. Are there any legal consequences for media lying to Americans about fraudulent election results which they perpetrate? Are media reporters embedded CIA? Are politicians? Are the past (Bushs’ for sure) and current Presidents and Presidential candidates? We should know that too.
    Who owns Scytl? George Soros isn’t in the voting machines, but the intelligence community is
    Lynn Lanes: “And evidence is mounting that elections in America have been computer programmed to prefer conservative candidates of both political parties.”
    Or Congress (and the Media?) has been blackmailed to accept these corruptible e-voting, e-tabulating, and e-scanning machines. See comments via:
    Why Would Seahawks Coach Pete Carroll Question 9/11?
    Posted on February 1, 2015 by Kevin Ryan
    Best Election Statistician: Richard Charnin (Truth Is All)

    Election Fraud (1968-2012) Quantitative Analysis and True Vote Models

    In the 1968-2012 Presidential elections, the Republicans won the average recorded vote by 48.7-45.8%. The 1968-2012 Recursive National True Vote Model indicates the Democrats won the True Vote by 49.6-45.0% – a 7.5% margin discrepancy.

    In the 1988-2008 elections, the Democrats won the unadjusted state exit poll aggregate by 52-42% – but won the recorded vote by just 48-46%, an 8% margin discrepancy. The state exit poll margin of error was exceeded in 126 of 274 state presidential elections from 1988-2008. The probability of the occurrence is ZERO. Only 14 (5%) would be expected to exceed the MoE at the 95% confidence level. Of the 126 which exceeded the MoE, 123 red-shifted to the Republican. The probability P of that anomaly is ABSOLUTE ZERO (5E-106). That is scientific notation for

    P= .000000000 000000000 000000000 000000000 000000000 000000000 000000000 000000000 000000000 000000000 000005.

    The following states flipped from Gore in the exit poll to Bush in the recorded vote: AL AR AZ CO FL GA MO NC TN TX VA. Gore would have won the election if he captured just one of the states. Democracy died in this election. (Meaning Gore won all those states including Texas)

    The bedrock of the evidence derives from this undisputed fact: Final national and state exit polls are always forced to match the recorded vote – even if doing so requires an impossible turnout of prior election voters and implausible vote shares. All demographic categories are adjusted to conform to the recorded vote. To use these forced final exit polls as the basis for election research is unscientific and irresponsible.

    The adjusted, published exit polls have always exactly matched the fraudulent RECORDED vote because they have been forced to do so. That’s why they APPEAR to have been accurate. The RECORDED vote has deviated from the TRUE VOTE in EVERY election since 1968 –always favoring the Republicans.

    We need our democracy. Some remedies as David also suggests: By Brad Friedman

    Recommended #OWS Demand: Let ALL Citizens 18 and Older Vote, On Paper Ballots, Count Them in Public

    I offer the following simple “demand” for consideration by OWS, as this one likely underscores almost every other. Or, at least, without it, all other demands may ultimately be rendered moot. Every U.S. citizen 18 years of age or older who wishes to vote, gets to vote. Period. Those votes, on hand-marked paper ballots, will be counted publicly, by hand, on Election Night, at the precinct, in front of all observers and video cameras.

    Lynn Landes

    The Case For Open Voting
    Democracy demands transparency, not trust

    There is no transparency to our current voting system. Congress has legalized election fraud by allowing, if not mandating, non-transparent voting systems that prohibit direct access to a paper ballot and meaningful public oversight:

    Editor: This is a good website for research, but for activism, go to:

    If we cannot get rid of abusive machines:
    Gene Sharp’s online book: From Dictatorship to Democracy see the index for over 200 nonviolent actions to construct positive change.

    • Bev

      And, add Big Dan to above. Please pardon the delay.

      • Bev

        And, I should have added voting rights advocate Robert Kennedy Jr., Greg Palast, Cliff Arnebeck, Bob Fitrakis, Stephen Spoonamore, and Clint Curtis, among many others. The above is not an all inclusive list which is growing bigger and bigger.

        Update for Jonathan Simon’s CODE RED

        Now another meaningful effort to inform the public by Greg Palast:
        Billionaires & Ballot Bandits – The Movie – DVD
        All items are signed. Donations are tax-deductible

        Help us investigate their vote-swiping schemes and the Sugar-Daddies who fund them BEFORE the 2016 Election.

        We are embarking on a two-year project, digging deep into the billionaires behind the vote-swiping scourge.

        We will continue the investigation of the 9 methods of swindling Americans out of a fair ballot count — from faux-felon purges to alien-voter hunts to trashing absentee ballots — we also will follow the money: tracking down the billionaires, from the four Koch Bros (yes, there are FOUR), to the finance vultures, market manipulators and other billionaire boils on the body politic.

        We are looking for a few intrepid helpers to provide us the tools to shovel into the filth of the filthy rich. We already have files, whistleblowers, secret tape recordings and footage filmed — but we’ve got a long way to go and a lot of goo to go through.

        We’re beginning with all that good stuff we uncovered and reported in my New York Times bestseller Billionaires & Ballot Bandits: Greg Palast Investigates Karl Rove, the Koch Gang and their Buck-Buddies.

        You’ve already read our investigative scoops in Rolling Stone, the Nation, the Guardian by myself and my coauthor Bobby Kennedy Jr. and my penman extraordinaire,Ted Rall.

        But we need an angel — IN OTHER WORDS, YOU.

        The donation is tax-deductible because our work is nonpartisan and, lord knows, not- for-profit.

        If you don’t want to sing, “Hail to the Thief” at the next inauguration, make your donation now.

  • Daniel Jorden

    Thoughts of financial democracy are very much in the air, as they ought to be, with growing necessity in the central of today’s severe disaster. Richard Wolf’s beneficial and inventive thoughts recommend new and capable practicalities for much more genuine democracy and sustainable and impartial improvement,

    • Ace

      We had way too much genuine democracy in ’08 and 12. Aided by plenty of vote fraud.

      We need to limit the franchise significantly.


    • Bev

      Perfect. And, Big Dan has been for a long time advocating these best solutions for a return to a real Democracy. Your interview with Richard Charnin was awesome. Thank you Big Dan.

  • oooorgle

    So basically you are saying we need more of the same, democracy; The worship of jackals by jackasses. Try growing up and learning to mind your own business.

  • truth

    Why are my comments getting deleted. Am I not allowed to post under my truth moniker anymore?

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  • toto

    To abolish the Electoral College would need a constitutional amendment, and could be stopped by states with as little as 3% of the U.S. population.

    At least, by state laws, without changing anything in the Constitution, The National Popular Vote bill would guarantee the presidency to the candidate who receives the most popular votes in all 50 states and DC.

    Every vote in all 50 states and DC would be politically relevant and equal in every presidential election. No more distorting and divisive red and blue state maps of pre-determined outcomes. There would no longer be a handful of ‘battleground’ states where voters and policies are more important than those of the voters in 80% of the states that now are just ‘spectators’ and ignored after the conventions.

    The bill would take effect when enacted by states with a majority of Electoral College votes—that is, enough to elect a President (270 of 538). The candidate receiving the most popular votes from all 50 states (and DC) would get all the 270+ electoral votes of the enacting states.

    The bill has passed 33 state legislative chambers in 22 rural, small, medium, large, red, blue, and purple states with 250 electoral votes. The bill has been enacted by 11 jurisdictions with 165 electoral votes – 61% of the 270 necessary to go into effect.

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