Greens want NY Gov. Cuomo to act on ethics before budget

A press release from the New York State Green Party, via the Wonkster:

Hawkins, Green Party, Urges Cuomo to Include Public Campaign Finance Reform and Proportional Representation as Part of Ethics Reform Push Howie Hawkins, the former Green Party candidate for Governor, urged Governor-elect Andrew Cuomo to make Public Campaign Financing and Proportional Representation the centerpieces of a broad ethics reform package that should be adopted during the first weeks of the legislative session.

“We need Public Campaign Financing to end the pay-to-play culture that dominates the State Capitol, as witnessed by the ongoing scandals with the State Comptroller’s office and pension funds.  Now is the time to finally stop the sale of lawmakers to the highest bidder. And while we strongly support an independent Nonpartisan Redistricting Commission to end the partisan gerrymandering of legislative districts, we want that commission charged with drawing up multi-member districts to implement  Proportional Representation, which is the electoral system in almost every democracy on this planet,” said Hawkins.

The Green Party will hold its first statewide meeting this weekend since having re-established their ballot line after Hawkins and Gloria Mattera received more than 50,000 votes for Governor and Lt. Governor. Hawkins said that Cuomo should push the Legislature to enact sweeping reforms before he releases his state budget at the end of January.

“Far too many state lawmakers see former Sen. Joe Bruno as their role model rather than as a disgraced convicted felon. State lawmakers view their positions as their ticket into the inner circle of the ruling elite, where one does favors for your friends so they will do favors for you. They use the Capitol as their personal ATM, doing favors for their campaign contributors while looking for ways to enrich themselves,” noted Hawkins.

The Green Party supports proportional representation for legislative bodies in order to fully represent  the diversity of political views among the voters. Candidates of the various parties would be seated in the legislature in proportion to the percentage of the vote each party receives.

“The single-member-district, winner-take-all system now in place entrenches a two-party system of one-party districts that over-represent the plurality and completely exclude all political minorities in every district. Very few of these districts are competitive. Most are controlled by the majority party.  Votes for minority parties are seen as pointless and turnout is low. Under proportional representation, every vote counts toward electing representatives one favors and turnout is high,” Hawkins said.

For executive branch elections such as governor and attorney general, the Green Party supports Instant Runoff Voting (IRV) where voters would rank candidates in order of preference, and a candidate would have to have a majority rather than a mere plurality to be elected. If no candidate had a majority on the first round, the lowest ranked candidate would be eliminated and their votes re-allocated to the voter’s second choice. This process would continue until one candidate had a majority. IRV is used for elections in many US cities, including San Francisco and Oakland, California; Mineapolis and St. Paul, Minnesota; Memphis, Tennessee; and Portland, Maine.

The Greens support a system of Public Campaign Financing that is voluntary in order to comply with the 1976 US Supreme Court decision in Buckley v. Valeo, which struck down mandatory spending limits by candidates as an unconstitutional restriction on free speech, but also specifically affirmed that voluntary public campaign financing is permissible.

The Greens favor the Clean Money, Clean Elections model of full public campaign financing over matching funds systems like the presidential primaries and the New York City elections. The Clean Money model provides funding that is adequate to reach the voters of an election with print and broadcast media. Candidates qualify for public funding by collecting a reasonable number of small donations and signatures to demonstrate support and trigger public funds for the election campaign, helping to level the playing field. If a publicly financed candidate is outspent by a privately funded opponent, a matching grant is provided to the publicly funded candidate, up to a limit. Extra funding also goes to the publicly financed candidate if there is independent spending against a candidate by an outside group or individual, up to a limit. The Greens support a public campaign financing law that treats major party, minor party, and independent candidates equally with respect to qualifying requirements.”

12 thoughts on “Greens want NY Gov. Cuomo to act on ethics before budget

  1. pete healey

    Hawkins needs to reread his own party’s platform before making any further public comments about proportional representation. The party’s platform calls, on page 34, a mixed-member proportional system (similar to the German model) but here he calls for multi-member districts, which is not part of the mixed-member system. Besides, it will require constitutional changes, and not just a “commission called by the Governor”, to enact systemic election reforms like this in New York.
    The Greens need to heed my advice to them early last year and call for a referendum on a constitutional convention. It’s our only real shot at reform. If we leave it up to the powers-that-be we’ll get what they always give us.

  2. Carey Campbell

    Thanks for the story. Thank you Mr. Pete Healey for your post, and encouragement of the Green Party.

    Just before reading this, was out to delicious dinner at the Sunflower veggie diner, with the former State Co-Chair of the Green Party of Virginia, Jeremy Good.

    Jeremy Good, also a former Independent Green Party candidate for Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, Chairman was discussing the Healy cited platform, and Howie Hawkins and the New York Green Party alternatives.

    All seem constructive, and interesting.

    We were in Germany two weekends ago. For the Green Party convention. Positive results of that system for participation are obvious. The Green Party (economic) Wonder, as news magazine Der Spiegel’s title page described the booming Green popularity, and growing green economy.

    The Green Party continues to grow in popularity, elected to leadership in local, state, and Federal government.

    Green Party videos from that visit.

  3. Wilfred Day

    Pete, the platform says “half the seats from the party vote” but does not specify whether this is closed-list, open-list, or flexible-list (voters can vote for the list as ranked or for one candidate on it), and does not specify whether the lists would be state-wide or regional (the state of Bavaria uses seven regions, some other states twelve or four). So the German system does let you combine multi-member districts with single-member districts.

  4. pete healey

    Wilfred, the platform specifically calls for half of the seats to be elected from “single-member districts”. The other half by party vote. It does say that, doesn’t it? And I can attest that this has been the party’s platform for at least ten years, and I don’t know how much longer.

  5. pete healey

    Since I know that “he said, she said” isn’t going to convince anyone of anything, here’s the actual text of the Green Party of New York State’s platform plank on PR (from page 34) :

    “Mixed Member Proportional Representation in a Unicameral State Legislature: Voters will vote
    once (by preferential ballot) for their district State Legislative Representative, and then again for the party of their choice. Half the seats will be elected from single-member districts, and half from the party vote. Seats are awarded in proportion to the party vote, with district seats elected counting toward the party?s total. This mixed member proportional system (used in Germany and New Zealand) combines the advantages of proportional representation — a fair share of representation to all groups — with the advantages of single-member district representatives, providing representation of and service to the districts? constituents. The unicameral legislature better represents the democratic will of the people. Our current bicameral legislature often results in the thwarting of the democratic will by institutional gridlock;”

  6. MMP James Ogle [Free Parliamentary]

    The problem with mixed member proportional (MMP) is that it screens out individuals. That’s the main reason why The USA Parliament uses pure proportional representation. It’s mathematically pure. You win .99% (or 1/101ths) of the votes plus one vote, and you get one of the 100 seats.

    When you use party lists alone (mixed member proportional, or MMP), you’ll have party bosses picking the names on who can be nominated, and who can’t, within each party.

    Party lists alone would allow party bosses nominating a slate of candidates, and nobody else get on the ballot within the party if they’re not chosen.

    While pure PR allows the party bosses to nominate, and those nominations get combined with outsider, individual candidates.

    An example may be that they’re from a rural area, and they don’t travel into the city so the party chairman don’t know their names?

    Make it equal access for all people, and just calibrate the number of signatures required, up or down in a supply and demand system for ballot access.

    If an outsider Green Party member wins say #77 out of 100, why NOT give them #77?

    A party list or single winner district will take that away.

    Please use pure proportional representation (PR), and not party lists when possible.

  7. Dale Sheldon-Hess

    @James Ogle:

    Pure? Nothing is pure.

    Don’t get me wrong: Proportional representation is a good idea. Just don’t delude yourself into thinking there’s any such thing as perfection.

    Personally, I find the prospect of ranking hundreds of candidates terrifying; which is one of the arguments for constituencies… but that makes the system “less pure,” and can quickly eradicate proportionality.

    I suspect that, since ordinal methods like score and approval voting have better single-member performance than ranking-based methods like IRV (STV’s single-member derivative), that ordinal proportional methods (like re-weighted range voting) might similarly lead to better results in proportional systems (i.e., be “purer,” from a certain point of view.)

    But I share your distaste for party-lists systems.

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