Occupy Wall Street Politics and Electoral Reform Group Seeking Input

Damon Eris at Third Party Independent:

Since the Occupy Wall Street protests began in downtown Manhattan on September 17th, I have noted on a number of occasions that there is an inspiring amount of independent and third party activity and organizing taking place at the demonstrations.  Members of the Green, Libertarian, Socialist and Reform parties, among others, have been involved in the movement from the very beginning, in addition to legions of Independents. 

Much of the organizing work being accomplished at Occupy Wall Street is being done within autonomous working groups and caucuses.  There are working groups devoted to everything from media and internet to outreach, direct action and reform.  There are a number of groups, of which I’m aware, that should be of special interest to independents, third party advocates and opponents of the two-party state.  Over the next couple days, I’m going to provide some info on these various groups and relay portions of the documents and proposals they have been working on, all of which can be found through the New York City General Assembly’s website for Occupy Wall Street.

Today, the focus will be the Politics and Electoral Reform group – in which I have been active for a number of weeks.  The group is working on a proposal recommending electoral reforms that could be implemented by states and localities to level the playing field for those who have been marginalized, and whose interests are not represented, by the Republican-Democrat two-party state. Numerous reforms are being considered by the group, which is collaborating on a working draft document for the proposal.  Here is an excerpt from the section of the document specifically devoted to the recommendations for reform:

Alternative voting methods. Our voting systems should promote honest participatory democracy.  There are alternatives to plurality voting, such as instant runoff voting, 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 voters.

Smaller and more localized districts.  Expansion of 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. There are alternatives.

Expansion of franchise. Those who are denied of the right to vote because they have, for example, served time in prison, should be re-enfranchised.

Term limits. Election to public office is not a lifetime appointment. Term limits should be imposed by law or by the people at the ballot box.

Ballot access reform. All should be equal before the law regardless of party affiliation or lack thereof.  Ballot access laws that favor the major parties and discriminate against independent and third party candidates should be repealed and replaced with fair and reasonable alternatives. The default state of the ballot should be open.

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

Initiatives and referenda. The people retain the right to originate ballot initiatives and referenda.

Vote counting. The reintroduction of hand counted, paper ballots, or the introduction of significant controls to protect against the rigging of electronic voting machines, which are produced, operated and serviced by corporations with significant ties to powerful political factions.

Weekend or holiday voting. Voting should be encouraged not discouraged.

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

Campaign finance. Publicly funded election campaigns, or matching fund systems that allow candidates who refuse to accept corporate donations to compete on a level playing field with candidates who are heavily financed by corporate interests.

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

(Note: the proposal is a living document, and any of the above could and probably will be changed by the group at some point.)  I’m relaying this excerpt because many readers here at Politea have thought long and hard about a lot of these issues, and could provide some interesting suggestions that could be taken up by the group.  So what say you, folks?  What do you think of the recommendations as they stand?  Should any be amended? or dropped? or edited?  Are there any important potential reforms that are missing from the list?

Cross-posted at Politea.

12 thoughts on “Occupy Wall Street Politics and Electoral Reform Group Seeking Input

  1. Us

    Fusion voting is not a good reform when you’re striving for proportional representation, because each name should appear on the ballot only one time or else the purity of the mathematics becomes disrupted.

  2. Dale Sheldon-Hess

    @Us: There are non-party based PR methods, and for these, fusion would not be a mathematical problem.

    (That said, I don’t see what benefit fusion would have under any PR method… but this is more a list of possible reforms than it is any sort of package deal.)

  3. pete healey

    Direct popular election of the president has become an issue by virtue of the National Popular Vote campaign conducted by the Center for Voting and Democracy. Some sort of stand on this issue would be useful, I think.
    And these sorts of discussions always get sidetracked into campaign finance reform as a panacea because the “liberals” think it’s a good issue for bashing “conservatives”. I happen to think campaign finance reform is a dead end road and alternative voting methods, including and especiall PR, can blunt the power of money in elections sufficiently without public campaign financing.

  4. Rain

    Is their a better voting system for proportional representation than the Sainte-Lague parliament seat distribution using ranked choice voting?

  5. pete healey

    Rain, the short answer is yes. The long answer is there are lots of methods that don’t include ranked choice voting or Sainte-Lague (spelling?).

  6. Rain

    Pete, what’s a better system? Nine countries use the Sainte-Lague, but not necessarily with ranked choice voting because Wikipedia doesn’t actually specify.

    Here’s what Wikipedia said:

    The Sainte-Laguë method is used in New Zealand, Norway, Sweden, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Latvia, Kosovo, Denmark (for the 40 supplementary seats in the national parliament), and Germany (on federal level for the Bundestag, on state level for the legislatures of Baden-Württemberg, Hamburg, Bremen, North Rhine-Westphalia and Rhineland-Palatinate). It was also used in Bolivia in 1993, in Poland in 2001, and in the elections to the Palestinian Legislative Council in 2006. A variant of this method, the modified Sainte-Laguë method, was used to allocate the proportional representation (PR) seats in the Constituent Assembly poll of Nepal in 2008. It has been proposed by the Green Party in Ireland as a reform for use in Dáil Éireann elections,[1] and by the United Kingdom Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition government in 2011 as the method for calculating the distribution of seats in elections to its upper house.[2]

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sainte-Lagu%C3%AB_method

  7. reader

    My advice is that Occupy Wall Street should focus on reforming the excesses of finance capital; and leave the electoral reform to other movements.

  8. MiddleClassMom

    There will be no political reform unless we can get an independent candidate to run and do well. That will get us political clout and legitimize the movement – and give us a way to get our platform out and recruit others… Let the Bush tax cuts expire – ALL OF THEM – especially the one that allows WALLSTREET to pay only 15% tax rate on stock dividends and earnings – I have to work a 2nd job to make ends meet and pay a higher tax rate than WallStreet pays on their stock-options? Don’t go after “overhauling” Medicare by trying to privatize it – both DEMs and REPUBs – we’re watching, you can’t pull this off on the sly – leave Medicare alone, that would be your last mistake – let’s put Congress into the Medicare system – that should protect it. Those military cuts better be to suppliers and NOT CUTS to our troops who are giving their lives so these crooked politicians can violate laws and common decency. Leave the legal pot growers in California alone – if you’re going to let CitiGroup settle 3 times for the same fraud charges and NOT charge anyone with a crime (and so many other large banks and corporations – the list is so long it would make you sick), and settle for such a small amount of money that your own Judge berates you and dismisses the settlement as too small – why are you going after small people in CA who are abiding by their state law? What – you only uphold the laws that hurt little poor people, but let the rich go unpunished over and over and over again? Both the Democrats and the Republicans are guilty of this corruption – we need a viable independent party for the 99%!

  9. Rick louden

    Hello all,
    What do we need representative for? Don’t we have computers, smartphones and the Internet? Why can’t we vote our own minds?
    This is a plea for everyone to sign my petition at the White House. It calls for the elimination of the house of representatives and half of the senate. What do we need representatives for anymore? Washington is not two months journey away now, it is two minutes. Why not take the money spent on representatives, their offices, their staffs, their travel expenses, electricity, communication, their residences, (and lets not forget) their life time pay and benefit packages and spend it on computers and limited free access to the internet for all voting age citizens to vote their own minds. It could be monitored by three outside sources like Price Waterhouse super computers, the un or world court department that already watchdogs voting around the world, and a third outside super computer monitoring system. These could work to make sure our votes are our votes. This would truely be the first real government “for the people” and “by the people.” The 50 senators (one from each state) are still, in my mind, needed to make us flexible as there may be times when an emergency vote must be made. We could always undo it later. The idea is that for every bill presented (no more than a few per week) one senator would make a video (no longer than one hour) for and another against it. The President could also make a video stating his views on the bill. After a citizen views all three videos, they can vote on it personally or add a comment or both. This would totally eliminate: big money influence, pork barrel politics, lobbyists, special interests, and partisan politics. I believe that this is the wave of the future and will happen somewhere sometime. Why not here? Why not now? If you agree please go to the link below and sign the petition calling for this change in government. You will have to create an account at the white house web site, log in, log off then use the link below.

    http://wh.gov/8eL

    I believe that this is the only way we will ever reclaim our country from big money and power brokers. It would eliminate stupid wars that the people don’t want, homelessnes, starvation in America, big business getting away with not cleaning up the alaskan oil spill (all these years later), bank bail outs, rampant corruption, and many other things that the old system just can’t get done. Thanks to computers and the internet we could truly have a democratic society that is “for the people” and “by the people.”

    Thank you for your time to read this and for signing my petition if you chose to do so.

    Rick Louden

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