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?