More than half of all voting-age Americans do not vote. If we are to prevent the further withering of our democracy and the entrenchment of plutocracy, we must take steps to spur dramatically enhanced voter participation.
Here are some steps we should take to revitalize our democracy:
- End legalized bribery and support publicly financed campaigns.
- Year after year, big business invests in politicians and political parties by giving them millions of dollars, and then, those businesses get corporate welfare and tax breaks worth billions of dollars. This must end.
The biggest single obstacle to honest, just government action – government of, by and for the people – is the corruption of our election campaigns by special interest money. No one should have to sell out to big business in order to run a competitive campaign.
Political campaigns should be publicly financed, just like public libraries, parks and schools.
- Take back the airwaves and provide free time for ballot-qualified candidates.
- The airwaves belong to the people, not the media corporations. We let them use the airwaves for radio and television broadcasting free of charge year after year, and then they collect hundreds of millions of dollars from political candidates paying for ads.
There should be some free time on radio and television for all ballot-qualified candidates during election seasons.
- Include everyone in elections by adopting same day voter registration.
- Just when most people get excited about politics, in the few weeks before the election, it is too late to register to vote in most states. Millions of people who want to vote are turned away from the polls, simply because they didn’t register a month ahead of time. We need election-day voter registration in all 50 states, not just the six states that use it now. Jesse Ventura, governor of Minnesota says he wouldn’t have won without same-day registration.
- Give voters the information they want by opening the presidential debates.
- The presidential debates are controlled by the corporate-funded, Democrat- and Republican-controlled Commission on Presidential Debates, which has set arbitrary, unfair rules to exclude third-party candidates and the issues they represent from the televised debates.
We must open the debates to legitimate third-party candidates who are on the ballot in enough states to actually win the election and who meet a minimal threshold of demonstrated support, or those whom a majority of Americans want to see in the debates. Polls show that 64percent of Americans wanted to see a four-way presidential debate this year.
- Open up the two-party system by adopting proportional representation.
- The two major parties, thanks to their addiction to special interest money, are converging into one corporate party with two heads. This leaves voters who are longing for alternatives without any significant choice on the ballot.
It is time to stop saying that we are going to surrender to a winner-take-all political system. We need a discussion about proportional representation, which gives electoral seats to those winning substantial vote counts that are short of a plurality. With proportional representation, more votes count, there is greater voter turnout and more citizen interests can participate in government.
- Gauge public opinion at the polls by initiating a national non-binding advisory referendum.
- We should put forth non-binding referenda on salient national issues of the day to be voted on during Election Day.
- Make every vote count by allowing instant runoff voting.
- To win a presidential election, a candidate does not need a majority of votes, just a plurality. President Clinton, for instance, earned less than 50 percent of the vote. We should use the Australian system of Instant Runoff to ensure that the election winner earns a majority of votes. Voters get to rank the candidates: 1, 2, 3; if no candidate gets a majority of the votes in the first count, the second choices are then counted until one candidate gets a majority. This liberates voters to choose their favorite candidate, and ignore the cries of “wasted votes” and “spoilers.”
- When there is no one worth your vote, you should have a binding none-of-the-above option.*In so many elections, there is only one major-party name on the ballot, or a choice between two candidates with ew significant differences and little new to offer voters.
Voters should be able to reject the candidates put forth by choosing none-of-the-Above, and force a new election with new candidates. This binding measure would give voters an escape hatch out of an unsatisfactory election and give the disaffected a chance to shake things up.
Facilitating greater citizen participation can only strengthen our democracy.