Wednesday, December 31, 2014

New Year's Resolution- More Democracy

As we head into 2015, with a new state legislative session and Congress on the horizon, many of the same questions that we have been blogging about for the past few years remain. Namely, will our state and nation move in the direction of improving and increasing Democracy, or will they continue the slide evidenced by voter apathy and a government that fails to represent its citizenry?

The problems seem clear enough- the last election saw the lowest voter turnout since the Second World War (not the War to end all War- the one after that!). The other glaring problem with our democracy is the role of money in our elections. According to Politico, the 100 largest donors in 2014 gave almost as much as the 4.25 million people who gave $200 or less- a glaring disproportionality.

Fortunately, the solutions are equally clear.

Amend the Constitution to clarify that money is not speech and corporations are not people, as our friends at Move To Amend are working to accomplish. This would clear the way for states and governments to regulate campaign giving and spending and enact meaningful public campaign financing.

Eliminate gerrymandered districts by creating independent redistricting boards that consider demographics, competition, and fairness instead of partisan gain when drawing new district maps. FairVote has already predicted the results of the 2016 Congressional races without even knowing the candidates, based on the political makeup of each district, and if previous results are a fair indication, they will be correct in over 95% of these predictions.

Give voters more choices on Election Day by eliminating onerous ballot access restrictions for minor party and independent candidates. (In New Mexico, we have had a mere 34 non-major party candidates in the last seven election cycles).

Reshape the legislature into a unicameral body and extend the legislative sessions so that our government can actually address the major problems facing our state in a deliberative manner.

Adopt a system of universal voter registration, so no qualified voter is disenfranchised on Election Day.

Move towards a system of proportional representation for legislative bodies and Ranked Choice Voting for single seats, so our election outcomes accurately reflect the will of the voters, as most every other nation that calls itself a democracy already does.

There is plenty to do in 2015, so I recommend we all make a "Democracy Diet" part of our New Year's Resolution. Pledge to spend at least an hour a week contacting policymakers, writing letters to the media, and talking with neighbors and strangers about fixing our Democracy. If you need info, advice, or support, please contact us or one of the organizations mentioned above about what you can do to be engaged.

Happy New Year!

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