The People before the Parties
This proposal was developed by the Politics and Electoral Reform group at Occupy Wall Street between September and November 2011. It contains input from well over 100 individuals who attended group meetings in Liberty Plaza as well as many others from across the country who influenced the proposal through online discussions. The document was produced through a collaborative writing process. It was approved by the Politics and Electoral Reform group with full consensus support on November 6, 2011.
People Before Parties: Recommendations for Electoral Reform
A proposal of the Politics and Electoral Reform working group at Occupy Wall Street
Free and fair elections inspire good citizenship and public service. They engage the intelligence, good will, and real interests of the people. Free and fair elections ensure that citizens can control their own political destiny, and make genuine contributions to society through sound self-government. Free and fair elections can remedy myriad ills and counteract the abuses of a government that has come to prey upon the resources and spirit of citizens.
The centralization of political power in the hands of two narrow factions at all levels of government is neither democratic nor republican. No party system whatsoever is mandated by the U.S. Constitution. Today, government of the people, by the people and for the people has been transformed into government of the people, by the parties, for the corporations.
Faced with a choice between a Republican and a Democrat, when there is any choice, the majority of Americans no longer vote in the majority of elections. The current party system has brought about a crisis of democracy.
Bipolar party government cannot account for the diverse, multipolar body of the US electorate. The party system has led to a crisis of representation.
The states are the laboratories of democracy. We urge states, localities, and General Assemblies nationwide to begin a series of bold new experiments in democratic self-government to open our political system to the 99% who go unrepresented by party factions.
We call for experimentation with reforms to create a level playing field for all voters and for all candidates for elected office – whatever their party affiliation or lack thereof may be –, and to curtail the influence of corporations and entrenched political factions over our system of government.
We recommend experimentation with (in no particular order):
• 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 reform. Voters should choose their representatives; lawmakers should not choose their own voters.
• 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. (Disagree; the other reforms will address the unfair advantage of incumbents. The right way is not to balance the unfair advantage with an unfair disadvantage.)
• 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.
• 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. (Rewrite? ALL ballots should be on paper; the choice is hand-counted or transparent machine-counted.)
• Weekend or holiday voting. Voting should be encouraged not discouraged.
• Fusion voting. If they so desire, 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.
This list is not exhaustive. We urge assemblies nationwide to deliberate on reforms that can open our system of government to the people and put people before parties. We urge states and localities to implement reforms.