Thursday, December 16, 2004

2006 Ballot Initiatives for Election Reform

In 2004 the Republicans helped themselves by putting wedge-issue initiatives on ballots in a number of states: initiatives to ban gay marriage. This is an effective technique that Democrats should use.

Preparing for 2006 and 2008, we should begin now preparing language and positions to put election reform on the ballot. There are at least four different groups of reforms we should put on the ballot in each state.

1. "No one should have to wait in line to vote." Require that all voters be allowed to vote at any precinct in their county. Keep the polls open all week. Constitutionally mandate equal numbers of voting machines per person, regardless of location. Make the state pay for voting machines, not the counties -- so that poor areas are not disadvantaged.

2. "Get a Receipt." Fairness in Voting. Require voting machines to produce a paper record. To quote Howard Dean, "We need to try to get laws passed, by referendum if necessary, that say that no voting machines in a particular state or jurisdiction may be used unless they can be recounted by hand. Oregon has such a statute because Bill Bradbury (Oregon’s Secretary of State) got one passed in 2001."

3. Amend Ohio's constitution to provide nonpartisan supervision of the elections, removing the Secretary of State from the picture. And Florida's. And South Carolina's. And Wisconson's. And Pennsylvania's. And California's.

4. "Gerrymandering is wrong. It's politics as usual, and it has no place in our state." Gerrymandering is an unfair way for incumbents to use power to keep themselves in office. We need to put a stop to it.

Let me close by quoting Chris Bowers, who was writing about gerrymandering, but could have been talking about any of these reforms.

In 2006, we should put a series of constitutional amendments on state ballots to deny state legislatures the power to draw legislative and congressional maps. Instead, that power should be given to bi- and non-partisan commissions who should have the twin goals of insuring as many competitive elections as possible. This should even become a national Democratic position in the 2006 elections. It allows us to be ourselves, to seize the mantle of reform, and to call the right-wing power grab for what it really is. For an accountable government, end gerrymandering now!


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