rn: Electoral Reform (1 step on the road)


Jan Slakov

NOTE: There are 3 messages in this posting (one pertaining to Canada).

Date: Sun, 21 Jan 2001 17:30:32 -0800
From: Randy Schutt <•••@••.•••>
Subject: Voters' Bill of Rights

Dear friends,
As the last election made painfully clear, many people are not 
allowed to vote and the votes of many people are ignored. To address 
this, the second annual Progressive Dialogue conference held in 
Washington, DC in December of 2000 launched a Pro-Democracy Campaign 
and came up with a ten point platform dubbed a Voters' Bill of 
Rights: <http://ippn.org/BofR.htm>

The Campaign has now been endorsed by 83 progressive organizations:

The Voters' Bill of Rights calls for:
1. Strict Enforcement and Extension of the Voting Rights Act
2. Abolition of the Electoral College
3. Clean Money Elections
4. Instant Runoff Voting
5. Proportional Representation
6. Voting  Rights for Former Prisoners
7. Make Voting Easier and More Reliable
8. Easier Access to the Ballot, the Media and Debates for Candidates
9. Create Independent and Non-Partisan Election Administration Bodies
10. Statehood for District of Columbia
(Full details can be viewed at: http://ippn.org/BofR.htm)

Please spread the word and support this campaign. You can get more 
details here:

Randy Schutt
P.O. Box 60922, Palo Alto, CA 94306
Date: Sat, 03 Jun 2000 22:28:01 -0600
From: "David J. Parker" <•••@••.•••>
Subject: Motion 155 toward Prorportional Representation

June 3, 2000
                                                 David J. Parker.  PEng
                                                 Alberta Green Party
                                                 Box 133, Station M
                                                 Calgary,  T2P 2H6

Dear Prime Minister,
         I wish to place the support and enthusiastic endorsement of our 
Party behind motion M-155 submitted by Lorne Nystom MP (Regina-Qu'Appelle). 
Proportional Representation is an electoral objective whose time has come. 
The people of Canada desire and deserve a representative democracy similar 
to the vast majority of other democracies in the world.

         We strongly encourage the time table of the motion which includes:
a.      A report on Proportional Representation prepared by an all-party 
committee after extensive public hearings.
b.      A referendum to be held on this issue where the question shall be 
whether electors favour replacing the present system with a system proposed 
by the committee as concurred in by the house.
c.      The referendum may be held either before or at the same time as the 
next general election.
The existing FPTP system is fundamentally undemocratic, as even the UK 
Government has admitted. Efforts are afoot to change the British system 
which, as you know, was the model for our own.
1.      FPTP has the propensity to satisfy only a minority of the 
electorate since elected governments are most frequently chosen by fewer 
that half the eligible voters.
2.      In some notable cases provincial governments hold power after 
receiving less votes that their opposition colleagues (B.C and Quebec).
3.      In the case of Alberta, the ruling PC party have an overwhelming 
majority of seats after being endorsed by a mere 51% of the electorate and 
proceed to enact legislation contrary to the wishes of that electorate, 
because they can (Bill 11).
4.      Voting habits are affected such as to cause the electorate to vote 
against a party rather than for the party they wish to be in power.
5.      Coalitions, which more closely reflect the wishes of the 
electorate, as well as to temper the excesses of the ruling party, seldom 
6.      Large minorities of the voting public receive no representation 
(Federal Tories and NDP).
7.      Regional parties achieve disproportionate shares of power (Block 
Quebecquois and Reform) with objectives contrary to the majority of Canadians.
8.      Coalitions are, by definition, inherently cooperative and would 
satisfy the electorate much more than the adversarial system currently extant.
9.      Many different models of PR exist and, as such, a choice of system 
would not be fraught with too much difficulty or insecurity.
10.     Parties such as ours, which reflect the views of a large and 
growing sector of society, receive few votes as a result of the "strategic 
voting" caused by FPTP. Green parties all over the world are affecting 
policy toward a more sustainable future for humanity. Not so in Canada.

No electoral system is perfect but this should not be an excuse against 
moving toward a better, fairer and more democratic one.  We anxiously await 
acceptance and implementation of motion M-155.

                                                 Yours Sincerely,

c.c.    Reform Party
         Progressive Conservative Party
         New Democratic Party
         Green Party of Canada
From: "Marty Jezer" <•••@••.•••>
To: "Marty Jezer" <•••@••.•••>
Subject: Friday's Commentary: McCain-Feingold, Good but not Good Enough
Date: Thu, 25 Jan 2001 23:16:54 -0500

>From the Brattleboro (VT) Reformer, 1/26/2001
As always, feel free to re-post this commentary on the internet. Commercial
websites should contact me). If you wish to stop receiving this commentary,
just let me know by reply e-mail.

Good, but not Good Enough
By Marty Jezer

John McCain has kept his promise to introduce legislation for campaign
finance reform. The bipartisan McCain-Feingold bill (Democratic Senator
Russell Feingold of Wisconsin is the co-sponsor) is matched in the House of
Representatives by a bill sponsored by Democrat Martin Meehan of
Massachusetts and Republican Christopher Shays of Connecticut. A past
version has passed in the House and had majority support in the Senate. It
was defeated there by a Senate filibuster organized by Republican leaders. 

This year the bill has a new co-sponsor. Republican Senator Thad Cochran of
Mississippi has broken with his fellow Mississippian, Senate leader Trent
Lott, to endorse the bill. Cochran claims to have always been a supporter of
campaign finance reform. As a freshman Representative in 1972, he voted for
public financing of congressional elections. When he was elected to the
Senate in 1978, he was told by the Republican leadership to put his reform
instincts behind him. In an interview with USA Today he recalled them
telling him, "Thad, when you come over here, forget the Anderson bill. We
don't need that." But the soft money that swamped the political process in
the recent election campaign was so offensive, he said, that he decided to
oppose the leadership and come out for reform. 

With Cochran and a few other Republicans on board, McCain and Feingold seem
to have enough votes to stop a right-wing filibuster. Alas, the
McCain-Feingold bill is a limited reform with obvious loopholes. Even if
passed without amendments, it will not break the hold that special interests
have over American politics. It's worth supporting, however, as a symbolic
expression of the popular will and as a first small step towards
comprehensive reform. 

As introduced, McCain-Feingold will ban soft money from federal elections.
Under current campaign finance law, individuals and political action
committees are allowed to contribute limited amounts of ("hard") money to
candidates of their choice. Soft money was introduced in order to give
political parties resources to fund party-building activities. There is
nothing wrong with that idea, but the Federal Election Commission has
interpreted it to allow wealthy individuals, corporations and labor unions
to invest hundreds of millions of dollars ($487.6 million in the last
election) in shrill TV attack ads that have drowned out more dispassionate
political discussion.

McCain-Feingold will ban soft money. But, as Feingold has acknowledged,
special interests will likely find other means of maintaining their
financial stranglehold on the political process. In an interview in American
Prospect http://www.prospect.org, Feingold suggested that big spenders will
pour money into "independent expenditures," special interest ads that are
not coordinated with candidates or parties, and so exist outside the
campaign finance regulations. 

Soft money and other large campaign contributions give big donors privileged
access to government officials. It's a form of bribery that enables their
lobbyists to custom-craft legislation for subsidies, contracts, tax
write-offs, and environmental exemptions. Big money donors also influence
the outcomes of elections. More than 90% of the winners of most recent
elections had more money to spend than the candidates they defeated. As a
further pay-off for their election investments, special interests are able
to determine what issues are raised and how they are presented. Polls
indicate that most Americans know this and therefore support reform of the

McCain-Feingold includes a second initiative, introduced by two Republicans,
Jim Jeffords of Vermont and Olympia Snowe of Maine, which would prohibit
special interests from broadcasting their self-serving attack ads just prior
to an election. This would be a good first step in encouraging political
discussion that isn't shaped by special interest money. A more comprehensive
bill would also provide candidates with equal access to the publicly owned

The GOP leadership will try and destroy McCain-Feingold with killer
amendments. Even if these amendments fail, George W. Bush has the power to
veto it. Here are some of ways that the GOP leadership will use to destroy

First, they will try and raise the contribution limits on the "hard money"
that PACs and individuals can legally give to candidates. Allowing more
special interest money into the system would neutralize the effect of the
soft money prohibition. 

More dangerous is the Paycheck Protection Act, favored by Bush, which would
require labor unions to obtain explicit permission from their members for
all electoral activities. By effectively discouraging campaign contributions
by labor unions, this bill would effectively legalize corporate control of
the American government. To attempt to balance this, some legislators have
proposed that corporations get the permission of their stockholders in order
to give political contributions. This is a farce. Labor unions operate on
the principle of one-person, one vote. Corporations operate on the principle
of one share, one vote. Financial institutions and other corporate
shareholders would retain all the power. 

Opponents of McCain-Feingold will also hide behind the constitutional
arguments advanced by the American Civil Liberties Union. The ACLU is a
wonderful organization but in insisting that "money is speech," the ACLU
endorses giving TV ad time to those who have money while silencing those who
don't). Many in the ACLU disagree with their leadership on this issue. "I
believe the national ACLU's position on campaign finance reform is wrong on
constitutional and policy grounds," Burt Neuborne, a former National Legal
Director of the ACLU, has stated. "Opponents of reform should no longer be
permitted to hide behind a constitutional smokescreen." 

The way to maintain the integrity of McCain-Feingold is to ban soft money
without any compromise. The way to comprehensively deal with the corrupting
influence that special interest money has over our political system is to
pass the Clean Money, Clean Elections Reform that includes full public
financing. Clean Money legislation has already passed in Maine,
Massachusetts, Vermont, and in McCain's own state of Arizona. 

McCain-Feingold is a small first step towards correcting a major injustice
in the way we conduct elections. Even if there was no harassment of minority
voters and all votes were accurately counted, our system would still be
flawed. Ballots, not dollars, should be the only currency of a democratic


Marty Jezer is author of Stuttering: A Life Bound Up in Words; biographies
of Abbie Hoffman and Rachel Carson, and The Dark Ages: Life in the USA,
1945-1960. He lives in Brattleboro, Vermont and welcomes comments at

Copyright (c) 2001 by Marty Jezer