I think it is self-evident that the bottomless corruption of the US political system is not accidental, but rather the predictable result of fundamental flaws in the electoral system. Flaws that seem designed to produce the worst leaders possible.

In my opinion, progressives by and large have been incredibly naive with respect to this problem. People work hard within the system to produce progressive change, only to be denied the transformative change they seek time and again. In 1992 and in 2008, presidents got elected that ran at least partially on progressive populist ideas, but the progressive electoral victories did not translate into progressive policy changes. The status quo was preserved- not an accident when you are working with an electoral system that is designed to preserve the status quo.

That’s why fundamental electoral reform needs to become a cornerstone of progressive politics, or we will never get anywhere. To establish a healthy democracy,  we need a constitutional amendment. The following is my very modest proposal of what might be in such an amendment.

A Proposed Democracy Amendment to the US Constitution.

1. Participation in the political process.

a. All citizens who are at least 16 years of age have the inalienable right to vote in all public elections, on the day of the election, or by mail in the  eight weeks leading up to the election, provided that their current place of residence makes them eligible. This right shall not be abridged for any reason, including, but not limited to, prior criminal  conviction, failure to appear on a list of registered voters or temporary inability to provide legally required identification.

b. All citizens of voting age have the inalienable right to have their vote in a public election counted correctly, in a fully public, transparent and verifiable process.

c. Only natural persons can vote in elections, be elected, donate money or give material aid to candidates or initiatives or petition public officials or representatives for a redress of grievances. Indirect forms of influencing electoral or policy outcomes, such as public advocacy, shall be limited to natural persons and non-profit entities. The term non-profit entities excludes entities whose funds are derived predominantly or solely from for-profit entities.

e. All qualifying candidates in a public election shall have access to scheduled public debates between candidates in that election and shall receive equal time in such debates.

f. The day of an election shall be a public holiday in its jurisdiction.

2. Election Integrity

a. It shall be a felony for anyone, including public officials, to attempt to prevent citizens from voting by means including, but not limited to, distributing information that misleads voters about times, locations and legal requirements and ramifications of exercising the right to vote, creating or failing to prevent conditions at polling locations that cause long waits, shutting down or failing to open sufficient polling locations to ensure reasonably short travel times to polling locations, or  interfering with the orderly and public counting or recounting of votes.

b. All public elections shall be conducted using paper ballots. Ballots shall be publicly counted, and be kept secure and available for later public recounts for fifty years.

c. Defective ballots shall be counted if the intent of the voter is clearly discernible.

d. All public elections shall be held in public buildings.

3. Methods of Campaign Funding.

a. All qualifying candidates and ballot initiatives in a public election shall receive public funds sufficient to run a competitive campaign. To qualify to run, they must receive the valid signatures of at least 5 percent of eligible voters, except for presidential candidates who must receive the valid signatures of at least five percent of eligible voters in a single state.

b. Media outlets that regularly reach at least five percent of eligible voters for a qualifying candidate or ballot initiative shall publish a reasonable number of advertisements for those candidates or ballot initiatives free of charge, in the six months leading to the election.

c. Private contributions to political candidates or causes shall not exceed one-thousand times the hourly minimum wage in their total sum per voter and calendar year.

4. The electoral system.

a. The electoral college is hereby abolished.

b. All single-winner elections shall be decided by an approval voting system without primaries, wherein every voter marks all candidates either “approve” or “disapprove”. The candidate who receives the highest number of approvals, and has been approved by at least one-half of all participating voters, shall be the winner of the election.

c. If no candidate for legislative office receives the approval of at least one-half of participating voters, the seat shall remain vacant for one year and a new election shall be held after one year.

d. If no candidate for executive office receives the approval of at least one-half of the participating voters, the candidate with the highest number of approval shall be deemed elected to the office, but only for a duration of one year.

e. Every member of the House of Representatives shall represent 30,000 citizens. House districts must be drawn by non-partisan commissions, be contiguous and be designed to maximize competitiveness of seats.

f. The United States Senate shall have 500 members. It shall be elected in a national proportional election every four years. In Senate elections, voters shall cast their votes for a political party and simultaneously mark all Senate candidates of that party “approve” or “disapprove”. Each party shall receive a number of Senate seats proportional to the number of nationally received votes, and these seats shall be filled with candidates of that party in descending order of approval. To appear on a party list, candidates for the Senate must collect the signatures of at least ten percent of voters of their state who are registered for that party, or have previously appeared on the same party’s Senate list.

5. Integrity of the Political System.

a. All bills and resolutions except constitutional amendments in all legislative assemblies shall require no more than a simple majority of the yes votes of all members to pass. No law or state constitutional amendment shall be valid that requires the approval of more than a simple majority to pass certain types of laws.

b. No amendments on unrelated subject matters may be attached to bills or resolutions in any legislative assembly.

c. Elected public officials shall not have any income other than that of their public office, nor shall they receive total income or remuneration of any kind after leaving public office that that exceeds the salary of their former office in value in each calendar year, for a period of twenty years.

d. The right of the public to peacefully question, criticize, express opposition to and hold public officials accountable shall not be infringed for any reason, including, but not limited to, needs of security. Citizens who exercise said right may not be deemed non-peaceful by law enforcement officers  merely due to their physical proximity to the non-peaceful conduct of others.

Government shall not keep records of critics or protesters, nor shall anyone be subject to increased, expanded or enhanced security screenings, procedures or background checks, or prevented from accessing public grounds due to past, present or intended exercise of constitutionally protected free speech.

It shall be a felony for on duty law enforcement officers to join peaceful groups of citizens engaged in the preparation or exercise of constitutionally protected free speech under false pretenses or without identifying themselves clearly as on duty law enforcement officers.

6. The role of a education and information in a healthy democracy.

Only an educated and well-informed citizenry can exercise the right to vote responsibly. In light of that self-evident fact,

a. Every person shall have the right to receive a high quality education free of charge, in a subject freely chosen from a wide variety of scientific and social subject matters.

b. Every taxpayer shall have the right to designate an organization that produces or supports original, investigative journalism the beneficiary of up to five percent of total taxes paid by that taxpayer, up to a maximum amount of one-hundred times the hourly minimum wage, per taxpayer and per year.

c. Publications that are publicly supported under section b. shall not accept paid advertisements or private donations.

Jupiter Jones

Jupiter Jones

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