Fix Our Broken System

Why A Third Party? | Fix Our Broken System | Level the Playing Field | Give Everyone A Voice | Other Electoral Issues

Why a Third Party?

For one thing, third parties can force progress on political issues. The American political system contained many vigorous and powerful third parties throughout the late 18th and 19th centuries. They forced the major political parties to pass significant anti-monopoly legislation back then, among other things.


The presence of viable alternatives keeps Americans involved in our democratic process.

These third parties did more than simply force the two major parties to adopt various policies. Third parties have always provided an "emotional bridge" for voters who are weary of supporting one major party but are not yet ready to vote for the other. George Wallace's 1968 third-party Presidential campaign drew support from traditional southern Democrats who weren't emotionally prepared to vote as Republicans.


Third parties can turn major parties out of power

The emotional bridge that a third party provides does more than simply lure voters to the polls; it can also help to turn one of the major parties out of power. Third parties performed this function in 1912, when Theodore Roosevelt's Progressive Party helped the Democrats wrest the White House from 20 years of unchallenged Republican supremacy.1


Fix Our Broken System

If voting didn’t matter, they wouldn’t try so hard to keep you from doing it!

Our political system features numerous anti-democratic policies that are specifically designed to prevent the most oppressed sectors of our society from participating in the electoral process. Students and young people, African-Americans, poor people, and the elderly all face tremendous barriers, such as voter ID laws, disenfranchisement of ex-offenders, and restrictive residency requirements, among others. All Americans are affected to some degree by these policies, and our entire society suffers as a result.

Although political change is never easy to achieve, the fact that most election law is made at the state and local level is an opportunity. Organizers can develop and promote solutions locally that are much harder to achieve on a Federal level.

Everyone deserves the opportunity to influence the governmental decisions that affect them. But the defining characteristics of modern politics in the United States are a corrupt campaign finance system that enables corporate and wealthy elites to purchase political outcomes; and an abundance of anti-democratic electoral, ballot access and debate rules designed to minimize participation and choice.

The failure to fulfill the promise of democracy leaves millions of people in our country too discouraged to vote, and others who chose to vote seemingly trapped among false and limited choices. A system that promotes full and fair representation would draw millions of people in the United States into civic life and could revive democracy in this country. - from the Green Party platform

 


Level the Playing Field

Ballot access reform

Ballots exist so that voters can choose who they want. But our ballot access laws actually TAKE AWAY voters’ choices

The U.S. has made some progress over the years in enfranchising citizens who had been denied the right to vote, such as women, blacks, and poor people. However, we have been going backward when it comes to ensuring that, once someone has a ballot in hand, they are able to use that right to vote for someone they actually support. There are a number of reasons for that. However, the most basic reason, and probably the one people are least aware of, is our ballot access laws.

In the 1896 general election, every single congressional district in the nation had at least two candidates on the ballot. The average district had 3.1 candidates on the ballot. Today many Congressional incumbents and candidates have no opposition at all, as do many down-ballot candidates. The modern-day voter's choice is even more limited in state legislative races. In 2012, about one-third of all state House and Senate candidates ran unopposed.

Our ballot access laws are so bad that even Democrats and Republicans can’t field candidates in quite a few races. However, these laws generally place far more restrictions on third parties.

Very few people are aware of the ballot access problem in the United States. Each state writes its own ballot access laws, even for federal office. Since there is no single standard for the whole nation, the public and even the media are ignorant about ballot access laws. By contrast, the campaign spending laws (for federal office) are uniform for the entire nation, leading to campaign spending laws for federal office being familiar to the press and most political activists.2

 

US Restricts The Ballot Far More Than Other Countries

The extreme disparity of the burdens placed on new parties vs. old, established parties in the US has no parallel in any other democratic nation in the world.

In Britain, for example, every candidate for Parliament faces the same ballot-access hurdle-- a simple filing fee. Candidates, regardless of their party affiliation, are granted two free mailings to all the voters, and every candidate gets a certain amount of free TV and radio time. There exists legal equality between all the parties. None of these things are true for US candidates.

Unfortunately, the US Supreme Court has a rather erratic record when it comes to decisions regarding the constitutionality of ballot-access laws. While the court has, on occasion, upheld challenges to restrictive requirements, it has at other times ignored these same decisions.3

 

Ballot Access Has Gotten Worse Over Time

Originally, there were no ballot access restrictions whatsoever in the U.S. The government had no control over who could run for office, or whom voters could vote for. This is because, before the 1890's, the government didn't print the ballots! Instead, parties printed them and distributed them, and any voter was free to make his own ballot or to alter a party- printed ballot.

As recently as 1930, no state required more than 14,680 signatures for a new political party to get on the ballot.

Today, some states require huge numbers of signatures and/or votes for third parties to gain ballot access, while other states are much more reasonable. The laws vary enormously, not only in difficulty, but in the types of requirements they include, from state to state. This creates tremendous challenges for a third party trying to present an alternative and build an organization across the whole country.

For example, the two states that require support from the greatest number of supporters to get on the ballot are North Carolina and Oklahoma.4 These states are far from the most populous states, and their barriers are all but impossible to overcome.

NC, with a population of about 9.8 million, requires almost 90,000 signatures. OK, with a population of about 3.8 million, requires more than 65,000. By contrast, New York, with almost 20 million people, and California, with 38 million, only require 50 to 60,000 supporters. NY requires 50,000 votes in the governor’s race; CA requires 58,000 registered members.

 

Do We Need Ballot Access Restrictions?

Defenders of the restrictions say that candidates who lack substantial support must be kept off the ballot. Yes, some requirements are needed to keep the ballots from being clogged with too many candidates, but the very slightest ballot access barriers are sufficient for this purpose. In 1984, Tennessee only required 25 signatures for an independent candidate to get on the ballot for any office, and no fee was required: there were no independent candidates for the U.S. House on the Tennessee ballot. It's a myth that there are dozens of people who want to run for office.


Open debates

Voters learn about candidates through various sources: advertising, editorial coverage in the media, endorsements and personal contact. Debates are considered an extremely important part of this mix. Debates are often the only chance voters have to compare candidates side by side, and see them respond to questions in real time. Popular incumbents try to avoid them. Challengers push for them. Voters generally want to see more of them, and want more candidates to be included.

For third party candidates, who typically don’t get much media coverage and can’t compete with the major parties’ ad budgets, debates are everything.

But the two major parties generally control debates. Not only do they do everything in their power to keep meaningful issues from being addressed, they try mightily, and usually succeed, in keeping third party candidates out.

 

Presidential Debates

NOTE: The Green Party is partnering with the Libertarian Party in two lawsuits against the Commission on Presidential Debates to force them to open the debates to third parties.

Control of the presidential debates has been a battleground for more than two decades. The role was filled by the nonpartisan League of Women Voters (LWV) in 1976, 1980 and 1984. In 1987, the LWV withdrew from debate sponsorship, in protest of the major party candidates attempting to dictate nearly every aspect of how the debates were conducted. On October 2, 1988, the pulled out of the debates, saying, “the demands of the two campaign organizations would perpetrate a fraud on the American voter.”

That same year, the two major political parties assumed control of organizing presidential debates through the Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD). The commission has been headed since its inception by former chairs of the Democratic National Committee and Republican National Committee. Their requirement that candidates get at least 15% in opinion polls to be invited effectively excludes almost all third party candidates. 5

Since the CPD seized control of the presidential debates in 1988, they have primarily been financed by corporate contributions. Multinational corporations with regulatory interests before Congress have donated millions of dollars in contributions to the CPD. Tobacco giant Phillip Morris was a major sponsor in 1992 and 1996. Anheuser-Busch has sponsored presidential debates in 1996, 2000, 2004, 2008 and 2012.

Under the auspices of the CPD, debate sites have become corporate carnivals, where sponsoring corporations vigorously market their products. In 1992, after providing some $250,000 in contributions to the CPD, cigarette manufacturer Philip Morris won the right to hang a large banner that was visible during post-debate interviews. For the third 2000 presidential debate, Anheuser-Busch, which had contributed $550,000 to the CPD, set up several information booths to distribute glossy pamphlets denouncing "unfair" beer taxes and calling on the government to "avoid interfering" with beer drinking.

Washington Post reporter Dana Milbank, at a 2000 presidential debate, noted that Green candidate Ralph Nader had not been allowed in even to sit in the audience, though he had a ticket. Sponsor Anheuser-Busch, on the other hand, had a refreshment tent with beer flowing, games, snacks, and even Bud Girls.6

In response to an unprecedented email and letter-writing campaign facilitated by Open Debates and its supporters and allies, three of the ten corporations identified as sponsors of the CPD withdrew their sponsorship of the presidential debates in 2012.

 

Gubernatorial, Senate debate rules vary widely

Debates for higher-level offices such as Senate and Governor are generally controlled by the media outlets who sponsor them. However, the major party candidates, especially the incumbents, often dictate terms to the media, refusing to appear if their demands aren’t met. Some candidates meet as many as five times. In other races, no debates are held at all. Increasingly, third party candidates are gaining enough support to push successfully into debates. In too many cases, however, they are never heard.

For example, in Florida in 2014, “polls show Libertarian Adrian Wyllie drawing as much as 13 percent support. But because he has not cracked 15 percent in a credible poll, he has not been invited to participate in any of the televised debates. He filed suit challenging his exclusion.”7

In Wisconsin, one of the most egregious, but far from unheard-of, requirements is keeping third parties out of debates – a fundraising requirement. In 2002, both Libertarian Ed Thompson and Green Jim Young were included in the Western Wisconsin Press Club gubernatorial debate. But in 2014, the Wisconsin Broadcasters Association Foundation excluded Libertarian Robert Burke from the two gubernatorial debates because, to be considered for inclusion in the debates, a candidate must have raised $250,000 (and he hadn’t met that criterion).8

 


Campaign finance reform

Money in politics: the sad state of affairs

Today, new forms of big money undermine American democracy. Citizens United and other court rulings obliterated a century of campaign finance laws. Now a handful of special interests threaten to dominate political funding, often through Super PACs and shadowy nonprofits. Public trust in government has plummeted.9

The drive to allow ever-larger campaign contributions rolls on to what seems like new heights of absurdity, everywhere you look. The “Cromnibus” must-pass spending bill that went to Congress in December 2014 included (on page 1,599 of 1,603, and never mentioned in public before) a ten-fold increase in the amount of money people can give to party committees.

The legislation allows a single individual to contribute to each national party’s three committees a total of $777,600 per year or $1,555,200 per two-year election cycle. It allows a couple to contribute to these committees a total of $1,555,200 per year or $3,110,400 per two-year cycle.

One-tenth of one percent of all tax returns in 2011 showed income of a million dollars or more (about 235,000 people). So there are very few people who could possibly hit these new campaign contribution limits.

Only two-tenths of one percent of all Americans donate to Federal campaigns at all.

 

Campaign finance in other countries

Most modern democracies (in one way or the other) provide government subsidies for party activity, typically in cash and/or free access to public or private media. India and Switzerland are the most notable exceptions. Public subsidies can be relatively small (as in the UK and USA) or quite generous (as in Sweden, Germany, Israel and Japan), and usually exist side-by-side with private fundraising. Party organizations, parliamentary groups (party caucuses) and candidates are typically the recipients of public support (in cash or kind). 10

 

The true cost of money in politics: bad policy

Public Campaign has created an excellent case study about how lobbyists and campaign donors have affected policy around college student loans.

http://www.publicampaign.org/reports/influence101

A few key points from that study:

  • Students graduating from college today face skyrocketing levels of student loan debt, as tuition costs and textbook prices have continued to rise far faster than the normal rate of inflation.

  • At the same time, state and federal governments are cutting financial support for higher education, forcing more of the load onto the shoulders of students and their families.

  • Industries that profit off everyday people and taxpayers have not hesitated to spend heavily on lobbyists and campaign contributions to influence policy decisions for their corporate gain.

  • The student loan industry has spent $50.1 million lobbying Congress and $7.7 million in campaign contributions since 2000.

  • The student loan industry’s allies in Congress helped pass new bankruptcy laws in 1998 and 2005 that made it nearly impossible to discharge student loans in bankruptcy, and have resisted recent efforts to once again treat student loan debt normally.

  • For-profit colleges get 80 percent of their revenue from government backed loans and grants, and they spent $10.2 million in lobbying last year and $3 million in campaign contributions so far in the 2012 elections to keep the money flowing.

  • Even as textbook costs have risen from under $325 in 1986 to $1,168 today, the textbook industry has dumped $1.4 million in campaign contributions to political candidates and parties and $35 million in lobbying since 2000. They have used this influence to push for draconian intellectual property policies like the Stop Online Piracy Act, to help shut down competition that could save students money.

Americans want campaign finance reform

Seventy-five percent of Americans feel there is too much money in politics, and only 25 percent feel there is an intrinsic right to unfettered election spending, an argument commonly used by opponents of controls on campaign finance. Almost the same proportion - 76 percent - feel that the amount of money in elections has given rich people more influence than other Americans, a 2012 Reuters survey found. Republicans were somewhat less likely to hold these beliefs than Democrats or independents, but a strong majority of Republicans nonetheless agreed.11

 

Federal vs. state and local campaign finance law

The US federal government sets the rules for campaigns for Federal office (President, Vice President, and Congress), but states and municipalities control campaign finance rules at the state and local level. State and local laws vary widely, and various campaign finance reforms, as well as other electoral reforms, have been enacted in a variety of states.

Some form of publicly funded campaign legislation has been adopted by ballot initiative in Maine, Arizona, North Carolina, New Mexico, Vermont, Wisconsin, and Massachusetts. In addition, public funding of elections have been incorporated to law in Connecticut and at the municipal level in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and Portland, Oregon. However, the systems in Massachusetts and Portland were later repealed, while Vermont's was struck down by the Supreme Court on First Amendment grounds. Wisconsin's program was defunded by the state legislature in 2011. Comprehensive public funding systems have been in effect in Arizona and Maine since 2000.12

 

Organizations working on campaign finance reform

A number of national organizations include campaign finance reform in their missions. Here are some of them. Please go to their websites for more information.

Brennan Center for Social Justice http://www.brennancenter.org/

Common Cause http://www.commoncause.org/

Demos http://www.demos.org/

Mayday PAC https://mayday.us/

Move to Amend https://movetoamend.org/

Public Campaign http://www.publicampaign.org/

 


Give Everyone A Voice

If voting didn’t matter, they wouldn’t try so hard to keep you from doing it!

Various representatives of the 1% never tire of trying to expand (not just maintain) their stranglehold on our entire political system, as well as our elected officials and other aspects of government, such as regulatory agencies and the courts.

Their effort has many tentacles and facets, from partisan redistricting to felon disenfranchisement and much more. At the same time, there are many Americans working tirelessly on behalf of the people, to reform the system and beat back attempts to take away our rights. The Green Party supports these efforts, on behalf of all Americans, not just our own members and supporters. Everyone deserves a voice in a democracy.

Fair voting: No more “lesser of two evils”

Have you ever felt forced to vote for the “lesser of two evils” even though you hated both candidates? Have you ever felt that voting for a Green whose values you share would “spoil” the election by helping elect a right-wing candidate? If so, this is the area of electoral reform that most directly addresses your problem.

Three’s a crowd in our winner-take-all, plurality voting system. When there are more than two candidates, someone can win even though they didn’t get the majority of the votes, only a “plurality” (more than anyone else). For example, in New York City Council primary elections, there are often six or seven candidates, and winners are declared with as little as 25% support.

By discouraging new candidates and parties, plurality voting suppresses new ideas and dissenting opinion. It encourages campaigns built around negative attacks.13

The good news is that fixing these problems doesn’t mean embracing some “pie in the sky,” crazy ideas that have never been tested. The US system, far from being the norm, is actually an outlier. Nearly all major, well-established democracies around the world use “fair voting” systems that allow voters to be much better represented than the American system does. There are also a number of American cities that use “fair voting” systems successfully, not to mention many non-political organizations.

Fair voting can refer to a range of voting methods in which “like-minded voters” (more on that later) elect candidates in proportion to their share of the vote. We will focus on those methods that would be easiest and quickest to achieve in the American context.

 

Proportional Representation

Proportional Representation depends on having at least some multi-member districts or at-large voting, where seats can be apportioned according to the percentage that different parties (or groups of like minded voters) achieve.

For example, in Peoria, IL, there is a ten-member City Council. Five members are elected, each from one of five districts in a “winner take all” election (whoever gets the most votes, wins).

The other five members are elected “at large,” not representing a district, but the city as a whole. Each voter in the city gets five votes in the “at large” election. The top five vote getters are elected. This way, communities of interest across the city can get together to elect representatives. For example, if African-Americans, a minority of voters, coalesced around one candidate, each person could cast multiple votes for that one candidate and ensure that they had at least that one representative. This is known as “cumulative” or “bullet voting.”

In the German Bundestag (comparable to our House of Representatives), they have a similar system (“mixed-member proportional representation”), but it is party-based. Half of the Members of the Bundestag are elected directly from 299 districts. The other half are elected from party lists.

Accordingly, each voter has two votes in the elections to the Bundestag. The first vote, allowing voters to elect their local representatives to the Bundestag, decides which candidates are sent from the districts.

The second vote is cast for a party; it determines the relative strengths of the parties represented in second half of the Bundestag seats. The party determines the order that candidates will be seated in, depending on how many seats total the party wins.

In the Bundestag 2013 election, five parties gained seats (see distribution below).14 Like-minded parties form coalitions within the Bundestag (the largest one becomes the governing coalition). Imagine how different our Congress would be, if different political strands were each represented with their own party, instead of fighting for a voice within a larger party, and they had to join with other parties in order to govern.

German Bundestag Party Distribution 2013

Party Name

Political Stance

% of seats

# of seats

Coalition

Christian Democratic Union (CDU)

Center-Right

40%

255

Governing

Social Democratic Party (SPD)

Center-Left

30%

193

Governing

Christian Social Union (CSU)

Conservative

9%

56

Governing

Die Linke (The Left)

Left

10%

64

Opposition

Green

Left

10%

63

Opposition

 

While there are some examples of proportional representation locally in the US, both currently and in the past, for the most part our system is made up of “winner take all” single-seat districts.

 

Instant Runoff Voting (IRV): It’s As Easy As 1-2-3

IRV is a "fair voting" option for single-seat races. IRV allows all voters to vote for their favorite candidate, while avoiding the fear of helping elect their least favorite candidate. IRV allows “third parties” to compete in elections without losing potential supporters to the fear of “spoiling.” It could demonstrate the TRUE level of support for the Green Party and our issues, helping us build power to enact our political agenda.

Compared to traditional runoff elections, IRV saves tax dollars spent on unnecessary elections, ensures winners have broader support than plurality elections, and elects winners when turnout is highest, rather than in separate run-off elections where turnout is typically extremely low.

IRV is used in local elections in Cambridge (MA) and some local offices in Minneapolis (MN), among other spots in the US.15

IRV allows voters to rank candidates in order of preference (i.e. first, second, third, fourth and so on). Voters have the option to rank as many or as few candidates as they wish. If no candidate gets a majority on the first round, a series of “runoffs” are simulated, using voters' preferences as indicated on their ballots.

After the vote, first choices are tabulated. The candidate who receives the fewest first choice rankings is eliminated.

All ballots are then re-tabulated, with each ballot that ranked the now-eliminated candidate first, now counting as a vote for that voter's SECOND choice.

The weakest candidates are successively eliminated, and their voters' ballots are added to the totals of their next choices.

Once the field is reduced to two, the candidate with the majority of votes wins.16

EXAMPLE: If IRV had been in place for the Presidential election of 2000, Green voters could have voted for Ralph Nader #1, and Al Gore #2. When Nader was eliminated, their votes would have transferred over to Gore.

The Green Party platform on these issues:

Enact proportional representation voting systems for legislative seats on municipal, county, state and federal levels.

Enact Instant Run-off Voting (IRV) for chief executive offices like mayor, governor and president and other single-seat elections.

 

Nonpartisan redistricting

The Green Party platform on this issue: Establish independent and transparent non-partisan redistricting processes to stop partisan gerrymandering and protect minority rights and representation.

America’s reliance upon winner-take-all elections and single-member districts (which most democracies around the world don’t have)17 has left our voting process open to the abuses of unfair partisan gerrymandering (unfairly drawing election districts at every level, local, state and congressional). Elected officials and their political cronies have used partisan redistricting to choose their voters, before voters have had the opportunity to choose them.18

If you look at most districts on a map, they have odd shapes, cutting out certain blocks, including narrow swaths of land across many miles, and so on.

The reason for these odd shapes is the creation of districts that have strong majorities of Republicans or Democrats, and in some cases, majorities or carefully blended mixes of certain ethnic groups. They have nothing to do with any actual communities, such as neighborhoods or even cities, and everything to do with favoring particular election outcomes.

Redistricting historically happened every ten years after the new census was released. Often, districts for a legislative body are supposed to each contain roughly the same number of people. For example, each district in the US House of Representatives represents approximately 700,000 people. So when the census comes out and it shows that populations have shifted from one place to another, the districts need to be re-drawn.

Now, as the process has become even more partisan, certain states like Texas have decided to re-draw districts every time a new party takes power in the state legislature, even if it is between census periods.

The creation of these non-competitive districts depresses voter turnout because voters feel they don’t have a choice. Often, it means that voters LITERALLY don’t have a choice. The dis-favored party doesn’t even bother to run a candidate and the incumbent is unopposed.

There are a number of proposals and ideas out there to fix this problem. The electoral reform advocacy group FairVote has more information on them here. http://www.fairvote.org/research-and-analysis/redistricting/redistricting-reform/

FairVote notes that redistricting reform can minimize the ability of partisan legislators to punish their enemies and reward their friends. But for truly competitive elections, legislative diversity, and other public interest goals to be met, multi-member districts with proportional voting are needed to maximize the effectiveness of these reforms – and ensure all voters have choices, and no strong prospective candidate is shut out of a chance to participate.19

 

Other electoral reform issues

There are many, many other aspects of our political system that could be improved, allowing more candidates to compete, and giving more citizens a real choice at the ballot box.

The nonpartisan Election Protection coalition was formed to ensure that all voters have an equal opportunity to participate in the political process . The coalition includes more than 100 local, state and national partners, such as the NAACP, ACLU, and Brennan Center for Justice. During elections, the coalition mobilizes thousands of volunteers to document election irregularities from the perspective of the voter. At all times, the coalition works on other election-related issues.

Here is a summary of a few of the key issues, adapted from the Election Protection website, 866ourvote,org.20

 

Voter Registration

Some states have begun making it harder for people to register to vote, often in the name of preventing voter fraud. Voter registration systems kept more than two million people from voting in 2008.

States have also begun to create new restrictions on voter registration drives.

There are also aggressive “purge” campaigns, which occur when states remove voters from the voter rolls. When the process is not done properly, duly registered voters can end up being purged.

There is always some kind of residency requirement, and each state is empowered to create its own definition of “resident.” Residency requirements are particularly troublesome for college students. Some jurisdictions attempt to restrict college students’ ability to vote at their campus address, and/or by absentee ballot when away at school. Some actively try to deny students’ right to vote. For example, students at Georgia Southern University (GSU) in Statesboro, GA, were falsely told that they would risk losing their financial aid, and that their parents could no longer claim them as dependents on their tax returns if they voted there.

Many issues impact voter registration like inadequate resources, clerical errors and failures to notify registrants of problems with their registration forms in a timely manner.

Some solutions:

  • Election Day or Same Day registration

  • Online registration

  • Voter Registration Modernization (VRM) - VRM will automatically register every eligible American to vote when they turn 18 or become citizens. Additionally, when voters move their registration will move with them.

  • Early and absentee voting

  • Many voters may not be able to vote in-person at the polls on Election Day, whether because they have work obligations, are out of town, or cannot physically get to the polls because of a disability or lack of ready access to transportation. States have adopted early voting to provide these voters with a better opportunity to cast a ballot.

  • Absentee Voting: All states allow absentee voting so voters can submit ballots by mail on or before Election Day.

  • Early Voting: Voters can vote early in thirty-two states and the District of Columbia. Available hours and locations vary (and the right wing has sued to restrict early voting options in some places).

 

Felon Disenfranchisement

Although depriving people convicted of felonies of the right to vote has a long history, the modern laws in many states are rooted in racial discrimination. In these states, the laws were enacted after the Civil War, designed to deny the vote to African-Americans, and continue to have that effect today. These laws must be changed.

13% of the African-American population nationally (an even higher percentage in some states), and more than five million total Americans, are now denied the right to vote, because of felony convictions.

Every state except Maine and Vermont prevents inmates from voting while in prison for a felony. Once released from prison, voter eligibility varies widely by state. A few states – mostly Southern states with large black populations - permanently deny the right to vote to all ex-offenders.

 

Voter ID/Proof of Citizenship

The right-wing group ALEC (American Legislative Council) has made it a high priority to get voter ID laws passed all over the country.

According to the Brennan Center, since the 2010 election, new voting restrictions are slated to be in place in 22 states. (These include voter ID laws, restrictions on early voting, and other issues.) Unless these restrictions are blocked — and there are court challenges to laws in six of those states — voters in nearly half the country could find it harder to cast a ballot in the 2014 midterm election than they did in 2010. 21

All states require an individual to be a U.S. citizen in order to vote in state or federal elections. Each state requires its residents to provide some form of ID to vote, which varies by state. In the least restrictive states, residents only need to have their signature verified.

In the most restrictive states, individuals must present a government-issued photo ID and individuals unable to produce the required ID are not allowed to vote. In Indiana, the single most restrictive state, the photo ID must be issued by the State of Indiana or the United States, it must bear an expiration date that has not elapsed, and it must contain the voter’s name in a manner that conforms to the voter’s registration record.

It’s hard to even imagine how many voters could be disenfranchised by that final requirement, if a middle initial were included or excluded, or a name were slightly misspelled.

Proof of citizenship and voter ID requirements impact all voters, but fall more significantly on traditionally disenfranchised groups including poor, minority and elderly voters.

 

Deceptive Practices

Deceptive practices are the dissemination of false or misleading information about elections and the voting process in order to alter the outcome of the election and to prevent eligible voters from casting their ballots. In most cases, deceptive practices target traditionally disenfranchised communities - including minorities, seniors, and young people - and very rarely are the perpetrators pursued or prosecuted by law enforcement.

Often, deceptive practices take the form of flyers or robocalls giving false information to voters about the time, place and manner of elections. Recently we have seen more sophisticated and nuanced tactics like using text messages, emails, Facebook posts and messages on Twitter attempting to deceive voters.

In order to effectively combat these fraudulent election practices, we need stronger laws. Deliberately deceiving voters about any aspect of the voting process should be unambiguously illegal. Federal, state and local officials should be empowered not just to punish violators, but also to quickly correct deceptive information through sources trusted by affected communities.

1 “The Importance of Ballot Access,” by Richard Winger. Reprinted with permission from the Spring 1994 Long Term View, Massachusetts School of Law, Andover, MA.

2 BALLOT ACCESS: A Formidable Barrier to Fair Participation, by Richard Winger

The Battle to Get on the Ballot

http://web.archive.org/web/20110611145451/http://www.ballot-access.org/winger/fbfp.html

3 The Importance of Ballot Access, by Richard Winger. Reprinted with permission from the Spring 1994 Long Term View, Massachusetts School of Law, Andover, MA.

http://web.archive.org/web/20110611123629/http://www.ballot-access.org/winger/iba.html

4 California Governor Signs Bill, Easing Rules for New Parties to Get on Ballot and Existing Parties to Remain on the Ballot, September 30, 2014, by Richard Winger, ban

5 Wikipedia Main article: Commission on Presidential Debates, accessed December 2014.

6 Open Debates, opendebates.org, accessed December 2014.

7 “Five things to watch in the debates for Florida governor”, Adam C. Smith; The Miami Herald, 10/10/14

8 “Open up the gubernatorial debates,” WI Capital Times editorial, 10/8/14.

9 Brennan Center for Justice, http://www.brennancenter.org, accessed December 2014.

10 Wikipedia, Campaign Finance.

11 Reuters/Ipsos poll, 5/24/2012.

12 Wikipedia. Publicly funded elections, accessed December 2014.

13 FairVote web site, accessed 11/27/14.

14 Wikipedia, Bundestag, accessed 11/9/14.

15 FairVote website, accessed 11/4/14.

16 Adapted from FairVote website, accessed 11/27/14.

17 More on winner-take-all and single-member-districts later.

18 FairVote website, accessed 11/3/14.

19 FairVote website, accessed 11/3/14.

20 Election Protection website, http://www.866ourvote.org, accessed 11/27/14.

21 http://www.brennancenter.org/analysis/state-voting-2014

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