Independent Voter News

Subscribe to Independent Voter News feed
Independent Voter Network: Unfiltered News
Updated: 1 day 46 min ago

Forget Trump, The Real Question for Voters Is: Who Governs?

Fri, 2017-10-20 07:00

Forget Trump, The Real Question for Voters Is: Who Governs?

The electoral earthquake that resulted in the election of President Trump is not limited to the United States. And it’s far from running its course.

The Brexit referendum of June 2016 was an early indicator. Against general expectation, the British people overrode elite opinion, voting to exit the European Union.

In 2017, Emmanuel Macron seized the presidency of France. He established a new political party of the center-left, muscling aside the longstanding, dominant political coalitions.

In Germany and Austria, right-wing insurgencies are disrupting the traditional, post-World War II centrist project.

These elections are taking place in different nations, each with its own history and circumstances. Discerning unified narratives and trends can be challenging if not hazardous.

Nonetheless, there are commonalities running through these otherwise disparate results. One of the greatest is an overarching, largely unspoken question: Who Governs?

Who Governs?

A recurring theme in history is the adaptation of government to changing circumstances.

For example, in the early twentieth century the United States grappled with the transition of an agricultural economy to an industrial economy. The progressive movement prompted the extension of the franchise to more citizens, and expanded the voters’ direct participation in politics and government.

The electoral earthquake that resulted in the election of President Trump is not limited to the United States. And it’s far from running its course. James Strock, IVN Contributing Editor

Finance, manufacturing, infrastructure, agriculture, energy and transportation were increasingly subject to public intervention, reflecting a reset in citizen sovereignty.

In Great Britain, following the Second World War through the 1970s, labor unions accreted ever-greater power. Governments of the left and right were increasingly viewed as overly compliant with the demands of the miners and other industrial unions.

In the 1974 election, Prime Minister Edward Heath sought voter endorsement of an explicit recalibration of power. He campaigned on the slogan: Who Governs? Heath lost the election, but helped frame the larger issue toward subsequent resolution.

The Trump and Sanders Insurgencies

Candidate Trump recognized the parallels of Brexit with his long-shot bid to “drain the swamp” in Washington. Trump was not only challenging his Republican and Democratic opponents. He gave voice to rising objections to the longstanding political establishment more generally.

The unofficial, unspoken boundaries of acceptable debate had closed off serious discussion or action on issues of great import in many voters’ lives. Illegal immigration and trade policy were at the top of this list.

Some have sought to explain the Brexit and Trump insurgencies as merely a variant of traditional right-wing populism. In this view, a great part of their political energy arises from isolationism, racism, nativism, and class resentment. Some critics view such voters as not comprehending their own interest, defined as primarily material.

The unofficial, unspoken boundaries of acceptable debate had closed off serious discussion or action on issues of great import in many voters’ lives. James Strock, IVN Contributing Editor

Such a status quo perspective is likely buttressed by confirmation bias. There are many voters who’ve sought change in whatever form is on offer. A significant number in America pulled the lever for Obama in 2008 and turned to Trump in 2016.

As the Bernie Sanders insurgency demonstrated, there is great reformist energy on the left, parallel to Trump’s on the right.

It’s not mere happenstance that the Trump and Sanders insurgencies focused on one-sided trade deals and illegal immigration. These are two areas where overwhelming public sentiment has long been ignored by Democrats and Republicans in office.

Instead, the legacy parties responded to overwhelming special interest influence.

As a result, these issues pointed to the larger question: Who governs?

Commonalities

Certain themes are emerging, in the USA as well as in Europe:

  • Should citizens withdraw our consent from distant, centralized governmental institutions? Brexit focused English public attention to the movement of power from their elected Parliament to the relatively unaccountable mandarins of the European Union in Brussels. So, too, in America there is rising sentiment that too much power is reposed in Washington, D.C.
  • Can we govern ourselves more effectively, closer to home? In the decentralized world of the digital age, should we move authority toward lower levels of government, and into non-governmental arrangements?
  • As in the larger economy, should we create value by removing or reforming intermediaries? In the political realm, such intermediaries include special interest groups and political parties. Their value is to be measured solely in how they enable citizens to be better served by government. For a start, transparency, competition, and accountability should be imposed.
  • Have our public institutions been corrupted? This goes beyond universally recognized self-dealing such as money furtively slipped into envelopes, stuffed into refrigerators and shoe boxes, or sweetheart deals on property. As reprehensible as such misdeeds are, they can be exceptional misfires of an otherwise smooth- running enterprise.
  • The greater problem is systemic corruption. Our political institutions continue with their formal traditions, yet are serving interests other than the citizenry from whom they derive authority.

This is what people sense when they deride Washington, D.C. as a “swamp.” Politicians and bureaucrats and the ecosystem in which they work have been commandeered, transformed into a Special Interest State. The Special Interest State operates in the name of the people, but in practice has its own, distinct goals.

Is the upper middle class asserting its interests at the expense of other Americans? We don’t tend to think of ourselves primarily in terms of socio-economic class. Nonetheless, our current politics is suffused in it.

As noted by Richard V. Reeves of the Brookings Institution, the top-fifth of the income distribution is pulling apart: “This separation is economic…[and] can also be seen in education, family structure, health and longevity, even in civic and community life.”

This segment reflects many virtues and much accomplishment. It holds disproportionate influence in our politics and government and culture. The uses of that influence are open to legitimate questions.

Politicians and bureaucrats and the ecosystem in which they work have been commandeered, transformed into a Special Interest State. James Strock, IVN Contributing Editor

This segment benefits from the trade and immigration policies that are experienced as damaging by other, less advantaged citizens. So, too, they’re open to the criticism of enabling a foreign policy based on “rich men’s wars, poor men’s blood.”

As illuminated in the Trump-Clinton election, many among them display a snobbery toward the cultural choices of those outside their own conformist communities.

It’s this group that is tagged for appearing to feel greater kinship with its coequals in other nations than with the many of their fellow Americans.

If you doubt the raw power of this group, consider two major issues of any federal tax reform: the mortgage-interest deduction, and the state and local tax deduction.

These two items constitute a reduction of well over $100 billion annually from the applicable tax rates. The benefits accrue overwhelmingly to the top quintile of taxpayers.

The political potency of the upper middle class renders these deductions a new “third rail” of politics, sequestered from meaningful public debate. Regnant special interests—the real estate industry, state and local government—are thereby shielded from overdue accountability.

What Is To Be Done?

Until now, the question of who governs has been somewhat shrouded. It’s often implicit in the debate surrounding various issues.

The Special Interest State, operating through the partisan duopoly, benefits from the resulting absence of clarity. Its practitioners create conflict and sow division, diverting attention from the fundamental question: Who Governs?

The Trump and Sanders insurgencies moved the ball forward. Now it’s up to us to take it further.

A first step is to further expose the realities of who governs today’s America. Our nation didn’t happen upon its position by accident. Like our ancestors, we won’t achieve fundamental change by indirection and inadvertence.

A second step is to debate, going forward, who should govern. We the People have the capacity to exert greater influence—and demand greater accountability—than ever before.

Once our national goals are decided, alternative approaches to policy may repose power in various ways. To what extent should we rely upon government bureaucracies or financial and corporate interests? How can we update institutions to achieve deeper levels of citizen participation?

The fundamental, clarifying question—Who Governs?—demands our highest attention at this hinge moment. Until it’s resolved, our electoral earthquakes will continue.

Read More Articles by James Strock

Photo Source: AP

James StrockIVN.us - Independent Voter Network: Unfiltered News

Bombshell New Survey: Even Partisans are Tired of the Two Parties

Thu, 2017-10-19 12:39

Bombshell New Survey: Even Partisans are Tired of the Two Parties

Colorado voters are tired of the Republican and Democratic Parties and the gridlock they have created in the state legislature. Now, one of the leading states for independents may have an opportunity to break up the two-party power structure.

These are the findings of a recent Centrist Project survey of over 2,000 likely Colorado voters. According to the survey:

  • 53 percent of Colorado voters believe the two parties are not working together in the state legislature to solve problems facing constituents;
  • 71 percent blame partisan gridlock on both major parties;
  • An astounding 85 percent are open to voting for an independent candidate; and
  • 78 percent believe independent candidates can “represent all of the people, not just those from their party.”

“Combined, these insights paint a portrait of an electorate that is restive for a viable alternative to both Democrats and Republicans in 2018. Indeed, 48% of voters said that electing independents to the state legislature would ‘improve how the government worked’ while only 5% said it would make things worse,” The Centrist Project writes.

78 percent of respondents believe independent candidates can 'represent all of the people, not just those from their party.'

Colorado has an active independent voter population — registered as “unaffiliated” — of 1.2 million voters, or 36 percent of the Colorado electorate. However, though independents make up the largest voting bloc in the state, they have zero representation in the 100-member state legislature.

The Centrist Project states that this is partly because not enough credible independent candidates run for elected office. These candidates “lack the support structure of volunteers, donors, and staff that the major parties provide.”

However, if an independent candidate had the support structure, the survey suggests that they could mount a credible challenge against partisan incumbents or candidates in the two major parties, based on broad dissatisfaction and frustration with the two-party power structure in the state.

Eighty-five percent of the survey respondents said they would “definitely, probably, or maybe consider supporting an independent candidate for state legislature.” A third of registered Republicans and Democrats said they are “definitely” open to voting for an independent candidate.

“Even among voters who said they “only” voted for Democrats or Republicans on their ballot, three quarters (74%) indicated they would consider voting for an independent,” The Centrist Project reports. “This reflects findings elsewhere that growing partisanship in the electorate is more a function of a dislike of the “other” party rather than a love of one’s own.”

Voters broadly agree that there is an appeal to electing an independent candidate. The vast majority of survey respondents believe that an independent could: “represent all of the people, find common ground between both parties, champion the best ideas, and remain free from the influence of partisan and special interests.”

Even among voters who said they 'only' voted for Democrats or Republicans on their ballot, three quarters (74%) indicated they would consider voting for an independent The Centrist Project

However, independent candidates face serious institutional and electoral barriers to getting elected, the biggest perhaps being the perception that independents cannot win elections. The largest concern among survey takers was that voting for an independent means they might waste their vote or cause their least favorite candidate to win.

A major paper by ASU Morrison Institute for Public PolicyUSC Schwarzenegger Institute, and Independent Voting, titled Gamechangers? Independent Voters May Rewrite the Political Playbook, explains that this perception is largely driven not only by the major parties, but by academia, the media, and pollsters who cling to the two-party model.

Read More

“It is important to note that when voters who said they are open to voting for independent candidates were asked if they would still consider voting that way ‘even if it risked electing your least preferred candidate’ – the vast majority (68%) said they would stick by their decision,” The Centrist Project reports. “This included two thirds of Democrats (64%) and Republicans (64%) and three quarters of independents (78%), who collectively comprise 63% of the electorate.”

There is little doubt, based on this polling, that this coalition has the potential to carry an independent candidate to victory–– especially if the candidate is viewed as a person of integrity and is perceived as viable by voters. The Centrist Project

Nationwide, The Centrist Project wants to provide independent candidates with the support structure they need to launch credible campaigns to break the two parties’ hold on elections, and the political power structure. That is why they have endorsed gubernatorial candidates like Maine State Treasurer Terry Hayes and independent Alaska Governor Bill Walker.

The Centrist Project found that the survey reveals similar opportunities in Colorado that exist in Maine, Alaska, and elsewhere.

“There is little doubt, based on this polling, that this coalition has the potential to carry an independent candidate to victory–– especially if the candidate is viewed as a person of integrity and is perceived as viable by voters,” The Centrist Project writes.

The Centrist Project believes that electing just a handful of independents in state legislatures and the US Senate can break partisan gridlock, bring Republicans and Democrats to the table, and produce practical, long-lasting solutions to the greatest problems facing voters.

Read the complete findings from the survey:

Related Articles

Shawn M. GriffithsIVN.us - Independent Voter Network: Unfiltered News

Congresswoman Frederica Wilson Sponsored Bill to Increase Involvement in Niger in 2015

Thu, 2017-10-19 11:21

Congresswoman Frederica Wilson Sponsored Bill to Increase Involvement in Niger in 2015

Video Credit: TIME Magazine

After Donald Trump made a phone call to the wife of a soldier, U.S. Army Sgt. La David Johnson, who died earlier this month in an ambush by Islamic radicals in Niger, the president’s words of condolence to the grieving widow became a national controversy.

Congresswoman Frederica Wilson was present with Myeshia Johnson when she took the president’s call, and claimed on Tuesday that Trump told Johnson:

“He knew what he signed up for.”

That’s how many media sources have reported it, giving the impression that Trump’s remarks were dismissive and insensitive.

But this bears the appearance of selective editing to create a false impression, because the part of the quote that is left out of many mainstream media headlines and the many social media posts criticizing Trump for the phone call is this:

“He knew what he signed up for, but when it happens it hurts anyway.”

In many mainstream reports, such as this one by ABC News, this part of the conversation is buried in the article. In others, such as this one by the Washington Post and this one by the New York Times, this second part of the statement is not even included in the article.

This appears to be very deliberate selective editing, and it’s this sort of axe-grinding in the media that has earned the ire of so many voters, and a major reason why Trump appealed to so many Americans in the first place, because his attacks on media bias and fake news resonate so strongly with them.

To put a grieving family in the spotlight for the purpose of such a petty partisan swipe at Trump seems unconscionable.

But all the media smoke and mirrors obscures an even deeper reality than what Trump actually said, the reality of an aimless U.S. foreign policy with deadly consequences for American soldiers.

To put a grieving family in the spotlight for the purpose of such a petty partisan swipe at Trump seems unconscionable. W.E. Messamore, IVN Independent Author

Many Americans were not even aware at the time of the October 4 ambush that the U.S. had troops on the ground in Niger. Sixteen years since 9-11, and the Overseas Contingency Operation, as the Global War on Terror was quietly renamed during the Obama administration, still has American soldiers fighting in foreign civil wars, sometimes with and sometimes against Islamic radicals, all over the Middle East and Africa.

And Rep. Frederica Wilson, who took Trump to task in the media for what he said on the phone call to her constituent, actually sponsored and got a bill passed in 2015 to increase the Department of Defense’s involvement in the conflict in Niger and neighboring Nigeria.

So while partisans on both sides bicker over the president’s words in a phone call to a dead soldier’s widow, the actual cause of his death, and whether it serves any vital American interests has gone almost completely un-examined.

There have been some laudable attempts to address this question, notably by Slate and The Atlantic, which are worth reading.

In light of this tragedy, if Americans are weary of war overseas, and they certainly seem to be, they should demand that their representatives vote against funding for the Overseas Contingency Operation and pass a bill to formally bring this long war to an end.

Read More Articles by W. E. Messamore

W. E. MessamoreIVN.us - Independent Voter Network: Unfiltered News

Independent Mayor Nicole Nicoletta Wins Major Endorsement Against Democratic Challenger

Thu, 2017-10-19 07:00

Independent Mayor Nicole Nicoletta Wins Major Endorsement Against Democratic Challenger

While most of the national media’s election coverage is focused on the upcoming 2018 elections, there are many contentious races happening right now.

One such race that independents should pay attention to is in Manitou Springs, Colorado, where the mayoral race is heating up. Incumbent independent Mayor Nicole Nicoletta is being challenged by Democrat Ken Jaray.

With political party polarization at levels unseen in modern United States history, voters are looking for common-sense, independent-minded candidates that are not afraid to reach across the aisle.

Supporters of Mayor Nicoletta believe her “get-it-done” and “problem-solving” attitude is the right recipe for the growing, Front Range community on Manitou Springs.

“Mayor Nicoletta has the 360° vision of the  entire community and comprehends that a special interest group may not understand the concerns and needs of the entire community when expressing their passionate demands…[She] understands that there are always at least two opposing views on every problem or issue that arises in the community,” writes Randy Hodges, current city councilmember and Nicoletta supporter.

Nicoletta has been a registered independent (unaffiliated in Colorado) for decades. Before winning the mayoral race in 2016, she served as a city councilmember for two years and has called Manitou Springs her home for nine.

She is a small business owner and a mental and behavioral health provider. Nicoletta received her Masters in Sociology from the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs and is a visiting professor at Colorado College.

Supporters of Mayor Nicoletta believe her 'get-it-done' and 'problem-solving' attitude is the right recipe for the growing, Front-Range community in Manitou Springs. Caitlin Hurkes, IVN Independent Author

During her time as mayor, Nicoletta has worked to solve a myriad of problems that any expanding, Front Range city faces — from municipal parking issues to crime and increasing levels of homelessness.

She has developed policies to address economic development and housing, maintain and strengthen collaborative relationships with regional and state partners, continues to prepare for disasters like forest fires in innovative ways, and supports the implementation of AARP’s Age Friendly Program. She also led the city’s efforts to clean up Soda Springs Park and to make it a safe, family-friendly community asset.

Nicoletta’s opponent, Ken Jaray, is a retired attorney, former city attorney, and school board member who has lived in Manitou Springs for nearly 40 years. He spent 30 years as the principal of the law firm Jaray & Webster, working on personal injury and workers’ compensation law.

The Colorado Springs Independent profiled both candidates and endorsed Mayor Nicoletta for another two years.

“[W]hat really impressed us about Nicoletta wasn’t what she has done; it’s what she is doing. While Jaray would clearly need to play catch-up when he got into office, Nicoletta is fully informed and just hitting her stride after only two years in office.” – Colorado Springs Independent

Other supporters of Mayor Nicoletta include:

  • Woodland Park Mayor Neil Levy;
  • Green Mountain Falls Mayor Jane Newberry;
  • Colorado Springs City Councilmembers Andy Pico and Merv Bennett; and
  • El Paso County Commissioner Mark Waller.

Ballots were mailed to Colorado voters on October 16. All ballots must be returned by 7 pm on November 7. El Paso County Clerk and Recorder Chuck Broerman expects a turnout rate of about 40-45 percent for this off-year election.

Many voters felt disillusioned with how the process played out during the 2016 election cycle. What we need to remember is that politics is local. Races like Mayor Nicoletta’s have an almost immediate impact on the day-to-day lives of residents.

This is where independent candidates can quickly find their foothold and demonstrate the electability of independent candidates up and down the ballot.

Related Articles

Photo credit: Colorado Springs Gazette

Caitlin HurkesIVN.us - Independent Voter Network: Unfiltered News

Dems Upset in North Carolina: GOP Eliminates Judicial Primaries

Wed, 2017-10-18 12:40

Dems Upset in North Carolina: GOP Eliminates Judicial Primaries

Earlier this month, we reported on the uncertain fate of a ballot access reform bill in North Carolina. That bill has now passed, liberalizing ballot access laws in North Carolina, but also carrying with it controversial elements related to judicial elections.

The bill began as a bipartisan effort to ease North Carolina’s excessively harsh ballot access laws. However, it was amended to make other changes to election law, most notably the elimination of judicial primary elections in 2018. This drew opposition from members of the Democratic Party.

As a result, North Carolina’s Democratic governor, Roy Cooper, vetoed the bill. The legislature subsequently overrode the veto, making the new bill law.

The new law is good news for ballot access law. As Richard Winger of Ballot Access News put it:

“As a result of the success of SB 656, there are now only four states without some means for a presidential candidate (running outside the two major parties) to get on the ballot with the support of 25,000 or fewer voters: California, Texas, Michigan, and Indiana.”

As for the elimination of judicial primaries, we hope it will help spark a conversation about what we expect from our elections. The bill seems to be delaying the primary in anticipation of eliminating the judicial elections altogether, but under the current state of the law, it would simply elect judges in a single round election.

Without a primary, judicial candidates could win with low pluralities.

Historically, North Carolina did elect judges in single-round elections when filling vacancies, but it did so using ranked choice voting to promote majority rule. Perhaps the 2018 judicial elections will encourage North Carolina to consider returning to ranked choice voting.

Editor’s note: This article originally published on FairVote’s website and has been modified slightly for publication on IVN.

Related Articles

Photo Credit: Niyazz / shutterstock.com

Fair VoteIVN.us - Independent Voter Network: Unfiltered News

Dark Money Set to Double in 2018 Election

Wed, 2017-10-18 07:00

Dark Money Set to Double in 2018 Election

The words “campaign finance reform” saturate the airwaves every election season, but is this really something we need or just another talking point? If campaign finance reform is so important for conservatives and liberals alike, why do we have so much trouble implementing it?

If you believe that elections can be bought with enough money, it becomes clear why so many folks dislike our current methods of funding political campaigns.

Special interest groups are allowed to contribute large amounts of soft money to campaigns, which manifests in the form of partisan political advertisements. The result drives away voters from both sides of the aisle and weakens our democracy.

Citizens United Paved the Way for Election Turmoil

In 2010, the US Supreme Court handed down their decision in Citizens United vs. Federal Election Commission. By making it legal for corporations and unions to spend unlimited quantities on political campaigns, Citizens United created the mess we have today.

The ruling did not affect how individuals can contribute, however. Caps on individual direct contributions to a campaign remain extremely low, too low for candidates to even sustain a campaign using this type of funding. Hence, political action committees, or PACs, were created.

PACs are organizations that bring contributors together to generate money for a political campaign or cause.

PACs can promote a cause and accept donations. They can also funnel money to campaigns. If a PAC gets large enough, there is no limit to how much money it can contribute to a political campaign. This is called a super PAC.

These super PACs can donate nearly unlimited quantities of soft money, and donations often take the form of issues-related ads. Many PACs choose not to divulge who their members are, and when they don’t, soft money becomes dark money.

Where Does Dark Money Come From?

Dark money might be donated from any of several places, but non-profit organizations are a favorite vehicle for political contributors that don’t want to be recognized.

It is important to note that “dark money” refers to spending from 501(c)(4) organization, which includes genuine social welfare groups that may be giving to a political cause they feel is vital to their mission.

However, there are also organizations that abuse their tax-exempt privileges, and depending on the state, limited liability corporations can also function as political contributors that are not required to divulge information about the people backing them.

It is important to note that 'dark money' refers to contributions from any 501(c)(4) organization...including genuine social welfare groups giving to further their mission. Kate Harveston, IVN Independent Author

During the 2012 campaign season, more than $300 million in dark money went to political promotions that promoted the election or defeat of a specific candidate.

According to OpenSecrets.org, as of August 24, spending by outside groups for the 2018 elections reached $48 million — a record for that point in an election cycle.

One chart shows that money from groups classified as social welfare organizations more than doubled the amount spent at this point in the 2016 cycle.

Both Democratic and Republican candidates have been shown to accept help from dark money contributions, but the sum of dark money contributed to Republicans is roughly eight times that of the amount contributed to Democratic candidates.

Doing the Democratic Thing

You might be thinking “in that case, this is just a liberal agenda to eliminate funds for the competition,” but dark money can misconstrue the message of candidates on both sides.

Is winning an election based on a message that isn’t yours really an example of democracy in action?

The answer is an obvious “no,” but current campaign finance laws don’t provide other means for candidates to generate funds, which is why recent elections have suffered from ubiquitous PAC-funded ads preaching the same oversimplified messages.

When this happens, people who vote make their decision based on a fraction of the real issue. More often than that, people don’t vote at all.

What is the Solution?

Different ideas have been floated to replace the non-functional system we have now, but part of the reason campaign finance continues to be an issue is that it’s difficult to get right.

Some people believe the best policy would be to remove the limits for individual contributors and return things to the way they were 200 years ago.

Both Democratic and Republican candidates have been shown to accept help from dark money contributions...

That would make contributors accountable, but it would also have the potential to let people buy elections on their own, which is no better than the situation we have with today’s super PACs.

What is clear is that the ambiguity should be removed from the system. Voters have a right to know if a corporation or individual is bankrolling a candidate’s campaign.

How can we call our system democratic when we limit the information people are allowed to inform the way they vote?

Read More Articles by Kate Harveston

Photo Credit: Elena Yakusheva / shutterstock.com

Kate HarvestonIVN.us - Independent Voter Network: Unfiltered News

Gary Johnson: “Allowing GOP and Dems to Control Presidential Debates is Un-American”

Wed, 2017-10-18 07:00

Gary Johnson: “Allowing GOP and Dems to Control Presidential Debates is Un-American”

It’s just wrong.

Go to the websites of major polling organizations and look at their measurements of “party identification.” You’ll find something interesting: Sometimes the graphs will show two lines: one for Democrats and one for Republicans. But sometimes, they show three lines. Democrats, Republicans, and independents.

A funny thing happens when they include that third line. More often than not, those who don’t identify as either Democrat or Republican almost always equal or exceed those who do.

This two-party ownership of the most important events of the election is, as the League of Women Voters said decades ago, a fraud perpetrated on the American people. Gov. Gary Johnson

In Gallup’s most recent tracking — conducted just a month ago, independents are 40 percent of the electorate. Thirty percent call themselves Democrats and 29 percent Republicans.

If you are among the tens of millions of people who watch the general election presidential debates every four years, you wouldn’t know that the largest group of American voters are actually neither Democrats nor Republicans.

And you certainly wouldn’t see that the overwhelming majority would like to have more choices than just the two “major” parties.

The two ‘major’ parties own and operate the presidential debates

You don’t see anyone other than the Republican and the Democrat because, for all practical purposes, the two “major” parties own and operate the debates.

Though the name sounds official, there is absolutely nothing official about the Commission on Presidential Debates — the private organization that sponsors the only general election presidential debates. The CPD was created by the two major parties, it is funded by their friends, and it is entirely partisan.

Why are the CPD debates the only debates? It’s simple: The Republican and Democratic national parties require their candidates to agree to not participate in any other debates. And the media, left with no real alternative, plays along. If that sounds like a monopoly, that’s because it is.

It’s wrong. This two-party ownership of the most important events of the election is, as the League of Women Voters said decades ago, a fraud perpetrated on the American people.

Our America Initiative has been fighting to break up the presidential debate monopoly

That’s why the Our America Initiative, of which I am Honorary Chairman, has been fighting for more than five years to break up the debate monopoly. We won’t change policies in America until we change the politics

And there is no single better way to change the politics than to let voters see and hear that there are new ideas and potential leaders other than the worn out partisan approach that has given us a $20 trillion debt, endless wars and the steady loss of liberty.

In the next few weeks, we will be taking that fight for fair debates to the Supreme Court. It has taken years and hundreds of thousands of dollars, but our historic federal lawsuit to break up the debate monopoly has finally reached the point at which we can – and will – ask the highest court in the land to act. And the Supreme Court must act.

Allowing Republicans and Democrats to limits America’s choices in the presidential debates is Un-American

As we are seeing almost daily, the choice America makes each four years has very real consequences for our safety, our freedom, and the futures of our children. The presidential debates are the single most important events in the presidential campaigns, and allowing the Republicans and Democrats to limit Americans’ choices is simply un-American.

There is no single better way to change the politics than to let voters see and hear that there are new ideas and potential leaders other than the worn out partisan approach... Gov. Gary Johnson

That’s why, on October 26, at 5:00 pm ET, I will be on the steps of the Supreme Court in Washington, DC, to lead a rally for fair debates.

In the days leading up to our rally, there will be a “money bomb” to help ensure that we have the funds necessary to take our fight to the Supreme Court. It won’t be easy, and it will be expensive.

But it is a fight that we must carry on and win. America deserves better. America deserves real choices.

Editor’s note: This article originally published on The Jack News and has been modified slightly for publication on IVN. It wad republished with permission from the author. 

Related Articles

Photo Credit: Gage Skidmore

Gary JohnsonIVN.us - Independent Voter Network: Unfiltered News

Prominent Law Professor: Sex, Race & Gun Rights

Tue, 2017-10-17 20:22

Prominent Law Professor: Sex, Race & Gun Rights

T.J. O’Hara is joined by Verna Williams, Interim Dean and Nippert Professor of Law at University of Cincinnati College of Law.

Verna published a Law Review article titled “Guns, Sex, and Race: The Second Amendment Through a Feminist Lens,” where she explores the racial and gender history of the Second Amendment.

T.J. discusses her Law Review article extensively, delving into historical cases regarding the Second Amendment and applying these concepts to today’s discussion.

Kaia Los HuertosIVN.us - Independent Voter Network: Unfiltered News

Liberals and Conservatives Uniting Against Partisan Status Quo

Tue, 2017-10-17 17:34

Liberals and Conservatives Uniting Against Partisan Status Quo

Our political system is failing because our government has become little more than a perpetual banquet for selfish interests that feed themselves first, and worry about the health of the nation later, if at all (See part 1 in this series).

This is the situation in which we now find ourselves, and it must be reversed.

For “we the people” to fix the system, here is an uncontroversial, common sense, and unifying organizing principle:

Remove from the American political system every incentive that favors service to selfish interests over the common good of the country as a whole.

The first step is also common sense. Since the country is split into two roughly equal polarized factions, on the Left and Right, it’s essential that each faction get an equal number of seats at the table, and negotiate around the above organizing principle.

With these assumptions in mind, in 2010 I began a four-year odyssey, brokering meetings between prominent reform-minded conservative and progressive leaders.

To lure each side to the table, I proposed that the agenda include two major reform concepts, which would constitute a kind of deal between the Left and Right.

Since the country is split into two roughly equal polarized factions, on the Left and Right, it’s essential that each faction get an equal number of seats at the table... Stephen Erickson, IVN Contributing Editor

The Left would get its favorite reform: Clean Elections. We’d agree to develop a new campaign finance system for the United States, one that would ensure that candidates for elected office could no longer take campaign donations from the same interests they would regulate once in office.

The new system would guarantee fair elections, without advantages for incumbents, the very wealthy, or particular political parties. Of necessity, we’d also address the Citizens United Supreme Court decision.

The Right would get its favorite reform: Congressional Term Limits. We’d do whatever we could to discourage political careerism and promote citizen government. The precise limits, like Clean Elections, would be subject to negotiation.

We also decided to include a ban on gerrymandering. Everyone outside of the system dislikes the practice of politicians creating their own uncompetitive legislative districts, from which they cannot realistically be removed.

The three reforms would go forward packaged together as a comprehensive anti-corruption amendment to the US Constitution.

Along the way, our great and unified reform movement of the Left and Right might force the passage of lesser reforms legislatively, such as banning campaign contributions from the lobbyists and government contractors, eliminating leadership PACs (which are slush funds for politicians), and forbidding fundraising while Congress is in session.

Politically, the key here is to choose proposals with overwhelming support on both the Right and Left, to build momentum toward the big term limits and clean elections reforms, which require a constitutional amendment.

Policy wonks and recognized leaders could meet in a manageable-sized group, balanced on the Right and Left, to develop the solutions. Then these solutions could be put out to the public via the Web and subject to a majority or supermajority support from each side at the popular level.

Social scientists teach us that such a process, which 1) includes balanced, diverse, and critical points of view, and 2) is subject to broad popular input and approval, will produce the best outcomes.

We would need to create the strongest reform-solutions possible because they must be both powerful enough to defeat the status quo and safeguard our republic for the long term.

Public opinion survey data suggests an already was existing popular consensus for what we hoped to achieve. I was convinced that the popular response to our united reform movement would be awesome (in the true meaning of that over-used word), once we got underway.

Unfortunately, the project never got off the ground. All of the major progressive leaders and organizations ultimately refused to engage in a balanced approach with conservatives.

Ironically, partisanship, group-think and the controlling influence of money – all maladies that need to be purged from the system, itself – were themselves keeping the progressive reformers and their organizations from doing what is necessary.

We would need to create the strongest reform-solutions possible because they must be both powerful enough to defeat the status quo, and safeguard our republic for the long term. Stephen Erickson, IVN Contributing Editor

Conservative leaders, on the other hand, were ready to engage based on the plan outlined above.

Senator Tom Coburn agreed to have dinner with Larry Lessig to explore the possibilities. But that dinner never happened.

Charlie Koch, who despises crony capitalism, sent word down through his organization that the project was “interesting” and that funding was a possibility.

I had two meetings with two different Common Cause presidents. The second was a long dinner with Common Cause senior staff and Peter Schweizer, the highly respected and connected conservative reformer. He is president of the Government Accountability Institute and author of Clinton Cash, among other successful books about corruption and political reform.

Schweizer is the natural leader of the conservative side when it comes to all issues relating to corruption, and he was all in.

Earlier, I had paired Schweizer with Lessig, who walked us to the altar and left us standing there when it became clear that a lot of money was at stake.

Larry Lessig is a good person who was extremely helpful during the first two years of the project. Similarly, I met some fabulous people at Common Cause and in other reform organizations. Good people can make mistakes, and in this crazy partisan climate, misperceptions about “the other side” are really easy to make.

It’s not too late for any of these progressive reformers or organizations to change course. If they are serious about fixing the system, then they can still engage seriously with the conservative side. That means balanced fifty-fifty power sharing in a united reform movement behind authentic leadership for each side. It’s the only way forward.

Ultimately, big-name leadership is only one leg of the three-legged stool on which a united reform movement must be built. And it’s the least important leg.

Funding for a balanced Left-Right reform movement is critical. Ralph Nader likes to point out the potential for any one of America’s many billionaires to smash the current self-interested political system. Nader’s right. Whoever eventually steps up, will be the political/financial hero of our time.

Like no other progressive leader I met, Nader immediately grasped the significance of what Peter Schweizer and I proposed at our meeting with him.

Unbeknownst to us, he was already working on a book, Unstoppable, which is about the potential for progressives and conservatives to work together against corrupt power structures across a range of issues.

Big-name leadership is only one leg of the three-legged stool on which a united reform movement must be built. And it’s the least important leg. Stephen Erickson, IVN Contributing Editor

After leadership and funding, comes the most important element in a united political reform movement: the people, themselves. We must create the most powerful grassroots movement in over a hundred years. If the people lead, the leaders and funders will follow.

Conservatives and progressive teams can form up to fix the system in every county, city, and town across the country. This, in of itself, will go long way toward restoring the civility that has been torn asunder by manipulative self-serving political and media interests.

We’ll have to work social media as aggressively as do all of the political hacks who are constantly poisoning our political system and dividing our communities. (You can start helping immediately by sharing this column!).

Fundamentally, it’s not complicated at all. We must defeat the selfish interests that have captured our government. The Left and Right must unite to restore government of, by and for, the people.

Let’s do this, before it’s too late.

Author’s note: This is part two of a two-part series. You can read part one here.

Editor’s note: Stephen Erickson is the author of “What Would Madison Do? The Political Journey Progressives and Conservatives Must Make Together” and founder of the Clean Government Alliance. You can reach him at WhatWouldMadisonDo@gmail.com.

Read More Articles by Stephen Erickson

Stephen EricksonIVN.us - Independent Voter Network: Unfiltered News

Ending Partisan Gerrymandering for Good Means Severing Party Control over Elections

Tue, 2017-10-17 13:58

Ending Partisan Gerrymandering for Good Means Severing Party Control over Elections

Many of the voters who are becoming the most disenchanted with parties are those who live in “one-party states,” and have experienced closed partisan primaries and/or politically gerrymandered districts.

They know how it feels for their vote not to count, having experienced the injustice of being shut out from primary elections or of belonging to a substantial group of politically like-minded people whose votes have been diluted such that they have no representation in Congress.

Most average Americans who are familiar with how partisan gerrymandering works, whether they be Democrats, Republicans or independents, are strongly in favor of any and all actions that will eliminate such gerrymandering, or at least significantly reduce its prevalence.

However, most elected officials, and the active partisans who support them, prefer to focus their energies on gaining control of the redistricting process so that their team can seize the advantage.

In recent oral arguments before the Supreme Court in the Wisconsin partisan gerrymandering case, Gill v. Whitford, Chief Justice Roberts expressed concern about the court meddling in a political question that he feels is best reserved for the legislature.

Most average Americans who are familiar with how partisan gerrymandering works...are strongly in favor of any and all actions that will eliminate such gerrymandering. Tiani X. Coleman, IVN Contributing Editor

Among other things, Roberts seems worried that there can never be bulletproof, objective criteria for the court to use and that partisan gerrymandering cases will be perceived by the general public as precisely that: partisan.

Roberts believes nearly all redistricting cases will end up before the Supreme Court, forcing the court, constantly, to engage in partisan bias, thus damaging the integrity and public trust in the court.

Is it lost on Roberts that his position to not intervene is in itself taking a political position?

After all, this is a case where Republicans are alleged to have engaged in egregious partisan gerrymandering, and it’s clear from the oral arguments that the justices who were appointed by Republicans are against the challenge brought by Democratic voters, and the justices who were appointed by Democrats seem inclined to favor the challenge.

Justice Kennedy appears to be the swing vote.

Why wasn’t Roberts opposed to intervening in other “political cases” such as Citizens UnitedShelby County, or other such matters, where he voted to strike down laws that harmed Republicans, their interests, or their donors?

And would the Democratic-appointed justices be as eager to create a standard that even the attorney for Appellees struggled to clearly define, if doing so in this case were going against the Democrats instead of favoring them?

Of course, none of the justices were outright in favor of partisan gerrymandering; they seemed to range from declaring it “distasteful,” but perhaps not actionable by the court, to outright “concerning” and striking at the heart of “the precious right to vote,” fundamentally undermining our democracy.

Wouldn’t redistricting lose some of its partisanship if parties weren’t the primary gatekeepers of our elections, wherein the majority party gets all of the spoils? Tiani X. Coleman, IVN Contributing Editor

Yet, even though most would likely agree that this particular case appears to have crossed some kind of line, it’s yet to be determined whether it’s a line they’re comfortable defining and giving a new constitutional cause of action to.

As an independent, there were two things that stood out to me as surprising in the transcript of the oral arguments:

1. It seemed to be a matter of concession that a map drawn by an independent redistricting commission, a court, or a divided legislature would automatically, de facto, be off the table to a partisan gerrymandering challenge.

2. Appellee’s attorney, as a description of their claim, quoted a part of Justice Kennedy’s concurrence in the Vieth case, as follows:

“First Amendment concerns arise where a state enacts a law that has the purpose and effect of subjecting a group of voters or their party to disfavored treatment by reason of their views. In the context of partisan gerrymandering, that means that First Amendment concerns arise where an apportionment has the purpose and effect of burdening a group of voters’ representational rights. “

The first was surprising because I recently read the book, Ratf**ked: The True Story Behind the Secret Plan to Steal America’s Democracy, by David Daley, wherein, among other things, it documents how independent redistricting commissions don’t solve everything since they’re still influenced behind the scenes by partisan power players. Thus, they may only yield slightly better results, with remedies that are often still unacceptably inequitable.

The second was surprising because of the obvious question it raises: Don’t independent voters and third party voters qualify as a group of voters who are constantly subject to disfavored treatment, and don’t all apportionments – controlled by parties that disregard the interests of independent voters – somehow burden our representational rights?

I’m sure that after a while, I start to sound like a broken record when it comes to the need for nonpartisan reform, but couldn’t the court avoid a lot of its concerns about taking on “political questions” if our entire democratic system weren’t controlled by two ever-warring parties?

Wouldn’t redistricting lose some of its partisanship if parties weren’t the primary gatekeepers of our elections, wherein the majority party gets all of the spoils —  chairmanships, the upper hand in fundraising, control of all committees, including redistricting, and more?

Partisan gerrymandering is certainly an egregious abuse of power that needs to be stopped; and if the court can develop a clear, consistent, workable and objective standard, I hope it will do so.

Nonetheless, the root of the problem lies in a system that gives parties – not the American people – control over our elections, and thus our government.

Related Articles

Photo Credit: Tinnaporn Sathapornnanont / shutterstock.com

Tiani X. ColemanIVN.us - Independent Voter Network: Unfiltered News

Independents Can’t Win: The Biggest Lie in the Two-Party Playbook

Tue, 2017-10-17 10:09

Independents Can’t Win: The Biggest Lie in the Two-Party Playbook

There’s no argument that candidates affiliated with the major political parties have tremendous, built-in structural campaign advantages over independent candidates. The range of major-party advantages is long:

But the biggest disadvantage for independent candidates is far less tangible, but incredibly more influential in determining an independent candidate’s ability to run a competitive race — and it will be the most challenging hurdle for the independent movement and its candidates to overcome.

The disadvantage is the voting public’s perception of an independent candidate’s electability.

It’s impossible to believe that the unprecedented movement away from party membership will not have enormous consequences in elections sooner rather than later. Jim Jonas, IVN Contributing Editor

Even the most jaded partisan insider, accustomed to dismissing independents as unable to ever win an election, will acknowledge the explosive growth of independent voters. In fact, some recent reports show that more than 44% of all voters consider themselves independent – making them the largest voting bloc by a wide — and growing — margin.

To be clear, those independents aren’t all centrists and they don’t and won’t vote in lockstep for independent candidates. They come from across the political spectrum, and many still have a social/historical connection to one of the major parties. However, they no longer want to be associated with belonging to one of those broken brands.

But it’s impossible to believe that the unprecedented movement away from party membership will not have enormous consequences in elections sooner rather than later.

Yet the partisan insiders, cheerleading PoliSci “experts,” and especially the political media will continue to argue that independent candidates will never amount to more than footnoted sideshows at best — and spoilers in denying their favorite partisan candidate at worst. The “system” likes and understands how to cover elections in the traditional right vs. left, Red Team v. Blue Team terms.

By their rapidly expanding numbers, independent voters are demanding more and better options than just the two broken down parties. Jim Jonas, IVN Contributing Editor

Independents make things messy and complicated. So it’s easier to reinforce the fallacy that elections are for and about the two legacy political parties and their candidates instead of elections being for and about voters. It’s easier for the media, insiders, and aligned political scientists to simply leave independent candidates off of ballot surveys and articles about elections and to frame elections as just another battle of Us vs. Them.

Stop me if you’ve heard this “expert analysis” from a political beat writer before: “Yes, I get it… the system is broken…the voters can’t stand either of the political parties or the candidates that they’re running — but the independent candidate can’t win so (1) we won’t cover their campaign, and (2) when we DO mention the independent candidate in a news story, we’ll belittle their campaign and remind readers that the most consequential role an independent will ever play is that of a spoiler.

The truth is that newspaper reporters and political scientists can be fantastic experts at looking backwards and analyzing what happened and how and why voters behaved the way they did. Political scientists’ prescience for forecasting future voter/public behavior? Not so great. (See: Gay marriage laws, marijuana legalization, President Trump)

As Jackie Salit, president of Independent Voting, put it in a recent column highlighting an insightful academic report that her organization helped develop:

“Like Einstein’s theory of relativity or Galileo’s insistence that the earth revolves around the sun, new ways of seeing the dynamics of our world can be game changing. The fixed principle of two party politics is eroding rapidly, along with the institutions that enforce that arrangement. What will come to take their place? A new party? A new alternative to parties? That is something that the American people will have to decide. But with 44 percent of Americans looking for an alternative to partisanship and gridlock, it is likely that neither the Democrats nor the Republicans will suffice.”

(A side note: Add Jackie’s “Gamechangers” study from  The Morrison Institute for Public Policy at Arizona State University and the Schwarzenegger Institute for State and Global Policy at the University of Southern California to your reading list.)

It’s clear to me that we’re at an inflection point in American politics. By their rapidly expanding numbers, independent voters are demanding more and better options than just the two broken down parties. But the partisan system and its attendant media, analysts, and academic experts will not give up their stranglehold on election coverage without a fight.

Greg Orman wrote in a recent opinion column in Kansas City Star, “Americans are tired of the professional wrestling in politics”:

“The American people are sending the major parties another message: Your time is running out. (Forty-nine percent) of Republicans and 52 percent of Democrats actually think we need a third party. While partisans don’t like the other party at all, they aren’t particularly fond of their own party either, and they’re looking for alternatives.”

Voters want options. The parties are on the ropes. So what’s the most effective way to change the perception that independents aren’t electable? Independent candidates need to win a few campaigns.

In concert with the growth of independent voters, there will be more credible, capable independent candidates running for elected offices up and down ballots in 2018 than at any time in modern American political history.

Let’s go win a couple.

You Might Also Be Interested In...

Harvard Study: Two-Party Duopoly to Blame for Government Dysfunction

Read More

Related Articles

Jim JonasIVN.us - Independent Voter Network: Unfiltered News

Lawsuit Could Change Presidential Debates Forever Says Attorney for Independent Voter Project

Mon, 2017-10-16 17:50

Lawsuit Could Change Presidential Debates Forever Says Attorney for Independent Voter Project

Chad Peace, attorney for the Independent Voter Project, as well as 6 high-profile signatories, filed an amicus brief on September 22, 2017, in support of a legal challenge brought by Level the Playing Field (LPF).

On October 13, Peace spoke about the brief and its significance to changing the exclusionary presidential debate rules on NBC7 in San Diego.

“The brief argues that the bipartisan Commission on Presidential Debates’ (CPD) 15 percent rule exacerbates the political divide in the US, leaves millions of voters unrepresented in presidential elections, and undermines fundamental democratic principles in order to protect the two-party duopoly,” a previous IVN article reports.

The six individual signatories are credible and qualified candidates for president that would consider running absent barriers like the 15 percent rule that would kill their candidacies:

  • Admiral James Stavridis, a retired Navy admiral;
  • Sen. Joseph Robert Kerrey, former governor and senator of Nebraska;
  • Sen. Joe Lieberman, former senator of Connecticut;
  • Hon. Clarine Nardi Riddle, first female attorney general of Connecticut and co-founder of No Labels;
  • Hon. David M. Walker, seventh comptroller general of the US and co-founder of No Labels; and
  • Hon. Christine Todd Whitman, former governor of New Jersey and administrator of the EPA

“These highly qualified Americans represent the tip of the iceberg,” the amicus states. “It is impossible to know how many others whose ideas, energy, and hopes for America’s future are held captive by the arbitrary and impenetrable barrier to participation presented by the CPD’s 15% rule.”

By many estimates, audiences neared 100 million viewers for the most recent CPD 2016 presidential general election debates. Nearly one-third of all Americans were exposed to the calculated barbs traded by the Republican candidate Donald J. Trump and the Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton.This was pugilism by personal attack and not a debate of ideas about the state of our country and its future. As stated by Mrs. Clinton herself—this was reality television. It’s the consequence of limiting the governing flow of participants and ideas. And, although the spectacle may drive media ratings up, its consequence is devastating to the body politic, as perception drives real behaviors. – Amicus Brief, Introduction.

The Independent Voter Project and joining signatories filed the brief in support of LPF’s motion for summary judgment on a second complaint against the FEC in May.

LPF says the FEC continues to ignore the “mountain of evidence” against the debate commission, and is acting “arbitrarily and capriciously and contrary to law.”

Read the Latest

Jeff PowersIVN.us - Independent Voter Network: Unfiltered News

Voters Pack Capitol to Testify for Maine Ranked Choice Voting

Mon, 2017-10-16 16:33

Voters Pack Capitol to Testify for Maine Ranked Choice Voting

AUGUSTA — Nearly 100 Maine citizens ages 20-81 from across the state descended on Augusta this morning to testify before their elected lawmakers in support of LD 1646.

The bill, introduced by Rep. Kent Ackley, would bring Maine’s voter-approved Ranked Choice Voting law into constitutional compliance and implement it for the 2018 primary and federal elections. Only one Maine citizen testified against LD 1646.

“Ranked choice voting has been Maine law for nearly a year now; a result of the most respectful, deliberative and pure exercise of American democracy that I’ve ever observed,” said former State Senator Dick Woodbury (I-Yarmouth).

Woodbury, who served as chair of the 2016 campaign that won Ranked Choice Voting, added:

“It was debated, deeply and thoroughly in innumerable public forums over a period of nearly two years leading up to the referendum vote, and it was passed into law with the second most affirmative votes of any referendum in Maine history.”

One by one, Democrats, Republicans, independents, Greens, and Libertarians took to the podium to ask their lawmakers to respect the will of the people and implement Ranked Choice Voting now. No delay. No repeal.

“It never occurred to me that the Legislature might spit in the face of the voters and consider refusing to implement the unchallenged portions of Ranked Choice Voting,” said Cushing Samp, a resident of Saco who was understandably frustrated.

Ranked choice voting has been Maine law for nearly a year now; a result of the most respectful, deliberative and pure exercise of American democracy that I’ve ever observed. Former State Sen. Dick Woodbury

“This has brought new hope for us and made me an even prouder citizen of Maine,” said Andrew Tarrant, a veteran who took the day off work to come testify. “I am asking you today to keep this dream alive.”

“I speak as an engaged election administrator, as the Registrar of Voters for my town,” said Amy Smith of Arrowsic. “Ranked Choice Voting is not a mysterious or overwhelming task. It’s a proven voting system in many settings. We can do this.”

Rep. Lois Galgay Reckitt of South Portland spoke to the heart of the issue, “The process of Ranked Choice Voting will let everyone not only to be heard, but to feel heard.”

The Veterans and Legal Affairs Committee also brought in RCV experts from Minnesota and North Carolina to testify.

It never occurred to me that the Legislature might spit in the face of the voters and consider refusing to implement the unchallenged portions of Ranked Choice Voting. Cushing Samp, resident of Saco

Gary Barlett, the former Director of Elections for North Carolina, had 86 days and no additional appropriation from the North Carolina Legislature to implement Ranked Choice Voting for a statewide special election in 2010.

Gary said, “What is so remarkable, the RCV Election ended up being a routine election accomplished in a short period of time. We understand Maine has different laws, policies and customs, but North Carolina’s RCV experience can offer insight and emulation where it makes sense.”

Jeanne Massey, who managed public education in Minnesota cities where Ranked Choice Voting is used, testified:

“As the implementation experience at the municipal level in Minnesota’s largest cities and at the statewide level in places like North Carolina has shown, a competent staff of election administrators is unquestionably capable of completing the implementation process in a period even shorter than the current time frame ahead of the June 2018 primary elections.”

The Maine Legislature is expected to take up Ranked Choice Voting during the upcoming special session. Citizens attending the public hearing today said that they plan to show up again and again, and again, if necessary, to make sure their lawmakers uphold their will.

Read The Latest

Committee for Ranked Choice VotingIVN.us - Independent Voter Network: Unfiltered News

The “Cube Root Rule”: A Push to Make Congress More Representative?

Mon, 2017-10-16 15:40

The “Cube Root Rule”: A Push to Make Congress More Representative?

The Constitution does not set the size of the House of Representatives. Until the 1920s, its size changed after every census, expanding to reflect the nation’s growing population.

However, the 1920 census created controversy within Congress over which states should receive new seats. A resolution emerged in 1929 when the size of the House was frozen at what it happened to be after the 1910 census – 435 seats – regardless of population growth.

U.S. population has tripled since 1910, and the fixed number of seats creates serious disparities among the states in the number of people per representative.

Wyoming has one congressional seat with 568,300 people in the district, while Montana also has only one seat despite having a population of 1,043,000.

To address this problem, as well as the ever-increasing number of people per representative nationwide, two alternative methods of determining apportionment come to light.

U.S. population has tripled since 1910, and the fixed number of seats creates serious disparities among the states in the number of people per representative.

The “Wyoming Rule” takes the population of the fifty states and divides it by the population of the smallest state, which then would serve as the number of congressional districts to be apportioned. The seats are then apportioned to the fifty states.

This method prioritizes fairness between districts: The population of the smallest state will also be the average population of congressional districts overall.

The “Cube Root Rule” would instead have the national legislature always be the cube root of the total population of the nation. The House would be the cube root of the U.S. apportionment population minus 100 (to account for the 100 United States senators).

Political scientists have found that national legislatures often approximate the cube root of their populations. This method prioritizes responsiveness to population changes. As the population grows, so too does Congress.

The number of seats apportioned by the Wyoming Rule based on the 2010 census increases the number of representatives by 109 from 435 representatives to 544, with 40 states receiving at least one additional representative.

Based on population projections, applying the Wyoming Rule to the 2021 redistricting would result in 577 seats, with 43 states seeing an increase compared to a House size of 435.

The Cube Root Rule would apportion 576 seats to the states following 2010, with 43 states receiving at least one additional representative. Population projections suggest that following 2020, 592 seats would be apportioned out with 45 states receiving additional seats compared to a House size of 435.

In either case, the largest share of the additional seats goes to the larger states like California, Texas, and New York, but almost every state would see some increase in its number of representatives.

The Wyoming Rule’s ideals of equity seem reasonable, but it neither tracks overall population nor does it protect against the possibility of the House becoming huge.

In fact, if the Wyoming Rule been used in 1920, the House would have had 1,360 Members, and that number would have decreased every decade until 1990, even as the population grew.

The Wyoming Rule’s ideals of equity seem reasonable, but it neither tracks overall population nor does it protect against the possibility of the House becoming huge.

The Cube Root Rule provides a better fit between population and the size of the House, but it lacks the intuitive value of matching the size of districts to that of the smallest state.

Though both methods have their strengths and weaknesses, either would make voting power across state lines more equal.

In a forthcoming report, we will demonstrate what size Congress would have been under each of these rules between 1910 and the present, as well as forecasting its size into the future. We also demonstrate the small impact these changes would have on the Electoral College.

Editor’s note: This article, written by Daniel Greenberg, originally published on FairVote’s blog and has been modified slightly for publication on IVN.

Related Articles

Photo Credit: Drop of Light / shutterstock.com

Fair VoteIVN.us - Independent Voter Network: Unfiltered News

Independent Terry Hayes: “I’m Beholden to Maine Voters, Not Parties or Wealthy Donors”

Mon, 2017-10-16 13:44

Independent Terry Hayes: “I’m Beholden to Maine Voters, Not Parties or Wealthy Donors”

Independent candidate Terry Hayes officially launched her clean elections campaign for the governor’s seat in Maine Monday. Hayes was joined by family, friends, and supporters as she made her announcement during press conferences in Portland and Bangor.

“I am running as an independent, clean elections candidate for Governor because I choose to be beholden to the Maine people, and not to party leaders, wealthy donors, and special interests,” said Terry. “I have the experience, independence, and courage to lead Maine in a bold new direction.”

As Governor, I will lead with integrity and respect, giving Maine citizens more voice and more choice in our democracy, making government more transparent and accountable to the people... Terry Hayes, Independent Maine gubernatorial candidate

Hayes currently serves as the state’s first independent state treasurer, selected by state lawmakers on both sides of the political aisle. She was also a member of the state House from 2006 to 2014, serving the constituents of Buckfield, Hartford, Sumner, and Paris.

According to a press release sent out Monday, Hayes’ campaign was the first one to release its list of major endorsements, which include independents, Republicans, and Democrats.

  • Rep. Denise Harlow (I-Portland)
  • Hon. Andrea Boland (D-Sanford)
  • Hon. Les Fossel (R-Alna)
  • Hon. Bryan Kaenrath (D-Gouldsboro)
  • Hon. Stan Short (I-Pittsfield)

Other notable endorsements include The Centrist Project and former Republican State Representative Les Fossel.

Hayes has promised to put the people of Maine over party leaders and special interests, saying her policy positions are based on pragmatic problem solving rather than ideology.

“There are good people in Augusta who care deeply about our state and who want to solve problems, but they are stuck in a paradigm that rewards partisanship,” says Hayes.

“The rules governing our democracy have been written by the powerful to maintain their privilege at the expense of Maine people. As Governor, I will lead with integrity and respect, giving Maine citizens more voice and more choice in our democracy, making government more transparent and accountable to the people, and inviting and encouraging partnership, not partisanship.”

According to Ballotpedia, there are currently 11 declared Democrats and 3 declared Republicans for the race. Republican Governor Paul LePage cannot seek re-election as he has been term limited out, opening the door for an independent candidate to rise.

Related Articles

Shawn M. GriffithsIVN.us - Independent Voter Network: Unfiltered News

Getting Primaried: Politicians Paralyzed by Fear of Losing Power

Mon, 2017-10-16 10:40

Getting Primaried: Politicians Paralyzed by Fear of Losing Power

I often get asked questions such as, “why isn’t the GOP standing up [at all / more] to Trump? Congress obviously hates him.” Sometimes the questions are worded with less curiosity, but that is the ultimate question behind what people are saying.

While it’s not always clear just how each member of Congress feels, it appears to be the case that there is greater intra-party antagonism between the GOP Congress and the presidency than in a very long time.

If this is the case, why does it all seem to be swept under the rug rather than brought into the light?

The answer, of course, lies in re-election incentives, but it is not so simple as to simply say “re-election incentives” and then be done with it.

Are members of Congress simply power-grubbing maniacs with no moral compass or no care for the country? It is impossible to say what lies in the heart of one US lawmaker to another. However, having met with a few I believe at least many believe they are trying to do their best for their constituents and country, based on their perceptions of the constraints around them.

Perhaps their primary goal currently is re-election. If so, it may be to prevent someone “bad” from taking their place. Who knows?

But that incentive is seriously in play right now.

How the Tail Wags the Dog

Trump’s popularity is hovering below 40 percent. This means nearly 2 Americans disapprove of Trump for every 1 that approves. This would normally suggest that he does not have much in the way of political power.

But if we look closely at the seat of his political power, we start to understand more. While (in one poll) 37% approve of how the president is handling his job, 79% of Republicans do. The math seems not to work out until you realize that only 26% of Americans are Republicans.

The conventional wisdom (whether correct or not) is that if you pick a political fight with a popular president of your own party, you’re in trouble come re-election time. Not so much from the other party, but you’re at risk of getting “primaried.” The president’s supporters in your party will come out to oust you for someone else who wants to stand by the president’s agenda.

Many GOP lawmakers may be nervous about an open fight with the President because he remains very popular among the small faction (Republicans as a whole) they depend on to win the primary. This is how the tail wags the dog: a comparatively small minority of Trump supporters have Congress in a bit of a hostage situation.

The conventional wisdom (whether correct or not) is that if you pick a political fight with a popular president of your own party, you’re in trouble come re-election time. Erik Fogg, IVN Contributor

Until and unless Trump’s popularity wanes further, that incentive will remain in play for Republican lawmakers. They may make individual decisions counter to that incentive, but it’s likely we won’t observe a mass Congressional uprising against Trump until that incentive fades.

We see this reality come into the light anecdotally. Senator Bob Corker essentially called President Trump a child in need of daycare. He did this after he announced that he was retiring from Senate: he no longer had re-election incentives, so he could speak his mind–or at least respond to other incentives.

The Times, They May Be A Changin’

Trump has stumped for precisely one GOP lawmaker in a special primary so far: Luther Strange, in Alabama. That candidate lost. Alabama is a state where Trump had (around the special election) 55% approval –much higher than the national average. Despite this (and lots of money spent by the GOP establishment), Trump’s candidate lost.

The candidate Alabama picked, Roy Moore, is not a moderate “RINO” hoping to #RESIST Trump or any of that. He’s an insurgent railing against the GOP establishment, hoping to really take down DC from the inside.

If there is going to be a GOP break from Trump, it is likely to come all at once. Erik Fogg, IVN contributor

Sound familiar?

This primary loss is a sign that Trump’s supporters may not vote for who he tells them to. This opens up a much bigger can of worms (including: “How much do his supporters care about him being able to accomplish his legislative agenda?”) that we can leave aside for now.

Trump’s popularity is also slowly degrading among Republicans, which means lawmakers may bide their time to see how low it can get. The other change one might see is a “pact” for many GOP lawmakers at once to denounce and break from Trump when he’s sufficiently unpopular. If this happens, Trump could have too many targets to campaign against.

If there is going to be a GOP break from Trump, it is likely to come all at once. It would be by far the safest and most effective way to use such a break to achieve a goal rather than just be a beautiful hill to die on.

How Do We Prevent Dog-Wagging in the Future?

There are a number of structural changes we can make. Right now, the 35% or so support that Donald Trump has is highly amplified because of a combination of closed primaries and first-past-the-post elections.

Closed primaries allow small, highly motivated partisan factions to control who goes on to the general election, so we’re stuck choosing between partisan favorites rather than people who appeal to the entire country.

A first-past-the-post voting system causes a two-party system to emerge. If someone asks you why you don’t vote third-party even though you don’t like the other choices, explain Duverger’s Law to them.

Can we change these? Yes, we can.

Related Articles

Photo Source: CNN

Erik FoggIVN.us - Independent Voter Network: Unfiltered News

Two California Assembly Bills Could Stiffle Republican Control of San Diego

Fri, 2017-10-13 13:59

Two California Assembly Bills Could Stiffle Republican Control of San Diego

California Governor Jerry Brown signed two bills Thursday that will give San Diego County voters greater control in county elections.

AB 801 restructures the county’s Independent Redistricting Commission by creating a representative 14-member commission that is not solely comprised of retired judges like the current commission’s structure requires. It will now be a bipartisan panel representing all 5 supervisorial districts.

The bill will affect the redistricting process after the 2020 decennial census, and will impact the lines drawn for the 2022 election cycle.

The other bill, AB 901, allows San Diego voters to amend the county charter to require all San Diego County elections to have a November election, even if a candidate gets over 50 percent of the vote in the June primary. This would ensure that all county elections are decided when the greatest number of voters participate.

Voter turnout typically doubles in November, when compared to the primary turnout in June.

Here are some stats offered by the Independent Voter Project:

  • 2012 voter turnout – 37.43% in the primary, 76.98% in the general election
  • 2014 voter turnout – 27.23% in the primary, 44.76% in the general election
  • 2016 voter turnout – 50.94% in the primary, 81.48% in the general election

AB 801 and 901 were supported by the Independent Voter Project. The group also backed successful election reform initiatives for the City of San Diego in 2016 (Measures K & L) to require that all city elections have a November election and city ballot initiatives must appear on the November ballot. This means San Diego voters will make the greatest decisions affecting their city when the most voters participate.

Now, voters have an opportunity to do the same at the county level. A ballot initiative to amend the city charter to require November elections could go before voters as early as next year.

Related Articles

Shawn M. GriffithsIVN.us - Independent Voter Network: Unfiltered News

Defense Secretary: If We Don’t Remove Defense Cap, We’re Questioning America’s Survival

Fri, 2017-10-13 10:16

Defense Secretary: If We Don’t Remove Defense Cap, We’re Questioning America’s Survival

Speaking at the annual Air Force Association conference on September 20, Defense Secretary James Mattis engaged in the time-honored tradition of complaining about the defense budget. While many would say that with defense making up the largest expenditure in the federal budget there couldn’t possibly be a problem, Mattis may actually have been correct in his comments, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

“If we don’t get budgetary predictability, if we don’t remove the defense caps, then we’re questioning whether or not America has the ability to survive,” Mattis said at the conference. “It’s that simple.”

Congress has agreed to a continuing resolution that funds the government through December 10. This limits spending to the levels of fiscal year 2016 while also preventing the Pentagon from launching any new programs. This is the 30th continuing resolution enacted over the last decade.

“We have got to move with the Congress, and the congressional leaders are calling for this, toward passing the president’s budget towards lifting, removing the defense caps … so that we maintain our competitive edge. Otherwise it will erode,” Mattis added.

If we don’t get budgetary predictability, if we don’t remove the defense caps, then we’re questioning whether or not America has the ability to survive. Defense Secretary James Mattis

In his speech, Secretary Mattis highlighted some of the areas that needed attention.

Speaking about space and cyberspace, Mattis said “we need new starts in order to take advantage of what our industry can deliver if we’re willing to invest there.”

Mattis also said that the military needs to move beyond technology and be able to develop their own strategies, instead of relying on vulnerable command and control systems, because of the possibility of being cut off by the enemy.

“In cyber space there are more and more, I would call it ‘attack capability,’ in the hands of enemies to take down our command and control systems than we have seen in past times,” Mattis said.

Many would say that Mattis is over reacting about the nation’s budgetary woes, but data from the Congressional Budget Office may support where he’s coming from.

According to a recent report, while the budget has steadily increased, though not as much as the defense department would like, most of that increase spending was seen in areas that are not operationally related.

Data from the CBO shows that in the post 9/11 era, and particularly since 2008, the largest increase in defense spending has been seen in medical programs, instead of departmental management, where combatant activities are funded.

In cyber space there are more and more, I would call it ‘attack capability,’ in the hands of enemies to take down our command and control systems than we have seen in past times. Defense Secretary James Mattis

According to the CBO data, between 2001 and 2016 spending for central medical programs increased by 84 percent, nearly twice as much as spending for departmental management, which increased by 45 percent in the same time period. This can be attributed to a number of factors, but it all adds up to concerns about the country being able to meet emerging threats.

“Some factors suggest that DOD may face difficulties in achieving efficiency in spending. Because DOD lacks market-based incentives such as prices and profit, the Office of Management and Budget and the Congress have often resorted to using control measures, such as targets for reductions in headquarters staff, to guide the department toward efficiency. That several of those measures have been implemented over time indicates that some of them were not perceived to be successful,” the report says.

“In addition, DOD and its components perform diffuse tasks, from combat to the management of supply chains; the size of the department and the divergent outputs of those tasks make it difficult to measure and improve their efficiency,” the CBO report adds. “Taken together, those factors suggest that spending on certain support functions, such as management, may not have improved efficiency as much as spending on other activities.”

At the Association of the United States Army’s annual meeting and exposition earlier this month, Mattis said in the keynote address, “The international situation is the most complex and demanding that I have seen in all my years of service — and that’s over four decades.”

He went on to add that recent actions by North Korea are “threatening regional and even global peace despite universal condemnation by the United Nations.”

“This is the reality that faces our Department of Defense and our like-minded allies,” Mattis said. “We must have militaries fit for their purpose, fit for their time in these days of emerging challenges.”

At this event, Mattis went on to outline several efforts being undertaken by the DOD to adapt to these threats, despite budgetary concerns, including increased lethality, strengthening alliances with allies, and reforming their business practices.

So were Mattis’ comments simply talking points delivered to a receptive audience or were they based on real concerns? The truth is probably a bit of both. There has been a great deal of concern over the last few years about a hollow defense force in the face of an increasingly hostile world.

While the defense budget has increased at a fairly steady rate over the last 15 years, the question that only time will answer is, “Will it be enough when we need it most?”

Related Articles

Photo Credit: Jim Mattis / Flickr

Wendy InnesIVN.us - Independent Voter Network: Unfiltered News

Sen. Sasse: “Rs and Ds Speak to 25% of Americans; What About Everyone Else?”

Thu, 2017-10-12 14:07

Sen. Sasse: “Rs and Ds Speak to 25% of Americans; What About Everyone Else?”

Republican US Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) responded to a tweet from President Donald Trump over the weekend, in which the president called out the “one-sided coverage” in the media:

1. TV is declining. What do you propose for other forms of media?
2. R & D parties each speak to <25% of America. What about everyone else? https://t.co/IjobcOTeFr

— Ben Sasse (@BenSasse) October 7, 2017

Sasse raises an important point. It is not just a one-sided narrative, as the president suggests. The current national narrative is dominated by two private political corporations that only speak to less than a quarter of the voting population.

The rhetoric has gotten so divisive, so extreme because the anti-competitive framework of US elections — party primaries, restrictive ballot access laws, extreme partisan gerrymandering, exclusive debate rules — enables the Republican and Democratic Parties to only have to speak to the most partisan members of their bases.

That long-held duo control is becoming more tenuous, however, as more voters disassociate themselves with polarizing partisanship and constricting party lines by joining the independent movement... Joseph Garcia, Morrison Institute for Public Policy

And here is the thing: the bases for both political parties are shrinking, which means the us-vs-them, uncompromising, hyperbolic language on both sides is not only getting worse, it is speaking to a smaller and smaller percentage of Americans.

This was covered in a recent paper by ASU Morrison Institute for Public Policy, USC Schwarzenegger Institute, and Independent Voting, called Gamechangers? Independent Voters May Rewrite the Political PlaybookPolitical academia, pollsters, consultants, and the media have kept the national political discussion locked in 1950s, red vs. blue politics.

“That long-held duo control is becoming more tenuous, however, as more voters disassociate themselves with polarizing partisanship and constricting party lines by joining the independent movement — either by action, name or both,” said Joseph Garcia, director of communication and community impact for the Morrison Institute for Public Policy, and director of its Latino Public Policy Center.

Most Americans are not represented in the US’s political infrastructure — whether we are talking about Congress, on the campaign trail, national polling, or in the media.

That is why papers like Gamechangers and a recent study from the Harvard Business School that explains just how much the two-party duopoly has crippled competitive elections are so important.

Get More On This Story

Gamechangers: USC, ASU, Independent Voting Partner to Challenge Two-Party Academia

Read More

Related Articles

Thomas A. HawkIVN.us - Independent Voter Network: Unfiltered News

More Bizarre Developments in Case Against Former Wasserman Schultz Staffer

Thu, 2017-10-12 10:11

More Bizarre Developments in Case Against Former Wasserman Schultz Staffer

Update 10/12/17: US Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas) says there are “hundreds of potential federal charges” in the Awan scandal.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Mirando revealed in federal court proceedings that former congressional IT staffer Imran Awan “wiped clean” a cellphone he was found with when he was arrested at Dulles International Airport in July. According to Mirando, the phone was wiped “just a few hours before” his arrest.

Awan’s attorney, Chris Gowen, then told the judge, “Awan had recently bought the phone, so of course it didn’t have any data on it.”

In response, Mirando revealed that the FBI discovered the phone was wiped on purpose. A time stamp on the Apple iPhone indicated that it had been wiped at 6:30 p.m. that evening, just a little over three hours before his arrest.

The phone has a feature that allows consumers to “wipe” its contents and revert it to its default, factory settings. FBI investigators could tell when the phone was wiped because it created a “dot obliterated” file with a time stamp at that time.

In another twist during the hearing, Gowen brought up the computer that US Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz tried to get removed from the Capitol Police’s evidence file and returned to her by publicly threatening the police chief during an annual budget hearing for the department.

Wasserman Schultz told the police chief there would be unnamed “consequences” if she didn’t get the computer back.

Astoundingly, Gowen made the case that the computer was “protected by attorney-client privilege” because it was left in a public phone booth with a note that said “attorney client privilege.”

Rep. Wasserman Schultz has come under fire for her close relationship with Awan.

“For several months, Wasserman Schultz refused to remove Awan from house payroll even though he was barred from the House computer system which would presumably prevent him from performing any reasonable IT work,” Matthew G. Whitaker, executive director of the right-leaning Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust (FACT), wrote in a letter last summer to Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE) Chairman Doc Hastings.

Whitaker called it “contrary to the House Ethics Rules for Wasserman Schultz to continue to pay Awan with taxpayer funds even after he was barred from the House computer system and could not perform his duties, and was also under criminal investigation.”

Get Up to Speed

Read IVN's Full Coverage of the Imran Awan Case

Read More

Related Articles

W. E. MessamoreIVN.us - Independent Voter Network: Unfiltered News

Pages

Media Freedom International