A Voters' Bill of Rights
From the Independent Progressive Politics Network (www.ippn.org):
January 2001

The conduct and results of election 2000 have led to the emergence of a growing national movement in support of a Voters' Bill of Rights. This Pro-Democracy Campaign will begin with a Pro-Democracy Week January 15-20, 2001.

We encourage widespread circulation and strong, persistent action in support of these critically-needed reforms.

Strict Enforcement and extension of the Voting Rights Act.
As the vote in Florida and many other states demonstrated, the intimidation and disenfranchisement of communities of color still goes on. The federal Justice Department must strengthen its vote enforcement division to swiftly investigate and prosecute those who act in this way. The Voting Rights Act, some provisions of which are scheduled to expire in 2007, should be extended.

election protestersAbolishment of the Electoral College and its replacement with a majority rule election.
The President should be elected by direct, popular vote and must receive a majority of the votes to take office. If no candidate receives 50% plus one of the votes cast, a runoff must be held. A system called Instant Runoff Voting, in which voters rank candidates in order of preference, will allow this to happen without the need of a second election and eliminate the "spoiler" factor. More Information at www.globalexchange.org.

Clean Money Elections.
A ban on "soft-money" contributions is needed immediately. We also need to establish full public financing of public campaigns and public information services for voters. Broadcasters must carry debates and provide free time for all candidates and parties as a license requirement to use our public airwaves. Candidates must be given the choice of running campaigns with public funds instead of accepting special interest campaign contributions, legalized bribery. Clean election laws like those in Maine, Vermont, Massachusetts and Arizona should be expanded to other states and taken to the federal level. For More Information: www.publicampaign.org

Instant Runoff Voting.
To encourage more participation in the electoral process, voters must know that their vote can really count. By allowing voters to rank candidates in order of preference (first, second, third choice, etc.), if no candidate gets a majority of first choices, a runoff count can be conducted without the need for a second election. The same as in a traditional second-election runoff, the majority choice can be determined, while also allowing voters the opportunity to vote for those candidates they like the most without worrying that in doing so their vote will help candidates they like least. Instant runoff voting also promotes positive campaigning and coalitions, since winners may need the second choices from opponents' supporters. For More Information: www.fairvote.org.

Proportional Representation.
"Winner-take-all" is a very undemocratic way to choose representatives to government. Why should 49% of voters in a legislative district get 0% representation? Most democracies in the world use some form of proportional representation to choose legislatures. If one quarter of the voters support a particular party, they should be able to elect roughly a quarter of the seats in a city council or legislature. The majority of voters will elect the majority of seats but minorities will get their fair share of representation; it's common sense!ÑFor More Information: www.fairvote.org. --Proportional Representation Library: http://www.mtholyoke.edu/acad/polit/damy/prlib.htm

Voting Rights for Former Prisoners.
Why should ex-felons not be able to vote? They've "paid their debt to society." There are over four million American citizens in this category, particularly African Americans who are incarcerated at a disproportionately high rate. These lifetime voting prohibition laws violate citizens' constitutional voting rights and must be repealed.

Make Voting Easier and More Reliable.
Many citizens are discouraged from voting by unnecessary bureaucratic hurdles and restrictions. Although most people don't get excited by politics until a few weeks before an election, in 44 states it is already too late to register to vote by then. Citizens should be able to register to vote up to and on voting day itself, with appropriate protections against voter fraud. Students should be able to register and vote in the locality where they are going to school. To maximize voter participation, voting could be conducted by mail, or voting day could be a national holiday, or on the weekend. Voting precincts should be adequately staffed with sufficiently trained personnel and professional supervision. Old and unreliable voting machines, found disproportionately in communities of color, should be replaced, funded by the federal government, with reliable means of voting and vote-counting, including provision for the use of instant runoff and proportional representation voting.

Easier Access to the Ballot, the Media and Debates for Candidates.
In our two-party system, third or fourth parties face a host of institutional barriers, from getting on the ballot to being included in debates to broadcasting their views. This discourages people from voting because alternative voices help enliven the political debate that is at the heart of any healthy democracy. Prohibitive ballot access requirements should be altered, debates should be open to all ballot-qualified candidates, and all such candidates should receive free air time.

Create Independent and Non-Partisan Election Administration Bodies.
As the controversy in Florida has proved, the partisan or bi-partisan control of electoral institutions can cast a cloud of illegitimacy across what should be the simple act of vote counting. Electoral commissions at all levels of government should be free of control by any political party. Many countries, including neighboring Canada and Mexico, already have such bodies. We need to move to emulate those kinds of truly impartial systems.

Statehood for the District of Columbia.
The District of Columbia has more citizens than several other states yet it has no voting representation in the U.S. Senate or House of Representatives. This is manifestly undemocratic. There is no good reason why all of our citizens should not have to opportunity to choose voting representatives to Congress. For More Information: www.freespeech.org/dcstatehood.

For More Information on Pro-Democracy Week Contact: Pro-Democracy Campaign, c/o IPPN, P.O. Box 1041, Bloomfield, NJ 07003 973-338-5398(t), 338-2210(f), indpol@igc.org, www.ippn.org.

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