Taxpayer-funded political donation vouchers in Seattle can continue because they don't restrict any voter's free speech rights, the Supreme Court of Washington ruled Thursday.
The unanimous decision, upholding the first public campaign financing program in the nation, is a potential milestone for the cause of revamping the way money flows in politics.
The judicial blessing is welcome news for the public financing systems created in at least seven other cities and counties across the country since Seattle established its program four years ago. It is also a sign that various ideas for government subsidy of campaigns — which are under discussion in dozens of local jurisdictions, have advanced halfway through Congress this spring and also become a topic on the Democratic presidential campaign trail — will remain open to debate without being readily swept away as violating the Constitution.
Seattle's system "does not alter, abridge, restrict, censor, or burden speech. Nor does it force association between taxpayers and any message conveyed by the program. Thus, the program does not violate First Amendment rights," Justice Steven Gonzalez wrote for the state's top court.
In the olden days, secrecy in Congress was the rule of thumb. But that has changed, and James D'Angelo of the Congressional Research Institute claims that transparency is hindering the legislative branch.
An advocacy project at Princeton University has released a new guide for those who want to combat excessive partisanship in the drawing of legislative districts, hoping it will be a roadmap to help citizens push for fairer maps in all 50 states.
The Princeton project's state information page offers a color-coded map that divides states by "key redistricting features." Eighteen are shaded dark or light green, for example, signaling a third-party commission or demographer already guides the drawing of voting districts.
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Both Mitch McConnell and Harry Reid have taken hacks at the filibuster rules, but it's time to go even further, writes Golden.
Golden is the author of "Unlock Congress" and a senior fellow at the Adlai Stevenson Center on Democracy, which seeks to improve democracy on a global scale. He is also a member of The Fulcrum's advisory board.
It may seem like recent Supreme Court decisions have the conclusive power to halt reform efforts to unrig congressional districts and suck the billions of dollars out of our politics. But this is really not the case. A path remains for Democratic leaders to restore fairness and common sense to American elections. But in order to do it, they'll need to rip a page out of Mitch McConnell's book and restore majority rule to the Senate.
The fact is that millions of Americans of different political stripes crave electoral reforms that would make the House more accurately reflect voter preferences and would slash the corruptive influence of big money on Capitol Hill.