Donate
News. Debate. Community. Levers for a better democracy.
Big Picture
True
Ethan Miller/Getty Images

There are steps we can take to open the presidential debates to candidates who want to change the system, writes Beckerman.

All politics, and all political transformation, is local

Beckerman is the founder of Open the Debates, a cross-partisan group that advocates allowing more third party and independent candidates to participate in campaign debates.

Are you sick of our political discourse yet? I know I am.

Are you tired of being trapped in a two-year vortex of nauseating presidential politics every four years?

For better or worse (okay, definitely worse), presidential campaigns capture the energy and attention of voters and leave us feeling powerless to fix a completely broken political system. Candidates that aim to fix the system — think John Anderson, Ross Perot, Ron Paul, Ralph Nader, Gary Johnson and Jill Stein — get shut out of the main conversation.

There have been countless efforts to hold the self-proclaimed Commission on Presidential Debates accountable to produce fair and inclusive debates. But it is a private corporation created by the Democratic and Republican parties, and it has the political establishment's blessing to maintain a duopoly on presidential debate participation. The courts, so far, have obliged.

If we are ever going to succeed at opening up the presidential debates to more voices and better choices, we need to do two big things that will take the decision-making out of the hands of some untouchable front-group for the two parties:

Keep reading...
Voting
True
George Frey/Getty Images

Utah disproves the myth that voting at home is a ploy of the political left, writes McReynolds.

Myth-busting the top 10 objections to 'vote at home' systems

McReynolds is executive director of the National Vote at Home Institute, a nonpartisan organization dedicated to expanding voting by mail-out ballot.

During this year's state legislative sessions, we saw nice progress, but also a number of myths, unfounded fears and outright falsehoods about "vote at home" or "vote by mail" election systems, in which all or most voters in a state or county are sent ballots in the mail and not required to go to traditional polling places.

For starters, VAH critics often ignore the reality that all 50 states already use this voting method at some level (aka absentee ballots). And objections often get presented in a vacuum, ignoring how traditional "polling-place-centric" methods have major inherent disadvantages.

Polling-place-centric elections poorly serve millions. Think about older or disabled voters unable to get to the polls; rural voters far from a polling place; first responders whose schedules can be preempted; parents working two jobs; families with sick children; students and many others with real-life issues that prevent voting in a fixed place, within a limited window of time.

Polling-place models also suffer from execution problems that can disenfranchise large swaths of eligible voters, both innocent and not always so: missing power cords for the machines, malfunctioning machines, poll workers who forgot the keys, long lines where voters give up and go home, voters told their registration is not valid, voters without "proper" ID and polling places far removed from some communities.

But well-implemented VAH models enable all to cast their ballots on their terms and timelines, while providing more days and more ways to vote, including in-person options. And if a close election demands a recount, VAH systems have paper ballots for every vote cast.

Keep reading...
Utah Elections

"The Salt Lake City metro area has been split like a pizza between our four congressional districts so that the community's voting power is diluted," writes former Rep Karen Shepherd.

Utah's initiative to end gerrymandering

Shepherd represented Utah in the House of Representatives from 1993 to 1995 as a Democrat.

First a personal story. Shortly after President Trump was elected, I attended a town hall meeting called by my congressman. It was held in the large auditorium of a Salt Lake City high school, and about 2,000 people attended. As a former member of Congress who had held many of my own town hall meetings before anxious and upset people, I was interested in watching how this meeting would be managed. I knew the audience was mostly made up of Democrats and the representative was a Republican. Most of his constituents did not live in the city and neither did he.

After an introduction by the district director, the congressman came forward to speak. His first words, after welcoming us and noting the huge size of the crowd, were to say he assumed people were there because they didn't agree with his stands on many issues. Then he pointed to a pie chart showing where in Utah he had won votes in the last election. "As you can see here," he said smiling, "it doesn't really matter what you think about me or these issues." He then pointedly noted his votes had come from elsewhere in the state – the mostly rural, much more conservative part of Utah.

A solidly Democratic region in the middle of a mostly Republican state, the Salt Lake City metro area has been split like a pizza between our four congressional districts so that the community's voting power is diluted. As a result, unrepresented voters alternate between desperate attempts to overcome the system and total indifference to the political process. Meanwhile, voters in Republican areas, always sure their candidates will win all but the rare competitive races, often stay home. As gerrymandering has increased, Utah's voting record has declined. Democrats don't vote because they know their vote doesn't count and Republicans don't vote because they know their vote isn't needed.

Keep reading...
© Issue One. All rights reserved.