Gerrymandering

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Let’s Rank

 

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PROPOSED REFORMS TO THE AMERICAN ELECTORAL SYSTEM

Thanks to all who contributed.  Below is a summation of the comments received organized by topic.  We will post a poll allowing you to rank the importance of each identified problem.

Money

  • Corrupting influence of money
  • Cost of running for office limits the number of people able to participate
  • Inability of individuals to have influence equal with corporations, unions, special interest groups
  • FEC is partisan and ineffective
  • Inability of the public to determine in a routine and timely manner which individuals/groups/corporations are funding which candidates/campaigns
  • There is no place for “dark” money in political campaigns
  • Amount of time required to raise vast amounts of money limits the time congresspeople can spend on constituent issues

Media

  • Corrupting influence of money (e.g. In campaign years, large media companies, especially those owning TV stations, get 12% of their income from ads.)
  • As media companies are for-profit they have tended to the gin up entertainment aspects of the campaign to increase viewership rather than concentrate on substantive or illuminating reporting
  • Debate Format
    • Too little time given for thoughtful answers
    • Too little time given to examination of issues of general interest (e.g. national security, economics, social issues, etc.) and too much time given to the ‘news’ of the day.
    • Networks have not been good moderators.
    • Reporters need to have access to candidates.  Some journalists appear to be overcautious in what and how they report about campaigns in order to maintain their access.
  • Networks/Broadcasters should be required to clearly identify each of their programs as news, commentary and/or entertainment.  News programs should include accurate who, what, where, why and when and should not include commentary from pundits, focus groups, etc.
  • Global perspectives and news would be welcomed by many commenters

Gerrymandering

  • All comments received on this were against gerrymandering.  The solutions to the problem, however, were varied.  When we get to solution building this should make for an interesting discussion.
  • Leaves many with feeling that individual votes don’t count thereby reducing interest in government/voting.

Electoral College

Electoral College should not decide elections.  Popular vote should decide elections.

Primary Process

  • Scheduling of primaries gives outsized importance to some states over others
  • Primary process is overcomplicated and too lengthy

Voting Rights

  • Re-enfranchise individuals who have served time in prison upon their release.
  • All citizens should have an equal right to vote regardless of the State in which they reside.  Therefore, States should not have the right to pass laws that will have the effect of disenfranchising any groups.

Congress

  • While making about 3 times the median U.S. income, Congresspersons work about half the number of days (e.g. most people work 240 days per year while the House worked only 111 days in 2016)
  • There is a lack of congeniality and politeness interfering with Congress’ ability to do its job and which disrespects the public and U.S. institutions.
  • Even when congresspeople return to their state/district they fail to meet with constituents.  Instead, constituent issues are heard by local staff and hopefully, conveyed.
  • Congress is permitting too much industry input into legislation up to the point of allowing lobbyists to write legislation.
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Really Important Info

No matter in what manner we decide to push electoral change, we will have to go through the States for approval.  The Dianne Rhem show yesterday was about ballot initiatives in various states.  This information is invaluable to us so I hope you will take some time to listen to the broadcast.

http://thedianerehmshow.org/rss/npr/dr_podcast.xml

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Why What We Believe To Be True Raises an Important Question

The majority of Americans believe there is too much money in politics and it is having a corrosive effect.  We believe the ability of wealthy donors/special interests to outspend everyday Americans has resulted in a government unresponsive to our needs.  This is old news.  The question rarely asked is why has this long-term, widespread dissatisfaction not led to a successful effort to reform the system?

The answer is, as Pogo said, “We have met the enemy and he is us.”  Billions of dollars are spent all across the country by presidential and congressional campaigns.  According to Open Sources the 2012 presidential race cost more than $2.6 billion and the race in 2016 may double that amount. According to Maplight, on average a house seat in 2012 cost $1,689,580 and a Senate seat cost $10,476,451.

The people and businesses to whom the money goes have become the built-in constituency for keeping the gravy train going. Campaigns employ thousands of people, spending money across the country.

We know that a large percentage of the money in the form of advertising goes to broadcasters at both the national and local level.

Another large chunk of money goes to a myriad of consultants including but not limited to:

  • overall campaign strategy
  • online strategy
  • legal advice
  • media buys
  • direct mail
  • polling
  • speech writing
  • etc., etc., etc.

All of the consultants employ staff including writers, graphic artists, interviewers (working for pollsters), managers, clerical staff and so on and so on.

There are also the production costs including those involved in producing advertisement for televisions, print ads, email and direct mail advertisements and so forth and so on.

And then there is all of the money that gets spent on the ground including rent for office space, rent for venues, security, catering, travel, equipment and, and, and.

From the waitress in a local diner to the well-paid manager of a super pac, campaigning has become a huge nationwide industry from which many of us gain.

Ironically, much of the money spent in campaigns is wasted because studies have found that television advertising is not effective.  What is effective is having a candidate or the candidate’s surrogates (including volunteers) talking, one-on-one, face-to-face, with voters.

In view of the fact that politicians, on average spend a third of their time fundraising, one wonders how much more successful and responsive politicians would be if they spent less time with donors grubbing for money and more time with their constituents.

Do you agree that money in politics is a major problem?  If not, why not? If so, how might we resolve this problem?

________________________________________

You can look up massive amounts of information on this subject online (and we hope you do).  Some articles we found helpful in producing this post include:

http://washingtonmonthly.com/magazine/janfeb-2012/the-campaign-industrial-complex/

http://billmoyers.com/story/political-industrial-complex-government-consultants/

http://harpers.org/archive/2016/04/down-the-tube/2/

http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2015/06/02/us/politics/money-in-politics-poll.html

https://www.opensecrets.org/overview/cost.php

http://maplight.org/content/73190

http://fortune.com/2015/03/28/campaign-financing/

https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/politics/2016-election/campaign-finance/

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First blog post

Whatever our differences, we all agree that those elected to represent us are not doing so effectively.  The Pew Research Center wrote:

“Currently, just 19% [of Americans] say they can trust the government always or most of the time, among the lowest levels in the past half-century. Only 20% would describe government programs as being well-run. And elected officials are held in such low regard that 55% of the public says “ordinary Americans” would do a better job of solving national problems.”

Many organizations have proposed solutions but seem not to have been able to popularize or gain traction on them.  Maybe that is because they are trying to promote these solutions to politicians instead of coming to us; the people.  Politicians are not going to reform themselves or the system in which they are embedded.  Therefore, we the people must, we can, and we will.

Let this be the start of a movement that will make it impossible for government to continue to ignore the people.

First, lets define the problems. What do you believe to be the 5 most important issues?* On October 16, we will publish a summary of all the suggestions received and will ask you to rank them to provide a consensus document.  Based on what we believe to be the most pressing items we can begin to work together on solutions that can be implemented at the state and/or federal level.

In the meantime, let’s get the discussion started.*

*Please be polite and empathic.  Comments that are intended to make others feel uncomfortable will not be accepted.

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