The House Democrats’ ‘By The People’ (BTP) election reforms package

Michael Golden and Lawrence Lessig have an op-ed at the Chicago Sun Times about an election reform package that the Arizona media ignores and does not report. Opinion: Three ways Congress can muscle-up to your voting rights:

Voting-RightsOver the last year, presidential candidates from both parties have ridden to great success the populist cry of a “rigged system” – in which billions of dollars in campaign cash have destroyed the very idea of a representative democracy. The American electorate has embraced this message.

Donald Trump distilled the charge to a dozen words: “When you give, they do whatever the hell you want them to.” And in differing degrees and with different styles, Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton have both attacked the tight grip of campaign cash on the politics of our nation.

But with three months to go before ballots get cast, only one of the two frontrunners – and her party – has unequivocally supported specific plans to solve these problems. And though the presidential race now dominates the media conversation, it is in Congress, which currently carries a 14 percent approval rating, where these solutions will matter the most. The polarization and paralysis on Capitol Hill, stemming from our rigged election system, prevents legislators from negotiating and compromising to make meaningful progress on the issues that Americans consistently prioritize.

Fortunately, some in Congress are working toward a solution. Just before the national conventions, the House Democratic leadership announced its “By The People” (BTP) legislative package. These reforms, backed by 187 members of the rank-and-file, are designed to “revitalize our nation’s voting laws, restore sanity to the electoral process, and empower everyday Americans to reclaim their voice in the political process.”

First, BTP would take a big step toward reforming the practice of gerrymandering by mandating independent state commissions that would more fairly draw America’s lopsided congressional districts. When over 84 percent of U.S. House races are foregone conclusions before voting even begins, and 95 percent of incumbents are reelected, largely due to rigged districts, it is time to take action. Clinton supports such action. Not a word from her opponent.

Second, BTP would restore essential provisions of the Voting Rights Act, which was eviscerated by the Supreme Court 2013 Shelby v. Holder ruling; promote automatic voter registration for all Americans when they turn 18; and expand early, in-person voting in every state. Clinton supports these actions. Not a word from her opponent.

Third, and perhaps most importantly, BTP would change the way congressional elections are funded, by leveraging small donations up to $150 with public matching funds at a ratio of 6 to 1— and 9 to 1 for candidates who choose not to accept contributions over $150. The law would force disclosure of the millions of dollars in dark money contributions that currently remain hidden within our system, and replace the gridlocked FEC with a five-member agency possessing increased investigative and enforcement powers. Clinton supports these changes. Silence from her opponent.

Trump’s silence is Clinton’s opportunity. If she promised a frustrated America “if you give me a Democratic Congress, I promise to pass these reforms in the first 100 days,” then the anger that has boiled over in this election could have target and focus. Electing a Congress committed to reform is the first and essential step to restoring a representative democracy.

Clinton could make this election a referendum on that reform, and get a Congress that is finally equipped to represent America.

Trump recently declared: “If I am elected president, I will end the special interest monopoly in Washington, D.C.” That is bold rhetoric, reflecting a cross-partisan political reality. But Trump and Republicans in Congress have done nothing to show that they would fix this democracy. To the contrary, the GOP Party Platform actually favors raising contribution limits. Clinton and the Democrats are committed to reform. And Americans could be rallied to a party that supports reform with a real plan to achieve it.

This is democracy’s chance. Like Johnson with civil rights, or Nixon with China, we need leaders bold enough to seize it.

Hillary Clinton will push a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United— most likely to be achieved by appointing justices to the U.S. Supreme Court who understand and appreciate that Citizens United was wrongly decided and is among the worst Supreme Court decisions of all time.

6 responses to “The House Democrats’ ‘By The People’ (BTP) election reforms package

  1. Sen. John Kavanagh

    Districts are rigged to be non-competitive mostly due to the federal voting rights act that mandates minority districts be over-packed with minorities (Dems) to insure the election of minority candidates. For every over-packed Democrat district there must be a comparable over-packed Republican district – that’s math. Arizona’s state independent commission could not change that. So what do you value, guaranteed minority districts or competitive elections?

    • captain*arizona

      since one man one vote republicans have packed districts to help their friends and hurt their enemies. I have seen this go since the 1960′ with occasion help from democrats like polly getzwhiler and others. your problem mr. republican is 100 mexican american kids turn 18 every day in arizona add dreamers its 140 a day and almost every one of them hating repuliscum almost as much as I do. we will “deal” with sun city, fountain hills and east mesa. revenge is a dish best eaten cold as the kleons say. and you good government white liberal elitists stay out of our way when we takeover and start paying the republiscum back!

    • AZ BlueMeanie

      Really? You’re going with Donald Trump’s “rigged” election line? You do know that the VRA minority district rules applied only to covered jurisdictions with a history of racial discrimination, like Arizona. That Section 4 coverage was struck down by SCOTUS.

      This does not affect states like Pennsylvania and Ohio, for example, where Republicans gerrymandered districts disproportionate to the Democratic vote in those states.

  2. captain*arizona

    do any of these reforms allow 3rd party easier entree into the debates or easier access to state ballots?

    • AZ BlueMeanie

      It’s about voters, not parties.

      • captain*arizona

        wrong again! the voters almost couldn’t vote for jill stein. reagan didn’t contest lawsuit be cause she would take votes from the other party. if it had been the libertarian reagan would still be contesting it.