Over the past couple of months, columnist Harriet Hausman has written several pieces that can generally be grouped under the topic of “defending American democracy.” Her recent column of Aug. 30 was entitled, “Highest priority: voting rights.”
We, the West Side Greens, both applaud Harriet and share her concern about the threats to democracy. We wish to put forth the position that what is needed at present is an expansion of democracy.
We wonder, what good are voting rights if there is deliberate repression of ballot access? Did you know that although the Green Party and the Libertarian Party have both fielded presidential candidates since 1996, Illinois classifies them as new parties and thus requires a significantly higher number of signatures to gain ballot access?
In addition to harder ballot access requirements, the Democratic Party has sued to prevent the Green Party from being on the ballot numerous times, including successfully in Wisconsin in 2020.
Recent polls show American voters (a) overwhelmingly identify as independent and (b) want more choices. Fair ballot access laws are necessary.
Furthermore, we need changes to enable more citizens to be represented as well as to encourage more citizens to vote. One suggestion that has been adopted in many cities, as well as the state of Maine is Ranked Choice Voting (RCV). In multiple-party elections, RCV enables a voter to rank their choices. When New Yorkers voted to adopt RCV, the New York Times editorialized that this would lead to more voter participation and more respectful campaigning.
Another expansion of democracy would be proportional representation. In our winner-take-all system, the voices of large segments of the population are silenced. Proportional representation would give voice to more points of view and be in keeping with democratic ideals. Obviously at the national level, the Green Party is in favor of the elimination of that relic of compromises over slavery: the Electoral College.
In an earlier column about democracy on June 28 titled, “The almighty dollar,” Harriet Hausman expresses her concern regarding the role of big money in elections, government, and also the Supreme Court. The United States desperately needs campaign reform that does not sell government officials to the highest bidder. This includes strict limits on campaign donations, the elimination of Super PACS, the end to the legalized bribery known as lobbying, and the end of influence buying “gifts.”
In a 2015 interview, former President Jimmy Carter stated that the United States is now “an oligarchy with unlimited political bribery.” A recent study by researchers at Northwestern University and Princeton determined that the U.S. meets the definition of oligarchy.
We are proud that the Green Party is the only party that accepts no corporate donations. Our position is both major parties are controlled by corporations.
It is time to raise the call to expand our democracy!
Jim Madigan, Julie Samuels and Bruce Samuels are members of West Side Greens.
Originally published on 9/12/23 in the Journal of Oak Park and River Forest: https://www.oakpark.com/2023/09/12/expanding-democracy/