What's your prescription?

How can we make our democracy more responsive, relevant, inviting and inspiring?

All across the world, people are organising for positive change. They're fighting for better voting systems, participatory budgets, democratised schools, campaign finance rules, reclaiming public spaces, horizontal power structures, less partisanship and local neighbourhood democracy.

Which ideas excite you? Please provide any links you can (groups, articles, interviews, etc).

And what are your ideas? If you could change ONE thing, to transform our democracy... what would it be?

Please share!


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Local, every day participation

Traditional ways do not allow governments to efficiently gather feedback, collect quality ideas, and most importantly - align their communities. Citizens expect better results with just a “yes” or “no” as feedback; while governments struggle to have the capacity and leadership to coordinate change, and the expertise to solve each of today’s complex problems.

Today’s challenges (and institutions) are not siloed or solely under one specific mandate; they require comprehensive, multi-faceted solutions and approaches - not only from government but from civil society, businesses and organizations.

I propose local, civic, every day participation to eliminate the feeling of alienation, improve coordination & collaboration between actors, and revive the sense of collective ownership. I work for a social enterprise, Civocracy.org, working towards this end.

The platform

Effective online civic interaction requires a combination of information, discussion and action. Civocracy provides a digital platform that connects people, governments and stakeholders and provides them with the necessary tools to communicate and collaborate effectively. The platform is a place for the community to gather, open debates, propose policies & ideas, find local events, obtain feedback for specific projects.

As the world pursues economic and environmental sustainability, the local level becomes more and more relevant - for efficiency and efficacy in decision-making, implementation, and innovation management.

Civocracy links both people and cities across borders and enables the sharing of solutions beyond of traditional structures. We create a network of engaged cities and organisations willing to commonly tackle local issues by involving their ecosystems

History 

Frustrated by the bad interaction between local governments & citizens and swayed by the potential of social media; Benjamin Snow & Chloe Pahud set out to create a platform that would connect stakeholders and make participation a daily habit.

In 2015 they graduated from the Startupbootcamp Smart City & Living Accelerator, where they found their CTO, Nicolas, an investor, Centric, mentors and their first customer.

Two years later Civocracy is active in three countries, leading projects with 10 different governmental organizations, employing 8 people and revolutionizing the way communities interact on locally and globally relevant projects.

 www.civocracy.org

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Elections are an oligarchical mechanism. They can't be fixed.

Various reforms of what we call  "democracy" have been tried for decades, even centuries. Dozens of countries have been run using various variants of the same system - the elections based regime. Throughout this time, and throughout those countries, government has always been in the hands of the elite.

A system run by an elite is not a democracy but an oligarchy. Now an oligarchy doesn't necessarily have to be viciously oppressive, but it is an oligarchy nonetheless - a regime where elites maintain power and determine policy. Occasionally those elites have pursued policies that serve the many, but on the whole whoever holds power serves their own interests not those of others that are outside of power, and indeed in general the electoral elites have been pursuing policies that promote their own interests at the expense of the average citizen.

The remedy must be doing away with elections altogether. The democratic alternative to elections is sortition: government by a statistically representative sample. If Congress, or parliament, is selected as a statistical sample of the population, government is no longer done by an elite, but by the people themselves. Once that happens - and only once that happens - we can expect government to pursue policies in the interests of the entire population rather than in the interests of a narrow powerful elite.

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Education

Many people, who don't get involved, care by misinformation. (Yes, the one writing this could be misinformed in areas.) Because of this, extending voting days, deciding to tackle the president's office first, etc. won't necessarily help a society reach equality or a close version of it that actualizes change. Acting towards these are important, but how do we change misinformed minds that are in these positions to cause change(or for a mind like one of us to be included in those positions)? Yes, there are strategies that take time, and we work towards them. But as we discuss these, fresh minds are born into misinformed, 'apathetic' families, where they go to school to meet similar minds, whose focus moves toward a culture of topics like these: https://www.ted.com/talks/meaghan_ramsey_why_thinking_you_re_ugly_is_bad_for_you?language=en Basically, many leave negative environments to go to another negative environment because of the others, who come from a negative environment. Some come from a positive environment, and that can be advantageous. Not always. But sometimes. Either way, people that come from negative environments don't have ideas on change, don't engage with subjects 100%, aren't critically thinking, therefore can't apply subjects to solve real-world issues. And advantageous students can benefit from the practices I'll bring up below, too. This isn't a reality for everyone, but it is what I've seen. I've seen it in my family, in high school peers, and in myself. (Grateful to have Internet access to this idea, as well as other TED ideas and books (after much irreplaceable feeling and too focused on that feeling instead of doing).) Social, world, and health issues, leave the mind while a self-focus/feeling of being controlled by circumstances holds it. This has to be eliminated. There are studies showing the effects of meditation on emotional balance, wellbeing studies, philosophy for children, and how these have changed ones feeling of control and positive learning outcomes (these have helped me, too). So, imagine if these were introduced into many schools at a young age to high school ages. Links below show that these practices affect people similarly, which would help young people to not only be driven by care for other people/their world but also a sense of control in their ability to do so. They create compassion for the person standing next to you and strengthen appreciation in relationships, which leads to working on problems together and an interest in solving those problems.... There is this false apathy, but there is also this disconnect with a person, who might share similar values. And these practices build that human connection. Because no problem is tackled by one individual. And because a lot of enthusiasm and natural curiosity to solve an issue is lost in the home and/or lost at school, schools can change our minds because schools are where these minds spend the majority of their days. Schools hold our future and the majority. Let's not aid our children's inactivity and hope it gets fixed when they turn our age. Because adult inactivity is only fixed when there's knowledge about it, a change in emotional balance, a feeling of being connected. Strategies for those three things have to be thought about. At a certain point, this 'apathy' can be ingrained. And it is hard to get an adult to access these ideas, especially when they have checked themselves into feeling replaceable. Just an idea. Would like to hear y'all's thoughts. http://centerhealthyminds.org http://depts.washington.edu/nwcenter/ http://ideas.ted.com/what-the-best-education-systems-are-doing-right/ https://www.ted.com/speakers/sugata_mitra

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A Monarch for America

The Problem

A major weakness of the American system of democracy is the office of the president itself. By combining the role of head of state, head of government, and party leader into a single office the American Founding Fathers created a position which is unable to do any of its assigned roles particularity well. As head of state the president is forever in conflict with himself over doing and saying what is good for the country as opposed to what is good for his party. As head of government the president's focus is divided between keeping his party united and his country working in harmony when he should be focused on crafting effective legislation. As party leader the president is too far removed from the party itself (and too busy) to effectively guide its actions. As a result the president's every action is viewed with a cynical eye, every bill before congress a disorganized and bloated mess, and both parties lacking in clear and transparent structure. And pity the poor fool who becomes president as the four to eight years drain the life from them and leaves them visibly aged. The pressures of the office of president mean that only very specific types of people seek to become president and it is debatable that they, on the whole, have the characteristics for being a good head of state. Even before the last vote has been cast the successful candidate will have a scarred country to heal. A country scarred partially by their own efforts to attain power. And even if they are successful in healing the damage they have done they must contend with the partisan shots fired from the opposition ranks. If they accept these shots as legitimate (aimed as they are at the head of government and party leader) the office of the president becomes covered in muck. If on the other hand the president wraps himself in the flag, constitution, and republican virtue the needed scrutiny of legislation is diminished as the cowed opposition, unwilling to appear unpatriotic, acquiesce to whatever law their god-president demands.

Finally, it has been shown that directly-electing a president decreases voter turnout for legislative elections by 5-7% (among other things). [1]

The Unworkable Solution

Some countries have become parliamentary republics in order to separate the office of head of state from that of head of government and avoid potential pitfalls. They are only marginally successful. The president of such a system serves a ceremonial role and is either a powerless nobody or more inclined to interfere in the legislature's business than one would generally allow of a position appointed by said legislature. [1][2] How much interference? Enough that there is a measurable difference in how parliaments of constitutional monarchies, presidential republics, and legislative republics handle government failures. To be specific, both forms of republic have a marked preference for not consulting the people via election when governments fail. [3] But even if such things are avoided, who becomes president in a legislative republic? Politicians, thinking very highly of themselves, cannot comprehend of a more fitting person to be president than a fellow politician. So it is that even if a republic starts off naming accomplished members of society from outside the political sphere eventually it begins to favour politicians. [4][5][6] 

 

The Royal Solution

 A constitutional monarch suffers none of the disadvantages of a president. By being solely head of state they can carry out the role of being a national uniting figure and a non-partisan focus of loyalty. The people can be assured that when they speak, they speak of their own convictions without an overlay of partisan considerations. By retaining reserve powers the monarch acts as the final defence of the constitution, and democracy, against those who would harm either. By being irremovable from the pinnacle of power they remind politicians that they too are servants of the people. By wrapping themselves in patriotic glory the monarch hinders politicians from likewise wrapping themselves in the flag. By being a constant in a country's life for many years the monarch is a symbol of stability in a chaotic world; a comfort. And whats more, they can do it full time while the head of government works at their own duties. Perhaps even helping the populous to trust each other more now that there is no president tearing them apart. [7] And by leaving law-making up to Congress the political class can no longer point fingers at the executive when they fail to come to agreement. There may even be positive economic effects to having a monarch. [8]   

And by putting a position gained by that one commonality we all share, the accident of birth, at the center of the nation Americans would be affirming their faith in human equality. For by doing so we triumph nature over political maneuver, the individual over the faceless state, and those doing their best over those especially adept at politics. It is the victory of the human person.  

Citations

[1] https://global.oup.com/academic/product/presidents-with-prime-ministers-9780199553327?cc=ca&lang=en&# 

[2] http://journals.cambridge.org/action/displayAbstract?fromPage=online&aid=6101672

[3] https://img.washingtonpost.com/wp-apps/imrs.php?src=https://img.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/files/2013/07/constitutionalmonarchy_replacement.png&w=1484

[4] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Presidents_of_India

[5] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Presidents_of_Israel

[6] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Presidents_of_Italy

[7] http://www.socialcapitalgateway.org/sites/socialcapitalgateway.org/files/data/paper/2012/09/07/pc.pdf

[8] http://polsci.ku.dk/arbejdspapirer/2008/ap_2008_02.pdf

 

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"Four ways to hit reset on local elections" (Well, ten actually...)

There's a great article published today, by David Riley in Rochester, about democratic reforms proposed for local elections. 

The title of the piece is "Four ways to hit reset on local elections", but the article actually describes ten reforms including background details, context, quotes from advocates and links to resources!


The ten reforms are:

Online voting
Declaring Election Day a holiday
Same-day voter registration
Early voting
Running where races aren't expected
Instant Runoff Voting
Proportional Representation
Non-partisan elections + Open primaries
Campaign finance reform
Voter education (both youth + adult)

Read the whole piece here

 

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A more proportional EC - Remember where they came from

Washington DC has 3 electors, 3 whom I will ignore since they were added, specifically for DC, in the 60's. 

All other ECV (Electoral College Votes) are determined by the same formula

Senators + Members of the House.

 

There have been proposals to see the entire EC go to a proportional method, but this often has opposition as it takes away some of the power smaller states have. Currently, if you win a small state by a small share of vote, you win all of the ECs, whereas under this method, a candidate is almost guaranteed at least 1 of the 3.

 

This proposal will mean that if you "win" the "state", you also win the 'senate ECVs'. 

 

Lets say someone wins Wyoming by 51% vs 49% for their opponent, that person would win the 2 "senate" votes, and this happens before any proportional calculation is carried out. In this example, since there is only a single proportional seat, the person who takes 51% would win all 3.

This will ensure that the smaller states still matter, if not matter even more, since any state with 4 or more EV's might end up split, while the 3 EV states would retain their winner-take-all methods. 

 

Washington State has 12 ECVs. Lets presume that one candidate wins the state by 60% over 40% for the other.

The winner would take the 2 "senate" votes, plus 6 "proportional" votes, for a total of 8, while the loser would take 4 proportional vote for a total of 4.

 

Lastly

Why use this system and not full-out proportional ECVs? or full out proportional without ECVs?

 

Simple. I'm not writing this because I desire to waste my time, or I wish to explore a fantasy universe where such proposals are easily turned into laws. I'm writing this because I believe it has a far better chance of becoming law than any "more pure" proportional system does. 

In short, this proposal is "more electable" than many other proposals, and hence why I feel it is the best possibility. 

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Weekend Voting

It's ridiculous that we vote on Tuesdays!  Weekend voting would make our elections more accessible and would likely increase voter turnout.

For more background, check out this New York Times op-ed by Congressman Steve Israel and Norman Ornstein.  (2008)

Also, here's a recent press release by Steve Israel about his proposed legislation to move elections to the weekend.

"Our current system penalizes single parents, people working two jobs, and those who have to choose between getting a paycheck and casting a ballot. Two weekend days of voting means those working families would have a greater chance of making it to the polls. It means easing the long lines during rush hour at the polling sites. It means more locations, more poll workers and more voters."

And... a video:

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Wikipedia-style legislation

Why do we expect our legislators to be knowledgeable in the thousands of topics they make laws about every year? Why are we mad when they do not learn about the laws they are putting into action and simply sign off anything that comes across their desk?

Why not instead have everyone contribute the 3 or 4 topics they are knowledgeable about? This could be a Wikipedia style legislation which would allow everyone to input their opinions on how things could be run...kind of like the truest form of a democracy.

Even if only 1% of the population participated, we would still have 1000x more people and points of view involved in the process. This would of course mean that corruption would nearly be impossible as it would be much harder to bribe one side to get things done a certain way for their benefit. People would also be able to participate in a much lower level, say 1 hour per week, rather than needing to almost devote your life to a topic as you need to do now.

Are you skeptical that this would work? Do you think that private interests would come out? Well let's look at a little website called Wikipedia in which I challenge you to find something there that is not neutral. This is somehow the one place on the internet where 'dissing' someone's mom or comparing someone to Hitler is just not acceptable...Why not have the rules of our country set up the same way?

***YouTube video series on this topic is coming out soon***

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Make voting mandatory

It should be mandatory to vote, with stiff fines for refusing.  But all ballot papers should have a manadatory "None of the above" option as well as space for write ins.

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New Hampshire Rebellion

There's some really inspiring things happening in New Hampshire about campaign finance reform.

People are literally MARCHING across the state - in January - to push for change.

Check out their website and watch this TED talk by Lawrence Lessig! 

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Let's lower the voting age to 16!

Some cities in the US have recently lowered their voting age to 16. There is a lot of good data, showing that 18 is the WORST age to introduce voting, because people at that age are like to be away from home, really busy with school, and/or drinking.  ; p


Two resources:

CNN: Let 16-year-olds vote

"Votes at 16" campaign in the UK

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Abolish the Senate in my state!

Whenever I contact my state legislators, I call my State Representative and State Senator. Later they get together behind closed doors and ask the important question: what do the lobbyists want? Once the decisions are made and the laws are passed, I don't get the result I want. But who do I blame? The lobbyists know who to 'thank', but come election time, I can't tell which party or politician was responsible for what. Even the governor in my state gets to veto or line-item-veto bills (and therefore make all kinds of backroom demands). I know how my representatives voted on a motion or even the final draft of a bill, but it is in those secretive meetings to discuss how the Senate and House will compromise on a bill where the real power brokers decide what will happen. Abolish the Senate! Then We the People will know who to thank or blame on election day. This is a non-partisan call for transparency and accountability to voters.

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Elect what matters

We need to get rid of elections for things that shouldn't be political, such as judges and sheriffs. Some states like mine have even more weird political offices like town planner, engineer, coroner and attorney-general. We need more focus on the mayors, city councils, governors and congress elections - not distractions that actually turn serious jobs into sound bites and lobbying.

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MayDay PAC

I love this group. We need to get big money out of politics.

A Super PAC.. to end all Super PACs! 

www.mayday.us

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