2010 Elections Reveal Democracy Deficit

Despite a higher than usual turnout and enthusiasm, the Florida Initiative for Electoral Reform says the 2010 midterm elections, like previous elections, highlight the flaws within Florida's electoral system and the nation as a whole.
Nov. 23, 2010 - PRLog -- Despite a higher than usual turnout and enthusiasm, the 2010 midterm elections highlight the flaws within Florida's electoral system and the nation as a whole. The Florida Initiative for Electoral Reform says that every election demonstrates the urgency of implementing reforms that will move Florida away from its two-party plutocracy and build a representative democracy.

FLIER cites both the races for Governor and Senate as good examples. Both winners in those races won without a majority vote, a key cornerstone of democracy, cites the non-partisan group. This results from plurality voting where simply the candidate with the most votes, not a majority, wins. FLIER proposes that Florida implement ranked choice voting (instant-runoff voting) to remedy this democratic deficit. In fact, such a method was endorsed between 2003 and 2005 by various newspapers as a cost effective alternative to the elimination of runoffs in statewide races by former Gov. Jeb Bush. Proponents say this would eliminate the "spoiler" effect where candidates with fewer resources are seen as siphoning off votes from their closest rivals thus "spoiling" the election for like-minded voters. The concept reared its head in the race for Senate with "leaders" urging Democrat Kendrick Meek to drop out in order to help no-party affiliate Charlie Crist beat Republican Marco Rubio while Tea Party enthusiasts pressured Libertarian Alex Snitker to drop out in favor of Rubio. Even in the very close Governor's race the votes accumulated by no-party and third party candidates made all the difference, preventing majority winners in both races, due to more than two candidates participating in the election. Ranked choice voting, on the other hand, always requires and yields a majority winner.

The fundraising record in Florida was easily broken, particularly in light of the Supreme Court's Citizens United vs. FEC decision. The Governor's race alone saw nearly $100 million raised and spent. Winner Rick Scott invested $73 million of his own money. FLIER believes this over-monetization of politics is a barrier for average people who seek to participate. Though a constitutional amendment was on the ballot to eliminate Florida's existing public campaign finance system, FLIER says that the existing system simply funnels more money to the already well privately-financed candidates. Instead, the group says the state should adopt campaign finance reform based on the "Clean Elections" model as a stop gap towards ultimately reducing the influence of private money over elections. "Elections should be treated as public good," said Fred Markham, FLIER's campaign finance spokesperson.

Despite the money and the media, there were still seven State Senate and 36 State House seats where candidates ran unopposed. These numbers do not include races where the only opposition was a no-party affiliate and/or write-in candidate. Amendments 5 and 6 on the ballot, brought forth by FairDistricts Florida, passed and it is hoped that they will have an impact on the level of non-competitiveness in Florida where an average of nearly 40% of voters have had only one candidate to choose for State House or State Senate over the past four elections.

Since Florida, like the nation, is under a two-party system the next two years guarantee one-party rule in Tallahassee due to the simple logic that in a two-party system, one party is always the larger. "Essentially, this creates no incentive for cooperation or coalition building so long as leaders can keep their caucuses in lockstep," said FLIER co-organizer Yury Konnikov.

FLIER believes these, among other problems, are systemic and will continue to undermine representative democracy until the necessary reforms are implemented. The group outlines the concrete steps it believes are necessary to secure representative democracy in Florida in it's pamphlet "Resuscitating Democracy: Competition, Pluralism, and Representation in Florida". In the end says co-founder Jayne King, "We must have an accessible representative democracy where we can vote based on our hopes, not our fears."

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The Florida Initiative for Electoral Reform is a non-partisan coalition of groups and individuals recognizing the need for electoral reforms to enrich and expand democracy in our state and its localities. In addition to advocacy, we seek to provide education on electoral reform and the policy solutions necessary to realize it. We are working towards a vibrant democracy with accessibility for the average person, a competitive political environment, and pluralism in policy and decision making. For more information please visit http://www.floridaelectoralreform.org or e-mail info@floridaelectoralreform.org.

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