Legislators Challenged to Find Courage and Take Initiative for Electoral Reform

The Florida Initiative for Electoral Reform challenges legislators to "find the courage and take the initiative to build representative democracy in Florida".
Dec. 16, 2010 - PRLog -- Monday's public hearing of the Palm Beach County Legislative Delegation in Belle Glade saw the Florida Initiative for Electoral Reform ask who among legislators would “find the courage and take the initiative to build representative democracy in Florida?” The challenge came at the end of a brief speech by FLIER President Yury Konnikov.

During the speech, Konnikov highlighted the crisis that is the current electoral system in Florida. A system, he said, that “stifles competition, does not tolerate pluralism, and restricts access to the average person.” FLIER firmly believes the result has been the breakdown of representative democracy and the creation of an incredibly safe investment environment for moneyed interests. Konnikov stated that this is further reinforced by “policy filters that assure many legitimate policy solutions never make it onto the political agenda.”

As evidence he cited the fact that in 2010 alone, 36 State House and seven State Senate seats were won unopposed. An average of the last four legislative elections shows that nearly 40% of Florida voters have only one candidate on the ballot for either State House or State Senate. Yet, these numbers do not even include those races where the only opponent was a write-in, no party, or third party candidate. Even more staggering was the statistic that between 1996 and 2008 Florida incumbents for either state or federal office were re-elected 97.6% of the time.

After indicting the status quo, FLIER revealed that it did not come empty handed. Konnikov launched into a list of solutions including campaign finance reform, citing SB 2264 sponsored by then State Sen. Frederica Wilson in 2007, instant runoff voting for single member elections, ballot access reform, and an end to the legal discrimination between “major” and “minor” parties, recommending a wholesale change in the way parties are registered. He also recommended that parties who use a public resource like the Supervisor of Elections to operate their primaries for candidate selection pay for it themselves. Presently, these primaries are taxpayer funded, yet 2.5 million Florida voters unaffiliated with the two “major” parties cannot vote in them. These and other solutions are explored in depth in FLIER’s policy pamphlet ,“Resuscitating Democracy,” available for free on their website. Interestingly, Konnikov pointed out that the Democratic and Republican national committees already use forms of instant runoff voting to elect their chairs. While making the case for ballot access reform, he stated that unlike Florida, which requires expensive filing fees or nearly unattainable petition requirements, the United Kingdom requires ten petitions from registered voters in a district and the equivalent of a $733 fee for a person to get on the ballot for national parliament, which is refunded if they receive at least 5% of the vote.

Summing up the speech, Konnikov asked that if many legislators agree a free market provides the best value to consumers, "why can’t we apply the same kind of freedom to our electoral system so it can provide the best value to voters as a representative democracy?”

Which legislators will be up to the challenge of building representative democracy in Florida remains to be seen.

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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.
Tags:Electoral Reform, Florida, Elections, Ballot Access, Politics, Legislators, Palm Beach, Campaign Finance, Instant Runoff
Industry:Government, Society, Legal
Location:West Palm Beach - Florida - United States
Page Updated Last on: Jun 29, 2011

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