FLIER calls for reforms to Parties, Primaries, and Ballot Access
Citing taxation without representation and the underhanded tricks seen in primaries within the two parties, the Florida Initiative for Electoral Reform (FLIER) calls for fundamental reforms to parties, primaries, and ballot access.
June 3, 2011 - PRLog -- WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. – In Palm Beach County a group of political insiders and incumbents including County Commissioner Burt Aaronson and State Reps. Irving Slosberg, Mack Bernard, and Steve Perman, have put into words what has been known for a long time. The group, ironically called People's Choice PAC, has issued a letter to the Palm Beach County Democratic Party urging them to "avoid unnecessary and destructive Democratic primaries" by formally supporting incumbent commissioners and legislators. The matter is revealing in two ways. First, it demonstrates the inability of the existing two-party plutocracy and its taxpayer funded primaries to substitute for representative democracy. Secondly, in a system where two parties control all "credible" political expression, discouraging primaries simply further damages an already broken system. Such a system also results in parties with no actual members, only voters who passively affiliate on taxpayer funded forms so they can vote in these primaries.
It has long been known and seen that during primaries party "leaders" among Republicans and Democrats work behind the scenes to clear the path for their favored candidate so as to save up resources for the general election. This was evidenced in the 2010 Republican Senate primary when former chair of the Republican Party of Florida, Jim Greer, attempted to anoint Charlie Crist as the sole candidate of the party while ignoring others, including Marco Rubio. The same was true of the 2010 Democratic primary for Florida governor where Alex Sink received all of the party's attention at the expense of her primary rivals. These examples are numerous and stretch into every level of politics from federal to local races. Interestingly, although local party clubs are prohibited from endorsing in primaries, state party officials are not, but this does not stop local party officials from working behind the scenes. Furthermore, special interests routinely exploit primaries to pressure incumbents to be friendlier to their agenda.
In Florida some 2.6 million voters unaffiliated with either the Democratic or Republican parties cannot vote in those parties' primaries, but pay property taxes which fund the operation of those candidate selections. In Palm Beach County such a primary in August 2008 cost $3 million to operate. Citing this example of taxation without representation and the underhanded tricks seen in primaries within the two parties, the Florida Initiative for Electoral Reform (FLIER) calls for fundamental reforms to parties, primaries, and ballot access. The reforms, outlined in FLIER's pamphlet "Resuscitating Democracy", include the following:
• Require party membership tracking to be the responsibility of the individual parties, eliminate taxpayer funded primaries, and require parties to operate their own nomination processes. Parties using primaries should operate them themselves or pay a fee if they wish to utilize a public resource like the Supervisor of Elections.
• Eliminate the double standard between privileged “major” and underprivileged “minor” parties in state law. Instead, create a single set of equal privileges granted to all parties meeting accessible requirements for party formation. This should include a small non-refundable fee to encourage only serious parties to register.
• Create accessible ballots with reasonable qualification requirements. A small amount of petitions, NOT based on a percentage of the population, as well as a small filing fee, NOT based on a percentage of the office’s salary, which is refundable if a certain percentage of votes is received, would go a long way in realizing access for the average person. Qualification for the ballot should be equally accessible for all candidates regardless of party, or no party, affiliation. This means eliminating the party assessment component of the filing fees.
• Predicate ballot access on individuals instead of parties by simply requiring qualified candidates to have the consent of the respective, properly registered party to use their label on the ballot.
• Parties must be free to form their own internal procedures for membership registration, tracking, and candidate nomination so long as they meet all relevant financial regulations. Parties should use these internal procedures, as decided by their stakeholders, to determine their candidates according to their own constitutions.
An example of reasonable ballot access requirements for county and state offices would be along the lines of 10 petitions and a $500 deposit which is returned if a candidate wins at least 5% of the vote. In the United Kingdom, this is all that is required to run for national parliament, and some U.S. states require even less to run for federal office. Legal equality for parties, and separating them from ballot access while making ballots accessible, are key parts to building a participatory democracy with lively, member driven parties. These reforms, in combination with the others outlined in FLIER's program, aim to provide a foundation for competitive, pluralistic, and representative democracy in Florida.
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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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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