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The Unsexy Stuff of Political Reform

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(promoted to the top by Justin)

As I pointed out in an earlier post, independent voters exist along the entire ideological spectrum and will never agree on social issues like abortion or the economy or immigration. The one issue we can agree on, however, is the need for political reform, and that makes us passionate about the things that put the rest of the electorate to sleep. There’s no cure for insomnia like a debate over, say, redistricting, unless you’re a political junkie — or an incumbent whose seat is at stake. Never fear, though; there are lots of people on the ground doing the dirty work of political reform so the rest of the country doesn’t have to.

Those independent activists who have made political and electoral reform their rallying point generally agree on the need for radical change in these very unsexy areas, among others:

Ballot access, the number 1 issue for many independents. Few voters are aware of how difficult it is for independent and third-party candidates to simply get their names on the ballot for statewide or national office. First, the two major parties create nearly impossible criteria for the candidates to meet, and then those same parties challenge the candidates’ qualifying paperwork. Just ask Carl Romanelli, a 2006 Green Party candidate for U.S. Senate in Pennsylvania, where the Democrats challenged his candidacy, paralyzed his campaign for weeks right before the election, and then billed him for $90,000 to cover their legal fees.

Popular vote, or why the Electoral College no longer makes sense. The National Popular Vote plan is popular among independents because instead of attempting to abolish the EC, it circumvents both the EC and Congress. And bypassing Congress warms the hearts of many independents.

Open primaries, which allow independents to vote in partisan primaries. Some states allow this, others don’t, and still others have hypertechnical restrictions on who can and who cannot vote in primaries. Many independents believe they should have a voice in the primaries in part because taxpayer money helps fund those elections.

Nonpartisan commissions that would regulate and oversee such highly partisan functions as redistricting, elections, and debates. With partisans in charge, it’s not hard to figure out whether those functions will be handled fairly.

Term limits and the end of career politicians. Yes, that does mean that the occasional effective legislator will have to go along with the rest of the lot, but surely said legislator can find an equally effective means of serving the country. And surely, in this land of 300 million-plus people, we can find a suitable successor to that legislative seat.

Campaign finance reform. We’re in the middle of what will likely be a $1 billion-plus presidential election. Does anyone besides me consider this to be exorbitant, shameful, immoral, unconscionable, reprehensible, unacceptable, indecent, and a host of similar adjectives? Yes, others do consider it to be all of the above, and many of those people are independent voters who are well aware that big contributors have a big impact, and that spells big trouble for the country.

There are other issues, of course — many others. But I’ll leave it at that and direct you to IndependentVoting.org or a 16-part series on political reforms on my We the Purple blog. You’ll know you’re a political junkie if you don’t just stay awake but also find your heart racing as you read.

Marcia Ford is the author of We the Purple: Faith, Politics and the Independent Voter.