War has rules, mud wrestling has rules – politics has no rules. Ross Perot
After you read through these election reforms, be sure to read, “Who Will Organize the Independents“, to learn much more about how Independent Texans came out of the third party movement of the 1990s. It was then, through the expenditure of over $100 million by Ross Perot, that we learned that independents (notice the small “i”) don’t fit so well into any political party. We also learned that you cannot separate the corruption of our political system from where the country is going economically. THIS was Ross Perot’s main contribution to the discussion, as the country has continued to roil in the wake of lopsided trade policies, starting with the passage of NAFTA.
Today, while the two parties have everyone fighting about guns, gays and abortion, special interests are stealing our treasuries blind and running up a dangerous debt. From Formula 1 racing subsidies to subsidizing big box national chains that continue to put mom and pop stores out of business, to repeated scandals in contracts with Texas state agencies, the list of reasons to believe we have become an oligarchy abound. You think it’s a full-blown kleptocracy, don’t you? We won’t argue with you.
So, just what are we to do? We must politically reform the country. Everyone says “politics is broken”, right? So, let’s begin fixing it. To us — the growing plurality of Americans who do not identify with a political party — that means creating more political competition and correcting the system itself to make way for the competition in elections we so much need and deserve.
Below are just some of the election reforms you, as a voter, need to know about. This is, by no means, an exhaustive list.
Initiative, Referendum and Recall: The mother of all reforms is the citizens’ right to statewide initiative and referendum. 24 states have enjoyed the citizens’ right to petition to place initiatives and referenda on the statewide ballot since the early 1900s. Unfortunately, Texas is not one of them, although we do enjoy I&R (including the right to recall) ONLY at the municipal level.
Women’s suffrage, labor rights, social security and many more reforms were won through the citizens initiative process in our country. In recent times it seems the only way to enact any real political reforms — like term limits, campaign finance reform, redistricting reform, fair ballot access reform, is through the I&R petition process. We strongly support Texans right to initiative, referendum and recall at all levels of elections.
Texans are using I&R more and more these days to citizens the right to vote on such things as stopping red light cameras, to changing their voting systems, to stopping the use of public funds for sports stadiums and luxury shopping malls, getting rid of fluoride in their water, banning fracking, passing decent wage ordinances and more. The Texas legislature, in its infinite lack of wisdom and in response to the Denton “frack ban” passed by citizens petition, in the 2015 legislative session, attempted to take away our rights to petition in Texas home rule cities — a right we had enjoyed as guaranteed in the Texas constitution since 1903. Though the bill (HB 2595) was stopped — we helped lead a coalition that gave it its well-deserved Texas stomp — don’t be surprised if these attacks continue. Watch this video of the hearing which will help keep us on our toes for any more skulduggery by business lobby in future sessions:
A Citizens’ Redistricting Commission: The redistricting debacle in Texas in the first — and we hope, only — mid-census redistricting in Texas (2003), a private war waged by then Governor of Texas, Rick Perry, and then Majority House Majority Leader, Tom DeLay, cost Texas taxpayers more than $10 million. It cost us a continued spiral to the bottom where both parties have all but finished off any competition in Congressional races in Texas.
The good news is that this has broadened the call to disarm both parties of their redistricting weapons with a citizens’ redistricting commission. When the Democrats held power, they missed their opportunity when State Sen. Jeff Wentworth (R-San Antonio) introduced legislation for a citizen’s redistricting commission similar to those in the states of Iowa and Arizona. But in 2012, the citizens of Austin, via a petition to place the measure on the ballot, enacted the first independent citizens redistricting commission in Texas. It is modeled off California’s system. It is randomly chosen through a lottery of qualified applicants who must have no ties to the legislative body for which they are drawing district lines. For more information you can go here: TrustAustin.org
Campaign Finance Reform, Open Government, Open Records: We support full and timely disclosure of campaign contributions over the internet and prohibition of corporate funds and union dues for political campaigns. There should be criminal penalties and forfeiture of office for proven violations of campaign finance laws. They should be uniformly enforced against all parties and candidates.
Independent Texans wants to see a thoroughgoing debate on what is real campaign finance reform, which is a tricky question in our form of a democratic republic. Why? Because most of the tried methods of campaign finance reform resulted in favoring one of the two major parties and/or stifling political competition from outside the system.
In general, we like what Minnesota’s former independent Governor, Jesse Ventura, said about campaign finance reform. He said in this regard he is a socialist and that all the money should be controlled and put into one pot and everyone should get equal amounts of it and free air time. Since we know that is not going to happen anytime soon in America, we support full disclosure, and end to so-called “dark money” where non-profit organizations (501c4s) are being used to hide the names of donors while funneling money into electoral campaigns. Nationally, Citizens United needs to be overturned, but short of that, there are other reforms that will take us a long way towards reform that are set out in this very helpful article in the Texas Tribune.
Fair Ballot Access: Statewide independents and third parties must gather 30 times more signatures to get on the ballot for President than Democrats and Republicans.
There are 50 different sets of rules for access to the ballot for federal office in the 50 states! Federal election ballot access should be fair and uniform. A bill has languished in Congress since the early 1980s. In Texas “Perotistas” (we affectionately called the “militant moderates) volunteers gathered 4 times the numbers of signatures required, 200,000 in 60 days. Volunteers put signs on highways and drivers would pull off to sign the petition — in droves!
Please note that it is relatively easy for independents running for any other office than statewide to get on the ballot (500 signatures). This is one of the reasons why we continue to urge candidates to start running as independents in Texas, especially in light of the implosion of the Democratic Party of Texas.
For lots more on this subject (and many other election reforms) go to Rich Winger’s site: http://www.ballot-access.org/
Electronic Voting: Robert Dill, PhD, Professor of Computer Science at Stanford University testified before the Carter-Baker Commission on Election Reform, in Houston, Texas on April 18, 2005. Among other things, he said, “You don’t need a Ph.D. in computer science to understand it. Computer systems are so complex that no one really knows what goes on inside them. We don’t know how to find all the errors in a computer system; we don’t know how to make sure that a system is secure or that it hasn’t been corrupted (possibly even by its designers); and we don’t know how to ensure that the systems in use are running the software they are supposed to be running.” Professor Dill’s organization, and the leading professional organization of computer scientists in the country, Association for Computing Machinery, are calling for one of two things. The system can be made trustworthy by having the voter fill out his or her own ballot, or by allowing each voter to check the ballot filled out by the scribe. Laws in 24 states, so far, have been passed to support this.
In June of 2006 a lawsuit was filed in Texas to force the Secretary of State to address the need to secure Texas voting machines. Watch our news section for update on this and other Texas elections updates.
For more information, go to VerifiedVoting.org.
Fair & Open Debates: The Commission on Presidential Debates, which currently receives tax exemption, is controlled by the two parties and has historically excluded independent and third party candidates from the presidential debates. Polls have shown that the American people want the debates open to candidates of all ballot qualified parties and candidates. A truly non-partisan body should be established and fair and clear criteria established for inclusion of all ballot qualified candidates and parties in the national debates. We support the same for Texas election debates.
For more info opendebates.org.
Instant Runoff Voting/Approval Voting: There are several different ways that votes can be cast and counted to promote more political competition. Instant runoff voting and approval voting are two possible methods. Under IRV, a voter ranks the candidates in order of the voter’s preference. Approval Voting allows voters to vote for as many candidates in a race as they like, the one with the most votes wins. IRV and approval voting eliminate costly runoff elections. They also eliminate the “spoiler” factor by candidates who appear to have less of a chance of winning. They both also add to a more positive debate by encouraging candidates to appeal to supporters of their opponents. And, neither require a constitutional amendment to eliminate the provision that candidates receive a simple majority to win an election.
Check out IRV at fairvote.org
Same Day Voter Registration: Same Day Voter Registration will permit citizens to register and vote on Election Day. States with SDVR enjoy 5%to 25% higher voter turnout rates. Turnout in Texas in the last election was even lower than the national average, at only 48%, and in single digits among youth. SDVR has proven to increase youth participation. It can be a boost to independent candidates (and therefore, independent voters), in particular, who tend to attract younger and newer voters. Many voters don’t get interested in the elections until the last month of the campaign, after registration rolls are closed. SDVR will allow these voters to participate. What is more, it forces incumbents to campaign beyond their small number of “prime voters.” To protect against fraud, individuals would be required to show one or more proofs of identification with their address on it and also sign an affidavit.
Term Limits: George Washington himself turned down a third term because he believed our elected leaders should not enjoy permanent incumbency. Term limits is a powerful tool against the Democrat/Republican incumbency protection racket. We support term limits as proposed by U.S. Terms Limits (www.termlimits.org) limiting the terms of Senators and members of Congress to between 6 and 8 years. We also need to eliminate the loopholes that exist in some term limits laws that were passed over the last decade. For example, we already have term limits of 6 years on the Austin City Council. However, council incumbents can merely switch seats or gather signatures to circumvent Austin’s local term limits law!
Term limits bring an end to life-long career politicians, and allows for citizen-run rather than special interest-run legislatures. Public opinion polls in Texas showed that support for term limits was strong among rank and file Republicans, Democrats and independents. While Texans have overwhelmingly supported term limits at the municipal level and in the polls (75%), the state legislature has refused to enact legislation that would place term limits upon itself. Our only alternative, therefore, is to force our legislature to place a Constitutional Amendment on the ballot in 2007, which would allow the people of Texas to enact Initiative and Referendum. Then citizens can petition to place term limits, and other efforts to reform Texas elections mentioned in this section, on the ballot for a vote of the people.
Non-Partisan Municipal Elections: We support the efforts across the country to enact non-partisan city elections.Texas municipal elections are already non-partisan. Taking parties out of local elections allows for a less partisan debate and breaks down the control of parties over local elections allowing more grassroots candidates and campaigns can more easily compete.
We would need a constitutional amendment in Texas to permit proportional representation. Under our winner take all system, every vote does not count. Since only the winner gets to govern, therefore, only the votes that elected the winner truly count. Proportional Representation is a way of making sure that every vote does count.
Proportional representation is a structural political reform that changes not merely the outcome and the process, but the culture of politics itself. Proportional representation is a system in which the State House of Representatives and State Senate, and local City Councils would be established according to the proportionality of the vote. If a party or coalition fielding candidates get 15% of the vote, it gets 15% of the seats; and so on. This arrangement invites diverse constituencies to relate more directly to one another, rather than being controlled or censored by dominant blocs within whatever major party they happen to be.
To lean more about proportional representation go to: