Political Reform

War has rules, mud wrestling has rules – politics has no rules. Ross Perot 

Ross Perot talking about that "giant sucking sound of jobs leaving America" because of our faulty trade policy.
Ross Perot talking about that “giant sucking sound of jobs leaving America” because of our faulty trade policy.

After you read through this page on political reform 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 we — independents — are the key to unlock the power in the country to make change. And change cannot happen without political reform.

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.

So, just what are we to do? We must have politically reform the country. Everyone says “politics is broken”, right? Independents have been working to fix it.

Below are just some of the political reforms that 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. There are 24 states where citizens have enjoyed the right to petition to place initiatives and referendums on the statewide ballot since the early 1900s. This is a very powerful tool for citizens to circumvent their legislators when they fail to perform. Unfortunately, Texas does not allow for statewide I&R, 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.

This slide show is a great primer on how Texas independents use this powerful tool at the local level — click on the picture.

The right to petition in Texas to take back our towns
The right to petition to take back our towns

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 2014, in its response to the Denton “frack ban” passed by citizens petition, took away some our rights to petition in Texas home rule cities in House Bill 40. The bill exempted certain oil and gas activities from being regulated by cities and citizens. Though the bill (HB 2595) was stopped — we helped lead a coalition that gave it its well-deserved Texas stomp. Watch the video to see a great “cross-partisan coalition” coming forward for petition rights.

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An Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission:

Most voters we speak to would like to see the weapon of redistricting removed from the hands of politicians. It’s a no-brainer that they should not be able to draw their own district lines, thereby choosing their voters. The first (and only, so far) independent citizens redistricting commission (ICRC) in Texas was passed in 2012 by Austin voters through the citizens petition process. It was part of a ballot measure done for geographic representation (aka single member districts). The Austin ICRC was modeled off of the California and San Diego independent commissions. We would like to see an ICRC for the state of Texas. But, without the petition process in place for statewide measures, good luck getting the Texas legislature to pass such a system. But, never say never. More here.

Campaign Finance Reform:

We like what Minnesota’s former independent Governor, Jesse Ventura, said about campaign finance reform:

I’m not big on socialism, but maybe it’s time we limited the campaign money to one publicly funded source so that every candidate’s share is equal. If that’s unconstitutional, then why not remove all limits and go to full disclosure? At least that way, you know who is buying the influence.

Independent Texans supports 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, the US Supreme Court decision known as Citizens United needs to be overturned. 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.

Texas is one of the most difficult states in the country for statewide independents to get on the ballot. For non-statewide offices (Congress, State Legislature and county races), it’s only 500 signatures to get on the ballot for independents, there are other roadblocks. Those are shortened times for collection of signatures and very few places to petition. Texas law does not — yet — protect petitioner’s rights to petition on private property.

For lots more on this subject we highly recommend our longtime ballot access guru, Rich Winger’s site:  http://www.ballot-access.org/ and Texans for Voter Choice.

Voter Registration Reform:

We would like to see voter registration eliminated in favor of permanent registration for all US citizens. There is tremendous waste in the voter registration system and tremendous error and hassle for voters. In Texas, voters cannot even register to vote online! We need to make our political system come into the current century and come to the voters, not excluding them. More here.

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.

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. Perish the thought!