Category Archives: empowered voters

Fair Elections

Last Thursday evening I went to a Forum in my local community about Fair Elections sponsored by a local Citizen’s Action committee. It is the contention of this group (and many other voters) that the people don’t have a real chance of being heard in an election because running for election costs a lot and the average citizen is unable to contribute a lot. So corporations (which are now people) are funding candidates and once elected these candidates are beholden to those who contributed big bucks. Therefore the voice of large contributors drowns out the small, little voices of voters. It affects many things at the local level, especially our schools and services, because it affects our local budgets. And the issues that receive funding get skewed in favor of big business, because money is power. Elections cost more and more. The costs of advertising rise and rise. Staffs get larger and larger.

A citizen who might be interested in running for office is faced with an enormous fund-raising task and very few places to go to for this funding since they are not yet connected to those with big money who might back them. A fair elections law would give prospective candidates for office, in this case in New York State, access to public funding. It might work something like this; for every dollar raised, a public fund financed by tax monies would match that dollar with six more. This idea has the backing of the governor of New York State, Andrew Cuomo. There is a rally scheduled for May 29thin Albany, New York to convince our lawmakers to draft and pass a Fair Elections Bill.

We are all aware that the average voter is being drowned out by the money/power brokers and I have put some energy into thinking of ways we could dial back on the costs of elections. One way might be to have fewer elections. This would require amending Constitutions (Federal and State) to make terms longer, but to also limit the number of terms served, which would at least buy us more functional time between elections for our lawmakers to make laws without needing to worry about their next campaign. I can support this idea for fairer elections through public financing, even though it promises to cost us via some possible tax increases, because we have to start somewhere or out-of-control election spending and less-than-empowered electorates will continue to hound us year after year.

Serendipity happens! An article appeared today summarizing a TED talk about this very subject:

Why Washington is corrupt

By Lawrence Lessig, Special to CNN

updated 10:54 AM EDT, Sun April 7, 2013


Editor’s note: (Lester) Lawrence Lessig is the Roy L. Furman Professor of Law and Leadership at Harvard Law School and director of the Edmond J. Safra Foundation Center for Ethics. Lessig spoke at the TED2013 conference in February. TED is a nonprofit dedicated to “Ideas worth spreading” which it makes available through talks posted on its website.

(CNN) — We Americans are disgusted with our government. We ranked fixing “corruption in Washington” number 2on Gallup’s poll of top presidential priorities in 2012. Yet Washington doesn’t seem to care. Neither President Barack Obama or Mitt Romney even mentioned “corruption” as an issue that their administration would address. And it will take a lot more work by us to get them to pay attention.

The first step, however, is to figure out how best to talk about the problem. People say the problem is “money in politics.” That we need to “get money out.” That “money is not speech.” That “corporations are not people.”

These are slogans, and they’re quite effective at rallying at least some of us to the cause. But as slogans, they’re likely to turn off most to the right of America’s center. And in any case, they don’t quite capture what’s gone wrong with our political system today. They therefore don’t point us to a plausible solution to the problem of our political system today.

So in my TED talk, I created Lesterland: Imagine a country like the United States, with just as many “Lesters” as the United States (about 150,000 out of a population of more than 300 million, or about 0.05%). And imagine those Lesters have a very special power: Each election cycle has two elections. In one, the general election, all citizens get to vote. In the other, the “Lester election,” only “Lesters” get to vote.


Follow this link to read about the Lesters, it’s fascinating and there is also a video:


With so many weighty issues on our plate we might think that we don’t really need to add any more, however, solving this one and taking back elections so they truly reflect the voice and the financial resources of the people would really help with most of our other issues. It may just be the exact place we should begin applying real “people-pressure”. Go to the rally, write your people in Congress, write an editorial, put a fair elections sign in your window; with Cuomo’s real support we could pass this now, but it will probably take more time and more noise to get fair elections. If you must, stay in for the long haul.