Bringing Democracy into the 21st Century
- Evan Ravitz
• Initiatives put people in the drivers seat. More people vote in states with initiatives. In Switzerland, national initiatives since 1891 have resulted in the highest newspaper readership in the world. The mental health benefits are incalculable.
• Initiatives are competition for legislators. Initiatives break the monopoly legislators have on changing policy.
• Initiatives counteract big dark money's influence over representatives. People favor “grassroots” initiatives over “big money” initiatives. The Gilens Page Princeton study shows Congress usually votes the way big money wants. Buying Congress is the world’s best investment, paying off at 1000 to 1 or more. Jailed lobbyist/bribesman Jack Abramoff said "The return on investment for these tribes, and all my clients, is far better than anything they or we could have imagined. ... They realize that spending millions to save billions is just good business."
• No one misunderstands the public as much as its representatives. Elites are frequently disconnected from reality, as illustrated by R.C. Longworth from the U. of Maryland.
• When legislators make mistakes they cover them up –to protect their careers. Citizens lack the coverup incentive but have self-interest as an incentive to fix mistakes. Thomas Jefferson said “The will of the majority is the natural law of every society and the only sure guardian of the rights of man; though this may err, yet its errors are honest, solitary and short-lived.”
• Large, diverse groups of independent people make better decisions. The award-winning book The Wisdom of Crowds shows how and why.
Advantages for petition signers
1. Digital petitions enable signing 24/7 from anywhere.
2. Digital petitions enable reading the entire proposal online before signing, not just the title.
3. Digital petitions enable signers to change their minds about a subject as they give it further consideration. You can "unsign" a petition if you want.
4. Digital petitions make it easy to determine if you've already signed a particular petition. No possibility of signing twice.
Advantages for petition gatherers
1. It's much easier to gather signatures using social media, email, advertisements, etc. Government websites can streamline the process.
3. The need for paid petitioners will disappear, along with all the problems they have brought, such as forgery, misrepresentation, stealing of petitions, holding of petitions hostage for money, etc.
4. The money now used for paid petitioners can be used to win the election, or, perhaps in the future, to fund deliberation and information for voters, as with Oregon's Citizen Initiative Review.
Advantages for government
1. Identification is the same or similar process as now used for voter registration, changing your address or party. You can see how it works at GoVoteColorado.com. Since there will be no need for workers to check petitions and signatures, it saves staff time and taxpayer money.
2. An easier and quicker overall process means less scheduling and other time dependent problems.
3. There will be fewer lawsuits regarding paid petitioners and harassers.
Advantages for democracy
1. An easier process levels the playing field for those without the huge funds now needed to hire paid petitioners.
2. An easier process means a greater diversity of ideas on the ballot.
3. An easier process makes it easier and quicker to fix policy mistakes.
4. When this moves to the state level, it will overwhelm the difficulties of the new geographical distribution requirements of Colorado Amendment 71, making initiatives easier and more equitable than before 71.
Online petitions are more secure than paper
1. Old paper petitions are public records, available as forgery models for new paper petitions.
2. Temporary workers inspecting petitions and comparing signatures as done now, is hardly scientific or secure.
3. Petitions are public records and identify signers by name, that can be viewed online. Votes are like online financial transactions, which are secret and anonymous.
4. Petitioning can be added to existing Secretary of State's voter registration websites, using existing identification systems, which protect registration records while allowing us to change our address or party easily. Databases can be easily mirrored and synchronized daily on a city or county website. Denver has an existing app that allows petition gatherers to hand signers an iPad to sign a petition. It is similarly synchronized to the state of Colorado database.
Daily Camera Guest Editorial on Election Reform and Question 2G.
More Info: ACE Electoral Knowledge Network: Direct Democracy.