Tag Archives | Elections

Equality by Lot: A Brief Animated History of Sortition

This short animated clip offers a succinct history and explanation of how the ancient Athenians came to use sortition (the selection of random citizens through lottery to fill government roles). It questions whether or not such a system could be used in today’s modern world. Could this ancient practice help eliminate greed and corruption from the political arena by restoring the integrity and efficiency of the democratic process? As America gears up for yet another brutal election cycle, these are worthy questions to be asking…

This clip comes courtesy of the fantastic blog, Equality by Lot, and they have also transcribed the video:

What did democracy really mean in Athens? – Melissa Schwartzberg

Hey, congratulations! You just won the lottery. Only the prize isn’t cash or a luxury cruise. It’s a position in your country’s national legislature. And you aren’t the only lucky winner. All of your fellow lawmakers were chosen in the same way.

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Mr. President, It’s Our Moment of Truth

John Wellington Ennis

John Wellington Ennis

Dear Mr. President,

From the heartlands of America to our city centers, there are too many folks who don’t believe our system works. When citizens are under-served by their leaders, an apathy is fostered that enables corruption and prevents accountability. Despite the historic struggle to vote, the dream of democratic elections is at risk when the public does not take voting seriously. In cities, states and at the national level, campaigns have become a cynical game that shuns voters, and lets those with millions to spare dominate the debate and decide who runs. This has to change.

I have been inspired by the people I have met across the country who are working hard in their community to limit the influence of money in politics. They have told me in one way or another how they came to realize that until we reform how money is spent in elections, we can’t confront the biggest problems facing us.… Read the rest

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Take it and Like it: Corporate America and the Manipulation of Public Opinion

Brad Clinesmith (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Brad Clinesmith (CC BY-SA 2.0)

The Absurd Illusions of a Shining City on a Hill by Mark Weiser at Dissident Voice:

The average natural born citizen in any country is continuously indoctrinated into the national culture starting about the time they begin understanding the meaning of words. There’s one country in particular where reality is staring the public in the face, but the truth has been grossly distorted for decades by government, and mass media, bias and propaganda. If the citizens would suddenly see the truth, instead of what they’ve been conditioned to believe, they would find themselves in a strange and bizarre foreign land that’s contrary in many ways to their personal beliefs regarding home. For those who experience this sudden revelation, as soon as the truth is realized, it’s likely to provoke a profound and immediate sense of disbelief. Like emergency room personnel making insensitive jokes, laughter at some point becomes a self-defense mechanism for offsetting continuous parades of the absurd realities and outright horrors.

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The Wool Over Our Eyes

P2PStills51

No one likes having the wool pulled over their eyes. Now imagine wealthy CEOs hiring millions of knitters to blanket your entire city with a massive wool sweater, soaked in gasoline. That’s what dark money is. It’s rich interests that already have millions to burn, but would rather spend that money on polluting our election process and muffling the public’s voice. And they are going through ever-greater hoops to hide the source of the money in this election cycle, precisely because people seeing the truth is bad for their cause.

What our founding fathers and mothers set forth in America was an experiment in democracy, one that seemed daring at first independent of a monarch, but soon needed to enfranchise the rest of its citizens. To those that came before us, who sought to build a better life for their children, the right to participate in our democratic process was paramount to what it meant to be free.… Read the rest

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Citizens United, Explained With Dogs

It is an antiquated rule banning cameras from the Supreme Court, when they are public proceedings affecting all Americans. John Oliver was right to challenge this seclusion from the public eye on his recent episode of Last Week Tonight when he had no choice but to dramatize courtroom proceedings with a bench of jurist dogs. Clearly a better means of public information is necessary for the highest court in the land.

Until then, here is a case that is often mentioned, though is still not clear to all: Citizens United vs. FEC, which said that corporations have the right to spend unlimited outside money in elections. Working with interviews compiled for my documentary exploring the Citizens United decision, PAY 2 PLAY, I have re-mixed the footage to include the Supreme Court of Canines.

This election cycle shows that the impacts of Citizens United are no laughing matter, with more anonymous money flowing through our elections than ever.

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Election Conspiracy Theories Are An American Staple

Many (if not most) Americans think that illegal or unfair tactics are used to influence political elections. The Los Angeles Times casts these beliefs as conspiracy theories, but does that make them any less true?

During this 2014 midterm election season, mainstream and social media have inundated voters with tales of schemes and skulduggery. Whatever the result of Tuesday’s election, many will believe that the process was rigged, the outcome is fraudulent, and they were cheated. The pattern of conspiracy theories is unfortunate but familiar.

Voting machine lever

How pervasive is the belief that American elections will be swayed by improper means? Very. In 2012 we conducted surveys to gauge what Americans thought about the integrity of the system. Just before the election, we asked a national sample of respondents about the likelihood of voter fraud if their preferred presidential candidate did not win. About 50% said fraud would have been very or somewhat likely.

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An Open Letter to My Democratic Spammer

Campaign signs, Santa Ana, 1926 by Orange County Archives via Flickr (CC by 2.0).

Campaign signs, Santa Ana, 1926 by Orange County Archives via Flickr (CC by 2.0).

Writing and covering politics, I pretty much end up on everyone’s campaign fundraising list during election season. No one ever asks, one day I simply get a new email that sounds similar to every other email screaming about how if no one donates money now the Koch brothers will own us forever or just a little more dough will make a huge difference to the campaign and “don’t you want to see real change in (insert city/state/country)?”

Sorry guys, just because I covered the time you showed up to a march somewhere or said something mildly interesting that had more substance than a 20 second talking point once doesn’t mean I want to open my barren wallet and give you the dust, lint and crumpled business cards inside. Forget about money, I’d much rather eat tonight and your fundraising dinner with the bag boiled vegetables and bland chicken is worth less than the frozen pizza in the back of the ice cabinet at the liquor store I’m surviving on.… Read the rest

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Hormones Affect Voting Behavior, Researchers Find

voting1Via ScienceDaily:

Researchers from the University of Nebraska at Omaha (UNO), the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL) and Rice University have released a study that shows hormone levels can affect voter turnout.

As witnessed by recent voter turnout in primary elections, participation in U.S. national elections is low, relative to other western democracies. In fact, voter turnout in biennial national elections ranges includes only 40 to 60 percent of eligible voters.

The study, published June 22 in Physiology and Behavior, reports that while participation in electoral politics is affected by a host of social and demographic variables, there are also biological factors that may play a role, as well. Specifically, the paper points to low levels of the stress hormone cortisol as a strong predictor of actual voting behavior, determined via voting records maintained by the Secretary of State.

“Politics and political participation is an inherently stressful activity,” explained the paper’s lead author, Jeff French, Varner Professor of Psychology and Biology and director of UNO’s neuroscience program.

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US Supreme Court Opens Up Federal Elections To Richest Bidders

Make no mistake, the US Supreme Court’s decision to remove limits on monetary donations to candidates for federal political office is a game changer. The New York Times editorial board weighs in on the implications:

John G. Roberts, Jr., Chief Justice of the United States of America.

John G. Roberts, Jr., Chief Justice of the United States of America.

The Supreme Court on Wednesday continued its crusade to knock down all barriers to the distorting power of money on American elections. In the court’s most significant campaign-finance ruling since Citizens United in 2010, five justices voted to eliminate sensible and long-established contribution limits to federal political campaigns. Listening to their reasoning, one could almost imagine that the case was simply about the freedom of speech in the context of elections.

“There is no right more basic in our democracy,” Chief Justice John Roberts Jr. wrote in the opening of his opinion for the court in McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission, “than the right to participate in electing our political leaders.”

But make no mistake, like other rulings by the Roberts court that have chipped away at campaign-finance regulations in recent years, the McCutcheon decision is less about free speech than about giving those few people with the most money the loudest voice in politics.

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The Lottocracy Has Arrived: Say Goodbye (and Good Riddance!) to Campaigns, Candidates, and Elections

Pic: USGOV (PD)

Pic: USGOV (PD)

“It is accepted as democratic when public offices are allocated by lot, and as oligarchic when they are filled by election.” – Aristotle (Politics IV. 9, 1294b8)

I was in the process of cobbling together a piece on sortition (the selection of government officials by lottery) but it turns out that Alexander Guerrero – an assistant professor of philosophy, medical ethics and health policy at the University of Pennsylvania – has beaten me to the punch, and then some! He has written a superb essay about the subject and has also come up with an alternative system which he has dubbed “the lottocracy”, an idea which is challenging, thought-provoking, and incredibly hopeful…

So what’s wrong with the system of representation which we currently employ?

“In the presence of widespread citizen ignorance and the absence of meaningful accountability, powerful interests will effectively capture representatives, ensuring that the only viable candidates — the only people who can get and stay in political power — are those who will act in ways that are congenial to the interests of the powerful.”

What is the historical precedent for sortition?

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