25

ideas
election reform
for

The Roosevelt Institution
2100 M St, NW Suite 610 Washington, D.C. 20037

The 25 Ideas Series Volume 2 • Issue 1 • July 2008
Copyright 2008
Executive Director
Nate Loewentheil

Policy Director
Caitlin Howarth

Chair of the Editorial Board
Kirti Datla

Managing Editor
Ellen Davis

National Editorial Board
David Carlson Gracye Cheng Jonathan Gould Lauren Henry Ata Hindi Frank Lin Elise Liu Fay Pappas

Challege Coordinators
Daniel Townsend, Community Development Matthew Segal, Election Reform Timothy Krueger, Criminal Justice

Printed by Mount Vernon Printing Co. to responsible forestry standards.
The opinions expressed within the 25 Ideas Series are exclusively those of the individual authors and do not represent the views of the editorial board, the Roosevelt Institution, or any of the organization’s chapters, centers, advisors, or affiliates.

25

ideas

for

Election Reform
Volume 2 • Issue 1 • July 2008

Table of Contents
Relaxing Voter ID Requirements
Matthew Segal, Kenyon College

10 12 14 16 18 20 22 24 26 28 30 32

Increase Immigrant Civic Engagement
Vrutika Mody, Middlebury College

Using State-Based Service Learning to Empower America’s Youth
Jessica Singleton, Middlebury College

Incentives for Politicians to go into Schools
Jake Welch and Eric Smith, Cornell University

Voter Registration in High Schools
David Carlson, Colorado College

Increase Youth Voters by Sharing Information
Cloie McClellan, Kenyon College

Reducing Tuition Costs, Civically
Charlie Bittermann, Kenyon College

Election Day Registration
Patrick Dorsey U Virginia, Adam Morfeld U Nebraska, Ben Falkowski Rutgers

Compulsory Voting
Katherine O’Gorman, Barnard College

Making Election Day a Federal Holiday
Gracye Cheng, Harvard University & Aaron Welt, Columbia University

Vote and Shop: Discounts as a Reminder and Incentive to Increase Voter Turnout
Samuel Cross, Emma Marshak, and Eric Smith, Cornell University

Automating Voter Registration
Joseph Shure, Rutgers University

Voting by Mail
Isabella Jacoby, Columbia University

34 36 38 40 42 44 46 48 50 52 54 56 58

Absentee Voting Fairs
Emma Marshak, Eric Smith, and Jake Welch, Cornell Unviersity

Online Voting: Reducing Voter Impediments
Tarsi Dunlop, Middlebury College

Instant Runoff Voting in the Electoral College
Shane W. Uselton, University of Tennessee at Chattanooga

Instant Runoff Voting in National Elections
Brenden Cline, Columbia University, William Slack, Williams College

Open Primaries for U.S. House Seats
Amy Markstein and Elena Fairley, The Colorado College

Electoral College Reform
Bryce Colquitt, Michigan State University

Elimination of Term Limits for State Legislatures
Kaley Hanenkrat and Katharine O’Gorman, Barnard College, Columbia University

Public Funding for State Elections
Karl Stark, Kenyon College

A Model for Limited Public Funding
Alexander Rigas, University of Virginia

Ban Earmarks for Private Companies
Jake Grumbach, Columbia University

527 Groups and Fairness in Federal Elections
Peter Isakoff and Sylvia Lee, University of Virginia

Limit Franking Privilege to Constituent Replies
Jeet Guram, University of South Carolina

25 ideas
Summer 2008 The 25 Ideas project is a direct extension of the Roosevelt Institution’s mission to connect students’ ideas to policymakers. Each component has been designed with the lawmaker in mind: from the two-page, condensed formatting, to the inclusion of concise sets of key facts and talking points. Both easy to read and easy to understand, these ideas have been distilled into small bursts of creativity and thoughtfulness. Though they have been condensed here for the busy reader’s convenience, several of these Ideas are also available in extended form through rooseveltinstitution.org or in our upcoming issue of the Roosevelt Review. While we hope that you will enjoy reading these Ideas, they are not meant to stay on your coffee table. Some ideas have ramifications for those who work at the federal policy level; others, at the state or municipal level. Still others focus primarily on what universities can do. So no matter what level of government you focus on - or even if you are still a student - there is an Idea in these pages that you should consider acting on. • • •

Founded in 2004, the Roosevelt Institution is a national network of campus-based, nonpartisan student think tanks whose mission is to build a more progressive society. We seek to develop active, progressive citizens and leaders on college campuses through the research and writing of public policy and commentary, disseminating the products of that work to policymakers and elected officials on the local, state and national level. Through nearly 8,000 members at over 75 campus chapters across the United States, the Institution strives to connect students to the policymaking process through print and online publications, direct student-to-lawmaker connections, and annual conferences. We believe that students learn best through action and can contribute meaningfully to society while still part of an academic environment. As our members enter their professional careers, they bring with them the progressive values they’ve developed, the skills they’ve learned, and the relationships they’ve built with one another. The Roosevelt Institution has been featured in such publications as The New York Times, The Chronicle of Higher Education, and Der Spiegel. In 2008, the Roosevelt Institution merged with the Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt Institute. The Institute is dedicated to preserving and promoting the legacy of its namesakes, and through the merger, gained access to a new generation of scholars and activists. Together, the new Roosevelt Institute will work to bring the values of Franklin and Eleanor to bear on future policies and leaders alike.

Letter from the Editors
Young people are the future of America. The strength of our democracy as well as our standing throughout the world is contingent upon citizen decision-making. In order to ensure the nation’s political, social, and economic welfare, we must engage the younger generations to vote and participate in the legislative process. In recent elections, young people have taken reins of this responsibility, turning out in record numbers in both the 2004 and 2006 federal elections as well as in the 2008 primaries. According to the U.S. Census (2007), there will be 44 million 18-29 year olds eligible to vote by 2008: approximately 20 percent of the voting eligible population. With such a large representation in the electorate, it would seem remiss for any politician not to court this group and anomalous for any reporter not to mention them in electoral analysis. And yet, conventional wisdom states that “young people don’t vote,” citing turnout percentages that are behind older demographics. This idea clings to an old status quo that is more reflective of false dichotomies (i.e. the voting age only dropped to 18 in 1970) and systematic bias than of fact. The youngest generations are far more likely to be recruited to knock on the doors of older voters than they are asked for their ideas, input and outreach to their own generation. A recent study by Harvard’s Institute of Politics indicated that campaigns whose youth outreach was run by someone of the youth generation turned out significantly higher numbers of young voters than campaigns that did not. Investing not only in youth outreach, but in youth leadership, is key to creating a sustainable and highly active young electorate. Yet political pundits brand us as disinterested, disengaged and unreliable. Evidence shows that many journalists and media outlets still assume that the old status quo will hold, portraying young voters as non-voters or ignoring the youth demographic entirely. We are most confident that the 25 ideas that comprise the Roosevelt Institution’s 2008 Democracy Challenge will not only reshape conventional wisdom but will also lend credence to the urgent need to take young Americans seriously. Behind each policy submission lies a passion for legislative accountability, increased civic participation, a more accessible voting system, verifiable and transparent elections, and citizen ownership of government. The creative and tenacious visions displayed in this publication prove that the youth of this country have directly invested in its future and dedicated themselves to the protection of the democratic system.

Acknowledgments
The Roosevelt Institution recognizes and thanks the following people for their outstanding dedication to the success of this organization:
Chris Breiseth David Woolner Richard E. French, Jr. Anna Eleanor Roosevelt Ambassador William vanden Heuvel Joe Louis Barrow, Jr. Alison Overseth Dr. Robert Curvin Dan Appleman Neil Proto David Merchant Sarah Brown Marian Breeze Mattie Hutton Ted Fertik Mark Newberg

National Advisory Board
Senator Richard Lugar Representative Rosa DeLauro Representative Zoe Lofgren Representative Tom Allen Robert Borosage Richard Celeste Jon Cowan Jim Dean Stephen Elliott Al From Katrina vanden Heuvel Dee Dee Myers Amy Overton John Podesta Robert Reich Special thanks to Stephan Loewentheil for his early and continued support of the Roosevelt Institution, and to Michael Stegman and the MacArthur Foundation for making this series possible.

Thank you.

Special thanks to The Honorable Jesse Jackson, Jr.
for

His leadership on the issue of election reform
and

His service as Honorary Chair of this Challenge

25

ideas

Relaxing Voter ID Requirements
Matthew Segal, Kenyon College

Allow more viable alternatives for proving identity other than merely requiring government-issued photo identification in order to vote.

On April 28th, 2008 the United States Supreme Court upheld the state of Indiana’s law on voter identification (ID). The law requires registered voters in the state of Indiana to provide a government-issued photo ID in order to cast a ballot. Proponents of the law claim that photo IDs are necessary to combat voter fraud; they refer to “illegal immigrants” who are inundating our polling places and casting illegitimate votes without providing any identification. They also contend that there is no good reason why someone should not have photo identification; after all, they are needed to drive a car, fly on an airplane, cash a check, Key Facts or even to rent a movie. • States such as Georgia, Arizona, Indiana and Analysis present government issued photo identificaYet not all Americans drive tion in order to vote, while dozens of state legislatures are considering similar laws. It is clear cars, fly on planes, or even go to from recent congressional testimony and civil Blockbuster. Actual evidence rights organizations that there are thousands of of this “rampant” voter fraud is voters who are disenfranchised. minimal. Arizona, where voter • These laws disproportionately discriminate ID laws were implemented in against certain Americans—particularly indiNovember 2006, has 2.7 milgent, young and senior citizens. In fact, a recent lion registered voters, “238 [of nationwide survey sponsored by the Brennan whom] were believed to have Center found that 11% of voting-age Americans been non-citizens in the last -- roughly 21 million citizens -- do not have gov10 years.” Any undocumenternment-issued photo ID. ed immigrant who is foolish enough to try to vote illegally will likely receive incarceration if not deportation for such actions--risks that are clearly not worth the reward. Voter fraud is a felony. Voter ID laws sacrifice the poor, the elderly, the young, and many minorities as collateral damage. The law is tantamount to a modern day “poll-tax,” that forces many eligible voters to pay for a government-issued photo ID. Missouri Secretary of State Robin Carnahan estimates that in her state alone, some 200,000 eligible voters do not possess driver’s licenses or any similar forms of photo identification. Requiring photo IDs also increases confusion for election administrators. In a hearing held by the Student Association for Voter Empowerment (SAVE) last July, several college students testified about the inability to prove domicile in
Ohio have enacted laws requiring voters to

Finally, voter ID laws seem paradoxical after the U.S. House and Senate overwhelmingly reauthorized the Voting Rights Act of 1965 two years ago, prohibiting state and local governments from establishing policies that would have a discriminatory effect. In a nation where voter participation is already extremely low (the US ranks 139th in voter turnout throughout the world, averaging 48.3 percent since 1945) our laws should attempt to augment turnout rather than disenfranchise legal citizens. By allowing more forms of Voter ID, election administrators can increase accessibility while not increasing possibility for voter fraud. The same felony conviction will still apply for students who falsely represent their residence as it would for indigent Americans who forge employment documents. Next Steps If our elected officials are truly committed to full participatory democracy, then they will hold hearings to consider the populations disenfranchised by current voter ID requirements and introduce legislation increasing acceptable alternative forms. ————————————
Sources

Talking Points • Although in terms of voting access, it would be best to scrap voter ID laws entirely, it is clear our society is moving more and more towards a ubiquitous need for identification. The Real ID Act of 2005 and frequent discussion of a National ID card require political comprise rather than partisan embroilment. As such, it is best to expand what forms of ID election administrators can recognize. • In addition to calling for government issued photo identification or utility bills, states with voter ID laws should allow college, university, and high school identification, military identification, library cards, and employment ID cards. Public Assistance agencies should also issue identification documents for homeless Americans.

their college districts merely because their photo ID was from a different part of the state or another state entirely. Such laws can therefore prevent outof-state college students from registering in the district where they attend school. Were this the case ubiquitously, nearly all young voters would be forced to vote absentee, making the registration process more bureaucratic, time-consuming, and cumbersome.

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Brennan Center for Justice, “Citizens without Proof”, http://www.brennancenter.org/page/-/d/ download_file_39242.pdf House Judiciary Committee Democratic Staff, “Preserving Democracy”, January 5 2005, http:// www.nvri.org/about/ohio_conyers_report_010505.pdf People for the American Way, “The Long Shadow of Jim Crow” http://www.pfaw.org/pfaw/dfiles/f ile_459.pdf Purnik, Joyce, “Stricter Voting Laws Carve Latest Partisan Divide”, The New York Times, Sept 26, 6006, http://www.nytimes.com/2006/09/26/us/politics/26voting.html?pagewanted=print *A full list of sources is available upon request 11

Increase Immigrant Civic Engagement
Vrutika Mody, Middlebury College

Increase immigrant civic engagement by allowing legal residents to vote on school board elections.

A strong democracy cannot only be defined as high voter turnout by citizens. A commitment to civic participation by legal immigrants beyond the national polling stations is essential to strengthening democracy. City Key Facts councils should mobilize immi• One in ten individuals in the US are foreigngrant involvement by legalizing born, the highest percentage since 1910. and advocating non-citizens to • In New York, every one in five residents is vote on school board elections. a non-citizen. In some city council districts, Legal non-citizens, defined as over 40 percent of legal residents are noncitizens. permanent residents and those • Nationally, 12 million of these legal residents on the path to naturalization, are are excluded from voting because they lack currently barred from this direct U.S. citizenship. involvement in their children’s • As of 2004, there were 37,000 non-citizens education. Since 1965, the number of immigrants living in the U.S has tripled. A majority of these legal residents will eventually become citizens and hold significant electoral clout. Grassroots civic engagement provides early practice for duties of citizenship, such as voting on state and federal levels. Voting in school board elections increases faith in democracy and representative government. It guarantees that legal residents who pay taxes to sustain public schools, serve in the military and contribute to America with non-monetary means have the right to tangibly contribute. History Early democracy did not discriminate between citizens and non-citizens. From 1776 to 1926, non-citizens voted in 40 states for local, state and federal elections. Today, Chicago is one of the only cities that still permits non-citizens to vote in school board elections. New York City also allowed non-citizens to vote in school board elections for
serving in the U.S Armed Forces who did not have the right to vote.

Talking Points • The Constitution does not prohibit non-citizen suffrage. Instead, it affirms states can determine the qualifications for the electorate, such as extending it to permanent residents. • A diverse American democracy is already threatened by low levels of minority voting. Banning residents from voting on school boards discourages future citizens from participating actively in democracy.

more than three decades, until 2003, when community school boards were eliminated. In 2004, advocates in San Francisco, California attempted to pass Proposition F, a similar measure to allow all parents to vote for school boards regardless of status. Concerned about non-resident aliens voting, the ballot proposition was narrowly defeated, 49 percent to 51 percent. Allowing only legal resident parents to vote on school board elections will support immigrant participation in local democracy without sanctioning illegal activity. Analysis The Constitution does not prohibit non-citizen suffrage. Instead, it affirms that states can determine the qualifications for the electorate, such as extending it to permanent residents. A diverse American democracy is already threatened by low levels of minority voting. Banning residents from voting on school boards will discourage future citizens from actively participating in democracy. Disenfranchised legal residents are excluded from an important democratic tradition of building civic society. The lengthy bureaucratic process of naturalization often silences immigrant participation. In 2003, more than 463,000 immigrants gained U.S. citizenship but a backlog of 625,000 naturalization applicants remained at year-end. The median time lag between receiving permanent residence and becoming a naturalized citizen is 8 years. Although critics suggest that permanent legal residents can just apply for citizenship to vote, this remains an unreasonable solution. Next Steps City councils should begin passing initiatives to amend public school codes. The revised code will permit legal non-citizens, with a child in the school district, to vote during school board elections. School boards are a logical place to introduce the idea of voting rights for legal non-citizens, since children of immigrants are directly affected by the quality of public education. To ensure voting is not misused by illegal residents, school boards can clarify votes with appropriate identification. If the system works smoothly for school board cases, extending voting rights to non-citizens for other local and state races should be considered.

Hayduk, Ronald. “Non-Citizen Voting: Pipe Dream or Possibility.” E Journal: Drum Major Institute for Public Policy (2004). <http://www.drummajorinstitute.org/ibrary/article. php?ID=5519>.

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Sources

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Securing Non-Citizen Voting Rights. Department of Urban and Environmental Policy and Planning, Tufts University. Medford, MA, 2005. <http://ase.tufts.edu/uep/degrees/field_project_ reports/2005/4-securing_noncitizen_voting_rights.pdf>

13

Classroom, Community, Citizenship: Using State-Based Service Learning to Empower America’s Youth
Jessica Singleton, Middlebury College

In order to inspire greater citizenship among disempowered youth, we propose a service-learning, civics-based component of secondary public education. Service learning is an academic and social educational method that meets both student and community needs and requires the application of knowledge, skills, and systematic reflection about the experience.

We can teach students about our government and give them the skills they need to participate, but without the disposition to be active members of their communities, youth will continue to be passive citizens. Key Facts Young people are more • This program would be for high school students. It would involve classroom discussions on civic parlikely to become civically ticipation, voting, community leadership, and local engaged if they believe issues followed by direct exposure to their local their actions can lead to communities. It would incorporate critical analysis change. Service-learning of how external, out-of-class learning can stimulate and hands-on involvement social responsibility and community development. are some of the best ways • A typical curriculum would cultivate the develto empower youth to be opment of character education, civic character, energetic members of civic education, service-learning, and social and their communities. emotional learning.
to translate civic education into civic engagement. Following in the footsteps • “Community service” is not the same as “service of many states that have learning.” adopted “Learning In Deed” policy (California, Maine, South Carolina, Minnesota, and Oregon), we encourage each state to adopt a semester-long course in service learning, creating hands-on opportunities for students to translate classroom knowledge into community action. • Using service learning has been an effective way

History and Analysis Service learning also builds cohesiveness and more positive relationships between teachers and students, and among peers. (Billig and Condrad, 1997). Service learning also leads to more positive perceptions of school and youth by community members. Community members who participate in service-learning projects with schools recognize youth as valued resources and positive contributors to the community (Billig and Conrad, 1997). A poll conducted by Roper Starch Worldwide for the W.K. Kellogg Foundation

found that the vast majority of Americans believe that schools have a responsibility to link what children study in school to the skills they will need at work and in their communities. Service learning helps students develop a sense of excitement about learning, important career skills, leadership qualities, ability to work with people different from themselves, and habits of good citizenship.

Talking Points • Although 69% of public schools involve some 15 million students in community service projects, the impact of their service has not yielded gains in civic knowledge alone. • Service learning not only has positive effects on personal and social development, but also helps students develop a sense of civic and social responsibility. • Students who participate in service learning are more likely to be engaged in a community organization and to vote 15 years after their participation. • Reports show that students who engaged in service learning came to class on time more often, complete more classroom tasks, and took the initiative to ask questions more often.

Next Steps We encourage states to incorporate a pilot program with at least one teacher in each school district teaching a service-learning class for a period of 2 years. Teachers would receive initial training and then discuss what did and did not work for their class. This would be an outlet for good ideas, continued feedback, lists of upcoming community events, and a directory of local organizations to work with. After the test period, each state should host a conference on best practices and create a teacher manual for all high schools in the state to follow. For democracy to thrive in America, we need to embrace civic learning and civic engagement in our schools.

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Sources

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Academy for Educational Development, “Service Learning Delivers What Americans Want from Schools”, http://www.learningindeed.org/tools/other/sldelvrs.pdf Boston, Bruce O. “Restoring the Balance Between Academics and Civic Engagement in Schools”, American Youth Policy Forum 2005, http://www.aypf.org/publications/Restoring%20the%20 Balance%20Report.pdf Community Works, “Useful Terms”, http://www.vermontcommunityworks.org/cwresources/cw tools/s-ltools/s-lterms.html Learning in Deed, “The Impacts of Service on Youth, Schools and Communities”, http://www. learningindeed.org/research/slresearch/slrsrchsy.html *A complete list of sources is available upon request 15

Incentives for Politicians to go into Schools
Jake Welch and Eric Smith, Cornell University

Providing public funding as an incentive for politicians to engage with high school students will help connect students to the political process, and help connect politicians to young voters.

For many young people, politics and politicians feel distant and removed from their everyday lives. Our goal is to show high school students that they can take an active role in influencing their lives Key Facts and the lives of people • Despite record levels of youth turnout in recent in their communities. elections and high, consistent levels of community We think this should be service involvement, only 10 percent of the “DotNet” generation say that they have contacted an done at the high school elected official. level, so that students • Dual activists (those who bridge the worlds of become politically acvoluntary associations and electoral activism) were tive before being transsignificantly more likely to engage elected officials planted to a less familiar directly than those who specialize in either commucollege town or leaving nity service volunteering or election action alone. the school where civic engagement is more directly advocated than it is in other parts of daily life. The founders of the American public school system envisioned schools as instruments for creating an engaged citizenry, and America’s schools can do more to fulfill that civic duty. To inform students about how they can get involved in the political process, we suggest bringing state and local candidates into high schools. Politicians could discuss methods of participation such as volunteering for a campaign or political organization, writing Talking Points letters to politicians or newspa• Politicians, who affect the lives of these pers, coming up with ideas and students without ever meeting most of spreading them through nonthem, are often seen as out of reach by profit, grassroots organizations, students. or joining a local committee. • Bringing the politicians to the students However, expecting politicians through a system of proper incentives to show up to schools to talk can demystify politics for students while to non-voters during a heatencouraging them to voice their opinions and make a difference. ed campaign can be difficult. • This will also provide campaign funding Therefore, we propose to creoptions for candidates who do not want to ate a new stream of public fundaccept contributions from private interest ing for politicians who speak to groups. students about these topics.

History Politicians use schools for a variety of purposes, such as legislative announcements. However, as far as can be determined, there is no program that attempts to sytematically bring elected officials into schools for the express purpose of getting students interested in civic affairs. Analysis A candidate would receive a fixed amount of public funding to cover the cost of a thirty-second campaign commercial for every thirty minutes that he or she spends talking to students at a public school about political participation. These funds would be separate from existing public sources of campaign funding and, unlike the current federal system of public funding, would not require politicians to avoid private funding. The fund would be restricted so that a candidate can only speak once per school per campaign and so that only the first thirty minutes spoken at a given school will accumulate funds for the candidate. The program would be paid for out of the general revenue stream, and candidates would be required to report their school visits to the FEC (or state equivalent) for approval before receiving funds. Audience We support implementing this program on a state or local level, so our proposal is targeted toward state secretaries of state and mayors respectively. Next Steps State secretaries of state or local mayors could try a pilot program of this idea for elections in 2009 or 2010. State legislators could also consider adopting this idea as part of larger campaign finance reform program.

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Sources

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Keeter, Scott, Zukin, Cliff, Andolina, Molly, and Jenkins, Krista. The Civic and Political Health of the Nation: A Generational Portrait. The Center for Information & Research on Civic Learning & Engagement: 19 September 2002. 17

Voter Registration in High Schools
David Carlson, Colorado College

By mandating that all high schools have voter registration forms for each student; and at least one counselor certified to register voters, disenfranchised youth will have access to the democratic system.

Mandating voter registration upon graduation is one potential hurdle for already at risk youth – the demographic that most needs access to voter registration information. Schools would have the freedom to use their voter registration resources however they see fit. With increasing demands on Key Facts • Despite numerous state and national voter class time and expanding curregistration initiatives aimed at youth voting, riculum requirements, schools the 18-29 demographic still has the lowest may be hard pressed to provoter registration rates of age groups, with vide voter registration inforonly 51% registered for the 2006 election mation during regular school cycle. hours. However, schools could • This disenfranchisement rate for minorities provide voter registration forms and young populations is unfortunately highto students when they register er, making young minorities the yeast likely demographic to be registered to vote. Acfor classes during junior or secording to Civic Youth, 46% of eligible Blacks nior year. Voter registration and 43% of eligible Latinos ages 18-29 were certified counselors, could run registered to vote in 2006 compared with registration drives before or af54% of their white peers. ter classes. Similarly, counselors could be directed to provide information on registration to students during normal visits for class registration, post-graduation planning, or otherwise. Of those students registered to vote, only 13% cited “school” or “campus” as the place of their registration. Since many students already require that students meet with counselTalking Points ors at least once per year, schools • In order to reach young citizens, states should be prepared to educate should enact legislation that brings voter its students on their democratic registration opportunities to the instituvoting responsibility. tions youth are already required to attend:
public high schools. • Eighteen year olds should have access to voter registration information; states should see that all public schools have at least one counselor certified to register voters (if necessary, depending on the state) and enough voter registration forms (or similar access thereof if states allow for online voter registration).

History According to one survey, of 18-29 year olds who did not vote in 2004, nearly 30% listed “missed deadline” or “did not know how or where” as their reason. Despite

numerous state and national voter registration initiatives aimed at youth voting, the 18-29 demographic still has the lowest voter registration rates of age groups, with only 51% registered for the 2006 election cycle. Analysis This program could be easily implemented under the administration of the National Voter Registration Act currently mandated by the federal government. This administrative model is used to make voter registration forms available at all Department of Motor Vehicles offices and should be extended to public schools. Additionally, many states now allow for online voter registration, increasing school accessibility by allowing for the use of computers rather than paper forms. Certification requirements for people wishing to register voters (the counselors) are minimal and always free, as mandated by the National Voter Registration Act. Next Steps State legislatures could easily include a provision in their regular education funding measures mandating that voter registration forms be readily available for each student in every public high school along with a certified voter registration counselor. Individual school districts could also implement their own voter registration programs without state mandates.

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Sources

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Civic Youth, “Voter Registration Among Young People.” http://www.civicyouth.org/PopUps/FactSheets/FS07_Registration.pdf Fair Vote.org, “Youth Voter Registration Talking Points”, www.fairvote.org/media/documents/ Youth_Registration_Talking_Points.pdf US Department of Justice, “Motor Voter Act.” http://www.usdoj.gov/crt/voting/nvra/activ_nvra.htm 19

Increase Youth Voters by Sharing Information
Cloie McClellan, Kenyon College

Working with a system like the one used by Selective Services, state governments could implement a policy that would increase voter registration and turnout among youth.

It is crucial to create a system that both increases voter Key Facts registration among youth and • In 2006, 90% of the men born in 1987 complied with the Selective Service registration encourages them to exercise requirement. However, only 59.9% of United their responsibility. The way states citizens between the ages of 18- 25 were to accomplish these goals is registered to vote. to use the plan that Selective • States with same day registration in the 2000 Services has used for years. election had, on average, 14% higher youth In this system, a list would be turnout rates than states that require registracompiled of all the youth who tion prior to the day of the election. will be turning 18 in each year. • In 2000, states that mailed sample ballots to Around his or her birthday, voters before the election had 7% higher turneach person will then be sent out among youth voters on average. a letter. The letter would contain a reminder to register to vote and information about the voting process. For this system to achieve the best effect, it should contain the following: 1. A copy of the registration form for the state in which the recipient resides; 2. The address of buildings to which the form can be mailed or returned; 3. Information on important voter laws, such as registration deadlines, voter identification laws, and absentee voting laws; 4. A fictional sample ballot.
Talking Points • Government has a responsibility to empower its citizens, especially young citizens to take part in elections. • Given the decline in civic education nationwide, government should take the minimal step of informing young voters of the timing and mechanics of elections. • Providing information about voter registration and voting makes it more likely that youth will register to vote and will exercise their responsibility.

History The 26th amendment acknowledged the injustice of sending young men to war for a country in which they could not vote. The Selective Services System requires males to register within 30 days of their 18th birthday. A reminder card is sent to these men, whose names are compiled from driver’s license lists, lists from

Federal and state agencies, recruiting lists, and lists from high schools. No such system exists to remind 18-year-olds to register to vote. As our government grants young people both the rights and responsibilities of citizenship upon reaching the age of eighteen, it is important for government to help facilitate political engagement. Analysis The ease of voter registration correlates to higher turnout rates of youth voters. This can be seen clearly in the fact that the five highest youth turnouts in the 2004 election were states with same day voter registration. Mailing sample ballots to voters before the election has also been shown to increase youth turnout. Although they are less efficient than same day registration and a sample ballot for the actual election, providing all the information required to register and a fiction ballot should allow states to reap some of the benefit without amending the laws that they have in place. Next Steps This policy is intended for implementation on the state level because each state has its own laws regarding elections. For this reason, the first step would be to approach the appropriate personnel, most likely the Secretary of State’s office, in one or more states.

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Sources

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Donovan, Carrie, Mark Hugo Lopez, and Jared Sagoff. Youth Voter Turnout in the States during the 2004 Presidential and 2002 Midterm Elections. July 2005. < http:// www. civic youth.org/ PopUps/FactSheets/FS_04_state_vote.pdf> Kirby, Emily Hoban and Mark Hugo Lopez. State Voter Registration and Election Day Laws. June 2004. <http://www.civicyouth.org/PopUps/FactSheets/FS_StateLaws .pdf> Lopez, Mark Hugo. “Fast Facts about Young Voters.” October 2002. <http://www.civic youth.org/ PopUps/FactSheets/FS_Fast_Facts_Young_Voters.pdf> Selective Services System. June 28, 2007. <http://www.sss.gov/QA.HTM#quest6> Selective Servic es System. Selective Services State-by State Registration Compliance Rates for CY 2006. July 19, 2007. <http://www.sss.gov/Statestats-FY06/y2006stats.html> 21

Reducing Tuition Costs, Civically
Charlie Bittermann, Kenyon College

By recognizing the civic work of youth in the United States, the Department of Education will successfully be able to help fund secondary education for young Americans who normally could not afford it thus increasing the competition in the capitalist society in which we live.

The United States has effectively disenfranchised hundreds of thou- Key Facts sands of its own citizens by not edu• The cost of a SAT or ACT Test is $44.50 • Only 1,485,242 bachelor degrees were cating them civically. This disenfranawarded in the United States in 2006. chisement creates a domino effect; • Only 1 in 17 adolescents whose families by not educating youth, future genearn $35,377 a year can expect to graduerations of Americans will not have ate from a college or a university. the knowledge to be participants in • One out of every two students in famitheir own democratic system. The lies earning more than $85,000 graduate Department of Education should from a college or university. create an incentive-based program, in which tax money would be put towards higher education coupons earned through community service. By promoting a community service incentive plan that encourages youth to both help themselves and their surrounding communities, disenfranchised young people will become more educated, more civically engaged and more concerned with the state of their nation. In return for their work and civic participation, the Department of Education would help compensate the rising costs of college. For example, if a high school student were to work at the local election board, pre-school, or community center they would receive a coupon based upon the number of hours of civic community service to be applied to any college or University of their choice.
Talking Points • Millions of Americans have been educationally disenfranchised due to their lack of wealth. • The Department of Education will dispense higher education coupons to qualifying young Americans based up civic community service. • The program will not only produce more civically engaged Americans but also a more educated workforce thus generating more capital within a nation.

Through this program, the United States would be able to extract America’s brightest and most dedicated students who have a high school GPA of 2.85 and normally would not be able to afford secondary school. Therefore, the United States opens its business, political, and nonprofit doors to a young, diverse group of Americans who not only care about their education, but also about their communities and country.

History Financial barriers are one of the leading causes of educational disenfranchisement in the United States. The college and University system in total costs families a considerable portion of a their yearly income. The price of SAT and ACT testing ($44.50) as well as sending out the testing result ($20) on top of application costs ($50-$75) seem rather minimal to college and university tuition costs which land in the $20-45,000 range. Further, although the number of American youth attending secondary education institutions is on the rise, the number is still far too low. Only one in seventeen adolescents whose families earn $35,377 a year can expect to graduate from a college or a university. Conversely, for the demographic whose family earns more than $85,000, one in two young people will graduate. Only 1,485,242 bachelor degrees were awarded in the United States in 2006. Analysis By creating an incentive program to help compensate those who cannot afford college, the United States would begin to see a drastic difference in education standards. If the capital gained from the tax program were given to civically oriented young Americans, our nation would soon develop American citizens who not only know about their nation but also care about it. Audience Creating civically oriented college scholarships for college and universities could be implemented by both state and private institutions. The tax on families making $250,000 could be implemented on a state or federal level. Federal legislation would also be helpful. Scholarship programs can be developed at any institution around the United States. Next Steps States should develop legislation creating a statewide civics scholarship program. A second piece of legislation would then need to be evolved to create a tax to pay for the scholarship. The success of statewide programs would determine the sustainability of the scholarship and whether or not a federal law should be passed. To attend college in the United States, a family must make significantly more than $35,377-a-year. This concept is easier said than done when most families do not fall within the $85,000-a-year category. However, the proposed policy program addresses this issue, facilitates a fairer system of educational competition and inspires an increased democratic spirit among young people.
*A full list of sources is available upon request.

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23

Election Day Registration
Patrick Dorsey (U Virginia), Adam Morfeld (U Nebraska), Ben Falkowski (Rutgers)

Letting eligible voters register on Election Day would remove a needless barrier to electoral participation.

It is an oft-cited and frequently mourned fact that, although presidential elections are seeing more promising figures, voter turnout in key state and Key Facts • A Northwestern University 2001 poll local elections is dismally low. The found that 64 percent of non-voters legitimacy of any democracy depends would be more likely to vote if they on the degree to which the governcould register on Election Day. ment is an expression of the will of • Nine states have already implementthe people, but an increasingly large ed EDR Laws. number of the young, old, ethnic, and • States with EDR have turnout rates economically disadvantaged people 10-12 % greater than non EDR states. • In 2006, More than 787,000 votes never have their voices heard at the that would otherwise not have been polls. This tragic silence is not from a cast were counted because of EDR lack of desire to vote. Rather, certain • It is EDR laws that enabled 5.5 – 18% archaic and unnecessary institutional of voter turnout in EDR states to vote. constraints prevent these voters from exercising their voices. Early Registration Laws prevent hundreds of thousands of people from voting, though their only crime is forgetfulness. The primary effect of these laws is to systematically alienate many citizens from the exercise of the most fundamental right of citizenship. Legislatures should alter state code such that voters may register to vote up to and on the day of elections.
Talking Points • Election Day Registration would allow those who become interested in elections late to be able to vote. • EDR’s proven success in several states removes much of the risk associated with its implementation. • EDR would make registration more accessible by eliminating arbitrary registration deadlines that vary from state to state. • EDR enables increasingly mobile young professionals and students to vote on election day.

History Election Day Registration (EDR) laws have already met with great success in nine states. EDR has been in place in Maine, Minnesota, and Wisconsin since the 1970s ad in Idaho, New Hampshire, and Wyoming since the 1990s. Montana passed EDR in 2006, as did Iowa in 2007. Turnout in Maine, an EDR state, was 53 percent in 2006 – significantly higher than the non-EDR state average of 41.6 percent. In Wisconsin in 2006, 392,391 registrations occurred on election day, which is 18 percent of the total

voter turnout of that state. Were it not for these EDR laws, nearly 400,000 voters, 1/5 of the total turnout, would have been needlessly prevented from voting. Success is shown by other EDR states; all available empirical data suggest that other states could significantly increase voter turnout if their legislatures implemented EDR laws. A poll released by the U.S. Census Bureau for the 2004 presidential elections indicates that 24 percent of 18-24 year olds polled were not registered because they did not meet registration deadlines. A series of Gallup polls in 2004 found that the proportion of Americans, “giving the elections quite a lot of thought”, rose from 77 percent in mid-September to 91 percent in mid-October. In the 2006 midterm elections, states with EDR averaged a 10 percent higher turnout than non-EDR states. During presidential election years this figure is a few points higher. A 2004 study, Easier Voting Methods Boost Youth Turnout, by Mary Fitzgerald, a Professor at James Madison University, found that EDR increases young voter turnout by as much as 14 percentage points and reduces unnecessary barriers to civic participation that disproportionately affect younger voters. Analysis The policy suggested in this proposal is a relatively simple one: modify state regulations such that election law allows citizens to register to vote all the way up through election day. Opponents to this measure focus on its potential for enabling voter fraud and carpetbagger-style antics, but there is no real evidence to support this claim. In fact, a bi-partisan group from the Election Assistance Commission found no evidence of fraud in EDR states. Maine has had EDR for nearly 40 years without a single case of voter fraud attributed to the law. Because all that is required is the changing of a rule, EDR laws impose little structural difficulty and little additional costs on states. Volunteers must be trained to handle the increased influx of voters and forms must be made available, but election officials describe the incremental costs of EDR as “minimal” and research concludes that EDR elections are no more expensive than other elections to administer. Next Steps This idea may be championed by a state legislator, student organizations, or interest groups that support increased voter turnout in the United States. Working with and gaining the support of local and state election officials is also critical to the successful support and passage of EDR legislation. This law can be passed in states all around the nation if legislators are made aware of the success it has already enjoyed. EDR laws are not a gamble: they are a sure fire way to increase voter turnout by 10 to 12 percent without imposing any new costs. That’s a hard offer to turn down.
25

Compulsory Voting
Katherine O’Gorman, Barnard College

The United States should move from a system of voluntary to compulsory voting in its elections in order to: (1) increase voter turnout, (2) reduce the prominence of money in campaigns, and (3) make the government more reflective of the electorate.

Voter turnout plays a crucial role in US elections, but it has declined, resulting in representatives that are elected by only a fraction of the citizenry of the US. The US has one of the lowest voter turnouts in the world. Key Facts Increased turnout is ben• Compulsory Voting will increase voter turnout eficial to the US in a number in the U.S. by approximately 30%. • Campaigns spend $14 to $300 a vote in voter of ways. First, it would elimimobilization campaigns, resulting in hundreds nate the effects of expensive of millions spent. voter mobilization campaigns, • Advantaged socioeconomic groups vote at a thereby reducing the role of rate of up to 30% higher than disadvantaged money in campaigns. High socioeconomic groups, resulting in elections turnout rates also produce that are skewed toward those groups. governments that are reflective of diverse backgrounds and political views by increasing the parity in voting rates across socioeconomic groups. Lastly, increased turnout would reinvigorate politics by pushing the citizenry to become informed about political issues and candidates. Compulsory voting is the most successful way to dramatically increase voter turnout in the United States. Currently, many citizens feel that the costs of voting, such as registering to vote, investing time in following politics, and actually turning out to vote, outweighs the benefits of voting. Compulsory voting effectively reverses this phenomenon: Talking Points the consequences of not • Compulsory voting will eliminate the cost of votvoting, even if enforced by er mobilization campaigns, thereby reducing the something as simple as a $10 cost of elections. This will contribute towards fine, outweigh the costs of reducing the role of money in elections, and voting. As a result, voters go reduce the need for campaign finance reform. to the polls in much greater • Increasing the rate of voting across disadvannumbers. taged socioeconomic groups will increase their
representation in the government, creating a diversity of both representatives and views. • Compulsory voting will result in a renewed level of citizen engagement in politics because it will challenge citizens to become politically informed.

History Many efforts have been made by state governments to increase voter turnout by

allowing early voting and same-day registration, but it has fallen short of the turnout produced by compulsory voting. For instance, states that employed both early voting and same-day registration had voter turnouts between 75% and 85% in 2004, while Australia, under compulsory voting, has had an average turnout of 94.5% since its adoption in 1945. Analysis Currently, people of lower socioeconomic status are less likely to vote when compared to people of higher socioeconomic status. Minorities are thus underrepresented and representatives have no reason to reflect minority views in public policy. This creates a vicious cycle, where non-voters continue not to vote because they do not feel represented, and their government does not reflect their views because they do not vote. Compulsory voting, by increasing turnout across the board, would improve the relative influence of disadvantaged socioeconomic groups, thereby requiring the government to be responsive to their issues. Compulsory voting would also address a second electoral quandary: campaign finance. Currently, there is a distinct advantage to the candidates who are able to mobilize their supporters in great numbers. Large amounts of money are then spent on voter mobilization, using tactics that range from $14 to $300 per vote. Under compulsory voting, this cost would be eliminated and thus reduce the overall cost, resulting in more competitive elections that are open to more candidates. The money could be used towards other types of advertising or education, but these tactics would simply create a more competitive and substantial political debate. Audience While compulsory voting would have the greatest impact if adopted nationally, states can increase the turnout individually by adopting compulsory voting in their own states. Especially in the field of electoral reform, states have played a crucial role in experimenting with new forms of voting and can therefore be crucial in the move towards compulsory voting. Next Steps A system of compulsory voting should be created and tailored to the needs of the United States. Compulsory voting needs to be adopted by either the federal or state governments. Requiring citizens to vote federally would require a constitutional amendment. It might, therefore, be more successful if adopted by individual states. ————————————
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*A complete list of sources is available upon request 27

Making Election Day a Federal Holiday
Gracye Cheng, Harvard University & Aaron Welt, Columbia University

The current voting system forces Americans to choose between their normal responsibilities and voting. The refusal to make Election Day a federal holiday is an expensive mistake that costs the United States’ its voter participation.

Only half of eligible voters will actually vote this November. Instituting a day that allows all social stratums to vote would: invigorate civic engagement, Key Facts • The US population votes in far lower provide a larger pool for the current numbers compared to other estabdearth of poll workers, and subselished democracies. quent negative association with vot• In the 2000 presidential election, 20% ing. This reform is the embodiment of eligible non-voters did not go to the of HR Resolution 63, or the Democpolls due to “scheduling conflict or inracy Day Act in Congress, a bill that convenient voting procedures” resultought to be passed before the 2008 ing in a mere 51.3% voter turnout. elections. • The 2004 presidential election spurred Elections in other industrialized dential election since the 1960s. Nearly 40% of the eligible population did not democracies do not produce the vote in 2004—and approximately 30% same anemic results as the US. For was not even registered to vote. instance, 55.3% of eligible voters turned out in the 2004 US Presidential Election while France’s 2007 presidential election produced a robust 85% voter turnout. The 2006 elections in Canada had a 64.7% turnout while in Norway, journalists were worried about an “alarmingly low” voter turnout of 76.1% in 2005. In neighboring Puerto Rico, where a full day off is given for voting, turnout in 2000 for their elections was 82%. The idea of creating a national holiday for voting was promoted by the National Commission on Federal Election Reform. The Committee recommended merging Election Day with Veteran’s Day. The establishment of ‘Democracy Day’ would allow millions of low-income Americans, who vote in lower proportions than other social stratums, to get a paid day off to vote. This egalitarian approach to voting could help reverse the centuries of African American disthe highest voting turnout in a presi-

Talking Points • Establishing a national Election Day holiday would remove the financial and employment restrictions that are currently placed on voting, which create a disincentive for millions of working Americans to participate in democracy. • The already existent foundation of support for a voting holiday makes the reform an easy, effective change.

enfranchisement. Further, as Rob Richie of the Center for Voting and Democracy points out, a day off from work would provide a larger source of poll workers, which are desperately needed to increase access to voting. History Various studies have shown that democratic countries, which vote on a weekend or federal holiday, have consistently higher voter turnout rates than the US. Past proposals have stressed this fact and have garnered support from various sources. Instituting Election Day as a federal holiday has been endorsed by prominent members of the Democratic Party, including Hillary Clinton and John Kerry in the Count Every Vote Act of 2005, as well as the National Commission on Federal Election Reform. Analysis Concerns relate chiefly to the effectiveness of a voting holiday, as well as to the costs that may result from such a proposal. Currently, a large portion of nonvoters is excused from the civic responsibility of voting by mundane but understandable deterrents, such as long lines and time constraints. A voting holiday would stress the importance of voting while lowering the costs of doing so. Critics argue that a voting holiday would encourage voters to take an actual trip, instead of one to the polls. Yet Election Day falls on a Tuesday, thereby acting as a natural deterrent to long weekend jaunts. A federal holiday would redistribute voting more evenly throughout the day, as well as make more polling places available for use. In this sense, a voting holiday could be coached, in a “rewards-based” system, as a bonus for expected participation. Critics also point to the costs that necessary overtime labor would generate. Yet, costs estimated at a couple of million are minimal when compared to the hundreds of millions proposed to be used for election reform. These costs would be offset by the ability to consolidate poll hours. Instead, polls can hold shorter hours while still distributing voters more evenly. The policy would mobilize members of the poorer segments of the population (consistently voting at lower rates). People working low-wage jobs cannot afford to miss time from their jobs to vote - nor are they likely to lengthen their often already complicated commutes to make it to the polls. Instituting a voting holiday would decrease barriers to voting, enabling greater voter equality. Next Steps A voting holiday would be most effective at a national level as a uniform push for voter participation. Congress should push for legislation to implement a Federal Voting holiday, as well as expand and standardize individual programs at the state level. ———————————— Sources ————————————
*A full list of sources is available upon request 29

Vote and Shop: Discounts as a Reminder and Incentive to Increase Voter Turnout
Samuel Cross, Emma Marshak, and Eric Smith, Cornell University

Offering discounts to people who vote serves as both a reminder and an incentive for people to vote in national elections.

In the 2004 election, 2.7 million people did not vote simply because they forgot to do so. We propose that such peo- Key Facts • There was only a 64% turnout among voting age ple could be reminded citizens in the 2004 elections. Of those who did about future elections by not vote, 3.4% (approximately 2.7 million people) a highly visible marketing did not vote because they forgot to do so. strategy in which stores • Forgetfulness was nearly twice as likely to occur would offer discounts among voters aged 18-24 than among the entire to people who show a population. 6.1% of people in that age group that proof-of-voting card. This did not vote listed forgetfulness as the reason. card would be displayed • Of the 18.7 million people who did not vote in the prominently at partici2000 election, 6.9% said that problems with regispating stores, where it tration kept them from the polls. The percentage was even higher among 18-24 year-olds, where 9.1% would be available free of non-voters (318,000) had those problems. of charge beginning two weeks before the registration deadline. Since one of the major problems in youth participation is missing the registration deadline, this reminder would increase participation among young people. Cards would feature both the registration deadline and Talking Points the date of the election. Cards • Unlike other proposed voter incentive would also be available at pollprograms, the cost to taxpayers for this proing stations on Election Day. gram would be negligible or non-existent. • This program targets informed citizens who Poll workers would stamp the failed to vote not out of a lack of interest, cards as proof of voting, and but simply because of forgetfulness the cards would then be used • Businesses would benefit from participatfor discounts, to be determined ing in this program by improving their image by the individual stores. During as a socially responsible organization. They this process, people would be might also see an increase in sales when reminded about voting each they attract new customers specifically for time they saw the cards availthe discount. able in stores, and also when • Because the cards would list the registrathey saw other people using tion deadline, they would also remind people to register. the discount on Election Day.

History There have been a number of other ideas for monetary voter incentive programs, such as the Arizona proposal to enter voters into a lottery for a million dollar prize. However, as far as we know, there have not been any proposals that would serve as effective reminders. Although no current American incentive program requires proof of voting, countries with mandatory voting laws, such as Brazil, successfully track those who have voted with electronic cards. Analysis Many proposals for increasing voter turnout have focused, as this idea does, on making Election Day itself a more prominent and celebrated event. Making Election Day a federal holiday (see above) provides not only a greater opportunity to vote, it also generates a holiday atmosphere that people of all ages can enjoy. Since retail tends to make the most of the free time offered during holidays and almost always offer discounts to attract shoppers, this idea combines the market’s tendencies with tangible civic engagement. Audience These cards could be created by state or local election boards. Alternatively, they could be made by a non-profit or for-profit organization, with the cooperation of the election boards. These organizations could generate revenue by selling advertising on the cards. Next Steps A local pilot program could be implemented for the 2008 elections. Local pilots would focus more on local businesses, while a national program might focus more on chains. This program would act as an indicator of interest and utility.

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Sources

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Holder, Kelly. “Voting and Registration in the Election of 2004.” Current Population Reports. U.S. Census Bureau: March 2006. Accessed online 19 June 2008 at http://www.census. gov/prod/2006pubs/p20-556.pdf 31

Automating Voter Registration
Joseph Shure, Rutgers University

Remove the unnecessary obstacle of voter registration from the process of democratic participation: Use data from tax rolls, motor vehicle registration records and the Census to automatically register citizens.

It is an unfortunate reality of American politics that relatively few citizens wish to participate in the system by voting. More unfortunate, however, is the distinct possibility that millions of Americans who do want to cast their ballots cannot do so because of a technicality. Voter-initiated registration, Key Facts once a necessary safeguard • In 43 states, citizens wishing to vote in a given against fraud, has become election must register well before it takes obsolete. Rather than proplace, in some cases three weeks before Electect American democracy, tion Day. • 72 percent of eligible voters are registered to requirements to register hincast their ballots. Among eligible voters aged der democratic elections by 18 to 24, the figure drops to 58 percent. preventing many of those • The more than 122 million voters who came to who want to vote — and who the polls on Election Day in 2004 comprised are perfectly eligible to do so approximately 70 percent of the country’s reg— from casting their ballots. istered, voters, but only 55.3% of the country’s Americans should not forego voting-age population. the right to vote because they failed to fill out a form three weeks before an election. State governments have access to information — such as tax forms and motor vehicle registration records — that can determine the identity of all eligible voters. They should submit this information to the state agency in charge of administering elections (in New Talking Points Jersey’s case the Division of • Once a necessary safeguard against fraud, Elections), under the aegis of voter-initiated registration now serves no purthe Attorney General’s Ofpose other than to keep Americans away from fice. We live in an era when the polls. technology allows govern• A healthy democracy requires participation ment authorities to keep acfrom as many citizens as possible. State governcurate electronic records of ments must ensure their citizens be counted by virtually all citizens. removing the burden of registering to vote.
• State and local governments have the information needed to determine who under their jurisdiction is eligible to vote. Various state agencies can work together to ensure that all eligible voters are registered.

Hisotry In the 2000 election, a significant portion of registered voters who did not end up

casting votes cited registration problems as the main reason they did not vote. A 2001 report issued by the Caltech/MIT Voting Technology Project pointed out that according to U.S. Census data, the 3 million registered voters (7.4 percent) who did not vote reported that they declined to do so mainly because of trouble involving registration. The report notes, “Errors in databases occur even under the most scrupulous management.” Analysis In 43 states, citizens wishing to vote must register well before the election. Automatic registration would remove this hurdle and likely increase electoral participation dramatically. The data shows that the current system warrants revision: 72 percent of eligible voters are registered to cast their ballots. Among eligible voters aged 18 to 24, the figure drops to 58 percent. In his book “Stealing Democracy: The New Politics of Voter Suppression,” voting rights scholar Spencer Overton writes that universal registration could increase electoral participation while reducing the risk of fraud. But some politicians may oppose such a measure, he writes, because it would “diminish their ability to target their registration efforts to doctor the composition of the electorate.” The only ones who stand to gain from the current reliance on voter-initiated registration are politicians who remain in office because too few of their constituents participate in the electoral process. By failing to register eligible voters automatically, states miss the opportunity to bring about a more responsive and representative government. Next Steps A plan recently introduced in New York’s State Senate provides for an effective way to automate registration for all eligible voters in the state. The policy would force the state’s Department of Taxation and Finance and Department of Motor Vehicles to produce lists of every citizen who would turn 18 before the next election and send these lists to the State Board of Elections, which would then have to register all the eligible voters on these lists. Though not all citizens register motor vehicles, obtain identification cards from the DMV or pay taxes, using the data garnered from these activities to automatically register voters would achieve near total (if not universal) registration, and would facilitate the votes of millions more Americans. The first step on the road to universal registration is for citizens to lobby their state legislators to implement a plan like the one proposed in New York. Universal registration would remove a needless and constricting obstacle to democratic participation
Brennan Center for Justice at the New York University School of Law. “Voter Registration.” http:// www.brennancenter.org/content/section/category/voter_registration. *A full list of sources is available upon request. 33

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Voting by Mail
Isabella Jacoby, Columbia University

Use exclusively mail-in ballots for all national elections to increase voter turnout while making voting both fairer and safer.

Vote-by-mail is a system of voting similar to the absentee ballot option already available in many states. Ballots are mailed to vot- Key Facts ers at least two weeks • US voter turnout could be increased by more than before the election, along half while saving millions of dollars a year in each state. Voter representation and education will with a pamphlet of inforincrease along with turnout. mation on the candidates • The only example of statewide vote-by-mail is and issues. Voters can Oregon, which has only suffered from a single case return the ballot by mail of voter fraud in the past two decades, as opposed or at drop locations. Balto over a thousand ballots (1% of the ballots cast) lots are examined for erdiscarded just in Washington’s recent gubernatorors and suspected fraud rial election. up to a week before the election, but no results are tallied until Election Day itself. Voting by mail addresses the problems of traditional voting methods, while increasing turnout, voter education and representation, and decreasing costs. The system also centralizes balloting, allowing for increased standardization and decreased ability to target districts or minority groups. History In 1987, Oregon approved the vote-by-mail system for local elections. By 1995, they had conducted the US’s first federal vote-by-mail election successfully, and in 1998, voters approved Ballot Measure 60, instituting permanent and universal vote-by-mail, by almost 70%.2 Oregon has had consistently Talking Points high voter turnout since enacting • This system offers a solution to election M60. In 2000, the first presidenfraud by limiting the power of elections officials and protecting the integrity of the tial election held by mail, turnout balloting process. was 80%, and in 2004, it was • Increased participation, a more informed 87%.
populace, and representation at all socioeconomic levels makes it more likely that elected officials actually represent the will of the people. Voter turnout in Oregon is almost 90%, significantly higher than the national average.

Analysis Artificially long lines, intimidating officials at the polls, and other potential instances of election

fraud have been reported in recent elections – all of which could be prevented with the vote-by-mail system. Voting by mail is in permanent use only in the State of Oregon, although other states have tried vote by mail for small elections. In 2004, Oregon had almost 87% voter turnout, as compared with the national average of 55.3% in the same election. The convenience of the system allows both a greater voter turnout overall and greater representation for marginalized socioeconomic classes – those who may not be able to take time off to go to the polls during their workday. Having resources at hand and as much time as necessary to fill out the ballot helps voters make more informed choices that are more reflective of their actual will. Oregon also saves, on average, $3 million each election in money that would have gone to poll workers, polling machines, and location rentals, among other expenses. While some worry that vote-by-mail increases the opportunity for voter fraud, the opposite is true. On an individual level, the system allows a week for each ballot to be checked for accuracy and integrity, including a comparison of signatures and a check to make sure that person has only voted once. On an institutional level, vote-by-mail drastically decreases the likelihood of “stolen elections.” “Centralized supervision and control of ballot processing […] maintains uniformity and strict compliance with law throughout the state,” says Oregon Secretary of State Bradbury. The mail-in system eliminates polling place intimidation tactics, deliberate understaffing and long lines, all issues that have plagued recent elections. Next Steps Municipalities should begin by holding local elections by mail, and include a permanent absentee option for those unwilling to go to the polls at all. A public awareness campaign should be used to educate people about the change in every state it is effected. Within 2 years, the local and state elections nationwide should be entirely converted to vote-by-mail for all elections.
The Association of Certified Fraud Examiners, http://www.acfe.com (Accessed December 9, 2007)

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Sources

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FairVote.org, “Vote By Mail,” http://www.fairvote.org/turnout/mail.htm (Accessed November 12, 2007). Multnomah County Elections Division Homepage, http://www.co.multnomah.or.us/dbcs/elections/ (Accessed November 12, 2007). Oregon Secretary of State Executive Division Official Government Website, “Ballot Measure 60,” http://www.sos.state.or.us/executive/votebymail/index.html (Accessed November 12, 2007). *A complete list of sources is available upon request

35

Absentee Voting Fairs
Emma Marshak, Eric Smith, and Jake Welch, Cornell Unviersity

Colleges should hold “absentee voting fairs” to make the first part of the election process easier for students.

The process of absentee voting consists of many steps, some of which are very difficult for college students who, due to frequent travel, Key Facts can easily miss deadlines in • When the Census Bureau asked non-voters various states. First, the voter why they had not voted in the 2004 election, 12.8% of 18-24 year olds said they had has to have already registered not voted because they were out of town. in their home county, months This represents 345,000 people. In other in advance of the election. age groups, people were significantly less Then they must find the ablikely to give “out of town” as a reason for not sentee application for their voting. state online, fill it out with the address of their county clerk’s office, obtain a stamp, and mail the application. After they receive the ballot, they must mail it back well before Election Day, if they want their vote to be counted. Completing the process requires information that is not readily available, such as the address of the county clerk, and at any stage students could forget the next step, or decide that their one vote is not worth the hassle. Therefore even the most informed college students may fail to submit their absentee ballots. We propose that colleges hold “absentee voting fairs” to make the first part of the process easier for students. At the fair, which would be held in a public area of campus to attract passers-by, students would tell a trained volunteer their state of permanent residence and the volunteer would print out a ballot application for that state. While the student was filling out the form, the volTalking Points unteer would use www.easyab• These fairs would be inexpensive to sentee.org to find the address of hold. The only costs, assuming that the the student’s local board of elecgroup holding the fair has easy access to tions or county clerk. After the computers and printers, are paper, ink, necessary information had been and stamps. found, the student would place • By promoting the use of absentee ballots, students are given the opportunity to the application in a stamped and participate in the local elections of the addressed envelope provided by state where their permanent residence is. the volunteers. This part of the However, registration forms for the county process is particularly important, in which the college is located would also as it ensures that the student will be available for students who prefer to remember to mail the applicavote in person.

tion, and removes roadblocks such as a lack of stamps or envelopes. Before the student leaves, they could be given state-specific information about the postage required for the ballot, and the date by which is must be mailed. Although the student would still have to remember to send in the ballot after he or she receives it, the amount of steps in the process would have been decreased dramatically. History Voter registration drives have been held at many colleges. However, we are not aware of any absentee voting drives, perhaps because it is difficult to find applications for out-of-state students. Finding applications has now been made easier by www.easyabsentee.org. Although there have been numerous websites that give information on absentee voting procedures, we believe that www.easyabsentee.org is the first that links directly to the applications, thus making it easy for colleges with out-of-state students to hold absentee voting fairs. Audience These fairs could be sponsored by student groups at universities. These might be political organizations or “Get out the Vote” campaigns, or the university itself could contribute funding. Next Steps It would be easy for organizations hosting fairs to find the ballot applications online because of a website that has recently been created by the Cornell chapter of the Roosevelt Institution. The website, located at www.easyabsentee.org, includes links to the applications for each state. It also includes ways to find the addresses of county boards of elections, so that the applications could be addressed on the spot at absentee voting fairs. To alleviate wait times at the event, applications for the home state and the nearby states which provide a high proportion of the students (information which is easily obtained from the college’s admissions office) could be pre-printed and available in stacks. Applications for states with fewer students at the college could be printed out upon request.

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Sources

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Holder, Kelly. “Voting and Registration in the Election of 2004.” Current Population Reports. U.S. Census Bureau: March 2006. Accessed online 19 June 2008 at http://www.census. gov/prod/2006pubs/p20-556.pdf 37

Online Voting: Reducing Voter Impediments
Tarsi Dunlop, Middlebury College

The creation of an online system for voters on a state by state basis will address some structural impediments that voters face on Election Day.

While US participation for the voter eligible population in 2004 was relatively high at around 60%, the 2006 midterm election showed a significant decline to 40%. However, 60% is one of the highest turnout rates in recent Key Facts • US voter participation is consistently low, years for any election and midfrom 35% for midterm elections to 40% for term elections; 1998 showed rates general elections. as low as 35%. For the youngest • Online campus voting and secure online voting age bracket, 18 to 24 year banking systems are great examples. olds who are not fully settled • Making use of the internet would signifidown, absentee ballots require an cantly decrease the impediments faced by additional registration step that overseas voters and those in the 18-24 year further discourages them from old bracket that are far more mobile and are responsible for the lower number for partaking the time. Online voting ticipation in recent years. can sway eligible voters who are deterred by physical obstacles. Online voting is an efficient process that inclines citizens with physical impediments to participate at their convenience. For the more mobile youth population as well as overseas voters, online voting would be even more beneficial by eliminating the need for an absentee ballot. History The use of mass online voting for elections on a state and federal level is not widespread therefore the history of this specific proposal is not immediately notable. However, elements of it can be found in online banking procedures and online college campus voting for student elections. Specific aspects of online campus voting provide useful Talking Points starting points (one service is • Reducing physical impediments, such as run by Elexpert). Online banking weather concerns or long lines, can make procedures can be used as ruvoting less of a hassle for the reluctant bric for security practices when voter. implementing an online voting • In this day in age when millions of dollars system.
are transferred over the internet and online banking is more common, it seems that online voting could be done in a similar fashion addressing a list of reasons that people might decide not to go vote.

Analysis One way to verify residency could be to make sure that voter

accounts are deactivated upon official notification of a change in residence, and can only be reactivated with a visit to the town office. Every precaution should be used from standard banking data encryptions, to multiple password protocols that will ensure the most secure system possible. Paper trails are the most tried and proven way to ensure no votes are lost and the necessity of a back up system for vote tallying is important. Online voting would not eliminate all physical obstacles – paper registration is needed to verify residency and set up an online account. The streamlining of voting reduces the inconveniences that prevent voters from going to the polls. The costs for implementing an online voting system must be considered relative to the costs states are contending with as they attempt to implement electronic voting equipment. Next Steps The next steps include moving towards the creation of a trial system that must be designed probably based on the combination of successful college attempts and secure online banking examples. After the system is set up a trial run must occur. This process is multi-layered and should include an application by townships to be selected as the trial town, which should include a petition to show levels of voter interest for participation. Registration for online voting should be completed in person at the town hall, then that information should be entered and accounts created on the state website. Before a mock election is actually held, the back-up database must be set up separately so that the votes are counted in two completely separate places Finally the mock election itself would need to involve the following set up. First, the one-time passwords must be sent to all voters who registered online through the postal service and they are only good for that specific election. On Election Day, the voter then has twelve hours, from eight am to eight pm to login to their account, enter their individual one-time only password and place their vote. The options to select that are available to them would depend on their registration form; if registered as a Democrat, then only democratic candidates would be available. If independent, then more choices would be provided. ————————————
Sources

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United States Elections Project, George Mason University, http://elections.gmu.edu/Turnout%20 1980-2006.xls.

39

Instant Runoff Voting in the Electoral College
Shane W. Uselton, University of Tennessee at Chattanooga

The states should choose their electors for president by using both plurality and instant runoff voting systems (IRV). The plurality winner should receive the electoral votes equal to the state’s number of U.S. Representatives, using IRV to award the two remaining votes if plurality fails to produce a majority winner.

Citizens and scholars have questioned the democratic nature of the U.S. Electoral College system since its inception in 1804. Critics of the college have noted that the combination of plurality voting and a winner-take-all system creates a misrepresentation of the people’s will and an unfair tabulation method of votes in presidential elections. This proposal would create an ideal compromise between plurality voting and IRV which re- Key Facts • Voters would have a greater influquires the winning candidate to obtain a ence in selecting the state electors clear majority. The newly proposed idea • Candidates would have a greater would also alleviate the winner-take-all mandate from the people. system’s misrepresentation of the peo• The use of IRV in the presidential ple by requiring states to award at least election could spread to local, two points to a candidate who wins the state, and congressional elections. • The proposed change could revimajority of votes in an IRV.
talize electoral participation.

History U.S. cities and foreign governments have begun to use the IRV method as a way to improve the method by which citizens elect their public officials. In 2004, the citizens of San Francisco elected their city officials using IRV, which created a greater voter mandate for the electorate than they would have received with a separate runoff vote or with a plurality vote. Ireland has also used the IRV system since 1921 to ensure the winning presidential Talking Points candidate has a mandate from the ma• The system would not be radijority of voters.
cally changed and would preserve checks and balances. • IRV would create more compromise and bipartisan efforts to make policy in the interest of citizens. • Any additional cost incurred with upgrading voting equipment up to IRV compatibility would be mitigated by using these machines in other elections on the local, state, and federal levels.

Incorporating the IRV system as a means of appropriating electoral votes will increase the will of the majority while simultaneously maintaining the protection that the Electoral College affords to both minorities and small state interests. The founding fathers designed the Electoral College to ensure presidential winners maintained a nation-wide accep-

tance from both large and small states as well as to ensure that the candidates maintained moderate ideological differences that would not make radical and unpopular changes in government. The Electoral College is a necessary political institution that has both safeguarded the presidency and unpopular, minority interests while concurrently protected their right to representation. Analysis Under this proposal, the states could choose the winners of both the plurality and instant runoff vote from a single ballot designed for an instant runoff election. This ballot would allow voters to rank their preferences numerically. The candidate who receives the most first preference votes would be the plurality winner of a state and would win the number of electoral votes equal to the number of U.S. Representatives in that state. If that plurality winner won a majority of the votes, they would also receive the two remaining electoral votes. If the winner of the plurality vote failed to achieve a majority, the ballot would become an IRV. Under the IRV system, the candidate with the least number of votes is eliminated and the voters who chose the eliminated candidate would then have their second choice counted toward the remaining candidates. The ballots would then be rescored and if necessary, this process is repeated until there is a majority. Audience Each individual state has the right to choose the methods for electing their presidential electors. The proposed plan would not require an amendment to the constitution and each state could decide if they preferred this method of choosing presidential electors. Political parties and citizens on the state level should consider how IRV could encourage coalition building both within parties and between different parties due to the preference-voting element. Legislatures, governors, and state election officials should consider how they could incorporate IRV into existing voting equipment or if IRV could be integrated with voting machine upgrades in the future. Different states have different types of voting machines, so each state government would have to assess the feasibility of incorporating IRV into the electoral process. Next Steps The public has to be educated about the Electoral College and understand the undemocratic issues that arise with both plurality voting and the winner-take-all system. Voting citizens must then raise these concerns with their state representatives and election officials in order for their state government to recognize the need for electoral reform. State governments would then consider how they would implement the proposed plan, whether they award two electoral votes to the majority winner of the vote, or even all of the states electoral votes to the candidate who receives a majority. ———————————— Sources ————————————
*A complete list of sources is available upon request 41

Instant Runoff Voting in National Elections
Brenden Cline, Columbia University, William Slack, Williams College

By upgrading voting systems to instant runoff voting, technological advancements can be harnessed to improve voter flexibility and access for 3rd parties in our national elections.

As the number of counties using technologically advanced electronic voting machines increases, Key Facts • Instant runoff voting (IRV) has a record the potential for a more demoof increasing voter turnout, improving cratic election process grows. representation, and decreasing negative Although notorious for their campaigning. flaws, electronic voting machines • Over 80% of US counties are technohave been adopted in more 30% logically equipped to switch to IRV, and several major cities have already switched of the counties in the US, while successfully. nearly 50% of counties utilize • Voter education and machine upgrades optical scan machines. Now that have a one-time cost of roughly $2 per the infrastructure is in place, voter, roughly the cost of administering a funded by the Help Americans single national election. Vote Act of 2002, Americans can and should require the adoption of “instant runoff” elections in these federally financed machines. Instant runoff elections, as opposed to our current elections based on a simple plurality of votes, is a system in which voters rank candidates in the event that their first choice does not meet a required vote threshold, causing their vote to instead go to their next choice. Electronic and optical scan voting systems enable this by simplifying the recount process once candidates below the vote threshold have been eliminated. This structure can increase voter Talking Points turnout, reduce polarization and • Exit polls in American cities that have renegative campaigning, improve cently implemented IRV reveal over 85% representation, and increase the of voters understand IRV and more than viability of third-party candidates. 70% prefer IRV to their previous system.
• IRV elections save time and money when used in primaries and better express the will of the electorate, eliminating the possibility of 3rd party spoilers while increasing 3rd party viability. • Voters are not forced to change their voting habits; they can opt to choose only one candidate and abstain from ranking other candidates.

History Both the 1992 and 2000 United States Presidential Elections were dramatically affected by the presence of a 3rd party candidate. In 1992, Ross Perot took a large number of votes that would have other-

wise gone to George H. W. Bush, and thus allowed Bill Clinton to win with only 43% of the popular vote. In 2000, Florida’s electoral votes were decided by an incredibly narrow margin. Votes cast for the Green Party candidate, Ralph Nader, often came from people ideologically closer to Democratic candidate Al Gore than Republican George W. Bush, such that Bush was able to achieve a plurality of votes in Florida and thus win in the Electoral College. The reason for this is a fundamental imbalance in the electoral process. The idea of instant runoff voting as a solution to these problems has been around since the early 1900s, and the process has been used for years in Australia, Canada, Ireland, and Britain. Though it is utilized by half of the top 30 American colleges and several major cities, until recently the technological requirements of IRV were only met by a fraction of municipalities. The Help America Vote Act of 2002 has provided funding for states to upgrade to electronic voting machines in the name of improving democracy and accurately reflecting voters’ will, yet it does not address the crippling problems plurality voting presents that may now be solved. Just as Congress mandated the implementation of advanced voting machines, it can now mandate the switch from plurality to instant runoff voting on these machines. Analysis Instant runoff voting requires the least amount of change, has the largest record of successful elections, is the most feasible, and is the most efficient at improving elections when compared with other options. Voters, representatives, and the democratic system as a whole will benefit from the implementation of instant runoff voting. Though IRV will face some resistance from those who benefit from the current corruptions of plurality-based elections, the infrastructure exists for changing technology and voters’ mindsets and implementing this change from the top-down. With a cost of roughly half a billion dollars, at most $2 per voter, states will not be hard pressed Next Steps After the controversial presidential elections of 1992 and 2000, political will exists among Democrats and Republicans to reduce the impact of third party “spoilers.” A legislative package tying these upgrades with funding for supplemental voter education should be adopted immediately to begin spreading awareness about the new system. Rather than the federal government appropriating new funding to cover the costs, Congress should pass legislation requiring states to repay HAVA funds to the federal government if they do not implement IRV and sufficiently educate their voters about the change. ————————————
Sources

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*A full list of sources is available upon request 43

Open Primaries for U.S. House Seats
Amy Markstein and Elena Fairley, The Colorado College

The implementation of open primaries for U.S. House seats will democratize the election process, increase voter opportunity, and serve as a moderating agent for candidates.

One of the greatest factors undermining American de- Key Facts mocracy is low voter turnout, • The current Congressional primary system encourages the practice of gerrymandering, caused in part by the frustraresulting in uncompetitve districts nationwide. tion of moderate voters with • An initiative supporting open primaries will be candidate representing partyon the November 2008 Oregon ballot, and is line positions that do not repcurrently supported by a majority of voters. resent voters’ interests. The current Congressional primary system exacerbates this lack of choice. Partisan gerrymandering causes many Congressional districts to be imbalanced, favoring one party to such an extent that competition is nearly nonexistent in general elections. In fact, redistricting in 2002 substantially increased the number of “safe” districts, districts where an incumbent is almost guaranteed re-election. Additionally, because of the closed registration regulations, the voters that vote in primary elections tend to have more strongly partisan ideologies than the median voter in the district. This polarizes general elections to the detriment of moderate constituents. This reduces elections to rivalry over party ideologies as opposed to candidate qualifications. Furthermore, independents, the fastest growing voting block, are left completely disenfranchised from the Congressional primary process, which often leaves them voiceless because the winner is decided in the primary. Voter opportunity can be increased through the implementation of open primaries into the Congressional political process. History Non-partisan elections, which differ from open primaries only in the sense that party labels are not used, are widespread in the U.S. for municipal elections. Many cities have opted to institute this type of election for the very same reasons: increased

Talking Points • Open primaries allow all registered voters to vote for any candidate regardless of party affiliation. • The current system encourages ideological polarization by ensuring that those with stronger partisan ideological identification vote in primaries more often than those with weaker partisan identification.

voter opportunity and a greater focus on candidates over parties. Open primaries will be put on the 2008 November Oregon ballot, and polls have shown that a majority of Oregon voters support it. Currently, 25 % of registered voters in Oregon are affiliated with a party outside of the two party system. Moreover, only one in three young voters identify with one of the two parties. Analysis Open primaries allow all registered voters to vote for any candidate they want in the primary, regardless of party affiliation. Then the top two vote-getters move on to the general election. This will inevitably result in two candidates of the same party running for Congress in many districts, since so many districts are not competitive. Gerrymandering is an intrinsic part of Congressional races. However, with open primaries, extremist politicians elected with the help of gerrymandering will no longer be granted uncontested seats in general elections. In this manner, open primaries serve to work with gerrymandering, instead of against it. Furthermore, the Representatives that are elected will be a more accurate representation of their constituency. The partisan polarization of Congress has caused a polarization of voter choices. Yet, Americans do not want this polarization, evidenced by the remarkably low turnout of moderate voters. An open primary system is a mechanism for people to regain Representatives that more accurately reflect the American constituency, thereby promoting democratic involvement. Candidates will inevitably move back toward the center to appeal to not just the extremists that come out to vote in regular primaries, but instead to their district as a whole. Next Steps Voters should begin the process of instituting open primaries into the Congressional political process either through petitioning state legislatures or initiating voter referendums. ————————————
Sources

Gill, Kathy. “Open Seats – House of Representatives” 6, June 2006 <http://uspolitics.about.com/ od/elections/l/bl_house_race_06.htm> The Cook Political Report, “House 2006”, Sept. 2006 <http://www.cookpolitical.com/races/re port_pdfs/2006_house_comp_sept1.pdf> One Oregon, One Ballot, “How it Works” <http://www.oneballot.com/cgi-bin/display. cgi?page=howitworks> 45

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Electoral College Reform
Bryce Colquitt, Michigan State University

By awarding the electoral votes of each state in proportion to its popular vote, citizens will not be overlooked, and viable independent candidates can provide voters more choices.

In presidential elections, many states are left out of the general election. The Electoral College awards votes in a “winner-take-all” fashion. For citizens who don’t live in swing states like Florida, their issues can be Key Facts highly ignored. “Safe” states are • In 1992 Elections, Ross Perot received 18.9% of the national vote and no electoral votes. not focused on because candidates can assume who will re- • In the elections of 1824, 1876, 1888, and 2000, candidates who received a plurality of the ceive the state’s electoral votes. popular vote did not become president. Most attention is given to less than ten states. People in safe states are underrepresented in the current system, while others in swing states are overrepresented. In the 2000 Elections, the proportional system would have given Al Gore 269 electoral votes, and George W. Bush 263. Gore, who won the popular vote, would have won the election By awarding electoral votes proportionally, all citizens will get equal attention. The issues that are important to Texans will be just as important as issues to Ohioans. Federal policy will be less likely to pander to swing states. If the majority mandate is replaced with a plurality, independents can run as viable candi dates. To compensate, there will have to be a run-off election of the two candidates who received the most votes. Currently, third party candidates cannot obtain the majority of electoral votes with our entrenched two-party system. If this changes, more inTalking Points dependent candidates would • Under the proportional method, the run, diversifying voter choices. winner of the popular vote is almost guaranteed to win the election. The plurality mandate also ne• The negatives of the current electoral gates the chance of the House of system are nullified; the positives, such Representatives deciding who is as the isolation of election problems, are president.
• preserved. Votes in some states, such as Ohio, should not be more valuable than votes from other states; proportional voting makes everyone’s vote equal.

History The California Presidential Electoral College Reform Initiative of

2008 aimed to reform how electoral votes were awarded in California - by congressional district. It was seen as a partisan act. If the initiative were statewide and proportional, it would be fair, non-partisan, and would represent all people equally. Analysis According to a Fox News poll conducted by Opinion Dynamics Corp., 45 percent of voters think it would be good for the country if an independent candidate were to win the White House in 2008. Sixty-seven percent would consider casting their ballot for an independent. However, 63 percent think it’s unlikely that a qualified independent has a reasonable chance of winning a presidential election. Audience This applies to every citizen of the United States, especially those who live in states that are not given much attention in presidential elections. Next Steps Attempt to pass a constitutional amendment reforming the Electoral College; one which awards electoral votes proportionally, removes the majority mandate, and replaces it with a plurality. If that fails, work to pass the law through state legislatures, conditional upon a majority of other states passing the same or similar law.

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Sources

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BBC News.com, “The Reform Party,” BBC News, http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/in_depth/ameri cas/2000/us_elections/parties/567767.stm Blanton, Dana “FOX News Poll: Third Party President Good for Country,” FOX NEWS, 28 June 2007, http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,287190,00.html. Epps, Garrett, ”Let’s abolish the Electoral College,” Salon.com, http://www.salon.com/opinion/fea ture/2007/10/12/electoral_college/index.html. Marinucci, Carl “GOP-Backed Bid to Reform California’s Electoral Process Collapsing.” San Francisco Chronicle, September 28, 2007, http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2007/09/28/ MN72SG62P.DTL&tsp=1. Wall Street Journal, “Electoral College Mischief: How to make the 2000 Florida brouhaha look like a kerfuffle,”The Wall Street Journal Online, September 8, 2004, http://www.opinionjournal. com/editorial/feature.html?id=110005582. 47

Elimination of Term Limits for State Legislatures
Kaley Hanenkrat and Katharine O’Gorman, Barnard College, Columbia University

In order to restore the effectiveness of legislatures and an evenly distributed separation of powers, term limit legislation needs to be repealed in states that have adopted it.

Currently, state legislatures are term-limited in Maine, California, Colorado, Arkansas, Michigan, Florida, Ohio, South Dakota, Montana, Arizona, Key Facts • Term Limit legislation is in effect in 15 Missouri, Oklahoma, Nebraska, states across the U.S. Louisiana, and Nevada. Proponents • Term Limit legislation has been repealed of term limit legislation argue that in 6 states and South Dakota is working term limits will create more opento repeal term limits in November 2008. ness to political office while reducing the effects of campaigning on the representatives. They believe that legislators who have limited time in the government will spend more time on creating legislation than bring “pork” to their districts. However, these reforms have fallen short of their original intentions. Instead, these laws have created ineffective legislatures, failed promote minority representation, and distorted the separation of powers in our democracy. History During the 1990s government reform proponents argued for term limitations in state legislatures. While the structures of the law varied across states, representatives only allowed to serve in office for a certain number of years. The goals of these reforms were to reduce the impact of elections on legislatures, and open up the government for more “citizen” representatives. Term limitation laws were adopted in 21 diverse states. However, these laws held unforeseen consequences, leading to their repeal in Idaho, Massachusetts, Oregon, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming. Currently, South Dakota is also considering repealing its term limit laws; this will be voted on in the November 2008 election.
Talking Points • Term limitations redistribute power across the branches of government by giving governors increased power. • Lobby interests are able to affect and control legislatures by providing finances and having more experience and know-how than the legislature themselves. • Term limitations favor the rich and those tied to moneyed interests. • Term limitations have fallen well short of the goals of these laws.

Analysis Legislatures without term limitations will become more efficient and effective because of a revitalization of legislative professionalism. Term limits decrease the desirability to pursue a long-term career in politics. As a result, members of state leg-

islatures are inexperienced and are unable to develop the expertise needed for the office. Also, these new members reintroduce defeated bills, which remain unlikely to pass, therefore slowing down the legislative process. In addition, legislative leaders are forcibly removed from office, resulting in an amateur, and inefficient legislative branch. This, in turn, distorts the separation of powers scheme, so crucial to the American democracy. A weak and inefficient legislature results in inflated powers in the executive branch. Senator Bill Napoli R-Rapid City, South Dakota, comments, “I thought term limits made sense. What they have done is weaken the legislative branch in comparison to the governor’s office and the lobbyists, and they’ve hurt the legislature’s ability to have strong leaders.” As Napoli explains, term limits place power in the hands of unelected lobbyists and legislative staffers, who, unlike the new representatives, are able to develop an expertise in the legislature. As a result, unelected individuals are given undue voice in America’s democratic process. While originally thought to open up legislatives offices to minorities and otherwise unique backgrounds, term limits have, instead, left offices open only to those capable of raising campaign money. As a result, minority representation Next Steps In order for these measures to be repealed, constituents need to work with the state legislatures and government. The process of allowing members of the legislature to switch chambers is not effective in solving this problem, but this has often been suggested. Proponents of this idea should advocate for full dissolution of these laws. ————————————
Sources

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Bowser, Jennie Drage. “The Term Limited States.” National Conference of State Legislatures. 2008. 13 Apr. 2008 <http://www.ncsl.org/programs/legismgt/about/states.htm>. Carey, John M, Richard G. Niemi, and Lynda W. Powell. “The Effects of Term Limits on State Legis latures.” Legislative Studies Quarterly 23.2 (May 1998): 271-300. JSTOR. 15 Apr. 2008 <http:// www.jstor.org/search>. Meinke, Scott R., and Edward B. Hasecke. “Term Limits, Professionalization, and Partisan Control in U.S. State Legislatures.” Journal of Politics 65.3 (Aug. 2003): 898-908. JSTOR. 15 Apr. 2008 <http://www.jstor.org/search>. Moncreif, Gary F., et al. “For Whom the Bell Tolls: Term Limits and State Legislatures.” Legislative Studies Quarterly 17.1 (Feb. 1992): 37-47. JSTOR. 15 Apr. 2008 <http://www.jstor.org/search>. Polsby, Nelson W. “Some Arguments Against Congressional Term Limitations.” Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy 16.1 (1993): 102-107. HeinOnline. 15 Apr. 2008. Woster, Terry. “Repealing Term Limits.” ArgusLeader. 2008. 13 Apr. 2008 <http://www.argusleader. com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20080411/NEWS/804110321/1001/news>. 49

Public Funding for State Elections
Karl Stark, Kenyon College

This proposal will decrease the effect that fundraising totals have on the outcomes of elections, and will eliminate elected officials’ need of fundraising once in office. Doing so would allow elections to be about issues and personal qualifications. Additionally, politicians would be able to spend the entirety of their terms governing, rather than worrying about raising money for reelection.

In a system with public financing, citizens can run for office regardless of Key Facts their wealth or ties to special interests. • One tenth of one percent of AmeriAll qualifying candidates would recans contributed 83 percent of all ceive equal amounts of money, as well campaign funds in 2002. as matching funds for candidates who • In Arizona, voter turnout increased were funding privately. This would inby 13% over eight years after “clean elections” laws were passed. crease competition in elections, both between publicly-financed candidates and against privately-financed ones. In 2000, the successful candidate for Ohio State Auditor raised $496,750 from the lawyer and lobbyist industry alone. A candidate without such connections would be at a severe disadvantage. Additionally, these contributions create future conflicts of interest for lawmakers. After contributing nearly $500,000, it is likely that lobbyists could expect increased access to the public official. Public financing laws would help restrict such access. History “Clean Elections” laws have already passed in Connecticut, Maine, Arizona, as well as for selected elections in New Mexico, Oregon, New Jersey, and North Carolina. In Maine, 78% of the legislature ran in 2006 as “clean candidates,” and for those who didn’t run on public money, it became a substantial issue in the race. The number of competitive races doubled between 1998 and 2004, Talking Points and the rate of incumbent reelection • Public financing works: 78% of the declined. In Arizona, voter turnout Maine Legislature candidates in 2006 increased by 13% over eight years, ran as “clean candidates.” • Candidates do not have to be wealthy and in 2006 “clean candidates” were to run for office, and cost to taxpayers elected to Governor, Lt. Governor, would be minimal, at $0-$5 per year. and Attorney General.
• Instead of focusing on fundraising, candidates spend time on the campaign trail with voters and more time in office legislating.

Analysis Public financing is optional. Candidates must qualify for public funding

by collecting a certain number of signatures and small-denomination contributions. Candidates who qualify for public funding receive matching funds for the amount raised privately by their opponents. Ideally, all candidates would run on public financing. Additionally, publicly funded candidates would receive extra funding for independent spending on the side of their opponents. The system could be implemented as it currently is for presidential candidates: citizens voluntarily check a box on their tax return forms to contribute to the public source of money. The amount could be raised in order to increase the size of the pool. Alternatively, Arizona was able to implement the system away from taxpayer expense through a levy on civil and criminal penalties . Even if a small tax were adopted, it would only be marginal ($1.00 to $2.00), and the benefits would outweigh these costs, because their legislators would not be bothered by lobbyists and interests. The best candidates would be able to seek office regardless of wealth, race, or gender. In Arizona, the number of Native American and Latino candidates tripled in two years . Candidates, interests, and the public all benefit from public financing of elections. Oftentimes in races where one candidate was publicly financed and the other was not, public financing became an issue of debate. Additionally, support rose for candidates who were publicly financed versus those who were not (this is the case for both Democrats and Republicans) . As the more powerful interest groups would lose influence in the political process, minority interests would benefit from a more level playing field. Proposals and positions would be judged based on their quality and content, rather than the size of the purse backing them. Finally, the public would benefit from a body of policymakers who are not influenced adversely by well-funded lobbyists, because politicians’ political fate would not rest in campaign contributions. Additionally, candidates who run with public funding need not waste time fundraising while in office but can rather turn their attention to lawmaking. Next Steps In order for this issue to get on the ballot, there would have to be substantial grassroots support. This would include issue groups, minority groups, and an education program to inform the citizens of the benefits of a public financing system. Democracy Matters, a student organization already dedicated to the cause, is doing just that, and through increased outreach would likely be able to implement a successful educational campaign. Additionally, citizens could be contacted through their local media sources: op-eds and local television media. The Public Campaign is another organization that devotes itself to implementing public financing of elections.
*A complete list of sources is available upon request

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51

A Model for Limited Public Funding
Alexander Rigas, University of Virginia

States can provide for more vigorous public debate and enhance citizen opportunity by making public funds available on a limited basis during the qualifying phase of statewide initiative processes.

This public funding initiative provides a unique way for citizens to circumvent a lethargic legislative process that is often susceptible to the influence of affluent special interests. Unfortunately, getting an initiative on the ballot is a daunting task, and I propose a means of public funding to enhance the quality of civic deliberation that will make it fairer (by empowering less wealthy Key Facts citizens) and more robust (by • In California, the number of signatures rebringing more issues into the quired to qualify an initiative for the state ballot is 433,971; or about 5% of the votes cast in public spotlight). Since Califorthe last gubernatorial election. California law nia is a state where initiatives stipulates a time period of 150 days in which are a salient political reality the necessary number of signatures for a pe(from 1970-1999, it accounted tition must be obtained. for 130 of 819 statewide votes • Today, initiatives are in use in 24 states, as on initiatives), it is representawell as the District of Columbia. tive of the promises and pitfalls • The present cost of qualifying an initiative in of the initiative process. California is over a million dollars. An initiative must reach a signature threshold before it can be placed on the ballot. Although longer periods for signature collection do not necessarily result in a greater number of qualifying initiatives, they are nevertheless helpful for efforts that suffer from a lack of organization and funding. History The initiative evolved out of dissatisfaction with political corruption in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. Along with the referendum and the recall, it was a hallmark of the Progressive reform agenda, which sought to mitigate the influence of wealthy corporate interests on the legislature by putting power directly in the hands of the people. Despite regulatory efforts, the influence of special interests and money remains pervasive. Analysis There are substantial impediments to even qualifying an initiative. Accomplishing this requires considerable financial and organizational resources. Many terrific proposals cannot make it onto the ballot without adequate funding. Corporations and wealthy individuals have a significant advantage, which can be leveled

After assessing financial need, the state will initially assign a cash award. Should the organization meet a state’s benchmark (a number of signatures within 30 days), the organization will continue to receive funding every 30 days for the duration of the 150 days. Funding must be limited for two reasons. First, public funds are limited and must be allocated to areas that need it most. Second, funding should minimize conflict between the values of fairness and majority rule. Too little funding will not make the democratic process fairer; too much would allow minority groups to promote their own agendas at the expense of the majority. Next Steps While I believe that this is a significant step toward a more egalitarian public sphere, there remains much to be done. Corporations and wealthy individuals still spend immense sums in sponsoring and fighting initiatives, and a next step might involve limits on contributions.

Talking Points • Funding is generally easier to secure when an initiative has qualified for the ballot. Thus, efforts to provide public financial assistance should be concentrated at the qualifying stages. • Organizations seeking funding must demonstrate the viability and constitutionality of proposed legislation, as well as financial need. A screening committee composed of legal experts, appointed by the state attorney general, could ensure that these conditions are met.

through a system of limited public funding. Individuals interested in receiving public funding should form a non-profit organization or Political Action Committee (PAC) and file with the state’s election commission; in doing so, they should fully disclose relevant personal and financial information.

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Sources

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“Elections Initiatives.” California Secretary of State Debra Bowen. 26 Mar. 2008 http://www.sos ca.gov/elections/elections_initiatives.htm. Kennedy, David M., Thomas A. Bailey, and Lizabeth Cohen. The American Pageant. Twelfth ed. New York Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2002. 667. National Conference of State Legislatures. Initiative and Referendum in the 21st Century. July 2002. 26 Mar. 2008. 5. 53

Ban Earmarks for Private Companies
Jake Grumbach, Columbia University

By banning earmarks to private companies, we can spend our tax dollars more wisely and curb budget corruption.

Congress and the President use earmarks to direct federal spending to projects; they are added to legislative bills or their committee reports. For example, a congressman could add an earmark to a bill to fund hospitals for a new ambulance for their district.
• The 2008 federal budget included $18.3 In 2001, Senator Slade Gorton billion in earmarks for a total of 11,780 proj(R-WA) helped earmark $8 milects; $3.5 billion had no identifiable sponlion for the development of the sor attached. “Nomad,” a small optical device • These earmarks represent a significant deproduced by Seattle’s Microvision crease since 2005, but still well below the Corporation that connects to solDemocratic Congress’ pledge to reduce diers’ helmets, displaying tactical earmark spending by 50 percent. positions in their fields of vision. In • A number of congressmen have racked 2004, after receiving five separate over $100 million in earmarks; some sena$1000 donations from Microvision tors have earmarked over $400 million. Senator Cochran (R-MS) has earmarked a executives, Senator Patty Murray total of $837,256,500 since taking office. (D-WA) earmarked $5.5 million for Nomads. By that time Senator Gorton had left government and joined the Microvision board. Senator Murray would earmark another $6 million for Nomads in 2005, even after a competing firm with similar devices won an Army field test. Talking Points • A system that allows earmarks to private companies is ripe for bipartisan abuse, especially in defense appropriations - politicians can corruptly earmark tax dollars for private companies that contribute to their campaigns. • Making private companies bid for government contracts in the classic procurement system would drive down costs and avoid unnecessary pork projects. • Reforms to disclose earmark spending and hold elected officials accountable have proven ineffective. Politicians have used countless loopholes to keep earmark disclosure secretive, unspecific, and convoluted. Key Facts

Like all earmarks, those for the Nomad devices are completely permissible if the devices were used. However, as with many earmarked items, the Nomad was scrapped by the Army, which said the devices caused more harm than good (they were distracting and caused a blind spot for soldiers). In total, the device ate up a total of $19.5 million tax dollars - $6 million of which came after the device

was determined useless. The only way to change the nature of pork barrel projects is by banning the President and members of Congress from earmarking funds to private companies. If private companies wish to compete for government contracts, they can vie for one in the original bill, not the quiet earmark. History In the past few years, the primary change in earmark policy has been the push for their public disclosure. Although these reforms are important, they fall far short of making politicians accountable. Recent reforms have still required inquirers to physically go to the Appropriations Committee at the Capitol. Even after disclosing earmarks on the Internet, Congress has earmarked $3.6 billion in last minute, undisclosed appropriations. Another $94 million dollars has been earmarked this year in classified budgets, which are unaccountable by nature. Lastly, even when an investigator reads through lists of earmarks, he or she sees that millions of dollars go to projects with nebulous descriptions like “M2C2” or “RC-26B Modernization Program,” rather than reviewing transparent, full descriptions of the items that will receive funding. Analysis The primary criticism of this policy is that banning earmarks to private companies takes away the ability of members of the legislature to determine how tax dollars should be used in their own districts - tilting the balance of power away from that branch of government. However, the same ban of earmarks to private companies would also apply to the executive branch. Members of Congress can still allocate funds to district projects - yet the projects will receive scrutiny from the public and the rest of the government. Next Steps The only way to truly end this cycle is to ban earmarks to private companies. Yet, towards this end, it is important to create a body that can oversee possible earmarks. ————————————
Sources

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Alexander, Ryan. “Ending the Earmark ATM.” FY2008 Appropriations Bill. 14 Feb 2008. Taxpayers for Common Sense. 1 Apr 2008. http://www.taxpayer.net/budget/fy08earmarks/report.html. “Mr. Heath Goes to Washington.” Bill Moyers Journal. PBS, New York. 22 Feb 2008. United States. Office of Management and Budget. FY08 Earmarks Database. 2008. Gordon, Paul. “It’s Time to Change the Culture in Our Government.” Gazette 20 Mar 2008 01 Apr 2008. http://post-newsweek.com/stories/032008/fredcol232829_32359.shtml.

55

527 Groups and Fairness in Federal Elections
Peter Isakoff and Sylvia Lee, University of Virginia

Providing an avenue to greater fairness in federal elections through increased regulation of 527 groups.

527 organizations came into existence under the Internal Revenue Code of 1986, and exist as “tax-exempt organizations that engage in political activities, often through unlimited soft money contributions.” Because these Key Facts • In the 2004 Presidential elections, both Presiorganizations cannot coordident Bush and Senator Kerry raised alleganate their work with political tions of illegal 527 group activities. campaigns, and cannot ex• The Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2001 pressly support or oppose spedelineates between “soft” and “hard” money cific candidates, they are not donations, with “soft” money not used to supsubject to the same regulations port or oppose a specific candidate. from the FEC as groups such • Through the use of “soft” money, 527 groups can avoid many Federal Election Commission as Political Action Committees (FEC) regulations. (PACs). However, 527 organi• In 2004, the highest-earning 527 group, “Amerzations have often violated the ica Coming Together,” received in excess of terms of their establishment in $79,000,000 in funds. Title 26, Subtitle A, Chapter 1, Subsection F, Part IV, § 527 of the Internal Revenue Code and require greater FEC oversight. Although the FEC fined 527 organizations that violated regulations, advertisements had already aired and inflicted damage on both leading presidential candidates. The FEC must be able to regulate these advertisements Talking Points before this to ensure that they • 527 organizations may not coordinate efare legally funded and do not forts with political campaigns, nor expressendorse candidates. The FEC ly support or oppose a specific candidate; must receive greater resources, as seen in the 2004 Presidential elections, jurisdiction, and oversight power these provisions are often violated. • The FEC must be able to regulate adfor 527s to ensure that there is no vertisements before they are released in cooperation between campaigns order to ensure that they do not support and 527 organizations.
or oppose a specific candidate. • The FEC must receive greater resources and oversight power to guard against cooperation between political organizations and 527 organizations in order to ensure fair elections.

History In the 2004 Presidential elections, the problems concerning 527 organizations were clearly

highlighted. In March 2004, the Republican National Committee brought allegations against organizations such as MoveOn.org, of receiving funds in violation of campaign finance legislation. Although 527s are allowed to raise unlimited amounts of “soft” money, they may not use those funds to finance advertisements specifically attacking candidates. As an example, Senator Kerry accused the 2004 Bush campaign of coordinating their efforts with right-leaning 527s such as ‘Swift Boat Veterans for Truth’, a violation of the provisions of § 527 of the Internal Revenue Code. Problems with 527 organizations were clearly portrayed, yet little has been done to address this issue. Analysis An inherent problem rises from the loopholes found in the Internal Revenue Code of 1986. Because 527 groups do not support or oppose specific candidates, the $5,000 cap on donations does not apply to them, and they do not fall under the jurisdiction of FEC regulation, as outlined in Chapter 1, Title 11 of the Code of Federal Regulations. The Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2001 (the McCain-Feingold Act) delineated between “soft” and “hard” contributions – with “soft” donations not being used for or against a specific candidate. Thus, as 527 organizations use only “soft” money, they currently fall outside of much FEC regulation. Next Steps As 527 groups fundamentally impact federal elections, and often indirectly support or oppose specific candidates, the FEC’s jurisdiction must be expanded to include 527 groups. In this case, the delineation between “soft” and “hard” money proves ineffective, and $5,000 caps should be enacted on donations to 527 groups, just as they are with PACs and campaigns. Advertisements from 527 groups should be reviewed before they are released, in order to ensure that they do not either overly or indirectly support or oppose specific candidates. With these efforts, the FEC could most efficiently and effectively act to ensure fair federal elections.
“The 2004 Campaign: Advertising; Veteran’s group had G.O.P. lawyer.” The New York Times. 24 March 2008. http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9E07E7DA123EF936A1575BC0A9 629C8B63&sec=&spon=&pagewanted=1. The Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2001 http://www.opensecrets.org/527s/527cmtes.asp?lev el=C&format=&cycle=2004. Internal Revenue Code of 1986. “RNC tells TV stations not to run anti-Bush ads.” 7 March 2004. http://www.cnn.com/2004/ALL POLITICS/03/07/moveon.ads/index.html. *A full list of sources is available upon request 57

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Sources

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Limit Franking Privilege to Constituent Replies
Jeet Guram, University of South Carolina

The franking privilege contributes to the incumbency advantage in the House of Representatives. Limiting this privilege to mail sent in reply to constituent requests will preserve its original intent while making elections fairer.

Members of the House of Representatives are held accountable throughout elections. If a citizen does not feel that his interests are being ad- Key Facts dressed, he can vote to replace • The incumbency advantage, or percentage his Representative with someone of the vote received solely by virtue of being an incumbent, is estimated to be 8% who does address them. Howfor House members. ever, incumbency trends in the • Reelection rates in the House rose from an House call the effectiveness of average of 92.2% from 1964 to 1994 to an this system into question. With reaverage of 96.3% from 1994 to 2006. election rates approaching 100%, • In 2006, House members spent $20.3 milwhat sort of accountability is belion on franked mail; the franking allowance ing maintained? As incumbents per House member per year is greater become increasingly invulnerable, than the average challenger’s entire camthe House is less able to reflect paign budget. shifting moods in the electorate. The franking privilege - which enables members of Congress to use taxpayer funds to pay for the postage for mail sent to constituents - contributes significantly to the incumbency advantage. The privilege was initially intended to help increase public awareness of governmental affairs and to facilitate communication between members and their constituents. However, members overwhelmingly use the privilege to fund mass mailings filled with information favorable to them.
Talking Points • The franking privilege enables members of Congress to send mail to their constituents without paying postage. • House members may use mass mailings subsidized through the franking privilege as a means of self-promotion. • By placing incumbent and challenger candidates on unequal footing, the franking privilege can result in less democratic elections.

Franking hurts citizens in two ways. First, citizens pay for the privilege through taxes. Second, elections are made inherently less democratic when one set of candidates gets a $20.3 million financial advantage. If the franking privilege were limited to mail sent in reply to constituent letters and requests, Members could maintain the role of the privilege in facilitating communication while simultaneously cutting federal expenditures and making elections fairer.

History In 1973, the Commission on Congressional Mailing Standards was established. This body oversees franking practices and works to ensure that the privilege is only used for matters of public concern - not to solicit votes. However, these distinctions are unclear, and many recent regulations implicitly acknowledge the role of franking in conferring electoral advantages. For example, Commission guidelines limit the number of pictures of the member in franked mailings to two per page. It also limits the total number of mentions of the member’s name to eight. In 1996, a cutoff was imposed so that members would not use the privilege for mass mailings during a ninety-day period prior to an election in which they are a candidate. Analysis The first intent of the franking privilege regarding – of increasing public awareness of governmental affairs – has become obsolete. Today, citizens can turn to television or the Internet to get a variety of perspectives on American politics instantly. Moreover, Congress is hardly an unbiased source of information about itself. The net effect of franked mailings sent by self-interested members of Congress may likely distort the public’s view of Congress. The second intent - that of facilitating communication - is important but constitutes a tiny part of franking expenditures. In 2006, 89.4% of franked mail was sent as a part of mass mailings. Next Steps The election window during which franking is prohibited could be extended. However, a rise in franking is already seen before this period; so no extension would entirely eliminate the electoral advantage. Additional restrictions on content could be implemented by the Commission on Congressional Mailing Standards. Regardless of standards, though, the only type of mail any member would send would be mail favorable to him- or herself. Only a complete elimination of the detrimental effects of franking would adequately address its costs while preserving its benefits. ————————————
Sources

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“Explaining Congressional Mail.” Associated Press 27 Dec. 2007. Factiva IWorks. University of South Carolina Libraries, Columbia, SC. 31 Mar. 2008. Gelman, Andrew, and Zaiying Huang. “Estimating Incumbency Advantage and Its Variation, as an Example of a Before/After Study.” Journal of the American Statistical Association (2008). Glassman, Matthew E. Franking Privilege: Historical Development and Options for Change. Con gressional Research Service. Washington, D.C., 2007. 31 Mar. 2008 http://ftp.fas.org/sgp/crs/ misc/RL34274.pdf. *A full list of sources is available upon request 59

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