Voting and Campaign Reform

Americans deserve a fair government:  one in which they may assemble and associate for the purpose of making their voices heard, in which they can believe in fair elections and fair engagement, and in which they can trust the representatives in office, the candidates seeking office, and the press which amplifies the voices therein.

The Freedom to Vote

People do not have the freedom to vote when they cannot vote for who they choose; nor do they have the freedom to vote when the majority have full control over the outcome of an election.  When we must consider how others will vote and when significant minorities cannot receive proportional representation, we do not have a democracy, but an oligarchy.

We must grant each State three times as many seats in the United States House of Representatives; require no fewer than three and no more than five representatives per each Congressional district; implement Single Transferable Vote (STV) for all multi-representative elections; and implement Instant Runoff Voting (IRV) for all single-representative elections.  HR 3057 already covers much of this, except for the increase in number of Representatives in Congress.

STV and IRV allow people to vote without considering how anyone else will vote.  In STV especially, when the first-choice votes spread across many losing candidates, those votes converge toward second-, third-, and fourth-choice candidates.  If diverse groups of minorities, together, make up more than half the votes required to win a single seat, then they are guaranteed one mutually-agreeable winning candidate.

These reforms allow people to vote for the candidates they want—rather than the most likely to win—without risking a loss of representation:  should their candidate lose, their vote transfers to their next choice.  Your vote always matters.

Voting Accessibility

As part of criminal justice reform, Congress must withdraw Federal DOJ grants from states which do not immediately restore all voting rights for convicted felons, eliminate felony voting rights disenfranchisement, and ensure inmates can easily exercise their right to vote.

We must also create a system of Internet voting, using the same strategies put forth to end identity theft in general.  This voting system will require strong, reliable, non-forgeable identification, and so our existing polling places and voting by mail must remain available in general to avoid voter disenfranchisement.

An Internet voting system allows more polling places and more-general access to voting, making it possible for those with poor transportation options to vote.  Even so, we need to improve access to valid and verifiable identification:  obtaining welfare and charitable services can be difficult without proper ID, and the most at-risk access to voting (such as Internet voting) will always require the most verifiable ID to prevent identity theft.

Federal Campaign Financing Grant Program

[FIXME:  Rework in progress.]

Several Cities and even Congress have suggested campaign finance reform systems, ranging from Seattle's Democracy Voucher program to John Sarbanes's Government by the People Act.  These systems purport to push big money out of politics by giving individuals vouchers or tax credits, amplifying small donor money, limiting campaign spending, limiting the candidate's use of personal funds, or prohibiting PAC contributions.

Unfortunately, the approaches taken thus far are crude and have glaring shortfalls.  Many programs work around some of those shortfalls:  voucher funding is reclaimed if not used and campaign spending limits are waived if another big spender shows up.  They completely ignore other, more-fundamental problems with their approach.

First, these reforms do not prohibit candidates from any activity; they only allow receipt of public funding if the candidate voluntarily limits certain activities.  Donald Trump is still free to campaign as Donald Trump, funded exclusively by the personal funds of Donald Trump.

Second, PACs have political capital similar to their monetary capital.  Simply put:  if the American Association of Rich Doctors can raise $4,729,558 in a year, there's no reason to think they can't convince 1,000 doctors to donate $150 to a particular campaign—a $150,000 donation that then enjoys six-to-one matching.  Why go for the $5,000 maximum PAC contribution when you can get $1,050,000 out of the same PAC?  Even without these programs, a powerful lobby or a well-connected rich donor whose 50 or so friends and their wives and kids can each contribute $2,700 can drop a ton of money on a candidate by dropping their name at the next board meeting.  Nobody criticizes the Unions for endorsing a candidate, yet they call out candidates for taking thousands in Union PAC money.

Finally, candidates face an enormous challenge getting started.  These programs all require candidates to find around $50,000 of donations, which means having some well-connected friends in the first place.  Many candidates flounder with early fundraising, and it's a huge handicap.  Couple that with providing no handicap to the well-connected opponent, and you have a blockade to new candidates.

Given these considerations, we need an entirely new program to drive funding to candidates, not simple restriction on where candidates get their funding.

A Congressional and Presidential System

Congress can provide such a system by allowing states to participate in a Federal grant program.  This grant program would place operating restrictions on Congressional candidates in those states to level the playing field.

As an example, such a program could levy the following rules:

  • Public funds, including Vouchers in states with Democracy Voucher programs, count as contributions by the individual incurring such funds.
  • The state matches candidate loans up to a Loan Matching Maximum; repayment of the loan requires repayment of the corresponding matching, but the candidate has no other obligation to the state in that regard.
  • The state also matches early small donor contributions up to an Initial Matching Maximum.
  • The state does not match non-individual contributions.
  • Once a candidate's matched individual funding—excluding candidate loans—exceeds a Minimum Full Enrollment value, the state retroactively matches all individual funding.
  • If State matching would exceed the Federal contribution limit, then the State doesn't provide matching.  This is true even if the contributor donates more to the candidate:  the additional donated goes directly to the state to return their matched portion.
  • The state stops matching when the candidate either receives the Maximum Public Funding from the state or receives the Total Funding Participation Limit.
  • The state charges the candidate a fee of 10% for all funding raised in excess of the Total Funding Participation Limit.
  • The state penalizes the candidate 50% for all campaign spending (excepting fees and penalties) in excess of the Campaign Spending Limit.
  • The state penalizes any candidate spending substantially in excess of the average candidate at 100% for all spending in excess of the Campaign Spending Limit, instead of 50%;
  • The state claims 50% of the remaining funds raised, if any, at the end of the full election cycle (Primary, General, and any Run-off elections).
  • If at any time the candidate donates campaign funds to any charity, the Total Funding Participation Limit is raised by the amount of the donation.  Charity is not campaign spending.



get updates