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Proposal Details

Proposal ID95
ProposalPlatform Amendment: Electoral and Campaign Finance Reform
PresenterPlatform Committee
Floor ManagerTim Laidman
Discussion05/10/2016 - 06/26/2016
Voting06/27/2016 - 07/03/2016
Presens Quorum12 0.5001
Consens Quorum54 0.6666 of Yes and No Votes


This proposal would allow for amending the Electoral and Campaign Finance Reform platform plank http://www.cagreens.org/platform/electoral-and-campaign-finance-reform .

The current plank is out of date. The Platform Committee has agreed to place this proposal before the Standing General Assembly to receive amendments from SGA members.

Among potential amendments are to reflect the GPCA's opposition to the Top Two system, and to support reforms the GPCA has already been lobbying the legislature for, including returning the right for write-in voting in the General Election and lowering the signature requirement to get on the primary ballot.

In addition, the GPCA's GPUS Delegation successfully proposed the following Electoral Reform plank to the GPUS in 2012, which has material the GPCA may consider http://gp.org/cgi-bin/vote/propdetail?pid=676 .


That the existing Electoral and Campaign Finance Reform platform plank be amended to appear as the following two separate platform planks - Electoral Reform and Campaign Finance Reform:


Democracy refers as much to a lively political culture as to a system of government. A diverse society needs a pluralistic structure to allow the widest possible range of views to be heard. To truly enfranchise citizens, everyone must have the right and the ability to have their say.

The United States has one of the lowest voter turnouts among established democracies. In a healthy democracy, high voter turnout results from the ability of voters to elect candidates who reflect their views. In many countries voting is compulsory.

By contrast, the U.S. single-seat, first-past-the-post, winner-take-all electoral system greatly limits voter choice and representation -- a disincentive to vote -- especially when combined with campaign finance laws that give disproportionate influence to big money. Many who do vote, go to the polls primarily to vote for what they are against.

California's failed top two experiment has only made this worse, limiting voters to only two choices in the general election, and making primary ballot access more difficult and expensive. This reduction in choice has led to historically low voter turnout. When few eligible voters participate and elect our representatives, the legitimacy and representative nature of our democracy is diminished.

Much electoral reform debate focuses upon who should draw the lines of districts, and how to make district elections competitive. But competitive districts don't mean representative elections, and single-seat, winner-take-all district elections are not capable of representing the diversity of California voters.

Greens support the use of multi-seat districts with proportional representation for the state legislature, and ranked-choice voting for statewide executive office. (http://www.cagreens.org/platform/proportional-representation) Greens also support a larger legislature, which will allow for results to be more proportional.

California currently has by far the lowest per-capita state representation in the United States (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comparison_of_U.S._state_governments). The number of seats in the California state legislature was set in 1879 when California's statewide population was approximately 865,000 (http://www.dof.ca.gov/research/demographic/state_census_data_center/historical_census_1850-2010/documents/2010-1850_STCO_IncCities-FINAL.xls). Today, that many people live within a single State Senate District and are represented by a single State Senator. As of 2016 the state population is over 39 million -- yet the number of seats has never been increased (http://www.dof.ca.gov/research/demographic/reports/estimates/e-1/documents/E-1_2016PressRelease.pdf).

Greens also support the use of ranked-choice voting for municipal, school, college, county and special-district elections. Where seats are elected in multi-seat, at-large elections, ranked-choice voting will make the results more proportional and hence more representative of the voters. Where seats are elected in single-seat districts, ranked-choice voting eliminates the need for holding run-off elections, reducing costs for candidates as well as the public that must pay to conduct the elections, and making it easier for voters to express their will by only having to vote once.

Proposal: The Green Party proposes:

Voting Systems

- Enact a system of multi-seat districts with proportional representation for the California state legislature, and ranked choice voting for single-seat executive office. (http://www.cagreens.org/platform/proportional-representation)

- Increase the number of seats in the state legislature.

- Abolish the Top Two system for state and federal elections

- Use ranked-choice voting for municipal, school, college, county and special-district elections, for both single-seat district elections and at-large, multi-seat elections

Voting System Integrity

- Make voting systems secure, reliable and verifiable

Election Dates

- Make the June primary election and the November general election statewide 'democracy holidays'

Voter Registration

- Enact same day voter registration

- Lower the voter registration age to 16, with automatic voter registration via public schools (http://www.fairvote.org/lower_the_voting_age#why_should_we_lower_the_voting_age_to_16)

- Enact Permanent Portable Voter Registration, so that once eligible citizens are on a state‘s voter rolls, they remain registered and their records move with them so long as they continue to reside in the state.

Ballot Access

- Lower the signature and fee requirements for state and federal candidates to get on the ballot in the primaries.

- Offer full candidate statements in county and state voter guides, including electronic versions, at minimal cost for all ballot-qualified candidates

- Restore the right to general election write-in candidacies for state and federal office

- Provide a general election threshold test in the presidential race for political parties to retain their ballot status



Democracy works best when everyone's voice is heard and represented. Unfortunately big money in politics has an undue, disproportionate and corrupting influence, and undermines our democracy. The reasons for this are many:

-Through a series of decisions including Citizens United v. FEC (2010), McCutcheon v. FEC (2014) and Buckley v. Vallejo (1976), the U.S. Supreme Court has dramatically expanded the ability of wealthy individuals, corporations and groups to spend as much as they like to influence elections,

Greens reject these rulings and seek to overturn them. Greens support amending the U.S. Constitution to unequivocally define that (a) money is not speech, (b) human beings, not corporations, are persons entitled to constitutional rights, and (c) full regulation or limitation of campaign contributions and spending be allowed.

- By their nature, elections and campaigns are expensive in order to reach large numbers of voters. In the absence of public-financing of elections, candidates must seek funding somewhere.

It is in the public interest for voters to be well-informed. The question is how do we fund our campaigns and elections, and how do we ensure all voters have the information they need to make informed decisions.

Greens support public financing via equal free time for candidates on the public broadcast spectrum, by governmental voter guides, and with other media. This would provide all voters with a baseline of information about all candidates running.

Combined with this, Greens support public financing of campaigns and elections via a system where small donations are matched with public funds at a multiple ratio where small donations are matched with public funds at greater than one-to-one ratio. This would increase the importance of small donations and increase the incentive for a broader base of voters to participate in funding elections. It would also enable grassroots candidates with strong community ties to run competitive campaigns even if they do not have personal wealth or access to major donors.

- Large, single-seat legislative districts require large expenditures to be competitive. Top Two elections make this even worse by making the primary election as expensive as the general one.

Greens support legislative elections by multi-seat districts with proportional representation, which lowers the cost of campaigns, by lowering the threshold to receive representation, and enabling candidates to be elected by their natural constituencies in proportion to their numbers.

Proposal: The Green Party supports

Contribution and Spending Limits

- Amend the U.S. Constitution to unequivocally define that money is not speech; that human beings, not corporations, are persons entitled to constitutional rights; and full regulation or limitation of campaign contributions and spending be allowed. Such an amendment would overturn Citizens United v. FEC (2010), McCutcheon v. FEC (2014) and Buckley v. Vallejo (1976).

- Enact campaign contribution and spending limits where constitutionally possible. Where not, combine voluntary contribution and spending limits with public financing.

Public Financing

- Establish various forms of public financing, including matching funds programs where small donations are matched with public funds at greater than one-to-one multiple ratio.

- Allow candidates to earn additional matching funds to respond to late-campaign political action committees and independent expenditures.

- Provide a $25 tax credit for small contributions to candidates.

- Create small donor committees that aggregate the voices of small donors.

- Require that free television and radio time be dedicated to candidates, elections debates and forums, and ballot qualified political parties as part of all commercial public broadcast licenses.

- Require that time on Public, Educational, and Governmental (PEG) Access Channels be dedicated to candidates, ballot qualified political parties,  debates and forums for elections within the PEG area

- Provide free media vouchers and a discount below the lowest unit-cost on broadcast advertising for candidates that accept voluntary spending limits.

- Overturn the ban in California that prevents counties, districts, general law cities, or the state from offering public campaign funds (Proposition 73 in 1988)

- Provide a check-off option on state income tax forms to donate funds to support the ballot qualified political party of their choice (donation does not come out of their taxes, but is separate and additional)


- Require prompt and full disclosure of all permissible contributions on Federal, State, and local government levels

- Eliminate all 'dark money' in elections - i.e. legal donations that are not publicly disclosed, including by amending Section 501(c)(4) of the Internal Revenue Code which defines social welfare organizations for tax-exempt purposes to unequivocally define that such organizations must be operated exclusively for the promotion of social welfare, and that no Federal agency, including the IRS, may interpret this to mean otherwise (including by redefining 'exclusively' as 'primarily'), and that any such past interpretations be rendered “invalid and void" going forward.




Existing Electoral and Campaign Finance Reform platform plank

Democracy refers as much to a lively political culture as to a system of government. A diverse society needs a pluralistic structure to allow the widest possible range of people to have their voices heard. To truly enfranchise citizens, we must ensure that everyone has their say.

In the ten years from 1990 to 2000, the average turnout of eligible voters in Presidential election years was 53%, and in non-Presidential elections years it was 43%. This means, in a two-way, winner-take-all race, the winning candidate for a state-level office needed only an average of 27% of the eligible voters to win (53% x 50.1%) in a Presidential election year, and only 22% (43% x 50.1%) in a non-Presidential election year. It is difficult to believe that elections where so few participate or vote for winning candidates can be considered legitimate or representative.
Additionally, the effects of the decennial redistricting process and partisan / incumbent gerrymandering produce insidious distortions of democracy. A study by the non-partisan Center for Voting and Democracy showed that redistricting turned 80% of congressional districts into non-competitive, one-party bastions where voters had little choice but to ratify the candidate of the major party that controlled that district. This accounts for the large-margin victories we so often see. In California, 42 out of 52 congressional districts are won by 10 point margins or higher; 35 out of 52 by landslides of 20 points or higher. In effect, politicians are choosing the voters before the voters are allowed to choose them.
This reality also impacts campaign finance reform. Campaign contributors are simply responding to high incumbent re-election rates, more than causing them. Most big donors seek to buy influence, not elections. Minor parties lose elections not because of inequity in campaign contributions, they lose because they are a minority viewpoint within a majoritarian system. In a general election, the underlying partisan views of a district's voters are far more decisive than campaign spending. "Demography is destiny..."because gerrymandered districts creates such a large majority of a particular viewpoint.
Money plays a larger role in primary elections where voters are not choosing between parties, and candidates with more money can distinguish themselves from the pack. Thus, campaign finance reform can be more effective in primary elections, as well as in single-seat state-wide elections and municipal at-large elections.
The Green Party therefore proposes basic changes in the electoral system:
Public financing of elections and free media access to level the playing field for getting candidates' messages to voters.
Reject the notion that money in political campaigns is free speech, as interpreted by the Supreme Court decision in Buckley vs. Vallejo.
Hold elections on non-working days. Saturdays and Sundays are the worldwide day of choice. Holidays, such as Veterans Day, should also be considered.
Take the redistricting process away from politicians and place it under the control of elected citizen boards that represent the various partisan, civic and minority constituencies. Criteria for drawing the boundaries should be developed to make all legislative districts as competitive as possible.
The Green Party will strive to run candidates reflecting the diversity of the larger culture.
Combine voluntary campaign spending limits and public campaign funding to reduce money's corrupting influence on our political system.
Allow eligible candidates to pay postage rates one quarter of the regular rate, as well as free access to the airwaves.
Establish contribution limits for Political Action Committees (PACs) with less than 50 members to prevent wealthy people from using their funds to unduly influence elections.
Prohibit political parties from using "soft money" - transfers from other campaigns or party coffers - to pay for any election-related activities.
Other electoral reforms deserving our support in varying degrees are:
Instant Runoff Voting (IRV)
IRV is an important reform for single-seat races such as mayor, governor, Congress and state legislatures. IRV allows voters to rank their choices first, second, third, etc., and operates like a series of runoff elections. If a voter's first choice doesn't win, their vote transfers to their second choice, and so on. IRV allows voters to vote their conscience without "wasting" their vote on a candidate not likely to win, or being forced in to choosing between the "lesser of two evils."
None of the Above (NOTA)
NOTA can be effective in party primaries. If none of the candidates seeking the party's nomination are satisfactory, party members can vote NOTA. If NOTA wins, no candidate advances to the general election. In a general election NOTA can have mixed results. NOTA would allow voters to express their dissatisfaction with all available candidates. However, a vote for NOTA takes away the "protest votes" that would otherwise go to minor party candidates. This perpetuates the two-party monopoly by increasing their share of the total candidate-votes, further reducing the share received by minor party candidates. Also, NOTA could force a second, expensive election where the party with the most money would likely prevail.
Under fusion, one party can endorse another party's candidate. That candidate then appears on the ballot of all parties endorsing her or him. In winner-take-all systems, fusion can help smaller parties by allowing them to unite around a single candidate and combine their strength. However, a minor party could lose its independence by fusing with a major party candidate, thus failing to provide an alternative to the major parties.

Questions about this system?
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