Organized efforts to bring about significant reforms need a number of things if
they are to be successful. One is an ability to discern when, for whatever the
reasons may be, there has been a change from what might be called the "keep
plugging away" stage into what might be called the "time to step it up" stage. I
am convinced that that has happened with the issue of pro-democracy electoral
reform. This is an historical moment ripe with possibilities.
"Florida" is the primary reason why this is the case. For 35 days the entire
country had an intense civics lesson which made clear the need for change in our
electoral system. But it wasn’t just Florida. It was also the exclusion of Ralph
Nader (and Buchanan) from the Presidential debates. It was other, less-visible
actions in many parts of the country on the part of the powers-that-be to limit
and restrict popular participation in the choosing of government leaders.
result, virtually every state legislature is now in the process of considering
what needs to be done to improve the quality of electoral machinery. Legislation
in support of Instant Runoff Voting has been introduced in 12 state
legislatures. There was an unprecedented two weeks of debate over the
McCain-Feingold bill in the Senate (with, not surprisingly, not much to show for
it in terms of real change in our big money- dominated system). The NAACP and
the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights have held hearings on voting rights
violations. The mainstream media has been doing and is beginning to report on
results of a recount of all of Florida’s votes.
Again, this is an historical moment ripe with possibilities. For those of us who
understand the importance of running candidates for office and building up
alternative political formations to hold those candidates accountable, this is a
time to be stepping up our work. We have real possibilities for building a mass
movement to significantly change the undemocratic, big money-dominated,
winner-take-all electoral system, a system, a set of electoral practices, that
may be the single most important reason the overall independent progressive
movement is as weak as it is in the United States.
question is, do enough of us recognize this, are enough of us acting upon this
Fortunately, some are. Since early December, there has been growing support for
a Voters’ Bill of Rights, a document endorsed by 110 organizations so far, and
the list is growing. The Voters’ Bill of Rights calls for these reforms:
-Strict Enforcement and Extension of the Voting Rights Act -Abolition of the
Electoral College -Clean Money Elections -Instant Run-Off Voting -Proportional
Representation -Voting Rights for Former Prisoners -Making Voting Easier and
More Reliable -Easier Access to the Ballot, the Media and Debates for Candidates
-Independent and Non-Partisan Election Administration Bodies -Statehood for the
District of Columbia
this document as the programmatic glue, about 20 national organizations are
working to organize two major actions this June to advance the pro-democracy,
electoral reform cause.
first will be Democracy Summer 2001. This project has two main parts. The first
will be a Democracy Institute from June 17-23 at Florida A & M University in
Talllahassee, "the scene of the crime." The institute will focus on educating
upwards of 200 young people from around the country about the issues of the
Voters’ Bill of Rights, as well as training in the skills of lobbying, community
organizing, dealing with the media, coalition-building and building a diverse
second part of Democracy Summer 2001 will see many of the Institute participants
fanning out to join local electoral reform efforts in Florida, the South and
elsewhere in the country, as interns or temporary summer organizers. They will
be blitzing communities with information on electoral reform and bringing new
constituencies into the fight for democracy.
second major action will be a Pro-Democracy Convention in Philadelphia June
28-July 1, on the weekend just before July 4th. Initiated by the Center for
Constitutional Rights, this event will gather up and galvanize all of us
outraged by election 2000. It will be a critical part of the process of building
a permanent movement for far-ranging reforms toward genuine democracy.
significant that the groups working on either one or both of these actions are a
multi-racial mix that includes the NAACP, National Action Network, SCLC, Global
Exchange, Institute for Policy Studies, IPPN, Kensington Welfare Rights Union,
Center for Voting and Democracy, Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, Fannie
Lou Hamer Project, Black Youth Vote and Alliance for Democracy. Some of the
groups supported Nader, some supported Gore, some were non-partisan, but we are
now united in our commitment to far-reaching democratic electoral reform.
an historical moment ripe with possibilities.
Glick is National Coordinator of the Independent Progressive Politics Network
and author of Future Hope: A Winning Strategy for a Just Society. He can be
[email protected] or P.O. Box 1132, Bloomfield, N.J. 07003.
(For information on Democracy Summer 2001, call 202-234-9382 or go to
www.democracysummer.org. For information on the Pro-Democracy Convention,
call 212-614-6461 or go to