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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Agenda for Electoral Reform Merits Support

Steven Hill’s TomPaine.com article “10 Steps to Better Elections: Our electoral system is in tatters. Here’s what we can do to fix it,” offers a 10-point agenda for electoral reform that would not only make America’s elections more fair and just, but also produce more Democratic victories. Most of Hill’s proposals have been suggested before, such as automatic registration, free air time for candidates, weekend voting and abolishing the electoral college. Hill, author of Fixing Elections: The Failure of America’s Winner-Take-All Politics, also calls for nonpartisan administration of elections, a verified paper trail behind every ballot and a constitutional amendment guaranteeing full voting rights to every citizen (including prisoners and residents of the District of Columbia). Hill’s more controversial reforms include having voters rank their choices, instead of picking one and creating multi-member districts, both of which have been successful in some localities.
It looks doubtful that any reforms requiring action by Congress could be passed before ’06, given the reluctance of the Republican majorities to do anything to expand voting rights. However, some of Hill’s proposals could be enacted at the state and local level, in places where where Republicans don’t have the strength to stop needed reforms. For example, reforms to enfranchise felons, or at least those who have served their time and/or those who have only one felony conviction, have recently attracted some bipartisan support and could possibly be passed in some states before ’06. Had such a law been in place in Florida in 2000, for example, America would have almost certainly been spared the current Bush presidency.