CALL TO ACTION
A Call-to-Action to Claim Democracy
A wide range of pro-democracy organizations has signed onto a call-to-action for a November 22-23 "Claim Democracy" conference in Washington, D.C. We modified this call-to-action to make it a more general call to claim democracy, both 2003 and beyond. We hope that individuals from across the nation will join to seek to make American democracy all that it should be.
We, the undersigned, endorse the following call
· The majority of Supreme Court Justices in Bush v. Gore declared that voters have no fundamental right to vote in presidential elections.
· The United States ranks 139th in the world in voter turnout in national elections since 1945, and turnout has been dropping, particularly among young people and particularly in local and state elections. Nearly a third of adult Americans are not even registered to vote.
· The United States is 59th in world rankings of representation by women. Only 14% of Members of Congress are women, and the number of female state legislators has declined since 1998 .
· The U.S. Senate lacks a single African American or Latino member, and the number of African Americans and Asian Pacific Americans in the U.S. House has declined since 1994. People of color are under-represented in nearly every state legislature.
· More than 4.5 million Americans are denied the right to vote because of felony disfranchisement laws that disproportionately impact low-income communities of color, including one out of every eight adult African American men.
· More than half a million Americans in our nation's capital are denied voting representation in the U.S. Congress despite the fact that they fulfill all of the same responsibilities of citizenship shared by Americans living in states and despite Congress having the final say over all local matters.
· Only four U.S. House incumbents lost to non-incumbent challengers in 2002-- the fewest ever. State legislative elections are often even less competitive, with fully 40 percent of state legislative races since 1996 not even being contested by both major parties.
· Although the 2000 election debacle led to federal and state action to improve the infrastructure of our elections, many states are making it harder to vote
· Despite the passage of federal campaign finance reform legislation in 2002, money spent in campaigns and on lobbying at federal, state and local levels continues to have an excessively powerful impact on electoral politics and policy-making.
Given this "democracy deficit," it
should not surprise us that our political leadership often fails to
address the hopes and needs of average Americans. To attain a
democracy that addresses the needs and aspirations of the American people,
we must embrace and strive to adopt a range of critical reforms. Just as
reformers fought for and won the expansion of suffrage over the decades,
we must be ready to take advantage of opportunities as they emerge at the
federal level and in the states.
Claiming democracy will require a sustained focused and coordinated
effort, both within states and nationally.