A Voter's Bill of Rights

By John Bonifaz
Published December 13th 2005 in OpEdNews

1. Count every vote

The right to vote includes the right to have our votes properly counted.

We must ensure that every citizen's vote will be counted. This includes a guarantee of open and transparent elections with verified voting, paper trails, and access to the source codes for, and random audits of, electronic voting machines. It also includes a guarantee that we the people, through our government, will control our voting machines not private companies.

2. Make voting easier

We should enact election day registration here in Massachusetts, removing the barrier of registration prior to Election Day. Six states have election day registration. They have a higher voter turnout in their elections and have no evidence of voter fraud. We should be encouraging greater participation in the political process, starting with election day registration.

We should also ensure absentee voting for all, allow for early voting, and remove other barriers that make it difficult for people to vote.

3. End the big money dominance of our electoral process

In a democracy, public elections should be publicly financed. In Maine and Arizona, publicly financed elections has enabled people to run for office who would never have dreamed of running under a system dominated by big money interests. We, as voters, need to own our elections, rather than allow the process to be controlled by the wealthy few.

We also need to enact mandatory limits on campaign spending. In 1976, the Supreme Court wrongly struck down mandatory campaign spending limits for congressional elections. A federal appeals court in New York has recently revisited that decision and ruled that campaign spending limits in Vermont can be constitutional. That case is now pending before the U.S. Supreme Court. Massachusetts should help lead the way with campaign spending limits for our elections.

4. Expand voter choice

Instant run-off voting: Voters should be able to rank their choices of candidates, ensuring majority support for those elected and allowing greater voter choice and wider voter participation.

Cross Endorsement Voting (Fusion voting): Voters should be able to cast their ballots for major party candidates on a minor party's ballot line, placing power in the hands of the people and broadening public debate on the issues of the day.

Proportional Representation: Voters should be allowed their fair share of representation, ensuring that majority rule does not prevent minority voices from being heard.

5. Ensure access for new citizens and language minorities

The right to vote does not speak one specific language. It is universal. No one should be denied the right to vote because of a language barrier.

6. Level the playing field for challengers

Redistricting reform Incumbent legislators should not have the power to draw their own district lines. We must transfer this power to independent non-partisan commissions and create fair standards for redistricting, thereby promoting competition in our electoral process and improving representation for the people.

7. Ensure non-partisan election administration

The Secretary of the Commonwealth must be a Secretary for all of us, regardless of party affiliation. The Secretary should not be allowed to serve as a co-chair of campaigns of candidates. To ensuring the people's trust in the integrity of our elections, the Secretary must conduct the administration of elections in a non-partisan manner.

8. Make government more accessible to all of us

Democracy is not just about our participation on Election Day. We need to participate every day and our government needs to be accessible to us every day. This means a government that is open and transparent, that encourages people to make their voices heard, and that enlists citizen participation in addressing the major issues of our time.

9. Re-authorize the Voting Rights Act of 1965

We must continue the fight to protect the right to vote and to end voting disenfranchisement schemes. The Secretary of the Commonwealth must fight for congressional re-authorization of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

10. Amend the US Constitution to ensure an affirmative right to vote

One hundred and eight democratic nations in the world have explicit language guaranteeing the right to vote in their constitutions, and the United States along with only ten other such nations does not. As a result, the way we administer elections in this country changes from state to state, from county to county, from locality to locality. The Secretary of the Commonwealth must fight for a constitutional amendment that affirmatively guarantees the right to vote in the US Constitution.

John Bonifaz is a candidate for Massachusetts Secretary of State

 

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