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Democracy USA Initiative and 
November 21-23 2003 Conference


The Center for Voting and Democracy launches “Democracy USA” initiative to spark multi-pronged, pro-democracy movement in America and announces November 2003 conference. See latest news releases on Democracy USA website.

The Center for Voting and Democracy’s Board of Directors, headed by former independent presidential candidate John B. Anderson, has launched a nationwide initiative called “Democracy USA” designed to strengthen democracy in the United states.

CVD plans to issue a series of additional announcements in the coming months about implementation of the Democracy USA program, including: a media campaign to draw attention to advances and setbacks for democracy in the United States and to highlight efforts by pro-democracy advocates around the country; the creation of the John Anderson Fund for Independent Politics; and establishment of a “Citizen’s Declaration” in support of the goals and principles of the Democracy USA initiative. It will hold a major conference on the pro-democracy movement on November 21-23 in Washington, DC.

The full text of the resolution adopted by Board of Directors follows. Read a recent article by Jamie Raskin for more about the case for guaranteeing the right to vote in the constitution.

Whereas..... There is a serious “democracy deficit” in the United States at every level – local, state and national. Our deplorable democratic shortcomings were on worldwide display during the presidential election fiasco of 2000, but are far more profound than ambiguities in recount procedures. The “democracy deficit” finds expression in:

• the absence of substantive debate in Congress about major policy decisions such as the shift to a foreign policy of pre-emptive warfare;

• the continuing lack of a single African American or Latino in the U.S. Senate and under-representation of people of color in all levels of government;

• the disturbingly low voter participation rates in our elections, particularly among young people;

• the stalling of progress in levels of women’s representation in Congress and state legislatures;

• the widespread perception that Congress is out of touch with the needs and desires of average Americans;

• the embrace legislators provide current partisan approaches to redistricting that contribute to historic levels of incumbent protection and landslide victories;

• the growing inequality in candidates’ access to the public through the media;

• the effective exclusion of non-major party candidates and independents from serious consideration in most elections;

• the growing concern about threats to our civil liberties;

• the lack of urgency and vision in modernizing the dilapidated infrastructure of elections;

• and, last but certainly not least, in the absence of a constitutionally protected right to vote, not to mention the right to a truly effective and meaningful vote.

Whereas..... The often-heroic efforts of national, state and local pro-democracy activists and reformers to address these shortcomings have fallen short. A major contributing factor is that every major national pro-democracy organization is defined by a piecemeal agenda of its own particular preferred reforms.

Whereas..... Pro-democracy work can be pursued most effectively at the state level, but lobbyists and activists for pro-democracy issues in most states are under-funded and under-supported. They also are often limited to supporting only part of what should be a “big picture” pro-democracy agenda and often must divert attention to non-democracy policy agendas.

Whereas..... Policy and democracy are closely intertwined. Civic groups seeking changes in policy should consistently connect their interests to those of a vital democracy. Thinktanks and columnists should not overlook the significance of democracy and what is happening across the country.

Whereas..... The process of preserving and expanding democracy will constantly require vigilance and action.

Whereas..... The times urgently demand a new vision that establishes the need for a strong electoral democracy -- in all its components and with no “magic bullet” reform solutions -- at the center of political debate and that highlights advances and setbacks at a national, state and local level;

Whereas..... The time has come to establish a much stronger infrastructure for a pro-democracy movement: one that establishes a visible presence across the nation, able to lobby for a full agenda of exclusively pro-democracy issues in state capitols, build stronger networks among pro-democracy organizations, identify and support local reform opportunities and take advantage of resources and insights provided by a more coordinated national pro-democracy movement.

Whereas..... All serious candidates seeking the presidency and other positions of public trust should articulate a vision for a better democracy for the 21st century – not only to define their own candidacy as being responsive to average citizens, but also to pave the way for real change in the event of victory.

Whereas….. A series of Constitutional amendments have expanded the franchise to protect women, African Americans and young adults, but Justice Antonin Scalia in Bush v. Gore could plausibly argue that voters do not have a fundamental right to vote in presidential elections because, unlike the more than 130 nations with constitutions that explicitly guarantee citizens the right to vote and to be represented at all levels of government, the U.S. Constitution provides no such right.

Now, therefore be it resolved that:

The Center for Voting and Democracy hereby launches a nationwide “Democracy USA” initiative designed to ignite formation of a broad pro-democracy movement in America. Once fully realized, this movement will involve ongoing coordination among leading pro-democracy organizations and the hiring of full-time democracy advocates in all states.

Be it further resolved that the Democracy USA Initiative will not initially endorse a specific set of political reforms, with the exception of a proposed constitutional amendment protecting the right to vote. Instead Democracy USA will promote the view that strengthening and energizing democracy is an ongoing responsibility that is not defined by any particular reform but rather is expressed by broad principles of equality, fair representation, meaningful choices, full voter participation, effective voter education, state-of-the art election administration and recognition of the importance of full representation of American diversity. Democracy USA will, therefore, promote these broad principles rather than endorse a particular set of reforms.

The Center’s Democracy USA initiative in the summer of 2003 will carry out a multi-faceted communication strategy, including issuing regular news releases, sending out email alerts, securing media opportunities for representatives of the Center and other pro-democracy organizations and establishing a Democracy USA website that feature news updates, opportunities for action and web-blogs from leading democracy advocates.

The Democracy USA initiative will establish a Citizen's Declaration of support in order to provide a vehicle for individuals to express public support for Democracy USA’s principles and vision.

The Democracy USA initiative will develop relationships with democracy advocates in national and states organizations. We will inform them of our communications strategy and desire to enhance their work by highlighting the efforts of pro-democracy groups working in particular states. We will learn of advances and setbacks for democracy in states.

The Democracy USA initiative will collect and develop resources that assist democracy advocates in states, showcasing best practices for promoting particular reforms and circulating effective educational and advocacy materials that facilitate state advocacy.

The Democracy USA initiative will establish an informal network of national representatives of pro-democracy organizations to facilitate communication among groups focused on different pro-democracy issues. The goal will be to work toward a major conference in November 2003 that will also promote a constitutional amendment guaranteeing the right to vote.

The Democracy USA Initiative will establish the John Anderson Fund for Independent Politics. This Fund will support efforts that promote independent politics and a strong democracy. It initially will have five areas of focus: 1) the drive to revive full representation in Illinois; 2) national efforts to promote inclusive debates; 3) effective implementation of instant runoff voting in San Francisco in this year’s mayoral election; 4) the drive to amend the Constitution to protect the right to vote; 5) support for targeted research projects and publications to highlight reform initiatives.

For More Information:

 The Center for Voting and Democracy
6930 Carroll Avenue, Suite 610
Takoma Park, MD 20912
(301) 270-4616   [email protected]

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Copyright 2002     The Center for Voting and Democracy
6930 Carroll Ave. Suite 610, Takoma Park, MD 20912
(301) 270-4616        [email protected]