I believe that the root cause of many challenges facing our state and nation is that we don’t have enough democracy. Centralized power into a few government representatives allows for too much corruption. Power must be returned to the people in the form of a stronger democratic system that allows every citizen to have equal power to affect government action.
To accomplish this, I support enacting legislation similar to the American Anti-Corruption Act (AACA) at the state level. This act is a set of proposals that lessen the role of money in politics, require greater transparency, and reform our election system. I also support even further reforms than what the AACA calls for, as outlined below.
To create a more democratic system accountable to the people, we must do the following:
- Enable more democracy with statewide ballot initiative and referendum process. Article I Section 2 of the state Constitution states that "all power is inherent in the people", however complicated governmental hierarchies of representatives, political parties, and committees can often override the will of the people and prevent important legislation from being debated and voted on even when it has major public support. I support establishing a statewide initiative and referendum process to allow Pennsylvanians to directly propose new laws and constitutional amendments when government officials won't act. No longer should one committee chair be able to hold up legislation backed by a majority of Pennsylvanians.
- Limit campaign contributions and the influence of money. I support a strong gift ban, such as HB 39, that prevents legislators from accepting gifts from lobbyists. Legislators should be serving as a community service, not to get rich, there is no place for "gifts" in our democracy. Furthermore, the disastrous Citizens United decision by the Supreme Court allowed "dark" unaccountable money to flood our campaign process; if Congress continues to fail to act and overturn this decision, I support ideas such as HR 357 that would call for a constitutional amendment reversing these court decisions to be proposed at a convention of the states as described in Article V of the US Constitution.
- Ranked choice voting for single-winner elections, such as governor or mayor. Our current election method, where voters must choose only one candidate, has a number of known flaws. Most seriously is that it encourages many people to vote "tactically" instead of voting for their actual favorite candidate because of a perceived "spoiler" effect. This effectively creates a lack of candidates and more hostile campaigns and leads to a stagnant two-party system (with which we are quite familiar!). Ranked Choice allows voters to vote their conscience for their preferred candidate, instead of worrying about "tactics", because their vote will automatically be transferred to their second choice if the first choice cannot win. This pushes candidates to run campaigns on the issues rather than simply attacking the opponent, since negative politics would hurt their chances of being listed as first or second choice on the ballot. We would encourage more competitive campaigns that listen to the people. Cities and even the state of Maine already use it, it is time for Pennsylvania to join them.
- Proportional representation for legislative bodies, including state assembly and county council. Proportional representation (PR) methods are a way of choosing multiple elected officials at once, in a way that ensures everyone is properly represented by electing people and parties in proportion with the vote. Because of this, it is a fantastic way of eliminating gerrymandering by preventing the problem of single-member districts in the first place. PR was used in many cities in the early 1900s and was very effective at reducing corruption and "party boss" control of our election system, as well as encouraging more candidates and more issues-oriented campaigns. PR also historically ensured the Black community was properly represented in the elected body. It is time Pennsylvania and its counties and municipalities implement PR. In particular, I support the single transferable vote (STV) method of PR over alternatives such as mixed member proportional (MMP). The reasoning is that STV entrusts voters directly to choose their representatives, while MMP still allows too much control to political parties. I do not believe political parties, not even the Green Party, should control our elections; it is up to the citizens to decide who represents them, not the parties.
- Ending partisan gerrymandering. Pennsylvania is one of the worst gerrymandered states in the country, which results in a large number of uncompetitive elections since the voting districts tend to protect incumbents and their parties. While I support the Fair Districts PA proposal (what used to be HB 722 before it was undemocratically changed by Rep. Daryl Metcalfe) as a good step, gerrymandering can only end once we switch to a proportional representation system that does away with the need for redrawn single-member districts in the first place. Can't hijack a process that doesn't even exist!
- Term limits and a unicameral legislature. Elected office should be a volunteer service not a career, and new ideas should regularly enter the legislative process. Legislators should be term-limited so that the focus is on good legislation and not fundraising for the next election. We should also eliminate the divided House and Senate in favor of a unicameral legislature elected by proportional representation. This change would save money by allowing a reduction in the number of elected officials while also providing a much more representative government.
- End the electoral college and move to democratic election of president. The US President is actually not chosen by our votes, but rather by "electors" that vote on our behalf. Our votes on election day actually only choose electors from a political party, not the candidate themselves. Several times in history, including 2016, this process has resulted in a president that did not receive the majority of votes from Americans. This process is undemocratic and flawed. I support HB 189, the National Popular Vote interstate compact bill, as a way of effectively abolishing the electoral college at the state level until the Constitution can be amended to officially abolish it at the federal level.
- Automatic and same-day voter registration. First-time voters should be able to register on election day if necessary, and to switch party affiliation as desired. I support legislation similar to HB 101 or HB 945 to do exactly this. Anytime you interact with a government agency, your voter registration should also be updated automatically.
- Early voting options. Holding elections on only Tuesdays, a standard workday for most people, makes it difficult for many people to vote around their work schedule. I support creating early voting opportunities to better accomodate varying schedules, similar to HB 946. Removing the restrictions on who can file a mail-in ballot would also help many people.
- Require voter-verifiable paper audit trails and open source voting machines. Our current electronic voting machines do not produce paper audit trails. In effect, there is no way we can be sure that the vote count is accurate with these machines. We must invest in new counting machines that produce paper audit trails for the purposes of recounts. Such electronic voting machines should also be require to utilize "open source" software that allows any software security experts to inspect the code for correctness and to ensure a secure election. This cannot wait, I would approve funding to make this happen in every county before the 2020 presidential election.