As part of a process of Election Reform which I have been recommending for a while I believe we should have more input from the public through participation in the election process. This should include more direct decision making by the public by using the ballot to find out directly what the public wants, and by allowing the public to control the interview process by asking questions of candidates, either during interviews, or as part of an application process which I think all political candidates should be required to fill out in order to qualify for the office. This could also be a good follow up for the current Occupy Wall Street movement that is going on. It seems likely that many of the people participating in this protest clearly would like to be able to ask questions from their candidate; furthermore more direct voter activity including ballot questions and control over the interview process could, and in my opinion, should be one of the demands for the Occupy Wall Street movement.
According to the Initiative & Referendum Institute many states still don’t even allow for ballot initiatives to be put before the voters. Therefore the first question for many states should be should they have a ballot at all. I suspect that that would be easy for most people; so the follow up would be about how it should be set up. How many signatures should be required? What limits should there be on the ballot? Etc. this doesn’t mean that there won’t be some people, especially those in power that won’t argue against having more ballot initiatives available though. It is hard to imagine how they could come up with a good argument to back up their position but they will probably try anyway if it becomes a major issue; otherwise they will hope that by ignoring it they can avoid increasing the availability of ballot initiatives. The closest thing to a good argument that I can think of is that many of the voters aren’t well enough informed to make these decisions and perhaps that they could be manipulated by demagogues. This argument has been made before and it almost certainly will be again; and those that make it are usually demagogues which should be enough to raise some questions about the argument.
However, even if they’re not this could be easy to handle; if the public isn’t well enough informed or educated then better opportunities should be made to obtain that education and the information they need to make important decisions. This is why we should have what I have described as an Educational Revolution, or something similar to it. This should also be a good indicator that we should perhaps consider ballot questions and candidate questions that help make better educational opportunities available to the public. And of course, this is one more reason why the voters should be allowed closer control over the interview process. Also, another reason why this argument against ballot initiatives shouldn’t hold up would be that by depriving the public of the opportunity to vote on the issues they are enabling the demagogues and political operators to avoid explaining themselves and going ahead with their corrupt plans without even making a public case for it. In other words by saying “you’re not qualified to decide directly” to the voters because they could be manipulated by demagogues they’re saying let’s just give the decisions directly to the demagogues; which, of course, defeats the purpose.
I could come up with plenty of ballot questions, and suggestions on how to set them up on my own and I will; however for now I’m going to hold back, for the most part, in the hopes that some of you could come up with your own ideas without being led by me. Therefore I’ll wait at least a few weeks before coming up with my own. The same goes for the most part with questions for the candidates.
These questions for candidates can be general questions that can be addressed to any politicians, or to specific candidates like Barack Obama, or in some cases only for candidates for certain types of office, for example it may be much less important to ask questions about foreign policy to someone running for State offices that have little or no influence in foreign policy. Project Vote Smart has been asking candidates to state their positions on certain issues for well over ten years; they have a list of what they call a Political Courage Test which asks candidates to state their positions on certain issues. Unfortunately many of the candidates refuse to fill them out; this seems to be especially common when it comes to running for president and, presumably, in states where the voters are less inclined to hold them accountable if they refuse to respond. Furthermore the Mass Media refuses to give the vast majority of them much if any attention at all. There are apparently about 416 current candidates for president according to Vote Smart’s complete list of candidates; however the Mass Media has ruled out the vast majority of them simply by declining to tell the public they exist at all. Surprisingly not only have none of the major candidates have answered the vote smart questions but few of the minor candidates have answered them either. I have checked the candidates alphabetically for A and B which comes to a total of 22 declared candidates and not one of them have answered the questions.
On a side issue if you think these candidates should respond to the questions please consider E-mailing them to request that they do. I will follow this up with a more thorough check and perhaps a better organized list when I have more time to sort through the links. If some of them take the time to fill out the questions then I would personally recommend that, within reason, people choose from those and boycott those that don’t fill them out. Fortunately this isn’t as bad at small offices but it would be helpful to have people E-mail them and let them know that they will now be expected to let voters know what their positions are instead of just asking us to continue settling for pot luck based on an enormous amount of propaganda controlled by candidates who have a long history of betraying the voters.
In addition to questions for ballots or candidates organizational issues will be welcome as well. These could be about how to best organize the questions and how much time the public should have to collect the necessary volume of signatures or how many signature we should need. These issues may seem boring but they shouldn’t be left up to the politicians; a quick look at the history of our country and resistance to ballot initiatives should indicate that many of the politician’s clearly would prefer to keep all the decisions to themselves. They may want to appear to seek the voter’s approval though; which may mean that some of them may consider implementing ballot initiatives in a manner that they can influence or corrupt. Also if any of you are familiar with larger organizations that could take up signature drives feel free to encourage them to do so with any worthwhile questions that may come up. This blog is relatively low profile so if a more popular blogger or organization does a better job running with it that would be fine with me; I’m not worried about credit.
If you want to make a more comprehensive argument to back up your questions or related issues feel free to do it on your own blog, of course; this should be about the issues not any one person advocating reform and it would be better if more people took the initiative to pursue reform in the ways of their choice. After all, that is the way democracy is supposed to work. If so please use the author tags “ballot questions” or “candidate questions.” I’m not sure what other tags may be helpful but I intend to include these in this blog and will check them from time to time to see if anyone else contributes questions. If someone else comes up with better tags I will keep an eye out for them and feel free to post a reference here if you do a related blog so I’ll know sooner rather than later and anyone else reading this will also be able to find it. Quick responses will be welcome of course but this is intended to be a long term thing and if it takes time to think things through to come up with better ideas that would of course also be fine.
For the few ideas of mine on what we should ask on the ballot see Ten Ballot Questions for starters, I may come up with more from time to time.
The following are a handful of the existing organizations that have taken up the subject already and they may be helpful in understanding the process and the history of ballot initiatives:
The Initiative & Referendum Institute
Ballot Initiative Strategy Center
Project Vote Smart