Political Reform

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Have you ever gone to a program to talk about the problems with ____________ -- you fill in the blank -- and Invariably, someone says, "You need to vote"? The problem with that instruction is you likely already know this and you already do! The point is that voting isn't getting us the changes that we want to see.

Quite the opposite is becoming the case. As we say on our home page, this -- disappearance of small “d” democracy in our country -- cannot be separated from the ruthless squandering of our public and private resources by those who are concentrating power into the hands of the few.

What would we do to change this? There are lots of things we can do to make our political system more functional, but taking these three political reform steps would give Texas voters the tools we need to conduct a voter revolt that would shake up politics in Texas all the way to the top of the Capitol dome.

Step One is to End Straight Ticket Voting:  Legislation has been repeatedly introduced, but never passed, to eliminate this option for Texas voters, forcing them to mark each ballot. It is a small, but necessary step, to making voters think before they vote. Only 10 states allow for straight ticket voting, including Texas. This is an important mechanism for both parties to keep voters captive -- providing a "coattail effect" -- making it near impossible to see competitive elections in Texas.

Step Two is to pass Initiative, Referendum and Recall (I, R & R): The mother of all reforms is the citizens’ right to statewide initiative and referendum -- the right to petition to place new laws or a vote to revoke laws already passed, on the ballot. Twenty-four states have enjoyed the citizens’ right to petition to place initiatives and referendums on the statewide ballot since the early 1900s. Texans enjoy I&R (including the right to recall) at the municipal level only -- in home rule cities (cities with at least 5,000 population and a city charter). The Texas legislature, upon the insistence of big business lobbies in Texas, regularly entertains bills to whittle away at (or to take an axe to), this fundamental right to petition. We watch these bills closely and urge you to take action when asked. As well, we can help you learn about how to use this process in your community.

Women’s suffrage, labor rights, social security and many more reforms were won through the citizens initiative process in our country. In recent times I&R seems to be the only way to enact any fundamental and structural political reforms — like term limits and redistricting reform. We strongly support Texans right to initiative, referendum and recall at all levels of elections. Think about how just those two reforms -- term limits and redistricting reform -- would bring about more competitive elections in Texas. I, R & R is the tool to get us there. Learn all about the power of the initiative from Citizens in Charge Foundation, founded by Paul Jacob, one of the key leaders for term limits.

Step Three is to Implement A Citizens’ Redistricting Commission: The redistricting debacle in Texas, has left most Texans, unless they pay strict attention, unaware of who their Congressional representative is. The good news is that this has broadened the call to disarm both parties of their redistricting weapons with a citizens’ redistricting commission. In November 2012, Austin voters passed the first independent citizens redistricting commission in Texas. It is modeled off of California's commission chosen through an innovative lottery system that chooses ordinary citizens to draw the lines, instead of the very politicians who stand to gain from how the lines are drawn. We need redistricting reform at the state level and and federal level for our Congressional redistricting. We await a crucial decision by the U.S. Supreme Court on the rights of states to enact citizens redistricting commissions sometime in mid-2015. Learn more about it here.

The reality is that these are huge reforms that aren't going to happen until the Texas Legislature sees the whites of our eyes.

Now get along you little dogies and join here.

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