Thursday, January 20, 2011

The Time for Structural Political Reform is Now


RECOMMENDED READING ON OPEN PRIMARIES:
But the quantitative success of independent candidates is still minimal, while the obstacles remain high. Even if they can win over voters and donors, independent candidates face huge institutional hurdles. Most states don’t have open primaries, in which the top vote-getters advance to a general election regardless of party. Instead, primaries are open only to voters registered in one of the two major parties, while independent candidates have to clear often-insurmountable barriers to get on the ballot. Runoffs are another issue in most states. As the system is set up now, a voter who doesn’t pick a Democrat or Republican risks essentially throwing away a vote for a distant third-place finisher….
...An instant runoff system essentially offers insurance. A voter could choose an independent first; if no candidate passed the 50 percent threshold, the last-place finisher would be dropped, and a voter’s second choice would count, alleviating the fear that one’s vote would be wasted. California’s Proposition 14, passed in 2010, creates a single primary from which the top two vote-getters go on to the general election. It’s a big step in the right direction, says Anderson, who hopes it will encourage others states to pass similar reforms. 
(From Did Joe Lieberman Screw Independents by David A. Graham, The Daily Beast) SEE BELOW

REDISTRICTING
  • Redistricting commission is all about partisanship (EDITORIAL Central Jersey.com) Redistricting should be a nonpartisan effort — since the bipartisanship being manufactured by the 5-5 split of Democrats and Republicans on the commission isn't a cooperative venture. Instead it's a system of two parties trading off chips and balancing partisan demands. In the end, deadlock is virtually inevitable, and a 11th-member to serve as tiebreaker is appointed by state Supreme Court Chief Justice Stuart Rabner. But even if that 11th member is genuinely independent, the negotiations leading to that tiebreaking decision will have already tainted any final product.
  • Endangered Dems sound alarms about redistricting (AP, The Review - Ohio) But Ohio Rep. Dennis Kucinich is making the most noise as he enters his eighth term by actively shopping around for a new district… Several legislators, as well as new Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo, have endorsed an effort by former New York City Mayor Ed Koch to create an independent redistricting commission. Such efforts have generally flamed out in the past, but widespread public disgust with New York's dysfunctional state government has given new credibility to Koch's crusade.
BALLOT ACCESS
CITIZENS UNITED
  • Scalia, Thomas and Citizens United (By: Jeanne Cummings, Politico) To mark Friday’s anniversary of a court decision that allowed corporations to sink millions into politics, Common Cause, a reform group, is asking the Department of Justice to investigate alleged conflicts of interest involving two Supreme Court justices – in hopes of forcing the court to vacate the 5-4 ruling.
DEMOCRATS
  • The trouble with Joe (By: Charles Mahtesian, Politico) The speed and arc of his political decline is stunning: In 2000, Lieberman won reelection to a third Senate term in a landslide, even as he spent the bulk of his time campaigning outside his home state as Al Gore’s running mate. By 2006, Lieberman couldn’t even win the Democratic nomination for his own seat. He was forced to run as a third-party candidate, winning with a bare 50 percent of the vote.
  • Did Joe Lieberman Screw Independents? (by David A. Graham, The Daily Beast) The retiring senator suggested that free-thinking elected officials are doomed. But maybe Lieberman himself is the problem? Newsweek’s David A. Graham reports on the lawmaker’s record and the stacked deck against unaffiliated candidates.
REPUBLICANS
NEW YORK
POLITICAL THEATER
  • Local resident appears Off Off Broadway (North Jersey.com) Playing with philosophy, theatrical forms and storytelling, "Mr. Hirsch Died Yesterday" explores human identity and shared history when a Jewish writer named Fred meets an African-American woman named Freda and find they share more than childhood memories.

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