Saturday, March 17, 2012

Grassroots Democracy in the USA?

In this promotional and somewhat biased video, a US democracy movement is showcased based on the concept of "clean elections" whereby state candidates adopt voluntarily a "clean" electoral finance campaign. Interestingly, instead of fair electoral finance legislation, Americans are forced to adopt their own standard of electoral finance legislation, and thereby bypassing the political process in the USA. This activist approach is partly the result of the US Supreme Court decision against Citizens United, in which money is equated with freedom of speech. The limitation of this Supreme Court decision is that it overemphasizes political freedom at the expense of political equality and fairness.

The FDA supports the "clean campaign" movement as a starting place. However, the word "clean" is very general and limited. A clean election is defined by:

1. Collect a set number of small contributions in their district.

2. Agree to voluntary spending limit.

3. No campaign contributions from private donors.

4. No contributions from candidates own monies.

There are no restrictions on corporate and union contributions, and there is no cap on contributions nor are there measures for complete transparency of electoral finances. Also, it is unclear how candidates who conduct a clean campaign are monitored for adherence. Yet, the spending limit is very positive depending on its level. Another important point, is that electoral finance is only one part of elections. The major media for example plays a significant role in determining the electoral discourse.

In Canada at the provincial level, Nova Scotia has very progressive, fair electoral finance laws which go far beyond the clean election guidelines above, while Alberta is extremely deficient in its electoral finance laws. On March 30th, the FDA will publish a report on the electoral finance legislation of Canada's 10 provinces.



  1. What do you think of the following points that were made in the article? Couldn't many of these ideas be implemented to boost voter turnout in any election, anywhere?

    •Hold all elections on the weekend
    •Make every citizen an automatic registered voter
    •Use paper ballots and a number two pencil (to avoid having votes not counted)
    •Have regional primaries so no one state has too much influence over the process
    •Limit the election season to 4 months for the primaries and 2 months for the general election;
    •Public financing, free air time, and spending limits for all politicians

    1. Boost voter turnout by simply having a fair electoral system.

      Take money interests, corporations, unions out it... legislate fair electoral finance laws, encourage pluralistic media... disallow elected officials from making their own election laws... the points you highlight help as well....


Thank you for sharing your perspective.