Occupy Davis shared the following message on their Facebook page this weekend, in which they explain why they will be "Occupying Election Day."
Early in the day on Tuesday, Nov. 6, Occupy Davis will be in front of a polling place to "decry voter suppression, insecure voting machines, the Electoral College, the disappearance of third parties from the ballot, the lesser-of-two-evils dilemma, and big money in politics (and the media, the health care system, education, etc.)."
They elaborated on their reasons in the following note. Share your thoughts in the comments below:
In a system where large numbers of voters are disenfranchised, where the most principled candidates are labeled “spoilers”, and where big money determines election outcomes, the deck is stacked in favor of the ruling class, and we will always be fighting an uphill battle in electoral campaigns. It doesn't have to be this way, but we will have to change the system in order to level the playing field and achieve true popular victories.
Disenfranchisement of Voters
There is a saying that if voting changed anything it would be illegal. Well, voting must make a difference, because entrenched politicians across the country are trying to keep large groups of people from participating. Voter ID laws discriminate against people who don't have IDs, such as the elderly. Advanced registration requirements are a burden on those who change addresses, particularly youth and renters. Bans on voter registration drives disproportionately affect racial and ethnic minorities. Bans on voting by people convicted of a felony not only deny prisoners an important connection with the outside world that they will need for transitioning back into society, but also led to the trick Florida used to purge eligible African-Americans from the voter rolls in the 2000 election. The insecure voting process, abetted by proprietary voting machine software, allows tampering with the votes cast in particular precincts. The Electoral College insures that some states are deemed “safe” and are taken for granted by Presidential candidates, while other states are deemed “swing states” where peculiar positions held by a small community can become national policy. The distribution of Senate seats by state insures that small out-of-touch states have inordinate influence on legislation while large population centers are disempowered. California's new open primary has erased third parties from all but the Presidential race, giving anti-Wall Street voters no choice.
All adults deserve equal representation. We need a secure and transparent election process, universal enfranchisement, same-day registration, direct election of the President, democratization of the Senate, and a multiparty democracy where citizens are free to join a party of like-minded people and run their own candidates.
The Lesser-of-Two-Evils Dilemma
There is a notion that if you vote for the candidate you really like, you will help the candidate you like the least. This is antithetical to democracy. The root problem is the winner-take-all nature of our elections, from the smallest county district to the President. Support for non-corporate candidates splits the vote, and constituencies who should be natural allies are forced to become the bitterest enemies. With a system of ranked-choice voting, you could vote for the candidate you really want, but still have the chance to put your support behind other candidates you find acceptable in case your favorite candidate falls short. You simply vote for all the candidates you find acceptable, but you put down numbers by their names instead of just making a mark. If your first-choice candidate comes in last, your ballot goes to your second-choice candidate. The next round eliminates the next lowest candidate and redistributes that candidate's ballots, and so on, until a winner emerges.
When ranked-choice voting was instituted for supervisor districts in San Francisco, political campaigns suddenly became cordial! In Cambridge, Massachusetts, ranked-choice voting in at-large city council elections results in proportional representation, where political currents are represented on the council by the same percentage that they are represented in the electorate. After all, district lines are drawn by people with political interests, and if you are a liberal in a conservative district, or a socialist in a liberal district, the district's representative will not represent you. Since the parties in power benefit from the two-party system engendered by winner-take-all elections, they will not acknowledge the benefits of ranked-choice voting without severe pressure from the public.
The Supreme Court's decision Citizens United v. FEC authorized unlimited campaign expenditures, reasoning that money equals speech. If money were speech, in a democracy it would have to be distributed evenly. Now we hace seen how superpacs let corporate-connected candidates trample their opponents. CUvFEC must be overturned, and Occupy Davis has been active in getting the City Council and the California Legislature to back a Constitutional Amendment overruling the Supreme Court. Once sanity is restored to campaign financing, we can institute a system of public financing, such as the examples in Maine and Arizona. Another idea is requiring TV and radio stations to give all qualified candidates free airtime in exchange for the privilege of using our public airwaves. Political campaigns should be won by candidates with the best principles, not the ones with the best public-relations savvy.
The influence of Big Money extends beyond elections into our lives:
- We want to stay informed, but our information sources are controlled by corporate media, which are further held to the corporate message by corporate advertisers. Even so-called public broadcasting is tainted by the corporate money it is forced to seek out.
- We want to make the right health decisions, but on the one hand the purveyors of junk food and other addictive products use psychological ad campaigns to profit from our vulnerabilities, and on the other hand the medical insurance companies gouge us with skyrocketing premiums in order to jack up profits while always trying to get away with giving us as little as possible of the healthcare that we need.
- We want research and education to benefit the public, but corporations use their concentrated wealth during this time of defunded public institutions to drive the university research agenda for the benefit of corporate profits, to cultivate an elite educated class at the expense of the daughters and sons of working families, and to milk the public school system for private profits with the still-unfulfilled promise of superior learning.
- We want jobs that pay well, but also that have good working conditions and that give us the fulfillment of contributing to society. Corporate greed on the other hand demands job insecurity, working harder for less, and doing meaningless work for the benefit of the rich.
- We want credit, community investment, and an economy that works for everyone, but the banks use our deposits for speculation, crash the economy, blight communities using liars' loans and robo-signing, and then take our tax money for bailouts when their risks go bad.
Citizen participation in democracy should not end at 8 pm on Election Day. We deserve a year-round democratic society where government works for the people, information flows freely, healthy foods are emphasized, medical care responds to our needs, research benefits society and the environment, education is for everyone, our work edifies us, and wealth accrues not to just the 1% but to the 100%. We need a better electoral system, but we also need to democratize the media, the food system, health insurance, the university, education, the workplace, and the financial system. Voting is necessary but not sufficient. If you want change, OCCUPY!