Building Grassroots Democracy

Reports on selected local and state level initiatives

Published January 2, 2007

Preempting Corporate Subsidies

ReclaimDemocracy.org’s Kansas City Chapter will release a study later this month revealing that corporate subsidies are consistently going to the city’s most economically advantaged areas and bypassing those most in need of economic development. The chapter aims to use this documentation to overhaul the way subsidies are granted.

Update: Feb 10, 2007: The report may have helped spark additional scrutiny of TIF subsidies for the Wal-Mart Corporation in the KC area.

 Imagine Citizens Actually Choosing Our President!

Our method of indirectly electing U.S. presidents via the Electoral College repeatedly has helped put losers of the national popular vote into office — most recently George W. Bush in 2000. It also harms democracy indirectly by compelling presidential candidates to ignore the concerns of citizens in most states by focusing narrowly on the few “swing states” where citizens’ votes actually could influence who will serve as president.

If this sounds overstated, consider that more money was spent on ads in Florida in the final month of the 2004 campaign than in 46 other states combined.

More proposed constitutional amendments have addressed eliminating the Electoral College than any other issue, yet we’ve remained stuck with this archaic and anti-democratic process due to the unwillingness of less-populated states to give up their “bonus” of enjoying more electoral votes per capita than more populous states (whether they actually gain power from the current system is debatable).

But we’ve not given up hope. National Popular Vote shows an alternative path to democratizing presidential elections. It’s based on the realization that our Constitution already gives states the collective power to reform the Electoral College.

States already have exclusive power over how to choose their electors. Maine and Nebraska currently allocate electoral votes to the candidate who wins each congressional district, for example, while in the 19th century, many legislatures simply appointed electors without holding elections.

Today, 48 states give every electoral vote the popular vote winner in that state, but they could just as easily allocate them to the national vote winner. Of course, one state on its own is unlikely to make this choice, but if a group of states representing a majority of Americans and a majority of Electoral College votes did so, the popular vote winner would necessarily win the presidency.

A binding agreement called an “interstate compact” is proposed to commit the states to acting in unison once the critical mass of states signed on. Sponsors already are lined up to introduce National Popular Vote bills in AL, AZ, CA, CO, DE, GA, HI, IA, IL, KY, LA, MD, ME, MN, MO, MT, NC, ND, NH, NY, OH, OR, PA, RI, VA, VT, WA, WI, and WY and we expect bills to follow in every state.

Of course, this measure must be accompanied by many other structural reforms we advocate, but National Popular Vote offers a concrete plan to help make candidates for our one national elected office more responsive and accountable to every voter.

Visit NationalPopularVote.com for more information. Please contact us regarding advancing National Popular Vote via a ReclaimDemocracy.org chapter.

Educating for Change

Our Orange County, CA (south suburban Los Angeles) Chapter is rapidly spreading awareness of runaway corporate power at the local level. In addition to achieving consistently strong turnout for chapter-organized events, chapter president Steve Spanier began teaching a course on democracy and corporate power through the University of California-Irvine ‘s continuing education program this fall.

Turnout (55 students) and feedback was so strong that the school requested not only a repeat of the course in the spring, but the addition of a related course!

A wide variety of civic groups in the area have hosted presentations by the local chapter and interest continues to build.

Contact Steve at 949-654-7500 or SSpanier@our domain name to obtain a course outline or to ask about submitting a proposal to a school near you. Contact us to learn more about doing local education and organizing.

Protecting Drinking Water from Corporatization

From outright corporatization of drinking water systems to depleting groundwater supplies, the availability of safe and inexpensive drinking water in the U.S. is endangered by more than pollution.

Our friends at the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund and the Alliance for Democracy are working with communities to stop corporate takeovers of water supplies through organizing local workshops and passing pro-active laws.

Recently, they helped citizens in Barnstead, NH bar corporations from taking water from within the town for to resell and, advancing a direct attack on “corporate personhood,” prohibited corporations from using U.S. or state constitutional provisions to interfere in community governance or deny people’s rights.

See celdf.org or fwwatch.org to learn more.

Democratizing Elections

As we noted in our November e-mail newsletter, Instant Runoff Voting measures won big in Oakland and Davis, CA; Minneapolis, MN ; and Pierce County, WA — by an average margin of 24%. IRV measures are now 8-0 at the ballot box since 2002. Congratulations to our friends at FairVote who have led the way in advancing IRV, and thanks to our members who have assisted several of these efforts. See FairVote.org for more on the benefits of IRV and how to advance it.

© 2006 ReclaimDemocracy.org