Voters Weigh Ballot Measures to Unrig the System
Unprecedented wave of political reform most since Watergate
NORTHAMPTON, Mass. (September 25, 2018) – Political reformers across America are paying close attention to key midterm elections in November, but they do not involve candidates or political parties. Their focus is on more than two dozen state and local ballot measures to unrig the system, the most since Watergate.
“This election we have the chance to unrig the system and usher in a new era of politics,” said Josh Silver, director of RepresentUs, the nation’s largest, nonpartisan anti-corruption group. “We can make the system work for regular people and their families, not just a handful of special interests and billionaires.”
There are more than two dozen political reform measures on state and local ballots in November, more than there have been since Watergate. According to NCSL, there were 4 ballot measures in the category of Ethics/Lobbying/Campaign Finance in 1972, 4 in 1974 and 2 in 1976.
“We’re seeing a wave of political reform that is unprecedented in modern history,” said Silver. “Americans are suffering because special interests and lobbyists have rigged the system against regular people, and they’re ready to fix the corrupt political culture that has left them behind.”
Voters on the left and the right say corruption in Washington is the “most important” topic for 2018 candidates to discuss, according to a Kaiser Health poll. The issue was also popular for Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), who regularly slammed the “corrupt campaign finance system” in his presidential bid and President Donald Trump’s who campaigned on draining the swamp. A Rasmussen poll this month found 71 percent of likely voters still agree with that statement.
“Special interests, lobbyists and career politicians have rigged the system for their own self-interest,” said Dan Krassner, political director of RepresentUs. “It’s why healthcare is so expensive. It’s why middle-class jobs have disappeared. It’s why so many people in America are in prison. It’s why the American people are being left behind, and we’ve had it. That’s why we’re working together, putting country over party to pass laws that put the people first. We’re winning, passing state and local anti-corruption laws and showing Washington how it’s done.”
This strategy has worked in the past: major federal reform on a range of issues has come after state laws paved the way first. 27 states passed laws giving women the right to vote before it passed federally. 34 states legalized interracial marriage before it became federal law. The list of examples goes on, and the takeaway is clear: passing state laws is an essential catalyst to winning sweeping federal reform on fundamental issues.
Here are highlights of the more than two dozen state and local political reform measures on the November ballot:
Voters Not Politicians (Michigan)
In Michigan, an anti-gerrymandering measure is on the ballot after Voters Not Politicians gathered more than 425,000 petition signatures with only volunteers within just 110 days. The measure creates an independent redistricting commission for congressional and state legislative districts to fix Michigan’s broken redistricting process.
Fair Maps Colorado
Initially, there was a possibility of multiple competing anti-gerrymandering ballot measures, one from a group with significant Republican backers and one from a group with significant Democrat backers. Thankfully, these groups came together to form Fair Maps Colorado. They were able to convince the legislature to refer two anti-gerrymandering measures to the ballot – Amendment Y (Congressional) and Amendment Z (Legislative). These measures prohibit gerrymandering and create fair and competitive congressional and legislative districts.
Better Boundaries Utah
Better Boundaries led the petition drive to gather more than 150,000 signatures to quality anti-gerrymandering Proposition 4 for the ballot. Proposition 4 will fix the broken system by creating an independent citizens’ redistricting commission and new rules to govern the process.
Clean Missouri led the petition drive to gather more than 340,000 signatures to quality Amendment 1 for the ballot. Amendment 1 is a comprehensive anti-corruption proposal that requires legislative records be open to the public, requires politicians to wait two years before becoming lobbyists, eliminates almost all lobbyist gifts, lowers campaign contribution limits and ensures that neither political party is given an unfair advantage when news maps are drawn.
North Dakotans for Public Integrity
North Dakotans for Public Integrity led the petition drive to gather more than 38,000 signatures to quality the North Dakota Anti-Corruption Amendment for the ballot. The Amendment increases transparency, roots out conflicts of interest, restricts lobbyist gifts, bans foreign money from elections, prevents personal use of campaign money, closes the revolving door from public official to lobbyist, and holds public officials accountable.
Represent South Dakota
Represent South Dakota led the petition drive to gather more than 50,000 signatures to qualify the South Dakota Anti-Corruption Amendment for the ballot. The Amendment restricts lobbyist gifts to politicians, bans campaign money from unions and corporations to candidates and political parties, bans foreign money, stops politicians from using public office for personal gain, toughen ethics law enforcement and protects voter-approved laws from legislative meddling.
Additional November 2018 Ballot Measures to Watch
- Ethics advocates are backing New Mexico’s Constitutional Amendment 2, the Independent Ethics Commission Amendment and Florida’s Amendment 12, the Lobbying Restrictions Amendment, to close the revolving door between government and lobbying.
- Campaign finance reform advocates are backing a range of measures in Massachusetts, South Dakota, Denver, Phoenix, Baltimore, and Portland, Oregon. But in Colorado, Amendment 75 could increase campaign contribution limits in some elections. The state legislature in Arizona is attacking the clean elections system there with Proposition 306, Clean Election Account Uses and Commission Rulemaking Measure.
- Term limits could be shortened in Arkansas with Issue 3, State Legislative Term Limits Initiative, but term limits could be increased in Memphis.
- A voter-approved instant runoff voting system is under attack Memphis with two related measures referred to the ballot by the city council. While Fargo voters will consider adoption of an approval voting system.
- Voting rights groups are advocating for Florida’s Amendment 4, Voting Rights Restoration for Felons Initiative, Maryland’s Question 2, Election-Day Voter Registration Amendment, and measures in Michigan and Nevada to make election systems more secure, block ineligible people from voting, and make voter registration more convenient. Golden could be the first Colorado city to lower the minimum voting age to 16. But some states are attempting to make it harder to vote, including Arkansas with the Issue 2, Voter ID Amendment and North Carolina’s Voter ID Amendment.
9 Major Wins Already in 2018
The movement to unrig the system already has 9 wins so far in 2018. Here’s a look back at this year’s major reform victories:
- March: Automatic voter registration passed in Washington. Tempe voters passed a dark money disclosure ballot measure.
- April: Maryland and New Jersey passed automatic voter registration.
- May: Ohio voters passed anti-gerrymandering. Connecticut joined the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact.
- June: Maine voters protected ranked choice voting.
- July: Alaska passed an anti-corruption law.
- August: Massachusetts passed automatic voter registration.
12 Major Wins in 2016
There were a dozen major reform wins at the ballot in 2016 including:
- Automatic voter registration in Alaska.
- Anti-corruption in South Dakota.
- Lobbying reform in San Francisco, California.
- Campaign finance reform in Missouri, Berkeley, California, Howard County, Maryland and Multnomah County, Oregon.
- Ethics reform constitutional amendment in Rhode Island.
- Ranked choice voting measures in Maine and Benton County, Oregon.
- Calls to overturn Citizens United in Washington and California.
“2018 is poised to be a historic year for political reform and the beginning of the end for politics-as-usual,” said Silver.
RepresentUs is the nation’s largest grassroots anti-corruption group, bringing together conservatives, progressives and everyone in between to pass anti-corruption laws in cities and states around the country.