government reform | Lost Coast Outpost | Humboldt County

Considering the landscape of modern politics, even at the local level, at what point do you feel people deserve the right to vote for themselves? With modern technology we all have the ability to cast our own votes and no longer need elected representatives to do it for us. Would you support a system that had elected representatives debating the issues and presenting their recommendations, but left the actual voting up to the people? In other words, to what extent would you support a real democracy? Thank you

— Jason

Responses

Michael Winkler

Jason: Citizens certainly have the moral right to institute the type of democracy that you advocate. However, I doubt that very many people have the time or would devote the time to understand the issues that they would be so frequently voting on. For instance, when the Arcata City Council has hearings on the budget, something that I consider very important, typically 2 or 3 people show up. The closest thing that we now have to direct democracy is ballot propositions. I would support lowering the signature threshold for local ballot propositions so that citizens can directly vote on a greater number of government decisions and to allow voting on these ballot propositions much more often than once every two years.

Collin Yeo

Hi Jason. I agree that fundamentally a “real democracy” would have as few buffers as possible between the will of the people and the development of policy. However, there are some problems with the present structure of American government. It’s designed to specifically disenfranchise voters via the electoral college and congressional district gerrymandering, as well as the other avenues of expected corruption from an entrenched two-party system. So we may theoretically have the technology for individuals to vote directly, but the levers of power from the top-down work very hard to reject that kind of representation.

Voting for members of city council, local funding measures, and statewide propositions, initiatives, and referendums are some of the few arenas where voters have a more direct voice than in a general election. I think that a more just and ideal society would include more direct democracy without massive campaign financing structures, and without the general suppression of voting rights that we see in America today.

Emily Grace Goldstein

Hi Jason, I would absolutely support this kind of model if there was a way to make it work for all people in the community. I believe that power should be given to the people, and I believe that this includes voting power. I also believe that technology should be used to a greater extent in government and politics. 

 

However, I see a major issue with this. I don’t know how possible it is for all people to be involved in this process. In Humboldt County, Times Standard has reported that in general elections, 72% of eligible voters voted in 2012, and 52% in 2016. Getting voters to cast a ballot in midterm elections is even more challenging with only 37% of eligible voters voting in 2014, and 42% in 2018. The reality is not enough people are voting in main elections, and I worry that even fewer individuals would cast votes if these elections were to occur more frequently.

 

Casting a well-informed vote takes a lot of time to learn the ins and outs of each issue. Lots of people in Arcata are extremely busy with their jobs and families and making ends meet. This means that either we would have some uninformed voters, or only people with free time to learn about the issues would be the only ones voting. Thus only those with privilege within their jobs and education would be casting votes. I believe this would actually cause less equity and the vote would be less indicative of what the community actually wants. 

 

What I can guarantee is that I will always take the time to listen to the community. I’ve already connected with hundreds of people in the Arcata community in the month since announcing my candidacy. I will always take the time to ensure that the community’s voice is heard. I’m moving forward with my platform decisions based upon these conversations. Once elected, I will continue to be available and make time to learn what the community wants and needs. 

 

I believe that the system should work in a democratic way, and I know that not every city council member is involved in truly listening to the community. What community members can do is voice their values and beliefs during public comment during city council meetings. Additionally vote for the three candidates that closely reflect your values, and feel free to reach out to me at emilyforarcata@gmail.com as I’m happy to continue this and other conversations. 

 

Source

(Times Standard Article: https://www.times-standard.com/2018/10/03/increasing-number-of-voters-including-those-in-humboldt-county-choosing-no-party-affiliation/

 

Stacy Atkins-Salazar

Thank you for the question Jason. First of all, when it comes to electing our President and Vice-President, I believe that it should be done by popular vote and not through the electoral college. Many people argue that the electoral college is outdated and is riddled with problems. I agree.

So what about our other elected officials? Our senators, commissioners, council members… Do we actually need them to speak for us? As it stands right now my answer is “Yes.” With the complexity of legislation and decision making, from the national level down to the city level, I would argue that the majority of us need our elected officials to sort through the fine print, understand the legal ramifications and then make decisions that best represent what their constituents would want. In many cases, especially as you work your way towards the national level, our elected officials have teams of people to help them understand the legislation they will be voting on and then to help advise them on how to vote. Although there might be a few people who are reading this and thinking ‘I could do that’ I would argue that most of us would not want the responsibility of having to vote on every ordinance, budget, bill or decision for our city, county, state and country. That is what we elect and pay our representatives to do.

The idea of having our representatives simplify the issues for us and then make recommendations on how to vote seems reasonable, but when you start to delve deeper into what that would actually translate to, I don’t think it would be a fair representation. Our elected officials are supposed to consider the needs of everyone​ in their district whether they are able to show up or not. So many people are too busy trying to make ends meet and survive that they would likely not have the time to vote on all of the issues and this would create an imbalance in representation.

As a City Council Member, I will not only look around the room to see who is speaking up on the issues, but I will also look to see who is​ not​ there to speak up (usually our most vulnerable) and I will do my best to represent their needs just as strongly as those who are able to represent themselves.

Camilla Zapata

While idealistic, moving towards a true democracy and allowing people the ability to vote for everything themselves is easier said than done. In theory, I agree with components of this. In application, I see issues with all of the decision-making being handed down to the individual citizen. The amount of time necessary to educate oneself to make a truly informed decision regarding all issues would likely become a burden for most in this country. It would also lead to an even more disproportionate representation of the public and has the potential to take us further away from the reform needed to give all people a platform to be seen and heard. 

 

Elected officials are expected to educate themselves and alleviate some of this decision making by accurately representing the needs and wants of their constituents. I believe elected officials should be diverse in experience and background, as well as being willing and able to listen to all members in their communities. For this reason, I will always be available to all of Arcata’s residents and as educated as possible with the help of people and resources within our community.

Nicholas Matthews

Jason: I think that one thing we all can agree on is that government reform is long overdue and that it needs to occur on many levels. That is one of the reasons I am running for city council. While it is not practical to involve all of the voters in the details of daily city decision making I do believe voting should be easily accessible and elected officials should be responsive to their constituent.

There are several things we can do at the local level to improve the voting system in a cost effective manner. The city should actively support automatic voter registration, mail in balloting, early voting, safe,easily accessible and well staffed polling locations. These measures will encourage strong voter turnout in the Covid 19 environment.

In the broader picture reform can happen, but it’s up to us as voters to make it happen and that is why I am running to represent your interests as a city council member. As your elected official I will work to move Arcata forward in a responsible manner in order to achieve not only these goals but many others as well. My FB page: Nick Matthews for City Council and my email: nickforcitycouncil2020@gmail.com will always be readily accessible.

Best regards, 

Nick Matthews

Paul Pitino

This concept sounds interesting, however in reality I find it difficult to imagine how all residents( would it be all residents regardless of age etc.) could input on all items we decide on, and would there be a minimum # of respondents to constitute a valid response.  I guess what I am saying is that this needs to be a much more thought out idea for any real concrete response.

Sarah Schaefer

The type of government you are advocating for is a direct democracy. While certainly the most pure form of democracy, the tradition of representative democracy is robust not only in the United States but across the world. The overall system of elections in the U.S. is definitely due for an overhaul. The country has grown to levels none of the founders/framers of the Constitution could have imagined. For example, the system of the electoral college is beyond outdated and makes elections more about a small number of states than the overall majority and the system of “gerrymandering” in creating congressional districts has created a system that continually disenfranchises voters along racial and socioeconomic lines. Overall, I believe there needs to be a serious overhaul on the national level and looking to models in other nations such as ranked-choice voting and implementing compulsory voting. 

However, in local elections turnout (especially in non-presidential election years) is relatively low and has been decreasing. Expecting to have residents be engaged on every issue is over-zealous and asking the public to educate themselves on such a large number of issues can become overwhelming. City Council officials are expected to be educated on these issues and work to address them with the input of their constituents. 

As a city council member, I would be ready and available to hear the needs of the people regardless of age, race, gender, socioeconomic status, and political party affiliation. City Council is non-partisan and a city councilor should be ready to listen to and implement the needs of the people. On the local level, elected officials and get the closest to this idea of “direct democracy” by acting on the needs of residents and listening to their issues. 

Kimberley White

Thank you for the question Jason. I would you support a system that had elected representatives debating the issues and presenting their recommendations, but leaving the actual voting up to the people.

The Electoral College is an outdated system that should be eliminated.  We have had several national elections in which the candidate who won the majority of votes lost the election. 

Another issue is that there have been nine elections since 1900 when at least one elector voted for a different candidate, not the one that she or he promised to support.  There have been seven electors who voted contrary to their state’s popular vote for president in 2016. That is the most who have done so since 1972. Voters would expect their electors to vote according to their state’s popular vote.  We have had five occurrences (1824, 1876, 1888, 2000, and 2016) of a president being elected by winning the Electoral College, but not the popular vote. Two elections, 1800 and 1824, have been decided in the House of Representatives, which elects a president if no one wins the majority of Electoral College votes.  These are examples of an outdated and unnecessary system that is inconsistent with how our democracy should work.  The winner of the national majority of votes should be the president. 

Not only should the Electoral College be eliminated, but also voting should be made easier for all citizens.  Many states now vote by mail, making voting easier, more efficient, and harder to hack or commit fraud (current administration of course disagrees).

But other issues such as voter suppression, hacking and fraud, denying felons their right to vote, and so forth, also effect voting and democracy.  As far as fraud and hacking, our machines are all easy to hack. Therefore, I think we all should move to paper ballots. Voting in this country is not easy. It’s traditionally a Tuesday. Most folks have to work. Voting is tougher and less convenient for the poor and working class. Voting should be easy and convenient for all voters.

 

 

Currently we are witnessing the greatest voter suppression in American history.  One can readily see right now how Trump and his cronies have put voter suppression front and center with fear mongering about voter fraud with mail in ballots. Trumps is blocking funding that would prepare the country for a pandemic-era election and is yet another voter suppression tactic.  Trump and his army of poll watchers are not only trying to frighten voters but also are trying to incite violence. Trump calling into question the integrity of our election process is both discouraging people from voting and from accepting the results.

If our democracy has ever been in question, it is now. I fear whether Trump wins or loses all hell will break loose and we better hold on as it is going to be a hell of a ride.

In solidarity,

Kimberley White