Director, Political Reform Program
Deputy Director, Political Reform Program
Deputy Director, Political Reform Program
Associate, Political Reform Program
The U.S. political system has been shaken in recent years by an increasing partisan polarization, an unresponsive government, and ethical scandals-all of which result in a crisis of confidence in our elected officials. Indeed, opinion polls routinely reveal the public's disdain for Congress, both major political parties, and express grave concern about the direction in which the country is headed.
Our outdated electoral machinery-from our noncompetitive, winner-take-all elections to our unrepresentative two party system, to the way we pay for political campaigns-is responsible for the growing chasm between the electorate and those who hold office. Working at both the national level and in California, New America's Political Reform Program acts as a catalyst for meaningful reforms that update our 18th century political institutions and modernize them for the 21st century.
Through an integrated program of research, constituency-building and public education, the Political Reform Program promotes the following solutions:
Just as American consumers have tremendous varieties of products to choose from, an American voter should have more than two viable candidates to select from in the voting booth. Instant Runoff Voting, which has already been adopted and applied with promising results in San Francisco, will pry open the political system by eliminating primary elections, creating a space for third party and independent candidates to compete, and empowering voters to express second and third preferences for candidates in a single race. Low-turnout primary elections allow the most partisan voters to nominate candidates from the wings of the political parties, reducing the viability of moderate candidates. Under Instant Runoff Voting, all candidates-including rivals from within a single party-could appear on the same ballot, giving citizens the widest option for choosing their representatives.
Under our winner-take-all electoral system, 49.9 percent of voters can be left without a voice in government when their candidate loses. Proportional Representation, which awards seats in government based on the percentage of votes received by each grouping of voters (there are candidate-based and party-based methods), would guarantee that every vote counts-which in turn would increase rates of voter participation while producing legislatures that better reflect the breadth of political opinion. It would create electoral opportunities for blue state Republicans, red state Democrats and moderates from both parties, as well as independent and third party candidates. In short, Proportional Representation would dramatically lessen the degree of partisan polarization and further open up the American political system.
It takes a lot of money to run for many political offices today. Such high barriers to entry, along with the staggering level of corruption in Congress, show not only the need to offset the influence of money in politics, but also for new approaches and rationales for campaign finance regulation. The Political Reform Program will develop approaches that lower the barriers to entry for candidates, strengthen the roles of citizen intermediaries, and make it possible for citizens of modest means to express their political views meaningfully, indirectly reducing the corrupting power of money.
Other Promising Reforms
Independent Redistricting Commissions would eliminate the perception that incumbents are guaranteeing their own reelections by creating safe, noncompetitive districts for themselves. Separately, a Citizens Assembly
modeled on the widely studied British Columbia model would propose reform measures. Such an effort would remove the partisanship and self interest of incumbents with an interest in maintaining the status quo. Additionally, a reformed Initiative Process could reinvigorate direct democracy by discouraging measures that hamper good governance. Finally, Universal Voter Registration will open up American democracy by automatically registering all citizens eligible to vote.
Public Education and Constituency Building
In addition to developing new policy proposals in each of these areas, the Political Reform Program generates new thinking among opinion, media, business and political leaders, as well as the general public, by hosting conferences and events on topics related to political reform; engaging leading stakeholders; forging consensus around a new vision; briefing political leaders; appearing regularly on radio and television; creating educational materials; building a website as a clearinghouse of information; publishing articles and op-eds; and broadly disseminating our reports, issue briefs, and articles.