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As radical as the constitution voter-owned elections

by 12 Nov 2007Campaign Finance Reform0 comments

Rough Draft of Declaration of Independence

Inspired Rough Draft: Thomas Jefferson’s draft of the Declaration of Independence, June 1776.

Jefferson’s words thrill radical youth eternal:

That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these Ends, it is in the Right of the People to alter or abolish it, and to institute a new Government, laying its Foundation on such Principles, and organizing its Powers in such Form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

Through the shameful days of Vietnam and its interventionist aggression since, Thomas Jefferson’s words of revolution in the Declaration of Independence have helped keep the eyes of some open to all that is noble about the United States of America.

Recently, a number of United States cities have implemented public financing programs for local elections. ‘Voter-owned elections’ legislation was enacted by the Portland City Council in 2005, after an 18-month process including three public hearings packed with ‘voter-owned elections’ supporters. Participating candidates run for office in a way that requires broad citizen involvement and support, which potentially eliminates funding by special interests.

Public financing for central government elections has been accepted in most democracies. The proposed Electoral Finance Bill, the subject of this morning’s The New Zealand Herald front-paged editorial, is essentially an attempt to strengthen the principal of public financing of elections. The massive advantage Labour’s proposals would give an incumbent government, however, has alarmed a mass of organisations from the New Zealand Law Society to Warkworth Grey Power.

And speaking of local organisations, there is some disquiet about the private-enterprise funding of the Penlink Team, which successfully had four members elected to the Rodney District Council. While the spotlight is squarely on the Electoral Finance Bill, it would be opportune to extend the discussion to the issue of financing of local body elections.

Those who have raised the issue of local body election financing with the editor don’t all imagine that democracy is under attack, but ‘Safety and Happiness’ absolutely depends upon preparedness.

Preparedness to defend, and improve, democratic processes.

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