Our Sick Elections
Our government can only be as healthy as the elections that support it. Looking back on 2013, it’s clear that our nation is sick and in need of recovery and reform.
Partisan gerrymandering of Congressional districts after the 2010 census has resulted in one of the most ineffective, partisan environments in Washington DC in a generation. The disastrous Citizens United decision has filled the airwaves with ads paid for with unlimited, anonymous campaign spending. I am working with my colleagues to close loopholes that allow 501(c)( 4) groups to funnel anonymous money to campaigns -- in 2012, nearly a quarter billion dollars spent by outside groups to influence the outcome of our elections came from these entities. Adding insult to injury, the Supreme Court last year struck down vital provisions of the Voting Rights Act, inviting a wave of state-sponsored voter suppression and disenfranchisement.
In order to combat these attacks on our nation’s electoral health and well-being, we need a booster shot of Constitutional election reform.
I am supporting the new bipartisan Voting Rights Amendment Act of 2014. This amendment would reverse the damage caused by the Supreme Court by strengthening voting rights protections and giving the federal government and voting rights advocates new tools to combat voting discrimination. I have also joined with many of my colleagues in supporting a Constitutional Amendment to explicitly state that the rights protected by the Constitution are the rights of natural persons, not corporations.
Campaign finance reform is also integral to setting our nation on the path to a healthy recovery. The “Fair Elections Now Act” encourages more participation by everyday Americans by providing a refundable $25 My Voice Tax Credit that would bring the voices of the broader public into the funding side of campaigns and democratize the relationship between money and speech. It also establishes a Freedom From Influence Matching Fund that is accessible to candidates who agree to a limit on large donations and demonstrate broad-based support from a network of small-dollar contributors. These reforms will substantially reduce the influence of big donors, diversify the pool of political candidates, and encourage campaigns to build bases of small donors of real people.
If we can build support and momentum to implement these ideas, with a lot of work, we can finally give American elections the clean bill of health they deserves.