Democracy refers as much to a lively political culture as to a system of government. A diverse society needs a pluralistic structure to allow the widest possible range of views to be heard. To truly enfranchise citizens, everyone must have the right and the ability to have their say.
The United States has one of the lowest voter turnouts among established democracies. In a healthy democracy, high voter turnout results from the ability of voters to elect candidates who reflect their views. In many countries voting is compulsory.
By contrast, the U.S. single-seat, first-past-the-post, winner-take-all electoral system greatly limits voter choice and representation -- a disincentive to vote -- especially when combined with campaign finance laws that give disproportionate influence to big money. Many who do vote, go to the polls primarily to vote for what they are against.
California's failed top two experiment has only made this worse, limiting voters to only two choices in the general election, and making primary ballot access more difficult and expensive. This reduction in choice has led to historically low voter turnout. When few eligible voters participate and elect our representatives, the legitimacy and representative nature of our democracy is diminished.
Much electoral reform debate focuses upon who should draw the lines of districts, and how to make district elections competitive. But competitive districts don't mean representative elections, and single-seat, winner-take-all district elections are not capable of representing the diversity of California voters.
Greens support the use of multi-seat districts with proportional representation for the state legislature, and ranked-choice voting for statewide executive office. (http://www.cagreens.org/platform/proportional-representation) Greens also support a larger legislature, which will allow for results to be more proportional.
California currently has by far the lowest per-capita state representation in the United States (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comparison_of_U.S._state_governments). The number of seats in the California state legislature was set in 1879 when California's statewide population was approximately 865,000 (http://www.dof.ca.gov/research/demographic/state_census_data_center/historical_census_1850-2010/documents/2010-1850_STCO_IncCities-FINAL.xls). Today that many people live within a single State Senate District and are represented by a single State Senator. As of 2016 the state population is over 39 million -- yet the number of seats has never been increased (http://www.dof.ca.gov/research/demographic/reports/estimates/e-1/documents/E-1_2016PressRelease.pdf).
Greens also support the use of ranked-choice voting for municipal, school, college, county and special-district elections. Where seats are elected in multi-seat, at-large elections, ranked-choice voting will make the results more proportional and hence more representative of the voters. Where seats are elected in single-seat districts, ranked-choice voting eliminates the need for holding run-off elections, reducing costs for candidates as well as the public that must pay to conduct the elections, and making it easier for voters to express their will by only having to vote once.
Proposals: The Green Party proposes:
- Enact a system of multi-seat districts with proportional representation for the California state legislature, and ranked choice voting for single-seat executive office. (http://www.cagreens.org/platform/proportional-representation)
- Increase the number of seats in the state legislature.
- Abolish the Top Two system for state and federal elections
Voting System Integrity
- Make voting systems secure, reliable and verifiable
- Make the June primary election and the November general election statewide 'democracy holidays'
- Enact same day voter registration
- Lower the voter registration age to 16, with automatic voter registration via the public schools(http://www.fairvote.org/lower_the_voting_age#why_should_we_lower_the_voting_age_to_16)
- Enact Permanent Portable Voter Registration, so that once an eligible citizen is on a state‘s voter rolls, they remain registered and their records move with them so long as they continue to reside in that state.
- Lower the signature and fee requirements for state and federal candidates to get on the ballot in the primaries.
- Offer full candidate statements in county and state voter guides, including electronic versions, at minimal costs for all ballot-qualified candidates
- Restore the right to general election write-in candidacies for state and federal office
- Provide a general election threshold test in the presidential race for political parties to retain their ballot status