GPUSA National Green Program

GRASSROOTS DEMOCRACY
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Politics is far too important to trust to professional politicians. The Greens believe in a popular politics where people participate directly in making the decisions that affect their lives and do not leave these decisions to a professional representative elite. Professional political elites inevitably put their own interests ahead of the public interest. The Greens stand for a new politics of Grassroots Democracy, where the elitist structures of representation today are transformed into new institutions of popular participation and power.

From Plutocratic Oligarchy to Grassroots Democracy

Grassroots Democracy is one of the "Four Pillars" of Green Politics. Grassroots democracy refers to the idea of a participatory democracy where we, the people, in a direct democracy of face-to-face assemblies in local communities, meet to debate and vote on the collective decisions that affect our lives.

Governmental structures in the United States have virtually nothing in common with Grassroots Democracy. American government is commonly called a democracy, but that notion is propaganda spread by the corporate rulers, their media, and their other educational and cultural institutions. To be honest and accurate, the form of government in the United States is plutocratic oligarchy.

Going back to the Greek origins of the words we use today to describe forms of government, "democracy" means the rule (kratos) by the common people (demos).

We do not have a democracy in the United States, except concerning local matters where town-meeting governments-face-to-face assemblies of all citizens of a township-still exist in parts of the six New England states and seven other Northeastern states and some American Indian nations. Everywhere else, at the local, state, and federal levels, government in the United States is oligarchic (rule by the few).

Elections are merely a mechanism by which the people choose the individual oligarchs. For millennia, elections have been the telltale mark of oligarchy, of government structured around the elitist concept of representation instead of the egalitarian concept of participation. Elections today lend an aura of legitimacy to oligarchy for democratic-minded people who have forgotten what real democracy is.

Elections are also a means of pacification of the oppressed. They serve as a mechanism for co-opting the brightest and most energetic members of the lower classes into the ruling class, diverting them from movements to transform the class and hierarchy structure into a classless, nonhierarchical society.

In the US in particular, privatized elections yield the best politicians that money can buy. Elections are corrupted by the corporate rich, who have effectively privatized the public system of elections through private campaign financing. These private campaign contributions function as legalized bribery, creating a government oligarchy dependent on the corporate plutocracy (rule by the rich).

Plutocratic oligarchy is exactly what the "Founding Fathers" intended when they replaced the Articles of Confederation with the US Constitution. These slave-owning planters and slave-trading merchants designed the US Constitution to maintain elite rule by the wealthy oligarchy over the common people.

Among the mechanisms they set into the US Constitution to protect the wealthy oligarchs from the democratic spirit of the people and their recent revolution were:

  • the checks and balances that divide government against itself, enabling the Congress, Senate, Presidency, and Judiciary to stall and veto each other in multiple ways, creating the political gridlock that today shields corporate power and privilege from the democratic majority of common people,
  • the monarchical imperial Presidency, with its personalized executive power and independence from and veto power over the more representative Congress,
  • the aristocratic Senate, the most unrepresentative legislative body in the industrial world, where gross violation of the one-person, one-vote principle is institutionalized, where voters from Wyoming have 61 more times clout than voters from California, where the Senators from 26 states, representing only 20% of the population, can block legislation supported by the other 24 states with 80% of the population,
  • the unelected lifetime federal Judiciary, its independence compromised by its appointment by the monarchical President with the advice and consent of the aristocratic Senate and holding veto power over the more representative legislative branch of government,
  • the ultra-conservative amending clause, which requires multiple super-majorities in the House and Senate and then approval by 75% of the states, enabling just 13 states representing only 4.5% of the population to block any amendment sought by the other 95.5%, except that it requires 100% of the states to approve any change in the aristocratic structure of the Senate under the clause of the amendment article that says "no state, without its consent, shall be deprived of its equal suffrage in the Senate."

Plutocratic oligarchy is also sustained by the absence of democratic political parties that can hold their office holders accountable to party principles and platforms. The result is that virtually all US politicians are corrupt, entrepreneurial self-servers who raise campaign funds and cut legislative deals do as to advance their personal careers by serving the super-rich and the giant corporations.

The absence of principles political parties means that the 144-year old Democratic-Republican duopoly is the longest lived two-party regime in history. It gives voters the choice between the Center-Right Democrats and the Center-Harder Right Republicans. It represents the narrowest political spectrum and most vapid political debate in the industrial world.

America's Democratic Spirit

The US has never lived up to its democratic ideal of government of the people, by the people, and for the people. But there has always been a strong democratic spirit and counterforce to plutocratic oligarchy in the US. The roots of American democracy run deep:

  • in indigenous American Indian nations--the popular participation and free and equal forms of association practiced by the confederations of the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois), Penacook, Muskogee, Yaqui, Lakota, and other indigenous peoples;
  • in the first American Revolution--the town meetings of New England that were the cradle of the revolution; Washington's call for neighborhood "mass meetings," Jefferson's call for "ward republics," Franklin's acceptance of the advice of Haudenosaunee diplomats to model the Articles of Confederation on the Iroquois Six Nations Confederacy;
  • in the earliest "Rainbow Coalitions"--the multi-cultural Maroon societies of runaway African slaves, Irish indentured servants, and other European conscript sailors and rebels who united with Muskogee (Creek) Indians to form the Seminole Nation and fight to overthrow the slave owners and establish a popular democracy based on racial equality;
  • in the Abolitionist Movement--where the contradiction between the reality of slavery and the ideal of democracy was exposed;
  • in Radical Reconstruction--where former slaves helped to elect and lead the most progressive state governments in US history, instituting universal public education and raising the issues of land reform and proportional representation;
  • in the Populist Movement--the struggle against agrarian debt slavery, where a massive movement of millions of small farmers and sharecroppers formed countywide farmer's alliances that conducted sophisticated political and economic education, organized cooperatives, and built a movement counterculture and an independent People's Party that nearly united poor blacks and whites in an interracial majority of the "plain people" to prevent the consolidation of the corporate oligarchy at the turn of the last century;
  • in the Labor Movement--the struggle against industrial wage slavery, particularly the anti-racist, rank-and-file democracy traditions exemplified by the Industrial Workers of the World (Wobblies), by the best of the sit-down strikes of the 1930s, and by the more recent rank-and-file democracy movements like the Detroit Revolutionary Union Movement (DRUM) and Teamsters for a Democratic Union;
  • in the Participatory Democracy movements since the 1960s--starting with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), the spirit and practice of participatory democracy was carried from the civil rights and antiwar movements into the women's, radical ecology, gay liberation, and other popular movements and then into the Green movement as Grassroots Democracy.

Throughout American history, these democratic struggles have made progress in some ways. For example, originally the elective franchise was limited to propertied white males. Over the course of two hundred years of struggle to extend democratic participation, the property, color, and gender restrictions have been stricken from the law. However, there is still a long to go from our representative elected oligarchy to participatory democracy.

Most Power Is Not Up for Election

In many ways, there has been regression from democratic to oligarchic forms. Concentrations of wealth with decisive political influence, massive bureaucracies impervious to individuals and communities, virtually no remaining public sphere for political discussion by ordinary citizens, the corporatized and stupefying mass media-today's political culture and structure is anti-democratic in fundamental ways.

First, the US State and its sub-jurisdictions are structured around the elitist concept of representation. The people have no enforceable means of expressing their desires and controlling their representatives between elections. We don't govern ourselves. Instead, we elect elites to govern us.

The Greens don't want to elect new rulers. The Greens want to enable people to make the rules. Real democracy requires new institutions through which people can participate in the formulation of policy and then can monitor policy implementation by their elected representatives.

Second, most of the power in this society is not up for election. The power of these elected representative elites is severely circumscribed by the extra-legislative powers of unelected elites:

  • the private power of unelected corporate elites who effectively veto public polices that would advance the public interest against the corporate oligarchy by threats of capital flight and setting exorbitant conditions for government financing;
  • the growing power of the executive branch and its unelected bureaucracy over legislative bodies, acting with increasing secrecy beyond the control of our legislative representatives and often undermining what reforms are passed by the legislative branch;
  • the growing power of the federal and global over the state and local levels which results in federal and World Trade Organization pre-emption of state and local measures to protect people's living standards and the environment;
  • the unelected federal court judges which have expanded Bill of Rights protections for "fictitious persons"-corporations-while reducing Bill of Rights protections for real persons in name of law-and-order and national security;
  • the unelected National Security State, the military/industrial complex of military, covert operations, and domestic police agencies linked with corporate military and prison contractors, which attacks-at home and abroad-democratic movements and activists who challenge corporate power.

Third, the ability of people to freely choose their representatives is undermined by the private financing of elections by wealthy elites. Long before the people have a change to express their preferences, the field of possible candidates is selected by elites who control the purse strings of private campaign financing.

Fourth, political and economic elites are fostering militarism, racism, and chauvinistic nationalism as irrational diversions from the facts of popular powerlessness, economic hardship, and environmental degradation. The middle and lower reaches of society are being discouraged from participation in public affairs by political and economic elites through policies that combine the centralization of state power with a lowing of living standards for the majority of Americans. Instead of democratic participation, elites are encouraging disempowered people to identify vicariously with the power of the aggressive militarism of the national state as in the Balkan and Gulf wars. Elites are encouraging the people to blame each other, to scapegoat other races and nations-and gays, feminists, environmentalists, radicals-for their own powerlessness and economic hardships.

Principles of Grassroots Democracy

The Greens are committed to a grassroots democracy, to decentralized, confederal, participatory forms of self-government. Direct democracy at the community level is the foundation for genuine self-government at larger scales of self-government.

The Greens call for the creation of forms of face-to-face democracy at the base of society that control their own communities and their representatives to larger political jurisdictions with which they are associated.

The Greens therefore envision a radical reconstruction of our political institutions to replace the centralized US nation-state with bioregional confederations of self-governing communities. This will mean radically restructuring the US government, honoring the land and treaty claims of indigenous American Indian nations, and reconstituting intercommunal relations of the basis of community self-determination and free and equal confederation from below.

Grassroots Democracy is based on the following principles:

  • Direct Democracy in Community Assemblies: Community Assemblies, general meetings of the whole community, in every neighborhood and town, will be the source of and final authority over public police at every level. Community Assemblies will hold representatives to larger political jurisdictions accountable through their right to instruct and recall their representatives. Community Assemblies will address regional, national, and international as well as local issues. These grassroots legislatures will bring the people directly into the political process and give people the power over the decisions that affect their lives.
  • Confederation: Community Assemblies will confederate at the local, regional, national, and ultimately international levels in order to develop and coordinate common policies to deal with common problems. The higher levels will be accountable to the lower levels, reversing the present pre-emptive powers of the centralized state hierarchy.
  • Confederal Councils: Community Assemblies will not make every detailed decision. They will often delegate responsibilities and powers to confederal legislative and administrative councils of mandated and recallable public officials. But the Community Assemblies always have the right to address any issues and instruct their representatives.
  • Proportional Representation: Confederal legislative councils will be constituted through a system of mixed-member proportional representation. In mixed-member proportional representation, voters vote once for their district representative and once for their party of choice. Half the representatives are elected by preference voting by the Community Assemblies in districts. The other half are elected from party lists. The district seats count toward each party's total and the party lists are used to establish overall representation that is proportional to the party vote. By combining community representation by assembly delegates and proportional representation of party representatives, mixed-member proportional representation combines the advantages of both district and party representation. The assembly delegates would carry mandates from the Community Assemblies. The party representatives would carry mandates from political parties in proportion to their support in society, thus enabling minority viewpoints their fair share of representation.
  • Imperative Mandates: The assemblies and parties will instruct their assembly delegates and party representatives to larger political jurisdictions. The delegates and representatives may be given imperative mandates (binding instructions) that commit them to a framework of policies within which they must act.
  • Recall: Assembly delegates and party representatives can be recalled by the assemblies and parties they represent at any time for failing to carry out the mandates they are given.
  • Rotation: All public officials with delegated powers will rotate at regular intervals to preclude a professionalization of politics and an elite political class. Every citizen will have their opportunity to participate in turn in the coordination and administration of public affairs.
  • Sortition: Sortition-selection by lot as now in jury selection-will increasingly replace election for increasing numbers of public offices: legislative, administrative, and judicial. Those eligible for sortition would be willing to serve if selected and competent for the position. Replacing election with sortition will reduce oligarchy and increase democracy.
  • Legislative Sovereignty: The legislative branch will be the people organized in their Community Assemblies and the confederal councils. Legislative majorities will form the executive branch administrations of political jurisdictions, as in "parliamentary government."
  • Accountability Boards for Administrative Departments: Accountability Boards will reinforce the accountability of executive branch officials and departments. The members of accountability boards, selected by sortition, will be given time off from work with pay to attend meetings, review reports and records, and conduct hearings with subpoena powers. The power of the boards would vary according to the public function they monitor. In some areas, their powers might be limited to forcing a reconsideration of any regulation or policy promulgated by a public agency. In other areas, their powers might include sanctioning misbehavior, as in a Citizens' Police Review Board.
  • Economic Democracy: Political democracy is undermined whey concentrated corporate power can effectively veto public decisions by threats of disinvestment. Genuine political democracy presupposes economic democracy where substantial productive resources are under democratic social forms of ownership.
  • Economic Bill of Rights: Democracy is undermined when some communities are impoverished while others are affluent. The material and moral basis for unity at every level of political jurisdiction must include an Economic Bill of Rights that guarantees every individual's basic economic needs. It must also include revenue and resource sharing by larger political jurisdictions so that every community meets a minimum floor for public services and human needs.
  • Civil Rights and Liberties: Political democracy is undermined when majorities dominate minorities, be they social groups or political tendencies. The democratic basis of unity at every level of political jurisdiction must include enforceable legal guarantees of the civil right and liberties of all people without regard for race, color, creed, nationality, gender, sexual orientation, or political views.

Physical Habitat for Grassroots Democracy

  • Civic Architecture: Reconstruct the physical design of our communities to create a new architecture of civic and public space. Reconstruct dwelling, work, recreation, and shopping spaces to foster social interaction and conversation and give citizenship a convivial physical habitat for spontaneous social congregation. Build attractive, functional, convenient buildings to serve as homes for Community Assemblies in every neighborhood and town.
  • Decentralize the Economy: Political democracy requires economic democracy, and economic democracy presupposes a comprehensible and readily self-managed economy. In today's physically centralized economy, over-specialization and complexity creates dependence on the technocrat. Local diversification and increasing self-reliance of local economies will make possible the rotation of work tasks, a human scale to the technology, and a visible integration of the economy into the ecology of the community, all fostering a technically competent citizenry that cannot be easily manipulated by experts. Self-reliance provides a human scale and a physical framework for community and participatory democracy.
  • Decentralize the Cities: Industrial capitalism has left us with an unsustainable patchwork of sprawling urban belts, agribusiness monocultures, industrial zones, and military reservations. This physical infrastructure is no amenable to community self-governance or to ecological sustainability. The Greens call for long term planning to reconstruct our society around humanly-scaled agro-industrial eco-communities. Existing settlements should be progressively rebuilt around ecological technologies. Public funding should finance the construction of new eco-communities that can experiment and develop ecological technologies that foster community self-reliance without pollution or resource depletion. Public planning should encourage the resettlement of people from the vast conurbations into new eco-communities in less populated regions.

American Indian Decolonization: From Nation-State to Intercommunal Confederation

We will never have real democracy in the Americas until we decolonize indigenous nations and resolve the corresponding land question. The US and other nation-states in the Americas are predicated upon the domination of indigenous nations and the possession of their lands. The liberation of indigenous nations presupposes indigenous land recovery, which can only mean the territorial restructuring of the United States and other nation-states in the Americas and the negotiation of a new set of equal relations among the peoples who now live in the Americas.

The Greens believe that serious negotiations to resolve the land question can create a just resolution for all concerned and are preferable to litigation. Negotiations should start with the premise that true self-determination must acknowledge the right of indigenous nations to complete secession. However, the Greens hope that negotiations can develop agreements between equal partners to share the land-in a decentralized confederation in place of the nation-state. A just resolution of land claims, the Greens believe, would secure the tenure rights for existing home owners, residents, and family-owned farms and small businesses (but not for large corporations). It would also secure the basic political and human rights of all residents, including the right to become citizens and participate in the public decisions that affect them.

Negotiations in the US should consider carefully the proposals of indigenous activists for the creation of a land base for indigenous nations in the Great Plains and Great Basin areas of the lower 48 states. These proposal flow from these key facts:

  • After decades of research, the US Indian Land Claims Commission acknowledged in the 1970s, after a review of 370 treaties ratified by the US Senate as well as 400 unratified treaties with Indian nations, that the US has no legal claim whatsoever to over one-third of the land area of the lower 48 states and that land claims to Alaska and Hawaii are virtually nil.
  • The US government owns 35% and the state governments own 10% of the land area of the lower 48 states.
  • The cattle ranches and wheat farms on some 140,000 square miles of the so-called Buffalo Commons in the Great Plains area west of the 98th meridian are economically viable only with public subsidies and rapid net losses of natural capital, particularly underground acquifers. Much of the Great Basin area further west is federally owned. These two contiguous areas cover about one-third of the land of the lower 48 states and encompass the majority of indigenous people residing in the lower 48 states.

Negotiations also must deal with the land claims based on fraudulent and coerced treaties (an additional 15-20% of the land area of the lower 48 states) as well as the needs of untreatied nations in other regions of the country.

The Green vision of a continent of decentralized regions of self-governing communities cannot be realized as long as the US and the other nation-states of the Americans exist by virtue of their domination of the indigenous nations on whose land they claim sovereignty. The Greens are committed to negotiations to achieve the recovery of a viable land base for indigenous nations and the replacement of nation-states with intercommunal confederations based on equal relations between indigenous nations and the rest the people, with ancestry from the world over, who also reside here. The Greens envision a continental mosaic of colorfully differentiated communities, each adapted to the unique environments of their bioregions, working together the meet many of the needs and respecting each others' cultural and political rights.

Constitutional Reforms

  • Community Assemblies: Amend city and county charters and state municipal laws to enable Community Assemblies to form as grassroots legislative bodies, like New England Town Meetings, with power over local affairs, with independent budgets provided by revenue-sharing, and the power to instruct and recall their representatives to larger political jurisdictions.
    The new foundation for democratic self-governance must be the direct democracy of people assemblies in their community neighborhoods, towns, and villages. Bring the people directly into the political process through Community Assemblies that create direct democracy. Community Assemblies will have the power to administer their own budgets funded partly from federal revenue-sharing and the power to monitor, instruct, and recall their municipal, county, state, and federal legislative representatives.
    We call for federal legislation to encourage the creation of Community Assemblies by automatically providing direct revenue-sharing to communities that establish directly democratic Community Assemblies and additional funding to municipalities and counties that amend their charters to build Community Assemblies into their governance structures.
  • Abolish the US Senate: Eliminate this unrepresentative, aristocratic carryover from slavery times.
  • A Unicameral, Proportionally Representative US Congress: Make a unicameral US Congress, elected by mixed-member proportional representation, the sovereign power in the federal government.
  • Abolish the Electoral College: Abolish this anti-democratic relic of a time when the wealthy oligarchy in this country did not trust the common people to govern themselves. Until a parliamentary federal executive is established, directly elect the President and Vice-President by preference voting.
  • Parliamentary Administration: Replace independent election of executive branch officials with the formation of administrations by the legislative majority in order to end government divided against itself-for example, by abolishing such executive compromises of legislative sovereignty as presidential veto powers. Parliamentary administration will make the executive branch accountable to the people's representatives in the legislature and the people themselves in their Community Assemblies.
  • End Judicial Review: Abolish the power of the US Supreme Court to declare legislation passed by Congress to be unconstitutional. Federal laws should be repealed or abrogated only by act of Congress or by a referendum of the whole people.
  • Judicial Independence: Direct citizen election of judges for limited terms, instead politicized appointments by politicians.
  • Constitutional Amendment by Simple Majority: Make the US Constitution amendable by a majority vote of the whole people.
  • War Referenda: No initiation of military action outside US borders (i.e., except in the unlikely case of an invasion) without majority support of the whole people expressed in a referendum. The question of going to war is too important to leave to politicians who do not do the fighting. The people should be able to debate and vote before going to war.
  • Initiative, Referendum, and Recall: Extend these basic democratic rights to cover every local, state, and federal government.
  • Increase the Size of Legislative Councils: Increase the size of representative legislative councils to bring representatives closer and more accountable to their constituents.
  • Mandate Gender and Ethnic Diversity and Parity in Legislative Bodies: Establish systems of representation that create equal representation of both genders and proportional representation of historically excluded ethnic groups through such measures as dual member districts balancing male and female representation, as Finland and Norway have introduced, and constraint rules in proportional voting systems that establish a floor of representation for historically excluded populations, as New Zealand has done to correct the exclusion of the indigenous Maori people. Amend the Voting Rights Act to include protection against gender discrimination in representation.
  • Statehood for the District of Columbia: No taxation without representation. Decolonize the District of Columbia. Citizens of the District of Columbia are entitled to elect their own representatives to participate in decisions over how their tax dollars are spent. Extend full home rule and representation in national government to the citizens of the Washington DC.
  • Fully Informed Juries: Require that the courts inform juries of their right to judge the law as well as defendants-their right to find defendants innocent even if review of the evidence strictly in terms of the law would indicate a guilty verdict. Juries should be able to exercise this right when they believe that justice would be better served by a "not guilty" verdict because no harm was actually caused, or because they believe the law itself to be unjust, or because a guilty verdict would other wise violate their sense of right and wrong. The right of citizen jurors to judge the law will protect our individual liberties and freedom from political repression and capricious intrusion into our lives by government.
  • Average Workers' Pay for All Public Officials: Pay public officials no more than the US Bureau of Labor Statistics' "Moderate Budget" for a comparable household in order to prevent political careerism and the professionalization of politics. Greens elected to public office before this measure is adopted should donate any pay they receive over a "Moderate budget" to the Green Party.
  • Open Proceedings: All citizens should have access to all public business, records, computerized information, and meetings.
  • Computerized Access to Government Information--Provide for the people to have free computerized access in public libraries, as well as from their own homes, to the full range of government information, from statistical data to hearing transcripts.
  • Environmental Home Rule: Pass environmental home rule laws at the state and federal levels establishing the absolute right of state and local governments to bar disposal or transshipment of hazardous materials, to reject the location of hazardous industrial projects in their communities, and to set higher than federal environmental standards.
  • Municipal Home Rule: Amend state laws and constitutions to allow municipalities and counties to revise their charters without requiring the approval of the state government.
  • Community Funding Option on Federal Income Taxes: Allow people in low-income communities to give up to 75% of their federal income tax to their neighborhood and community assemblies.
  • Fiscal Federalism and Revenue Sharing: Establish a federal revenue sharing system that sends federal revenues to community assemblies, municipalities, and counties according to a formula that gives all local jurisdictions some money and low-income jurisdictions more funds.
  • Constitutional Conventions: Where the amending provisions of the federal and state constitutions make constitutional changes too onerous, convene constitutional conventions to rewrite these constitutions.

Election Law Reforms

The established corporate parties in the US do not offer principled political alternatives. They are shifting coalitions of political careerists held together only by the prospect of victory, spoils, and patronage. Transient candidates' committees, rather than ongoing party committees, receive most of the funding and dominate the process. Behind the candidates' committees are the rich, the of 1% of the people who gave 80% of federal campaign contributions in 1996. Winning is all and any principle will be sacrificed to win.

The corporate parties do not have memberships who can control their decision-making staffs and candidates. They only have supporters who only get to choose in primaries between candidates already pre-selected by the moneyed interests. The party platforms have little effect on candidate positions and behavior in office because whomever wins the primaries can do whatever they want, not matter what the platforms say.

The American-style corporate party controlled by politicians rather than members is a direct consequence of state election laws that regard political parties as franchises licensed by the state rather than private voluntary associations. The Greens fight for the independence of parties from state control and the right to be a membership party controlled democratically from the bottom up. They fight to change election laws that interfere with party self-government through both legislation and court challenges, which they believe they will win based on the rights of free speech and association in the 1st and 14th Amendments.

We need election law and related reforms that will remove the economic and institutional barriers to full and equal participation by all citizens and viewpoints in the electoral and legislative process. These reforms must enable principled parties to emerge that can create coherent platforms, nominate candidates responsible to their platforms, and have the capacity to reach the public with their platforms.

In order to secure equal access to the electoral and legislative process for all citizens, to end the domination of elections by private moneyed interests, and to enable internally democratic, principled, and responsible political parties to form, the Greens support the following reforms:

  • Preferential Balloting for Single Office Elections: Institute majority preference voting for races to elect a single candidate to office. In majority preference balloting, voters rank the candidates in their order of preference. If a candidate receives a majority of over 50% of the first, she or he is elected. If not, the last place candidate is eliminated and the ballots for that candidate are redistributed to according to their designated second preferences. This process continues until a candidate receives a majority of over 50%. This voting process ends lesser-evil voting where voters choose what they regard as the winnable lesser-evil candidate instead of their first preference because they are afraid a vote for their first preference will help what they regard as the greater-evil candidate. Majority preference voting enables people to vote their hopes instead of their fears.
  • Proportional Representation for Legislative Bodies: Institute systems of proportional representation that represent all political parties in proportion to the support they receive. In proportional representation, 10% of the vote entitles a party to 10% of the legislative seats. Proportional representation allows a wider range of debate and a fair share of representation for minority and majority viewpoints and constituencies in legislative bodies.
    The winner-take-all electoral system is fundamentally anti-democratic. It denies people of color and political minorities their fair share of representation and power. By systematically under-representing minorities, it inflates the power of bare majorities or pluralities far beyond their actual support in the population.
    The winner-take-all system also perpetuates negative "lesser evil" voting. Many voters find themselves always voting for the lesser evil in order to prevent the greater evil instead voting of for their first choice which is an independent or third party candidate. Therefore, they vote for the major party that they see as the lesser evil so the greater evil, the other major party, won't get elected. Proportional representation will enable us to vote our hopes instead of our fears.
    Among the major democracies in the world, all use some form of proportional representation except the United Kingdom and some of its former colonies, the largest being the US, Canada, and India. New Zealand recently switched to proportional representation. The Australian Senate has proportional representation. The new democracies in Eastern Europe and South Africa chose proportional representation. In countries with proportional representation, more people vote, more women and minorities are elected, and more parties and points of view get representation.
  • Mixed Member Proportional Representation: Many systems of proportional representation require large districts, which are inconsistent with the imperative mandate and immediate recall of representatives by Community Assemblies. The Greens call for mixed-member proportional representation in legislative bodies as the system that best combines the advantages of both districted and proportional systems: grassroots democracy based on mandated, recallable district representation and proportional representation of party viewpoints. In mixed-member proportional representation, voters elect half of the legislative body from single-member districts by preference voting and the other half election at-large from party lists. Voters vote once for their district representative and once for their party of choice. Overall proportionality in the legislature is determined by the party vote for the party lists, with the district winners counting toward each party's total and the remainder of their share of seats taken from the party list.
  • Public Campaign Financing: Provide equal allotments of public campaign financing to all ballot qualified candidates who agree not to accept private campaign funds.
  • Free and Equal Access to Broadcast Media for All Candidates: Ballot qualified candidates should also have equal allotments of free broadcast media time, provided by all private broadcasters as a condition of their FCC license to use the public airwaves.
  • Public Party Financing: Provide public financing through a system of matching funds for party dues and small donations up to $300 a year. We oppose public financing of parties based on votes or other measures not connected to grassroots financial support because we do not believe public financing should support party bureaucracies that can operate independently of material support from and accountability to their members.
  • Free and Equal Access to Broadcast Media for All Ballot Qualified Political Parties: Require that all broadcast media, as a condition of their FCC licenses to use the public airwaves, make free and equal time available year-round for all ballot qualified political parties to explain their party principles and views on the issues of the day.
  • Fair Ballot Access: The US has the most restrictive ballot access requirements of any industrial democracy. Some states have not had a third party with ballot qualification since restrictions on ballot access were legislated early in the 20th century. The Greens call for federal legislation to insure state election laws provide fair ballot access for minor parties and independents. We support a federal fair ballot access law establishing reasonable signature requirements to qualify a new party or an independent candidate. Support the standard that was developed in the American Civil Liberties Union's Model Election Law of 1940 and has been the basis for bills introduced into Congress many times. The standard to qualify a new party or an independent candidate should be no greater than one-tenth of 1% of the total vote cast in the last gubernatorial election in the district concerned, with 10,000 signature maximum limit.
  • Universal Voter Registration: Make it the responsibility of government, not individual citizens, to insure that every citizen of age is registered to vote, as most industrial democracies do.
  • Same Day Voter Registration: Allow voter registration at polling places on election day.
  • Immigrant Voting Rights: No taxation without representation. Immigrants ought to have, as they did prior to World War I, the right to participate in electing the people who decide how their tax dollars are spent. Extend voting rights to immigrants who are residents. All people should have the democratic right to participate in the decisions that affect their lives.
  • Prisoner and Parolee Voting Rights: Restore the voting rights of people who are in prison or on parole. The stripping of voting rights of convicted felons, many of them drug war victims, has eliminated the voting rights of 1 out of 6 African American males. Loss of voting rights is no deterrent to crime, but it is a deterrent to rehabilitation.
  • Initiative and Referendum: Establish binding initiative and referendum processes in every municipal, county, state, and federal jurisdiction where they do not now exist. Make initiatives and referendums more democratic by setting overall spending limits on initiative and referendum campaigns and by guaranteeing free and equal access to broadcast media for both sides as part of FCC licensing conditions.
  • None of the Above: Institute binding 'None of the Above" (NOTA) options in all elections. Should NOTA win the election a new election is called requiring new candidates.
  • Eliminate Mandatory Nonpartisanship in Elections: Eliminate laws that prevent candidates from being identified on ballots by their party if they want.
  • Eliminate Mandatory Primaries: Eliminate laws that require parties to nominate candidates by primary elections instead of membership conventions. Primaries take the nomination decision away from the active members of a party and give it to any voter who is registered in the party 14 closed primary states or to simply any voter in 36 states. Primaries enable voters who do not support the party's principles and platform and who do not support the party with activity and money to make nominations for the party. The result is a system where candidates win primary elections without any commitment or accountability to the party's principles and platform. Parties should have the right to primaries closed to voters who are not enrolled in their party and the right to nominate by membership convention instead of primary elections.
  • Eliminate Mandatory Open Caucuses and Conventions: Eliminate laws that require parties to hold caucus and convention processes that allow anyone who wants to participate, no matter what their commitment to party principles and membership responsibilities. Parties should have the right to form as membership organizations with shared principles and defined membership responsibilities in order to develop as principled parties under democratic membership control. A political party, not the state, should have the right to determine who has voting rights in their party.
  • Citizen Control of Redistricting: Redrawing political jurisdictions and electoral districts after censuses or to accommodate new electoral systems such as proportional representation should be controlled by Community Assemblies or some other form of independent citizen oversight, and not by legislative committees dominated by the major parties who have historically gerrymandered safe seats for their incumbents. Redrawn political jurisdictions and electoral districts should be consistent with Community Assemblies representing real neighborhoods and towns at the local level and bioregions for larger jurisdictions.
  • Repeal the Hatch Act: The Hatch Act restricts the rights of public employees to stand for office and participate in election campaigns. It has disproportionate adverse impact on African Americans, who are disproportionately employed in government because of greater job discrimination in the private sector. This anti-democratic, racially biased law should be repealed.


GPUSA members are encouraged to participate
in the re-write of the Green Program.

www.greenparty.org