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To make democracy work again, state needs major changes

For over 20 years, Connecticut voters have been victims of a two-party system that focuses primarily on reelection and power retention rather than on the issues that matter to residents. We see this manifested at the national level in the failures to address immigration reform and health policy and at the state level in the inability to come to grips with a comprehensive transportation strategy, with providing quality education for urban students , and with resolving the threat to Connecticut’s financial stability posed by unfunded pension and health care costs for state retirees.

The COVID-19 pandemic and the barbaric death of George Floyd have cast an even harsher light on our economic, educational, and racial disparities, disparities that are exacerbated by our divisive political structure. The commentary and public protests sound a clarion call to reinvigorate our collective commitment to our core principles that “all men are created equal” and that our elected leaders “derive their just powers from the consent of the governed.”

While the commentary and protests generate the emotional and moral imperative that drive change, the substantive and sustainable reforms needed at the national and state levels require a systemic overhaul of our election structure.

Only by providing for robust competition among candidates for office and for genuine choice for voters at the polls can we have government led by individuals whose primary values are accountability, transparency, and the commitment to work for cross-partisan solutions to the issues that matter rather than for self-preservation and aggrandizement.

SAM CT, part of the Serve America Movement, enthusiastically champions this fundamental overhaul and is building a team of individuals committed to the five key reforms of: open public primaries; ranked-choice voting; term limits; a single taxpayer funded, nonpartisan primary in which all candidates and all voters participate; and a vote-by-mail option.

We launched a Survey on these reforms in late May and encourage all voters to take 60 seconds to click the link, https://joinsamct.org/blog/sam-ct-electoral-reform-questionnaire/, and respond with whether they “Strongly Agree, Agee, Strongly Disagree, Disagree, or Don’t Know” regarding five statements.

1. Connecticut’s primary elections, which are funded by all taxpayers, should be open to all unaffiliated voters (41% of registered voters) and not be restricted to members of the two major parties.

2. Connecticut should abandon partisan primaries and move to a single taxpayer funded, nonpartisan primary in which all candidates and all voters take part.

3. Connecticut should adopt ranked-choice voting to ensure that winners of elections have the support of a majority of voters and not a simple plurality.

4. Connecticut should adopt term limits for our six constitutional offices (governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general, secretary of state, treasurer, and comptroller) and for all state Senate and House of Representative seats.

5. Connecticut should adopt a vote-by-mail option that is secured against potential abuse and fraud for all federal and state elections.

Over 400 individuals have taken part to date with the significant majority responding “Strongly Agree and Agree” to each statement. The current percentages of those two responses are 82.8% to the first statement, 74.3% to the second, 81.9% to the third, 84.4% to the fourth, and 83.6% to the fifth.

Clearly, Connecticut voters are hungry for the substantive restructuring of our election system.

Over the next several weeks, SAM CT will elaborate on each of the reforms to help voters understand the pros and cons of each and the actions needed to implement them. As importantly, we will send a questionnaire to all candidates for the state Senate and House races, shortly after the Aug. 11 primaries, seeking their positions on these reforms. We will publicize the responses so that voters know where candidates in their districts stand on these critical issues.

We have known for many years that our elections system has calcified and does not deliver the quality of government that all citizens expect and deserve. The past several months have underscored that failure and encouraged more people to embrace the need to work together to restructure our election system in Connecticut and reinforce “We the People,” the foundational principle of a robust and effective democracy.

Oz Griebel is chairman of the SAM-CT Task Force and in 2018 was an independent candidate for governor of Connecticut.

 

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