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Two Ways to Improve Our Democracy
Who Needs Community Listening?
Who Is Being Asked?
Two Ways to Improve
Misconceptions to Improving
New Measures of Civic Engagement
In your lifetime, have any of your candidates or elected officials asked you what your concerns are? Click here to discover that we're not alone.
What are your concerns? Click here to see if you share the concerns of 100 of my neighbors.
The two most important ways I see that will improve our democracy are to: 1) build a "Concerns Bank", and 2) assure independents can vote.
Build a “Concerns Bank” Where can elected officials, candidates, non-profits, community groups, or media go to hear people's concerns? And who shares yours? I believe there are many that need addressing but no one asks - no elected officials, and few candidates.
I have yet to see evidence of a collection of residents' concerns, especially available for public review. Without that information, how can we hold our elected officials accountable for addressing, or not addressing, our concerns? How can they set long-range plans or prioritize their city, county, school, state, or other weekly/monthly meeting agenda items without that crucial information? Click here to see if you share the concerns of 100 of my neighbors.
Candidates say they ask residents for their concerns. In early 2016, I asked 475 candidates if they had a plan, what steps their plans included, and how much of their campaign budgets were being allocated. Candidates were running for US Senate or House of Representatives, state Senate or House and county positions – and even president*.
Fifty-eight candidates responded. The majority (47) said, “Yes, I have a plan” – 41 said they were already implementing their plans. Fantastic!
Here are four reasons why I remain skeptical.
In October 2016, I collected concerns from 100 of my neighbors. I went door-to-door in neighborhoods surrounding where I lived and asked what they wanted their elected officials to work on. I summarized over 300 of their concerns into 23 main categories (listed here).
Their #1 concern? Politicians … don't care about us … represent their wealthy friends, not us … don't respond to, nor communicate with us.
Elected officials should know what our concerns are in order to represent us. From my advocacy and campaign work, I already knew that underrepresented communities (low income and high minority) were not well represented by their elected officials. But I had no idea that many other communities also felt unrepresented.
I asked people from high, middle, and low income/multi-ethnic neighborhoods how many of their elected officials had asked them their concerns. All 100% of 309 people told me that none of their 36 - 48 elected officials had done so.
They also said that none of their elected officials had asked them what they wanted addressed.
Could people's concerns be resolved more quickly and effectively if there were a “Concerns Bank” elected officials could utilize?
Allow Independents to Vote Independents are political people too.
Shouldn’t all voters be allowed to choose their candidates from an open field - an open primary? Gallup research says that 43% of Americans identified themselves as political independents in 2015.* Doesn't that technically mean independents are the political majority?
Even if the two major political parties formulate their party platforms by asking their members directly, they leave out independents. Elected officials were voted in to represent all of us, not just people who voted them in.
While no political party or candidate officially represents independents, each one seems to rely on independents' votes (swing voters, swing states) to win elections. Why do parties value our votes but not our concerns?
Until our elected officials represent all of us, the most crucial political question affecting voters nationwide is: Are you allowed to vote for any candidate regardless of political party – yours or the candidates'?
Only three states – Washington, California, and Louisiana – have fully open elections allowing any voter to choose any candidate from any party in both the primary and general elections. Check openprimaries.org to see your state's open and closed primaries status.
* -- 2015: Gallup reports that 43% of Americans identified themselves as political independents.
-- 2013: Gallup reports that 42% of Americans identified themselves as political independents.
-- 2010: Pew Research Center's results state that 37% of Americans (not just voters) considered themselves independent.
Copyright 2016 Deb Blakeslee