The U.S. election system is in crisis. Big-money interests dominate U.S. politics in ways unknown in other industrialized countries, with social and environmental progress often blocked by officials who cater to big donors to ensure reelection funds. Incumbents are unfairly insulated by district gerrymandering and rules obstructing independent candidates and parties. In recent years, voters themselves have faced political and even racial obstacles in casting votes and in getting their votes counted.
Progressive Democrats of Hawaii supports comprehensive publicly funded elections that would reduce the influence of moneyed interests have on legislation while enabling politicians to spend time talking to their constituents, rather than dialing for dollars.
At the national level, the Supreme Court ruling on Citizens United v. Federal Elections Commission dealt a devastating blow to our already broken election system by declaring that corporations have the same free speech rights as individuals. This ruling gives big corporations the ability to funnel vast sums of money into campaign ads which, as a consequence, further diminishes the ability of individuals to participate in the electoral process, as either as candidates, or as contributors to and supporters of candidates that may oppose the inherent corporate power that continues to strengthen its power in the American democratic process.
While Congress cannot completely undo the damage caused by the Supreme Court’s ruling, one of the things it can do to mitigate the damage is to pass the Fair Elections Now Act, which would provide Congressional candidates with the option to forgo large private campaign donations and instead fund their campaigns using a combination of public money and small private donations. Though the act would not be able to prohibit corporate spending, it could give candidates the option of running a campaign not dominated by corporate interestes.
Locally, extremely low voter turnout reflects a disenchanted electorate that would rather stay home than vote. Here in Hawaii, just as nationally, people don’t believe their vote matters as elected officials consistently bend to the will of the moneyed and powerful interests. In response to this trend, we worked with Voter Owned Hawaii and other progressive and good government groups to pass Act 244 in 2008. Act 244 created a pilot public campaign-funding program on the Big Island. 2010 was the first election cycle in which the program was in effect.