By the People is partnering with the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation on the Dialogues in Democracy project.


By the People: Participant Text Discussion

Between the weekly audio chat meetings in the "Citizenship in 21st Century America" online deliberative poll participants were able to read and post text messages to everybody involved in the process. The following is an archive of the messages (names removed) on the topics of "Citizenship and Participation", "Exercising Choice", "Serving One's Country", "Becoming Informed".

Welcome to the Discussion!

Stanford, CA

Are there any approaches in the "Citizenship and Participation" document that you would like to comment on?

Along with your group meetings, this is the place to share your opinions about "Citizenship in 21st Century America"

Voter participation

Arkansas

Has the discussion started? If so, I'm unable to access recent comments. If not, I guess I'm the first:eek:.

The lack of voter participation in this country is embarrassing, Voting should be mandatory for all citizens over the age of eighteen and election day should be a national holiday with everything shut down from 9 am to 9 pm except vital services.
Any differing opinions?

Voting Holiday

Tennessee

I agree that election day needs to be less of a hassle for people who work. A holiday would work, or I would settle for weekend voting.

Voting

Tennessee

I certainly agree that the turnout on election days in the US is a disgrace. Maybe the secret is to have everyone show a 'purple' index finger. Too many people voice their political opinion but never exercise their vote. In my opinion, they should have to display that they were truly part of the process.

It also might help to get our politicans to speak truth instead of slogans during the campaign if they thought the masses would turn out to vote.

Why has this happened?

Arizona

Somehow starting in the middle 60's we found that it was alright to question authority. Unfortunatly it was done in a negative way and somehow we learned that we did not have to do what we were told or follow established rules if we did not like it. The result is a self centered population with little sense of union for the common good. (there lies the difference from the founding fathers) When the people as a whole lose that sense of responsibility they will take the path of least resistance. Hence, we don't vote, we think in ways of circumventing established laws rather than obeying them and if necessary changing them through proper debate. We live in a world where wearing clothes that don't fit is normal. Wearing them in a way that is different than the way they were designed....backward hats....is the way to go because a celebrety does. It is all a lack of class and respect. And, that just about sums up the overall demeanor of America today.

Voting Holiday

North Carolina

A voting holiday or expanding the timeframe for voting would definitely allow for more citizens to cast their vote. However, I don't believe voting should be mandatory. Mandatory voting in my opinion would open Pandora's box. I believe too many people allow outside sources such as Church, mass media and peers to influence their vote instead of forming their own opinions. Critical thinking has taken a backseat to being mainstream. Hey, but if we could make critical thinking mandatory. I would be all for making voting mandatory. TNHXC may be on to something with the "Purple Finger" idea. If voting gave more citizens a sense of pride thenmaybe more citizens would vote. :)

Voter Particpation

Arizona

I am proud to be another American participating with you in this debate. The dumbing-down of the electorate is created by attempts to change behavior rather than to change attitudes. We can change behavior by making American citizenship 'cool' again. We can encourage the notion of the greatness of America and its' people. The days of doom and gloom have oppressed the spirit of citizenship. Citizens respond to leadership. They respond to reason not to threats and fines.

But we are engaged in a great rhetorical war to determine whether this nation's citizens have the guts to lift their heads and to envision and to work toward freedom in our future. The proposals listed here are the offerings of a Nanny State mentality which says that people cannot know what to think or do unless the bureaucracy informs them of what to do and how to do it.

Let us encourage our fellow Americans to become citizens. My question would be, "Isn't it embarrassing that we want government to make us do that which we know we should do when accepting our role as American citizens?"

Election Holiday

anevada

Polls are open for 12 hours, and if you are working a 12 hour shift, your employer MUST give you time to vote. If election day were a holiday, many people would use it as a day to go fishing, or some other holiday function.

Voting et. al.

Buffalo, NY

I really feel that the main problem with voting in the US is the electoral college. Some said before in the discussion that people need to think for themselves. I feel that the electoral college negates this. Compulsory voting will work, and has worked in other countries, but it won't work until the electoral college has been dismantled. It was set up in a very different time and a very different place. THe founding fathers set up a system of government that was appropriate to their time. They established a system of elections that made sense at the time. It does not make sense any more. So many things have changed, but the way in which officials are elected stays the same. I think it needs to catch up with the times! Only then will any method of attracting voters be effective.

Voting

Las Vegas, NV

I feel that mandatory voting would hurt more than help us. Just the thought of having millions of uninformed American citizens at the polls on election day scares me. I think that mandatory Early Voting Centers in every state is one way to combat the low numbers. Also, mandatory voter registration might help. This could be accomplished by making it mandatory to register to vote at say...DMV, before you can get your license; at Social Services before you can get financial aid; at schools before you can enroll your child, etc. Whether or not each person actually votes or not, should be up to them. The fact that they are already registered, should make a difference. :O

My Choice

Georgia

I vote because I want to influence the process of governing our nation, my state and my city. With my vote I select the course of my government's actions by selecting candidates which most closely reflect my beliefs about what government should be and do. The last thing I want is people voting who haven't invested the time and energy to make informed choices. I don't want more voters for the sake of having increased numbers.
Now, let us discuss why people don't vote, why they feel disenfranchised, why they sit on the sideline and watch. How can we engage the members of our nation to participate as we participate? What stops a person from voting.

Election Fraud

MA

The results of the last 2 elections have discouraged people from voting People say the votes dont count so what is the use of voting Fraud allows corruption to exist and encourages abuse of power that has existed for the last 2 elections We are at a moral lowpoint in America and is due to the actions of politicians who serve themselves and their interests rather than the people whom these leaders hold in contempt by their deceitful actions

Participation

Missouri

Being a citizen of America it has been drilled into my head that you must participate. Voting as it is, currently is flawed. People want to know that their vote counts for something. The electoral voting system should be dissolved. It amazes me the excuses people come up with for not voting things like I don't want to be called up for jury duty. My father is a naturalized citizen of the US and his main reasoning for becoming a citizen is so he would have a say. Well anymore it is so you think you have a say since in the past two elections the majority vote counts for nothing. This is something we should be ashamed of. Our country is in shambles because only parts of our community votes. We should not be afraid of making the vote a requirement because of the outside influences of voters or their economic standings. These are exactly why these people should vote. These are the reasons we vote. We can not continue to stomp on the people who we think are undereducated and impoverished. This type of thinking only creates more conflict and division among citizens. If we make a point to include everyone without being judgmental we will reap the benefits and begin to heal this torn country

no easy answers

Texas

A voting weekend, or trade Columbus day for an Election day if everyone is so concerned with "Lost Production". Last time I checked, those holidays are only had by bankers and gov workers - and only 10 holidays. I see that as a savings.

I work 6 days a week and vote. I would like a day off, personally. And fine those lazy folks who won't vote.LOL

The electoral college ? That's a hard one.... if the Federal Gov (all branches) were not as powerful , we would not need the electoral college to help protect state's interests. I don't believe that a few square miles in NYC or Houston should cancel all the votes in Alaska, as an example. As long as the states have less say in their own affairs, we need the electoral college. The Executive branch has a lot of influence in the other 2 branches.

Voting

San Marcos, Ca

Would it not be interesting to find out if we all made a concentrated effort that more people would go to the polls? Say for instance,every T.V. in America at a given time(prime) only showed something unbiased and truthful about the current elections. Newspapers, everyday in the same place did likewise. People ignore politics because they can,you didn't ignore going to school because you couldn't. We NEED a concerted effort to educate the public without beating them up for not voting. :)

Getting more people to the polls

MA

I think we need to overhaul the method of voting and registration and perhaps extend the window for casting a vote. I don't believe a holiday would help, but allowing people to vote over the course of several days and/or at several locations might help in this process of getting people to the voting booth. Our nation commutes to work, sometimes spending hours on the road. Why not allow people to vote where they work instead of where they live? By issuing an individual registration number/card used in the process, they could be identified as registered voters and provide a key to their address and reporting to their polls would not be necessary. These are only ideas I'm putting out there, but I honestly believe that the old-fashioned methods and non-consistency in the voting process has contributed to the low numbers of people going to the polls and has failed to keep up with the realities of daily life in our country.

The cable television industry actually has the capability of monitoring people's viewing habits via their cable boxes and pinpointing advertising based on those habits. Nonetheless, when it comes to voting, we are still counting some votes by hand. It just seems absurd to me that for something as important as the fate of our nation's government, that we have been unable to keep pace with modern technology in providing a pain-free incentive to citizens to cast their votes.

Voting by All Citizens who are Informed about Process

Santa Monica, CA

I suggest a few steps to obtain a better-informed and greater number of voters for every election.

1. As in Australia, make voting mandatory, with a substantial fine for those who don't vote.

2. Make the teaching of Civics and the history of US democracy required in all grades of school from elementary through college.

3. Fund all elections solely by the government

4. Carefully supervised polling counts that can't be corrupted by computers.

4. Require all television and radio stations (public air waves that were given to them) to carry political messages from the candidates.

Voting Concerns

woodsfield OH

A national Election Day holiday might facilitate more voting, but I also recognize the issues of lost productivity/wages/etc. So... I propose changing the date of Election Day to Veteran's Day. Then we have an Election Day holiday, without another holiday. And voting is a wonderful way to honor our veterans.

Tying voter registration to driver's licenses is worth trying. In my state, you are asked about organ donation and advanced directives/living wills when you obtain or renew a license. Why not add voter registration?

Electoral college? Amending the Constitution is a lengthy process, but I would support proportional voting by the states. Then every voice from Ohio would be heard, not just the voice of the simple majority.

Another way to increase voting would be to support measures to give the residents of Washington DC someone to vote FOR. As it is, they are denied a voice in the Senate and House of Representatives.

I oppose compulsory voting. As others have said, voting because you MUST will bring some very ill-informed folks to the polls. On the other hand, what kind of reward might we imagine for those who do vote? Particularly, what carrot might be offered to our youngest voters to help build the voting habit? Small car insurance or tuition rebates? Would captains of industry help support the form of government that enables them to flourish?

Do we want voters who are forced to vote?

Scottsdale

Tying voter registration to driver license issuance is a great idea. I believe it's important to get everyone registered. Although I like the idea of mandatory voting, my concern is that people forced to vote might out of contrariness make poor decisions. Someone might just check all the "no" choices when there are important ballot measures. Another person might go for "patterns" on the ballot (zig zag lines, or straight lines).

I lived in a community where a group of restaurants gave a 10% discount if you came in with your "I voted" sticker or ballot stub. Maybe some type of incentive would work.

Other thoughts?

Voting in America

Colorado

I wish we had a greater electorate participation in this country, but suspect that at least part of voter apathy is deserved. After the 2000 Presidential Election, concern over the Electoral College was rekindled and many became discouraged that the process was flawed. Until we can give a reasonable assurance that votes count, I fear some will not try. To your specific questions:

I am not convinced that in the current state, a national Election Day holiday will be more than another "day off" for many. 7 x 24 operations would be paying overtime to have minimum staff available (healthcare, transportation, and other necessary services are in this category). There is also a question of how many hours one must spend at a polling station (Colorado had some waiting 6+ hours in a recent election because of technical difficulties). Repairs to these flaws, with predictable waiting time could encourage employers to allow more work-day time off for voting.

In my state, one can register to vote when getting a driver's license. This can also be marked on state photo IDs for those who don't drive. Absentee ballots and early polling are available for all elections.

RE: the Electoral college. Constitutional amendments are expensive, time-consuming, and need to be accompanied by civics lessons for many people. While I personally prefer one-person-one-vote, I am not convinced the country could make a considered decision on the subject at this time (sadly).

Voting is a privilege of open society, or so I've been taught. Perhaps we need to educate ourselves on taking advantage of this privilege.

Voting Privilidge

Bloomington, ILLINOIS

I am dismayed by how little people know about the
canidates and the reasons some people will choose
one canidate over another. I doubt the majority
of the population is able to match canidates with
positions on issues. If people are not willing to
spend the time examining the issues and pausing
to consider the enormous problems and issues
this country is facing, I would rather they not vote.

Access and Consistency

Delaware

I don't support mandatory voting or a national holiday because I think it would not help motivate the people who don't vote. People who don't get off work on election day are often the same people who wouldn't be off on a major holiday (store clerks, gas station attendants, etc). Additionally, many people don't get paid holidays. If you make them take a day off, it will be unpaid, which could make them resentful and less willing to turn out at the polls.

One of the things that concerns me about voting is the lack of access and consistency. Aside from a variety of registration deadlines and state regulations regarding eligibility, I wonder how many people really know such mudane things as where to vote and how to register. I live in a small town and you have to register separately for local and federal elections. Each district has sub-districts that have separate polling places. Sometimes I vote at the high school, sometimes at the middle school, sometimes at city hall. I once tried to vote in a primary and got sent to 3 different places before I was finally able to vote. Good thing I went after work and not before (or on my lunch break).

I understand that states and cities manage their own elections, but I think there should be a basic national standard, with states able to adjust their elections as needed as long as they meet a bare minumum standard. It should also be made easier to determine where, when, and how each person should vote, in every district.

Electoral College

Texas

I think that having each vote count will go a long way towards getting more people to exercise their privilege to vote. The Electoral College tnds to make many people believe that their vote will not count. The last two presidential elections show just that. The popular vote was different from the outcome. If this process is changed perhaps more people will register and then make their voces heard.
I think that having people register at the DMV is an excellent idea. One question, non-citizens are allowed to get driver's licenses, aren't they? What about those who are convicted of felonies?
As far as requiring T.V. stations, cable, etc to show politicians and their views, who monitors the content of these programs/segments? How can we be sure that these are unbiased facts? I think that would be too hard to monitor. Those who would watch those programs are those who would be getting this information on their own anyway. Those who don't care and who wouldn't vote anyway, would just change the channel or turn the t.v. off.

Citizenship in 21st Century America

Kirkland, WA

The idea that our country has changed radically from the time it was formed must be discussed. Most important to me are: the validity of the Electoral College, communication and the media, and the ability of all to participate. Democracy is fragile, I think, as demonstrated by the ability to co-opt discourse, aid or discourage voter participation, and cloud political discussion that has been demonstrated most acutely over the period of the last two presidential elections.

Re participation: the ability to gather objective information is more difficult than ever, what with the abrogation of the media's responsibilities to truly inform the public, the decrease in discretionary time to become involved (our ethos is more characterized by economic status, sacrifice to career, and material measure than it is by participation in politics at any level). The impediments to participation are manifold and subtle: workday elections, juggling job travel, day care, long lines at the polls, and so on. It is a hassle, instead of a value for which we, as a society and culture, choose to make every effort to accommodate.

Rather than make it easier for "uninformed" people to vote, perhaps it should be a requirement for media to do much more to provide the information that voters need. There used to be such quaint ideas revolving around the radio spectrum being a public resource, not just a very lucrative source of advertising dollars.

Re compulsory voting, voting holidays, resolved felons voting, and so on: all ideas worthy of discussion.

There is also the unmentioned issue of voting machinery. Voting without a verifiable paper trail is very, very dangerous. I, myself, see no need for electronic voting even at the optical reader level. I can wait a bit. The Union did not crumble when the 2000 election took as long as it did to resolve. The fact that most of the argument over the election was whether to count all votes or not is telling and is not resolved by more complex voting machinery.

Citizenship in America

Elmhurst, IL

Citizens feel they have little ability to control their political destiny and the numbers presented reinforce that. 800,000 constituents in a congressional district, half of whom may vote, half of those who register, and half of those who actually vote, still leaves an individual's vote lost in a sea of 100,000 others. The value of a single vote is substantially lowered.

The riches of our society means many more competing priorities than in the past for those who are successful, and increase the pressure on those below the mean to concentrate on success and leave non-material concerns to others. Those who are disempowered socio-economically feel politically disempowered as well.

The risk of widespread political apathy is that of increasingly detached government leadership. As our leaders perceive that the populace has no interest in their decisions, a situation is created for those leaders to benefit themselves by their decisions rather than the citizenry. This has been a risk of government since there has been government, and there is a strong argument that this is increasingly becoming the case in America today.

Many comments in this discussion address single issues with single solutions. Larger scale change is needed so that enduring change can be affected to address the growing problems of citizen apathy, government detachment, low participation rates, and issue disinterest.

Structurally, society must change the rules so that voting and exercising citizenship are rewarded rather than disincentivized as they are presently. This is consistent with America's capitalist history, which does not frown upon asking "What's in it for me" at virtually every level. It is also consistent with basic human nature, which is much less altruistic than the founding fathers may have hoped. While I oppose mandatory voting, I support mandatory registration, and would support some system of incentives (tax breaks? user fee discounts?, ???) for those who do vote.

At the same time, government and society have a right to impose some burden upon the citizen, rather than simply passively hoping for participation. Nothing infers a sense of duty towards, and expectations from the government like military service; I expect that a universal service requirement including all aspects of government would have a similar effect. Additionally, civil service is a great tutorial for later navigating the government bureaucracy, which is a daunting experience for many americans today and serves to further distance them from their government. Some would argue that civil service puts them at a disadvantage economically; they get behind the power curve relative to their peers in terms of private sector job seniority, lower government pay, and other issues. If a service option is selected, it must be truly universal and relatively short in term. "Draftees" could be allowed to complete a baccalaureate degree prior to government service, or to serve after completion of high school - the government has an enormous need for workers in both categories. Jobs requiring advanced degrees would be the purview of "permanent" employees, not draftees.

Election funding must be changed in order to eliminate the current concentration of power among those corporations and individuals who are able to contribute enormous sums. The feeling of disempowerment alluded to above is strongly reinforced when one realizes that his or her contribution represents such an infinitesimal fraction of total donations. Campaign contributions should be limited to registered voters who are or would be constituents of the candidates. Because the money pool would be so significantly smaller than at present with such a system, and because the number of constituents has grown so large, government funding would have to be introduced, and free or low cost media participation would also have to be either incentivized or mandated. At the same time, allowing a reduction in total funding might help to eliminate some of the marketing from elections and help return policy discussions to the table.

Ultimately, the question becomes whether we can effect any meaningful change in the system. Certainly our current lawmakers would oppose virtually every change I have suggested. Their rhetoric may (or may not) be in favor, but their actions in the past have certainly indicated on emphasis on less transparency and a high comfort level with increasingly concentrated donations and less overall participation. The larger the herd, the more difficult it is to manage. We are at a dangerous crossroads, and the risk is high that we may have already missed our opportunity.

Various election issues

Hot Springs, South Dakota

Issue: Compulsory voting

My comment: America is the land with more trickster and prankster energy than any other. We're asking for a lot of Donald Duck and Sam Orez (that's zero mass spelled backwards) votes if we insist that everyone vote.
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Issue: It is hard to gather voting information

My comment: It is relatively easy if you are experienced at internet surfing and research. It is also easy to get videos if you are a You Tube internet surfer. For others lacking these skills, it can be very tough indeed, especially if your local newspaper (the normal channel of information for election details) is not online. My suggestion is that the League of Women Voters go electronic with their information and that librarians be informed on how to help patrons dig up this information from the web.
- --
Issue: Voting machinery paper trail?

My comment: Here's where I shine, because I'm a certified public accountant (CPA). My advice to the panel members is to scream like a banshee if the locality where they live uses electronic voting machines that don't give them a paper trail. Want the most honest election possible? Then use electronic voting machines that give out a paper trail and allow pollsters to SOLICIT THE PAPER BALLOT COPIES from voters once they've left the polling place. It would be very difficult to cheat and get away with it. By the way, the best voting machines in the country may be those in Nevada, where they are made to the standards of slot machines and electronic gambling equipment. No paper trail? There's almost no way to tell, and I say that as a professional.
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Issue: Electoral College

My Comment: It's hard to change the constitution. The electoral college assures that both candidates have to run national campaigns it discourages elections or political parites favoring a geographic section. The Presidential election is really 51 races for electors. Under the electoral college, three times since 1789 a very narrow winner of the popular vote did not become president. Until we are all using dead-accurate Nevada-style paper-receipt voting machines and the threat of fraud is correctly regarded as irrelevant, I find it unwise to jettison the electoral college system. Finally, in a close and contested election, the electoral college makes the final decision that of individual human beings who take action a month later, in mid-December. Not perfect, not always the most popular candidate wins, but better than the alternatives based on our diverse nation and its suspicious citizenry.
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Issue: Consistent access to unchanged polling places

My comment: This is an inherent problem. The polling locations should be seldom changed. All states should allow early voting by mail.
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Issue: Fund all elections sole by the government?

My comment: The Supreme Court has determined that electioneering is free speech and has certain protections. Because television is so expensive and so apt to coax us into snap judgments based on visual images, I am tempted to recommend that television not be used for campaign messages other than multi-candidate monitored debates among the contenders. I don't think restrictions on the internet, direct mail, or telephone campaigning are going to stand up to the Bill of Rights. I don't think REQUIRING the radio and television stations to carry messages is going to work to anyone's benefit in the long run, as the internet and visual DVD messages by postal mail are up-and-coming technologies (that will just be accelerated by such restrictions).
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Issue: Carefully supervised polling counts that can't be corrupted by computers.

My comment: Whoa! Again I want to address this as a certified public accountant. Machine voting leaving a paper trail is inherently more accurate than paper ballots. Computer voting SHOULD be clearly the fastest and most reliable way of doing the tally. On the other hand, computerized voting that doesn't give the voter a paper confirmation of his or her selections should be regarded with INTENSE suspicion.

There are two other methods of voting that are superbly accurate. One of them was the old mechanical action voting machine, reset to zero and scored by counting windows at the end of the day. These were expensive to purchase and became very expensive to maintain, but I miss them because only a master criminal or colludingly crooked precinct officials could rig them. Analog is still more accurate than digital, it seems. Another method would be to use the paper ballot system used in INDIA, which is entirely manual but extraordinarily accurate.
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Issue: Voting over several days

My comment: Sounds like a good idea, especially voting early by absentee ballot, which has the virtue of gumming up the spin doctors by fuzzing up the end of the campaign over a prolonged period. That makes the image management for the candidate tougher, which is itself good for the voter and for democracy. Texas and Oregon are already doing this for their voters.

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Other comments from me:

Not only does Nevada have the best voting machines, it also has a selection for all offices called None of these candidates. I would really like to see that on all states for all officeholder positions and for all state referenda, state initiates and state constitution changes.

If none of these candidates wins, that particular office has to be elected again. If none of these alternatives appears for a constitutional change, the present provision is UNPLUGGED and the suggested language is KILLED. Think about that.

Without none of these candidates and none of these alternatives, I personally oppose this nonsense about mandatory voting. Don't demand that I vote unless I can vote no. Without none of these candidates, don't let the sorcerer's apprentice allow proportional voting. And discourage the electoral college from being distributed among congressional districts without being able to vote no.

Let me share a secret: How to achieve NONE OF THESE CANDIDATES when that selection is not available on the ballot. Very few people know how to do this. Go to the polls. Get in the voting booth. Suppose you want to vote for none of these candidates for President. It's easy. Vote for the statewide offices, US congressperson and Senator of your choice. Vote for the local offices and so forth. Now, undervote the office for which you want none of the candidates, in this case, skip the top of the ticket. Nevada allows the overt selection of none of these candidates and California's official election tally calculates the undervotes for each office. For the other states, you have to did and calculate the votes in the other races compared to the Presidential votes to determine what happened. But undervoting is out there and the campaign managers calculate it after the election to see how weak or strong their spinning was. Let's make the selection of none and the publication of undervoting as part of the official tally our very first reform. Shall we? Before we call on everyone to vote? Before we tinker with the electoral college or ban one or two media from the process?
:lol:

Making Voting Day a Holiday

NY

I am not in favor of making election day a holiday.
Most places leave the polls open long enough for people to vote.
There are enough holidays.
Don't make it harder on the employer to pay you to go and vote.
And no I am not an employer. But fair is fair.
Those that want to vote find a way.

Voting / Citizenship

Indianapolis, IN

There is no one simple answer to solve the lack of voting and participation in our government by the people.
More emphasis needs to be placed in the schools, every day, every year.
As for the election day, In Europe it is often on the weekend. I would like to see all day Saturday and Sunday voting for 15 hours each day.
I would like to see it manditory that businesses and institutions be closed one of the two days so their employees can go vote. Those that must be open should pay a election tax for that privilege. This money would be used to fund the election process--not the candidates. It would also be required that businesses must make sure that their employee is off one of the two days (or if the employee wants to work, show proof that he has been to the polls either as an absentee ballot voter or had already voted earlier in the day--this covers shift work). Businesses that would fail to do this would have some fee assessed to that business. For those who can't vote because they are not citizens, the business must must show a waiver that they don't qualify. Implementing such measures are not forcing people to vote, we are making it very possible for them to vote.
I would also suggest that to be eligible for personal tax deductions on your income tax, you must submit a form (like a W2) that the election board sends out after the election that qualifies you to take the deduction if you voted.
I would also like to see high school students, juniors and/or seniors who are not 18 and able to vote, be used in the election day process at the polls. This would intoduce them to the process and its importance. ---Just some thoughts

A Solemn note on the Citizen and Participation session

Connecticut

There is no question that citizens who are eligible to register and vote are disenfranchised. A 50 percent rate of voting is almost obscene.
The next question is why? Let me just list some of the reasons I have considered:
1. Money talks in our elections: As of 1995 (the latest figures available), Federal Reserve research found that the wealth of the top one percent of Americans is greater than that of the bottom 95 percent. Three years earlier, the Fed's Survey of Consumer Finance found that the top one percent had wealth greater than the bottom 90 percent. (http://www.cooperative
individualism.org/wealth_distribution1999.html)
Although these top wealth holders represented only 3.5 percent of the U.S. adult population, they held an estimated 32.7 percent of the total U.S. net worth in 2001. [US Census Bureau].
In 1995, the net worth for households with a White householder was $49,030; for households with an African American householder, it was $7,073; and for those with a Hispanic householder, it was $7,255. Hispanics may be of any race. (US Census Bureau, 2001)

And the Supreme Court has made giving big money and one's own money legal.

2. Winning politicians and the two-party system are happy with the current situation with election laws and their ability to decide whose vote counts. The current system is very manageable by parties. Note the alacrity and actions of Texan Republicans to manipulate voting results under the current system with lots of funds available.
3. The Constitution is difficult to change, especially with the current Supreme Court membership, to open the door to one person—one vote power. (See Wikipedia on amending the Constitution with its various links.) It would take willing, winning politicians at the state as well as federal levels to even begin a long process to change the Electoral College system.

Then how would we change it? Go with a popular vote (decidedly unfavorable to state politicians and citizens, especially of smaller population states)? Go with Madison's idea (See Federalist Papers) defined best by Arthur Schlesinger to take away the 100 points now a part of the Senatorial proportion of Electoral College votes and give these votes totally to the candidates winning the popular vote, thus making sure the popular vote has greater relevance while still apportioning Electoral College votes to states in our Federalist system? That sounds like a great way to go, IF IT WERE MADE POSSIBLE by the winning politicians and wealthy stakeholders who presently have the advantage in our system.
4. The poorer, working nonvoters do not have paid leave to vote and would not have paid leave under any new system to afford the time off to vote, even if it were a National Holiday or a weekend. It would require a law that all companies give workers paid time to vote with a legal receipt. How much time is another complex issue. . . 6 hours at some polling places? Compulsory voting alone would only put an added burden onto the poorer citizen whose job necessitates being on the job to get paid. (P.S. I think Jim from Indianapolis idea for giving time to vote looks pretty, pretty effective.)
5. Voters cannot get accurate, easy to understand facts on issues. We get lots of opinion and opinions of opinions in the media. Lots of statements from candidates/representatives that appear more emotional that factual or biased with questioning from national media sources—the same media sources that are controlled by for-profit mega-companies.

So the question is what difference does it make for the average' citizen to vote under the present, almost unalterable, system that takes a lot of time to do in a conscientious way?

As for felons, that's an easy decision. If you've paid for your crime, you should become a participant in democracy. Now get the U.S. Congress to debate that, then get it out of committee to vote on it.

Election-day registration should be easy if we have a statewide and national computer data system hooked up in every polling place and an identity system that is secure and accurate. That costs money but the Nation can afford it. We can also afford, but do not have, a database working well for crime and guns. Hmmm. If we can get to this point I think it would help. Maybe the last two points, securing citizen's rights for all citizens (including freed felons) and setting up a system to make voter registration more easy is the most attainable. So let's start there. But vigilantly fight for the rest even if it's a tall mountain to climb. :)

I'm in awe of the knowledge and wisdom shared here already

Cedar Rapids Iowa

I would add that some have ignored the disenfranchised voters who, were it necessary to have an ID (license or otherwise) would not qualify to vote. Further, the access to the internet is something that we take for granted, but is still a privilege enjoyed by those with the resources or ready access to libraries (and the safety to get to one). I agree completely that many have lost faith in the system, in part because we have been taught that the system is here to take care of us, and in part because the system has not done anything like that, especially in the last 7 years in regards to elections.

There is far too much corruption in government, on both sides of the aisle. Publicly funded elections would go a long ways toward remedying that. Main stream media has sold out and are playing the game, selling us on the candidates they are interested in without giving us the chance to hear from all. I personally need help sorting out the truth from the fiction; I used to think I could trust the media, but that was clearly not a good idea, given recent court decisions that it's ok to lie in news stories; besides, recanting three days later isn't nearly as splashy as saying it today is.

Felons who are motivated to vote and have completed parole and probation should have no restrictions on voting, but no one in power will ever buy that; again, those who have the money don't want them voting.

We as the electorate are sheep, and follow the spin and forget the issues and, more importantly, the character of those we are considering. I for one would rather have an ethical candidate whose views are opposite mine than a dishonest one who SAYS they agree with me. I have carefully reviewed all the candidates running for election, and know their ETHICS first, and their positions second. I have chosen my candidate and have now set about campaigning for them. Grass roots will eventually win elections again, once we get fed up enough to make it change.

Those who care to will find a way to vote (although I do wish that there was a week day and a weekend day, maybe a Thursday to Saturday, on which to vote!! I've absentee voted in the past, but my vote never gets counted as my precincts have never been close enough to have to count them). Mandatory voting in a democratic society feels wrong.

Electoral college? There are too many other issues for that to matter. As a nurse in informatics, I am fully aware that computer systems CAN be made that will keep our votes safe and secure, but we have to insist that quality control include far more than shaking the machines. Giving a receipt with the votes recorded opens the possibility for coercion to vote a certain way, although there are some proposals out there as to how to verify the vote without revealing the recipient of that vote.

I am truly frightened about the path that we are on, and if we don't soon get excited about what is happening to our country by a small faction with money, we will lose our liberty irrevocably. :eek:

citizenship and voting

California

I am looking forward to the dicussion this afternoon. There are no simple solutions to the voting mess.
We need to bring back patriotism in our childrens classrooms. We need to teach what being a good citizen means and the great responsiblity it holds. We need to take the control of our nation out of the hands of the money grabbers and put it back where it belongs..."we the people". We don't teach our children civics in school, not allowed to be patriotic because it might insult someone (bull) and on and on. People we as citizens of the most free and charitable country in the world need to stand our ground...educate yourself on the politician that wants to represent you...don't take the word of another...the internet is a wonderful info tool.
Well thats it for now...talk to you all later...3:30 pacific

voting in America

I was fortunate to do some simple exit polling for a congressional candidate and the following is what i can add to this debate about voter turnout...
Most people are disheartened, thinking because of the Electorial college that their vote really does not matter. 2) Most did understand the desperation in the direction of our Government, suggesting that it is owned, and rightfully so, by special interest and big money, so their vote is already null because we can never in this government have the same access as the aforementioned. 3) Just too busy.

Active democracy

North of Boston

An important step I haven't seen mentioned would be to first standardize federal elections including the way electoral college slates are elected and how they perform their duties. Ballots, poll hours, recount procedures, etc. should be consistent throughout. Many citizens would be shocked to learn that there have been instances of rogue electoral college delegates who did not vote as they where expected from states that don't require their electors' votes to conform to the winner of the state's popular vote.
Tom

Voting

Arizona

It appears to me that a majority of Americans do not care about elections because they feel "voting does not make a difference, all canidates are corrupt, politicians will do what they want regardless of my opinion and last and most important, the lobbyists have the power". Take your pick of any reason. This county is so divided, politically, those who believe one way can not even attempt to listen to the other side. There used to be political discussions among friends, neighbors, workers. Now that is forbidden. Friendships are broken, families are at odds. And if there is a dicussion it is in "sound bytes" from what someone heard on the radio or tv. Who reads? Who understands what they read? I bet everyone on this discussion has read, listened to and digested a lot of political information, probably for a long time. This is a small minority of Americans. Sorry to say. Teaching civics in school might help, but that would be so "watered down" no tough topic would be touched. I look forward to a good discussion.

Voting in America -- have we forgotten how to be citizens?

Berkeley CA

Even though it's a long, hard road, I think we should start the work needed to abolish the Electoral College. The Founding Fathers were actually afraid of "too much democracy" -- remember that they also had US Senators elected by state legislatures. Furthermore, as much as we may love our states, they just shouldn't count so strongly in the election for President. It's long past time when we had a Presidential direct election. Only then will all our votes count.

As to the other issues being raised:

I wouldn't mind election day being a holiday, but I also don't think it will get all those non-voters to the polls.We should probably switch voting day to a weekend -- perhaps the whole weekend, for 10 hours of so each day. What's so sacred about the first Tuesday after the first Monday anyway?

We are far to harsh in our punishment of criminals, in that the punishment sometimes follows them to their graves -- no one will hire them; they are shunned by large parts of society, etc. I am absolutely in favor of restoring voting rights after a felon has finished his sentence. If we are worried about thugs voting (and I doubt we have to worry), then how about a three strikes approach. After your third felony conviction, you lose your voting rights forever?

Compulsory voting is a real temptation, but I think it's one we should forego, for many of the reasons already given by others here.

Civics -- if it's been abandoned in the schools, it should certainly be reinstated. But if our parents don't vote, our aunts and uncles don't vote, then how will a few classes in school get us to vote? Won't work folks.

I do think that public financing would go a long way towards restoring faith in the political process. I also think it would be easier to get an amendment abolishing the Electoral College than to get public financing. Still, we should try.

Finally, I think we are on a thin edge right now -- poised for a Caesar to come along, make us feel safe and destroy our democracy completely, as we cheer him along. We must find a way, somehow, to restore our republic before it goes the way of Rome.

Preparing voters

Florida

Most universities are now including some kind of community service in their graduation requirements. I think this value must be included in educational programs long before the voting age.We have become such a I generation that young adults are consumed with their own lives and are unable to see the positive effect of participation in community affairs. One has to
become involved in local issues before voting has real meaning
Teachers can help in this effort by having elementary and secondary students examine community problems, form opinions and follow the results of local referendums.

Voting in America

Arizona

Some random thoughts. 1. Ex-convicts, after serving their time (and parole/restitution) should have a waiting period of at least a year, with proof of a civics class participation, to have their voting rights restored. Making it too easy to vote has been the problem for all American citizens. Their going to a class on civics is the least they could do after costing their fellow citizens for their incarceration. 2. How about "loggin in" with your social security number when voting....and then given a $25.00 tax credit on their next federal tax filing? 3. I remember going to weekend clean-ups in my home town, cleaning the woods, river, highway rest stops....etc. in my junior high school days, without any politically minded teachers or supervisors there to indoctrinate. It sure helped in my feelings about what I as an individual could do for my community. To maintain, keep strong my community....has not been lost on my voting rights. We need to re-instill "ownership" of our rights to our younger citizens in order for them to WANT to protect these rights! 4. No to making voting day a holiday....maybe voting on two consecutive days with NO reporting after the first day... 5. No to getting rid of the electoral college....then only a few states have to be bought to secure an election victory. Thanks for letting me vent! :D

All of the Previous

Greensboro, GA

I have read with interest the comments by the previous writers and I have to admit I am totally unsurprised considering the clear bias demonstrated in the original solicitation survey towards "democratic" voting, towards "greater participation" and paying only lip service to the outrageous levels of voter fraud (which by the way is almost all Democrat Party originated and the extent of Democat Party voter fraud is one of the great coverups of a national media which has an astonishingly high Democrat Party Bias itself).

First, as to the suggestions of doing away with or modifying the Electoral College and the "difficulty" of amending the Constitution of the United States of America. Thank God, the framers of the Constitution had it right and first, did not found a "Democracy", but rather a Federal Republic and purposely made it extremely difficult to change the Constitution as this should not be a trivial thing.

The Republic has survived for over 200 years largely because of the constraints on "Democracy". If we wish to tinker with the Constitution, I would suggest it would be more beneficial to the nation to do so by removing the Amendment that made direct election of US Senators the law early in this Century and going back to the state legislators election of the Senate. We took far too much power from the states (power reserved to the states by the Constitution), by allowing direct vote for the US Senate. Prior to that the States had a much more meaningful balancing role in Federal Government Power. This actually gives the individual voter more, not less impact as the closer to a local election it is the more impact the individual voter has. Thus by electing your local state representative (a local election in which you as an individual and your efforts have more ability to impact the results) vs. a statewide election wherein the huge amounts of money required for advertising limits the candidates to the wealthy or to those beholden to the wealthy.

So what appears to be a "Democratic" change actually moves control further from the individual voter. The Electoral College was not designed because of travel restrictions (the dates for elections and the subsequent vote of the Electoral College were, but not the actual process. The assumption of fundamental changes from a "rural" to a "urban - suburban" population misrepresents the conflict between the "City" folks and the "Country" folks in the structuring of the original Constitution and the compromises that the Founders made to accomodate both constituancies.

Is the world different today, Yes, it certainly is, do we need to tear up a working Constitution at whim in order to "increase participation" by the so-called disaffected or "disenfranchised". No, resoundingly NO! Those with an interest in voting, vote today. Those so disinterested they cannot make the effort or those so uninformed they do not realize an election is upcoming so they fail to fulfill their responsibility and register to vote not only can't vote, but quite frankly shouldn't.

The politicians who want instant registration are the politicans who are the current beneficiaries of voter fraud and the ones who would like to make it even more commonplace than it already is. There are no legitimate arguments for same day registration. There is no legitimate argument against requiring a state or federal issued, valid, fraud proof form of ID with pictures, and other biometric identitifiers (Fingerprints, for example) that should be compared against a National Database to prevent multiple registrations and multiple voting in different polling places to allow voting period.

Again those who give what are exclusively specious arguments against such anti-fraud provisions are the beneficiaries of the massive voter fraud we now live with. The state of Georgia has adopted minimal anti-fraud measures, offer free ID cards to the 'so-called" poor and is faced with a massive Democrat Party effort to block even this because the Democrat Party knows without the benefit of massive fraud they would win few if any elections.

A national ID card would resolve this issue and would do far more to assure fair elections than any of the suggestions put forth by the originators of this Poll.

As to Civics lessons, who would write the text books, the same biased American Hating people who write today's American and World History texts that include 37 pages on the Vietnam War, 17 Pages on WWII of which 2 are spent talking about our internment of the Japanese. People who write books that expound at length on the "rights' of students but refuse to address the responsibilities of citizenship or the moral underpinnings of the founding of our Country. I certainly hope not.

We have a system that is broken it is true, but it is broken in ways not at all addressed by this discussion (although it should be). Our problems with voting in this Country are not that too few vote, but rather that too many vote too many times each and too many vote who are ineligeable. Too many vote already who do not even know anything about the candidates or even the basics of our Constitutional Federal Republic. If we want to fix something lets start with that.

A national ID card would also help to resolve the welfare and medicaid fraud & illegal immigration issues as well. We will not survive as a Nation without securing our borders. If we want to amend the Constitution, then lets amend it to say that those who do not pay taxes, do not vote. Why should some people have the right to elect politicians to take wealth & property from others to give to themselves.

As to paying people to vote, what a moronic idea, why should anyone who has to be paid to vote have any say in how the country is run. And, why in the world should employer's be mandated to pay people to take a day off to vote. I work 16-18 hours a day and I can find the time to vote. I believe that allowing voters to vote in the 2-3 week period before election day, so long as they do so with valid proof of ID is in fact a very good idea as this allows the working person to schedule his voting time at his convenience.

I believe also that requiring all the Polls to be open for the same 24 hour period would be a very good thing and particularly if you absolutely barred the Media from any Voting Data at all until the Polls closed. I would also require them to not be within X00 feet of any polling place to prevent them from doing effective exit polling and to help moderate the kind of biased results reporting we get now that does in fact provably reduce voter turn out.

As to felons voting, most states allow the restoration of voting rights after the completion of sentencing (including probation periods) so this is simply another red herring thrown up in an effort to hide the real issue which is massive voter fraud as perfected by the Democrat Party.

Electronic Voting Machines are far less prone to fraud than punch card or hand ballots which have to be counted by potentially biased election officials. As a former resident of Florida, who has watched many elections stolen by massive fraud in Southeastern Florida which has historically held its results until they knew how many votes they had to create or lose in order to swing the statewide results, and having watched as John Kennedy had Illinois and Texas delivered by votes from the dead in Texas and stuffed and lost ballot boxes in Illinois, but an election in which the real winner Richard Nixon placed his concern for the Country ahead of his desire for the Presidency and did not contest a truly stolen election as opposed to Al Gore who after South Florida failed to deliver sufficient fraudulent votes to steal the election created a constitutional crisis by refusing to have the grace to concede that he lost.

And as to the idea that the Media is somehow the place people should get political information is laughable when by their own admission they are 85-90% Democrat leaning and their bias is so clear to the nation that people have stopped watching in droves.

My concerns are that there are fewer and fewer people paying taxes and more and more people that expect something from the government. This is the real problem.

Eliminate voter fraud. Have a single 24 hour nationwide voting period along with a 2-3 week pre-election day voting period both for properly registered properly identified citizens only. Do not allow even provisional voting by persons registered on election day or some reasonable period prior to election day to allow confirmation of both identity, eligibility and lack of multiple registrations to vote (say 2 weeks) although with a proper Tamper and Fraud resistant Biometric National ID card tied to a National Database that could be checked for prior voting in other jurisdictions, you could simply let the ID card be the voter registration.

Or take advantage of Technology and have the best of all worlds, universal registration and fraud control. Use a single national database to record voting activity, have the source code for the voting machines approved by each party's experts and have it maintained in a completely secure computing environment monitored by all interested parties and have a single secure nationwide network that distributes the code to voting machines throughout the Nation, have all votes transmitted to multiple secure data centers by VPN and have results tabulated at each location under the scrutiny and supervision of experts from all interested parties and ONLY tabulate results at the end of the final 24 Hour National voting period. Prevent Media access to polling places to prevent exit polling. We would have to wait for 24 hours to get results but we would 1) be assured that only eligible voters were allowed to vote, 2) we would assure that all votes were properly tabulated and 3) we would reduce the ability of the Media to sway results by announcing inaccurate and biased polling data designed to sway elections.

Citizenship and Participation

Fairfield CT

I would like to see weekend voting over a period of two days. It's the system many European counties use and seems to work well there. Opening polls at 6:30 a.m. and keeping them open till 7:00 p.m. for one day doesn't make much sense to me.

Perhaps a reason for poor election turnouts is the placement of the polling places. Seeing log lines of people waiting for one or two machines in urban areas contrasted with no lines in suburban areas with three and four machines has to be discouraging.

Also, voters id is a problem. Not everyone has a driver's license and not everyone can get to city hall to obtain a voter's id. I'd like to see local officials go to the electorate and take id pictures in community centers, etc. at times other than 9-5 during the week.

I have no objection to allowing all felons to vote after they serve their sentences. I would like to see prison populations eliminated from the census. Counting prisoners who can't vote gives unbalanced representation to areas with prisons.

Civics should be taught from grammar school until high school graduation. Learning about local, state and federal governments from grammar school on will help build an electorate that, at the very least, has some idea of what it's voting for. Somewhere along the line the fact that voting is not only a right and privilege, but also a responsibility, seems to have been lost.

I'm surprised that there are places that do not count absentee ballots. Whether or no they matter to the final count, I firmly believe that they should be counted.

VOTE America

I enjoy this open debate and discussion of our direction in government.
let me ask how you empower a person, whom has just cast their vote (Popular vote) and because we have a caucus (electoral college), cast their votes regardless of the individual citizen, that is contrary to the majority? I personally want that candidate to win MY vote and not the votes that are bought. Money must stay out of politics!
Why not try campaign reform. Let the candidate accept dollar for dollar or even 2 to 1, the amount that they recieve from individual donors be the same as what they can recieve from lobby/business/big money?

The Greatest Issue

I am neither a Republican nor a Democrat, although there were times in my past when I was registered with, fully supported, and voted for each party. I now understand full well the naivety of my youth in having done so.

The most serious problem in the U.S. government today is the erosion of our constitutional freedoms, and that the two major parties in power don't really work selflessly for the people - but for their own, and for special, interests.

Remember when president Eisenhower in his farewell address warned the people of the potentially dangerous and growing power of the military-industrial complex? If you don't, or you are too young, please research this! Many of our fellow citizens will laugh this off as simple paranoia, but we laugh at the peril of our nation. Eisenhower didn't laugh at the situation, he considered it serious enough to go directly to the people with his warning. And since then it has only become worse; far worse.

The military-industrial complex DOES run our government. Where it really matters, both the Republicans and the Democrats serve the same "hidden" master, and that master is not the people.

Secretly, since the 1950s, our military and many in our government have discounted the ability of the people to make their own decisions about the future of our nation; acquiring power for themselves a little at a time behind the scenes where it was largely out of the "public eye".

Almost no elected official in this country is what I would consider a "public servant", yet this is the ONLY thing that an elected official should be. True public servants are the enemy of the military-industrial complex because a true public servant believes that all governmental power should be in the hands of the people - and nowhere else.

We no longer have a government run by persons who hold the interests of the people above all else. I have found only one presidential candidate out of both parties that based on my studies truly has ONLY the interest of the people in their heart, and who has an excellent track-record as a true "public servant". I won't mention their name here, yet if you are an intelligent and honest (especially with yourself) person and you study the candidates very well you will know who this is. Find the candidate who has not changed their stand on the issues one iota since this presidential campaign has started, and who is ignored by the (controlled) media even when clearly winning debates against the front-runners, and you have found who I am speaking of.

There has been no other time during my life when our nation has been in so much peril from within. Who runs our nation? The Republicans and the Democrats do in our abysmal "2 party system". Who runs the Republican and Democratic parties? The military-industrial complex. Don't believe me? Study, investigate, educate yourself. Still don't believe me? Like many, it's more comfortable to keep living a work-a-day life and believe it isn't true and keep your "head in the sand".

Ever hear of the "signal to noise ratio"? It's a concept that comes from engineering which basically says that any "signal" can be hidden sufficiently well if covered over by enough "noise". Our current government and the military-industrial complex understand this exceedingly well, and use it daily against us. Why do the major parties insist on creating countless minor "issues" and debate them endlessly? It's to keep the public distracted from the most serious issue threatening our precious democracy - the slow transfer of true power away from the people of the United States into the hands of the military-industrial complex. It has gone so far in the last 5 decades that it may already be too late...

Please people, wake up! Take action and defend your freedoms against those domestic powers that would prefer to enslave you, and which in many ways already does. If not you, who? If not now, when?

Regarding felons being allowed to vote

California

Once an individual has payed their "debt" to society, that person should have all voting rights restored.. It is wrong to continue to punish someone after they have payed the total debt.

Particiaption of Citizens

Illinois

The real question we should ask is "Should we be concerned with 'voting,' or should we try to get an accurate reflection of our citizenry's thoughts and preferences.

Statisticians have proven that we can sample the population to get a cleaner and better reflection of preferences by a well-drawn sample. By actively seeking out this sample, we can encourage investigation of the candidates positions and attitudes.

Even if the members of this sample "vote" with their "gut feelings, this is still a valid measurement of the voters.

Question

Wichita, KS

I would like to know if there are any other governments in the world, particularly in Europe that have an electoral college-type system for electing their country's leader?

I feel that our electoral college is a bit of a hindrance to voting, as people in some states are showered with attention at election time, while other states hardly know that an election is occurring. Some states are exposed to all manner of hysterical, fear-baiting advertising that is hardly edifying to the psyche and soul, while others do not have to endure the hyper-politicized environment. The system of electing the president (and our Congressional leaders) is so negative and corrosive. And this is being promoted by BOTH Democrats AND Republicans, by BOTH Liberals AND Conservatives. I do not appreciate the attitude of some here that one side is more at fault or to blame than another.

Another Question

Wichita, KS

How do the current percentages of people voting in elections compare to the numbers of previous decades? Is this recent 50% figure really that much lower than the percentage in 1960 for instance?

A comment

Wichita, KS

I am a Democrat living in Kansas, one of the most Republican states in the U.S. I vote for president every four years like everyone else with the realization that my vote is essentially thrown in the trash, because in my state ALL our citizens' votes are (for all practical purposes) counted toward the other candidate. In a very real sense, my vote does not really matter in the end. That is just plain wrong.

Voting and Preparation for Voting

West Lafayette, Indiana

While I agree that we should use some technology to make voting more readily available to all interested citizens, my greater concern is that the various media are far more likely to disseminate information about the campaign horseraces, the picadilos of the various candidates, and slips of the tongue than any substantive materials about the issues at stake in the election. If, the media were willing to really talk about the issues, more people would be interested in voting. What can be done to put issues before the people? Not enough listen to PBS or NPR. We need the commercial media of all types on board.

Participation in Voting and other ruminations

Reynoldsville, Pa

In this great country of ours, as it now stands we are caught between a rock and a hard place. The electoral
college system of verifying the vote for president is out
dated and outmoded for the simple fact that, the college can essentially vote the way they choose and not ever reflect the people's choice for president. In the founding of our country, this system(the electoral college) was necessary because of the time and distance one would have to travel to the capital. There was no instant communication as there is today. Can we as a country not change the Constitution to reflect the vast changes that have happened in the last 200 years? Of course we can! The Constitution can and should be a document that reflects the changes that have happened, it is a living document, alive with the representation that is now happening within our society. If nothing else happens within this next election we need to make changes that will reflect our right to a popular vote that elects our president, just like it does our representatives in the Congress.

voting

Vermont

My parents instilled in me the idea that voting was a privilege, and showed by example that principle. I was one of the first 18 yr olds allowed to vote, and took this privilege seriously. I have voted in every local, state and national election since then. When my kids were small, I took them with me to the polls, and used the occasion as a learning experience. They all vote; the ones out of state in college vote via absentee ballot. I can't stand all the whining about how much work it is, how inconvenient, etc. Anyone remember seeing the Iraqis walking for miles in the hot sun, carrying their old relatives on their backs for the same privilege? And anyone who is so uninformed that he doesn't know when, where, or whom to vote for, shouldn't.

Participation

L. C. asked about participation, and went back to the '50's, but I wonder what was the real participation when the constitution was framed (from eligible voters)?

Felons being able to vote

Ex felons, though they may have "payed their debt to society", have proven that decision making is not their forte'. I don't want that one vote from a covicted felon be the deciding one that can effect the course of this great country.

Voting Participation

I'm a tad reluctant to push for increased participation too much. The low turnout means that the least interested (and presumably least informed) are not participating -- which may be a good thing.

It's my understanding (hopefully incorrect) that courses in civics are no longer required at the high school level. Students leaving high school should understand the basics of government and study the Constitution for at least three weeks.

VOTING

I've read most of the discussion, up until this post. I believe everyone, as a part of being a citizen of this country, should become educated on the issues and vote for the candidate of their choice.

We have a polical party that has attempted to question the validity of the past 2 elections, for their own personal gain and much to the detrement of the country, as a whole.

The electoral college is there for some valid reasons and changing this method should not be taken lightly. If you look at the county maps, of the past 2 elections, you find that a majority of each state voted for George Bush. You do, however, have population centers that voted for the other candidate. Without the electoral college, you will have urban population centers determining elections and I, for one, don't believe these centers should speak for the country.

As far as ID cards are concerned, why shouldn't a person voting have to prove they are a citizen of this country? What is the problem with having a picture ID? It would appear that, at least one party, wants people, who are not eligible to vote, to go out and vote anyway. I have never heard of anyone not being able to get a picture ID. MOst states will give you one for free, if you can't afford it. This is just another straw man argument.

Voter Participation for those who care

Darien, Illinois

I respect people who take the time to vote. It does require some passing knowledge, a little determination, and a great deal of intestinal fortitude to defend one's convictions. Nobody has ever said it is easy to participate, because if you do, you might be asked to justify your decisions by some polling company. Wrapping your brains around complicated subjects requires development of a political soul and a thick skin to defend those values. I think most non-voters would rather watch cartoons and skip the process, thus avoiding any internal/external controversy.

Citizenship

Adirondack Park, NY

Our Federal and State Governments and hence, we do not value citizenship. A citizen is naturally born and raised by citizens or immigrates legally to a country and pledges allegiance to the laws of the adopted country in order to receive the rights and benefits of citizenship.

The Federal Government(Executive,Legislative and Judicial) defies federal law, does not enforce federal law and by its actions is unconstitutional.

Where I live, near the Canadian Border, the U.S. Border Patrol can and does stop your vehicle and search it without cause on an interstate highway - 100 miles south of the border. My NYS driver's license is no longer a valid document to cross the Canadian Border.

Yet just a few miles further on in Ticonderoga, (historically important in Revolutionary War, War of 1812 & French and Indian War) illegal immigrants (Mexican citizens) work at Walmart, get picked up, released and return to work at Walmart. And now, the Governor has mandated that undocumented immigrants (illegal, unlawful) can get a NYS driver's license.

My point is that what does being an American citizen, practicing citizenship get you.

Registering to vote does get you jury duty here and a round trip to the county seat is 70+ miles with no public transportation & gas is $3.03/gal. I pay state & federal income taxes on Medicare and Social Security taxes and 1/3 of my health insurance premiums and still pay to go to emergency room.

I registered to vote on my 21st birthday and have voted in every election since then and will continue to do so. I hope that some day it will count again. I was raised by citizen parents. My mother was elected Judge of Elections by both parties for 22 years in a row in, starting in 1956. And back then schools were closed on Election Day. Of course, back then every nut, bolt & part of every Chevy and Ford was made in the USA. They were AMERICAN corporations, that employed American citizens and legal immigrants.

International Corporations own this country now, we are slaves to the slick media promotion, 24 hour sensationalism and catastrophe used to distract & disenfranchise the responsible citizen and entertain and manipulate the majority.

The hundreds of millions spent on election campaigns enrich Madison Ave. and media corporations which aren't even required to be American majority owned anymore. Rupert Murdoch of FOX, etc. is an Australian citizen.

Citizenship and the right to vote is like a penny. In the beginning of this country, Benjamin Franklin said a penny saved was a penny earned. What does it say of our society when people toss pennies in a dish at the cash register because its not worth the effort to put it in your pocket or purse and carry the weight around. :( :x :oops:

Ex felons voting

I believe that those people who have "paid their debt to society" should have their rights restored. They are required to pay taxes and to not have a right to choose their elected leaders constitutes taxation without representation. .

Electoral college disenfranchises minority voters

Tempe, AZ

I agree wholeheartedly with L. C. I am a Democrat living in Arizona, and I know my presidential vote does not count. In Arizona, the Democratic candidate has only carried the presidential vote twice in the past sixty years! No wonder people are discouraged from voting, on both sides of the aisle.

Duty

California

It is your duty as a citizen of this great nation to vote. If you do not vote don't complain. If and when they can perfect voting on line that will be a great thing...it should totally rid us of voter fraud. Felons are felons for life...they made the choice. I pray that they continue to live a lawfully productive life, but sorry they gave up thier right to vote when they did the crime.
As for the electoral college vote...can't change it until there is no possibility of voter fraud. We do not need another paid holiday...too many now. Week-end day possible..if the people vote it. No election day registration...not until voter fraud eliminated. No fines either...people need to realize we are losing our nation to individuals that hate the United States and have been picking at our constitution for many years. Wake up America....keep you elected officials on thier toes. God Bless America! God Bless our Troops!

electoral college change

North of Boston

People advocating for the abolition of the electoral college are forgetting that the country was founded as a confederation of states and would never have been formed if the small states didn't get the protections of equal representation in the senate and the electoral college. The constitutional amendment process would revisit those arguments and with 2/3 of the states being needed I think small states would again prevail.

Electoral College and Corporate Political Donations

San Francisco, California

It is time to do away with the Electoral College. The purpose that it was designed for no longer exists. Making every vote count matters to each individual. If the popular vote was followed, we wouldn't be in the mess we are now.

Another problem with our election system is the amount of corporate money that is thrown around. It is clear and evident that the corporations get a lot more plan than the average citizen. Corporations, although legally considered a "person" is NOT a person and doesn't have the same needs and priorities as John Q. Public. If the free market was the answer to everything, why can a large number of Americans not obtain health insurance? If you could remove the taint of special interest money -- and the corporations do throw a lot of it around -- I think you would start to see policy that would benefit the citizens. Much government policy is antithetical to the health and welfare of the citizens of this nation. And, yes, the military-industrial complex has turned out to be as bad as Eisenhower warned.

Mechanics and emotion of voting

woodsfield OH

Our on-line discussion tonight identified two areas of voter distress.

One area involved the mechanics of our voting system.
These concerns were issues like cumbersome voter registration procedures, poorly identified polling places, insufficient polling places, restricted voting hours, long commutes from work to polling places, difficulty of "service workers" (hospital/EMS/fire/police) to have time on shift to go vote, restrictive absentee ballot laws... all the relatively simple mechanical voter obstructions.

The cross country participants offered countless creative suggestions to ameliorate these mechanical obstructions, and also shared the various ways their states had already eased some of the difficulties. It was very productive sharing of information.

The other area of voter distress, which I think of as emotional, but could be called philisophical, came through very clearly, and no one had productive or creative ideas for solving it. It's the "my vote doesn't count" feeling. And it's hard to feel that your vote counts when a clear numerical majority in the Senate cannot enact anything. And it's hard to feel that your vote counts when the Executive signs every law, and then creates signing statements saying why he doesn't have to abide by the law.

This is a significant deterrant to voting, and it is difficult to read the paper or listen to the news or keep up with constituent newsletters, and feel otherwise.

I am delighted to participate in these programs, but I think the challenges to the democratic process are greater than just expanding the number of active voters.

Electoral college

Salem MA

It's not necessary for a constitutional amendment to effectively abolish the electoral college. If states having a majority of electoral college votes all agree to award their electoral college votes to the national winner of the popular vote, then we will have effectively achieved direct popular election of the president.

electoral college

North of Boston

Some history, weird facts, and some convincing arguements for keeping the electoral college.

Electoral College

San Antonio, TX

I must agree in keeping with the electoral college. I feel that if we take away the current system then we are destroying state rights which in this case are the smaller states.

I do not think people are not voting because of the current system. I feel that they are lazy and do not want to get involve in the political system for whatever reason. To name a few: less time in front of the T.V., computer, work, family, and other day to day functions.

I would support on having an election day on a Saturday. Weekends are easier for people to take time off from their busy schedule. Please note that you can still vote early and any where in the county and we still have less people voting.

Maybe no new system will work however I feel that the key issue is the responsibilty of the individual citizen.

VOTER PARTICIPATION

PENNSYLVANIA

I THINK TWO EASILY TAKEN STEPS THAT WOULD DRAMATICALLY IMPROVE VOTER PARTICIPATION WOULD BE TO FIRST ELIMINATE GERRYMANDERING SO THAT VOTERS REPRESENTING A COMMUNITY OF INTEREST CAN ORGANIZE AND INTERACT WITH GOVERNMENT AS A GROUP THROUGH THEIR VOTE, AND SECOND, THE TWO PARTY MONOPOLY ON BALLOT ACCESS MUST BE BROKEN.

"Citizenship"

South Florida

This is in response to Kay from New York.
I don't agree that the most critical componants of citizenship reside in a "birth-right" conext. Historically, principles (or one might say philosophy) were the essential elements of citizenship. What makes a "good citizen" today, we should ask. Clearly, some people are born here and are lousy citizens. I would suggest that a "good" American citizen (1) believes in rights not derived from law but rather are unalienable, common to all man, unchanging through time, trans-national and (here I go) come from a higher power (God) (2) believes that with these rights come moral and social obligations (including respect for others, a solid work ethic, respect for family, etc.) (3) believes that these rights and obligations should be expressed, as best they can, in common law and in social norms. With this in mind, some undocumented Mexicans might just be a better citizen than, say, Kay. :eek:

Items on the Table

Maryland

Electoral College and States Rights: What benefit to the separate states accrues from the Electoral College? None that I can see--none that is substantial or significant; however, the Electoral College may frustrate the will of the majority who take their citizenship seriously enough to vote and, furthermore, is subject to manipulation such as we've seen attempted recently in California. Dump the Electoral College, I say.

Felons Voting? No sir! Ex-felons, i.e., those who have "paid their debt to society" so to speak? Of course, if we allow separate classes of voters' rights to be established, we are on the way down that slippery slope to no-Muslims, no Jews, no Catholics, no persons of color, no fluent speakers of the dominant language, etc. The tent should be big enough for all citizens.

Doc

Citizenship and participation

Philadelphia

I believe that there is no reason why we cannot abolish the Electoral College and elect the president by popular vote. This issue comes up for discussion at election time, we would need to have a continuing discussion until the congress allows the people to speak at the polling place.

Citizenship and participation

Philadelphia

I am against compulsory voting. But, I would like to suggest compulsory registration, at the age of 21 everyone citizen should have to register to vote. This could be done. We presently rquire every male to register at the age of 18.

Citizenship

Adirondack Park, NY

I did not say that being born into citizenship makes one a good citizen.

I welcome legal immigration and some of my family falls into this category. I believe immigrants who become naturalized citizens and just don't settle for a green card are probably the "Best" citizens having put forth efforts not required of those born to it and actively pledging allegiance to the U. S. constitution and forsaking all other allegiances. (Forsaking is No longer required)

However illegal immigration starts with the breaking of law legally and morally. Its starts with covetousness ( thou shalt not covet).

Physical action involves, minimally, crossing a border without documentation to supporting illegal activities such as Human smuggling (coyotes) and slave trading (captive sweatshops, prostitution, etc.) No Inalienable rights (death, slavery, poverty,etc.) for these people just big profits for really bad criminals (Gluttony, murder, etc.).

Theft (Thou shalt not steal) - healthcare services, education, wages, etc. are stolen from not so good citizens like me. What gets reported is welfare fraud committed by not so good citizens. Businesses, big and small, who employ illegal immigrants also are committing theft to put profit on the bottom line. There is no bottom line to the deprivation that this kind of human rights abuse can and does lead to.

In a lot of cases, Convicted felons/criminals are denied citizen rights and labeled as bad citizens It is now a felony in some states to ask for documentation of immigration status or citizenship prior to providing public funded services. Border guards are locked up while a drug smuggler is relased.

Being a "good" citizen takes effort. It requires one to sometimes act against one's own self interest, to vote instead of taking a long weekend. To shop somewhere more expensive &/or less convenient.

If there is no intrinsic value to citizenship, then how do we motivate the masses to be good citizens. Making more laws that are not enforced for non-citizens will not reverse the erosion of citizen responsibility.



:eek:

Electoral College

PDX

I do not see how the electoral college helps the small states. The number of electoral votes depends on population. If every state had the same number of electoral votes then the argument that it helps small states makes more sense. However, today if we want our vote to count and we are in the minority party in a given state, then our vote is ignored when the ballots are counted because only the electoral college votes elect the president. That is how a candidate can win the presidency by the electoral college vote and lose the popular vote. To me it makes no sense to keep the electoral college.

We have the ability to count the popular vote quickly enough and accurately enough to use popular vote instead of the electoral college. If I were a democrat in Arizona as one person stated, I would feel that at least my vote counted in the election if the electoral college were eliminated.

Voter Participation

Portland OR

I used to get discouraged going to the polls to vote because sometimes the line seemed interminable. It took a really long time and sometimes I could not get to the polls until after they closed. In Oregon we now have vote by mail. It has helped with general elections and special elections. We still do not have high enough participation but it has improved. Also paper ballots can be recounted and provide a paper trail when elections are contested. This is better than the electronic voting machines that have been so controversial. I think vote by mail might help improve voter turnout.

Electoral College and gerrymandering

Adirondack Park, NY

I believe the electoral college is necessary to balance out disparities between states. What needs to be done in the nominating process and electoral process is to eliminate winner take all votes.

If we get back to tying electoral vote to voting districts and prevent gerrymandering by congress based on party and special interest- the popular vote and electoral vote might actually jive with the various regional concerns and states rights.

Most of New York State is rural. I live 2 1/2 hours north of Albany and 6 hours north of New York City. Syracuse and Buffalo are 5 to 7 hours west of here & NYC. The rural vote is pretty much nullified in presidential, senatorial and gubernatorial elections by population concentration and gerrymandering of voting districts by the majority party after each census.

This allows special interests & candidates to divide and obfuscate with minority issues / wedge issues and not address major issues at election time..

time zones

Deering, Alaska

I agree with some things people say about having elections over a period of days with no reporting of results until everyone is counted. There is a four hour time difference between Alaska and New York. So we are hearing election results before our polls even close. In small communities it may be hard to have elections held for 24 hour periods so I think the idea of having 10 hour periods over several days would work. I like the comments stated by the CPA about a papertrail with computer election machines. I haven't a clue about the electoral college. Don't know how it works and don't know how to fix it. I have voted every election since I was 18. My husband and I usually cancel each other out on the statewide and national elections though. We usually vote the same on the local and borough wide elections though. The reason I have voted every election since I was eligible was my Mom was 2 years old when Native Alaskans were given the right to vote and her and my Dad have taught us it is a duty to our people to have our voices heard. It is our responsibility to stand up and make the world better for our Native people.

Proportional representation?

Western North Carolina

I'm a bit surprised that proportional representation (PR) isn't among he array of options under discussion--has it been purposely excluded for some reason? As many have mentioned, the sense of "efficacy"--or, feeling that your vote makes a difference--is a big factor in whether or not people participate in the process, and PR voting systems have a big impact on that. With a popular vote for President and PR for Congressional and State Assembly delegations, the individual's vote would count in a direct and meaningful way. Of course, where PR systems have been adopted in the past, the two major parties have successfully pulled out all the stops to get rid of them, but if we're discussing solutions to some of the issues of concern that have been brought up I think it should definitely be on the table!
While I'm on here, I'd also like to throw my 2¢ in re extended days for voting. I've been voting for a lot of years, and observed family members and neighbors voting for years before that. With polls open from 6am to 9pm, even farmers and single moms with chores "from cain't see to cain't see" have always been able to get to the polls to vote if they wanted to. Households and communities simply organize themselves accordingly for this special, hugely important event. It seems to me the time-extension schemes that have been suggested only create more opportunities for abuse and corruption.
Well, I look forward to our upcoming in-person conversation tomorrow night!

Briefing Document

Baton Rouge Louisiana

Has anyone read the briefing document? The first sentence says: "The United States is a representative democracy, in which government officials are selected by the people they represent."

Who wrote that? You have got to be kidding me! The United States is a republic. To prove the point, read the constitution and try to find the word "democracy".

After signing the Constitution, Benjamin Franklin replied to a question about what type of government the Founders had created. Franklin said "A republic, if you can keep it."

The Founding Fathers were much more educated in history then the present elite, and they were definitely concerned about "the excesses of democracy."

If you don't know the difference between a democracy and a republic, go to the internet and find out. That includes whoever wrote the briefing document.

Voting

Washington State

A reply to the "people can vote if they want to" comments from my experience. Many people work mandatory long hours (10 - 12), have long commutes, and live in areas with snow and bad road conditions in November. I've seen lines of over 100 people in Colorado when the polls closed and more coming. I believe that it is imperative that we find a way to make voting possible for everyone. Where I live in Washington State we can vote by absentee ballot, and this should be an option in all areas; it also provides the paper trail that many have suggested.
As for the "none of the above" option, I think that is too easy a way for people who don't participate in the process to protest. Participation in our Democracy is key to keeping it functioning. What happened to "ask not what your country can do for you...?"
I share some of the concerns expressed about where our government is headed and how it is run and have real fears for the survival of our country.

elections

cental Texas

responsible citizenship starts with an education system that teaches people the importance of participating in the election process and the need to be at least somewhat informed. Most Americans today seem to think that it will all work out without their vote.Yet some of them scream the loudest at the results.If you live in an area that always votes oneway,your vote the other way may encourage people who share your views to step up.

Compulsory Voting

Falls Church VA

I truly believe it would be in the countries best interest to make in mandatory to vote. It's mandatory for men to sign up for selective service so why isn't it mandatory to vote? Voting has been an abused privilege for far too long. As for as Australia's fines for not voting; I don't feel their strong enough. I think the punishment should fit the crime. If you don't wish to be involved with your country or community then your punishment should be 1 week of community service. This will make the lazy ones thing twice about ignoring what is going on and get involved.

Electoral College

Los Angeles

The electoral college actually works very well for us in most cases.
Election irregularities in isolated locations often can be virtually disregarded if they don't affect the outcome in a crucial state.
Small states get the benefit of disproportionate allocation of votes.
Large states get the benefit of the unit rule, which means that the candidate who carries the state gets all of its votes.
Very close elections often are clear when seen in the light of electoral college votes.
We sould keep the current system.

VOTING

GRAND ISLAND, NEBRASKA

I would like to see the electoral college taken out for once to see the difference. I do believe that this may keep some voters from participating and it will effect the outcome...a more believable reflection of what direction WE THE PEOPLE want our country to go. However I do also believe that a great number of people have gotten turned off to politics due to how our elected officials handle their responsiblity in office and how the mainstream media twist the truth to the point you dont know what to believe unless you know how to read through the garbage. I dont see a change in voter turn out until we get accountability and leadership back in to our elected officials. Also we need to make the media responsible for their role in all this confusion. :x

Voting and voting rights

Texas

The constantly reduced numbers of voters in elections follow the decline of our public education system. One option to promote good citizenship might be to institute a service commitment for high school graduates - either civil or military - upon graduation from high school. The time required should be commensurate with a college political science course, which might replace physical "service" following graduation. Our youth are in large measure quite ignorant.

Should felons or ex-felons vote, Doc? That right is forever lost once convicted of a felony. Would you have an ex-felon serve on a jury?

Daniel, please explain how an ILLEGAL Mexican, who has broken our immigration law and is ILLEGALLY in this country, can be a better citizen than someone such as Kay, who obeys the laws of the land? An unfounded statement is not a cogent argument -- and undocumented and illegal are the same thing.

Voting

Chiefland,Florida

I do not belive we can get people to polling Places untill we get them to belive their vote counts. In fl. their has been hanging shads, machines that disalowed thousands of votes,a worker at one of polling places showed how the machines could be made to only count the voters you wanted it to count. I think we should go back to paper balots and elect by popular vote no elec. college!

Electoral College

Michigan

I believe the Electoral College is necessary to ensure that people are able to choose what would be best for them in their area. The people in Manhattan, for instance, have little idea about what would be the best representation for the people in the middle of Wyoming. That being said, the city of Detroit pretty much decides where the Electoral votes are going for the state of Michigan.

As for increasing voter turnout, the people who value the right to vote, and care about voting, are getting out and doing it. The apathetic people who, for whatever reason, are not voting, probably will continue not voting. Short of getting paid or penalized, I'm not sure there is a way to mobilize them. Maybe making it a tax deduction would help? :D

Lastly, employers should be - if they are not already - required to provide employees with time to go and vote, just as they are required to allow their employees to serve their jury duty.

Electoral College

Buffalo, NY

I think a little tweaking of the EC might be in order...I for one would like to see a state's electoral votes distributed in accordance with the percentage of votes received by a given candidate. So if 40% of the voters of a given state voted for Candidate A, then Candidate A would get 40% of that state's electoral votes. I'm not crazy about the idea of all of the electoral votes going to the candidate that wins the popular vote in that state.

Electoral College

NC

I know that I have heard of some states that do have the option of not giving all their electoral votes to the candidate with the majority. Yet, I have not heard of it being used. Anyone know if this has happened?

Voting

White Lake, Mi

I am somewhat alarmed by the notions of exclusivity or restrictions on voting. If you think people are somehow obliged to be "informed" to vote, your arrogance is stunning. Believe me, you might not like the manner my being informed ultimately takes.
I say the more people voting and the easier it is to vote the better for all of us and this system.
Felons: let them vote. NOW. not after paying some debt to society. Why should the commission of a crime negate your citizenship. Who knows, the law they broke may be an unjust one needing change at the ballot box.
Vote 24 hours, multiple days, make it a holiday, however, More importantly COUNT THE VOTES. Don't let the criminals get away with what they did in Florida, Ohio and New Mexico and hell knows where else.
GET MONEY OUT OF THE SYSTEM. I would venture to guess that most people who are cynical, feeling disenfranchised, disaffected or not part of the process feel that way because they sense the system is rigged by corporate money. The notion that a corporation is a person is ridiculous. Publicly fund elections or restrict contributions to individuals and restrict the amount. Money is not speech regardless of what the supreme court says.
Break up the media monopolies. Corporations who contribute to politicians are double rigging the system when they own media producers. It is corporate/political incest of the most egregious kind.
Participate, more than just vote. Find a passion and follow it.
So many people have expressed so much dissatisfaction, it makes me wonder why we aren't more open to change. Lets open up the system to include as many people as possible and get as many ideas into the marketplace as it can hold.

Citizenship in the 21st Century

Pennsylvania

William Marcy "Boss" Tweed once observed, "I don't care who does the voting as long as I do the nominating". This statement suggests the reason that people don't vote: they do not feel that the choices they are offered on election day are real or meaningful. They believe that the 2 major political parties are coalitions of special interest groups that marginalize popular participation, trivialize issues that people actually care about, serve their special interest constituencies at the public expense, and exclude any real opposition groups from the political process. Until the public can organize itself to break the stranglehold of the corrupt 2-party system, it is doubtful that alienated voters change their habits.

Even so, it would do little harm to eliminate the electoral college and provide for the direct election of the president, just as we amended the constitution a century ago to provide for the direct election of senators. The winner-take-all approach makes it really hard to introduce any sort of meaningful change to the system. It provides stability by restricting choice, and isn't choice the reason for having an election. It might be better to provide for some sort of proportional representation to ensure that more that 2 voices are heard.

People will vote if and when they think it will make a real difference. I think there is something fundamentally corrupt about paying people to vote or punishing them for not voting. Offering cash rewards (or punishments) as a way to increase voter participation is an admission of failure by the system.

Non-voters

TX

When someone doesn't vote because of a misguided emotional notion that "their vote doesn't count" or "doesn't make a difference", they are showing they don't possess enough logical thought to vote. By not voting, they choose to make their vote not count. That is a good thing.

Felons not voting is good thing - they have proven that they will not live willingly by the rules of a good society (and ours has pretty lenient rules, all in all).

Every citizen is given the right to vote. Responsible citizens do vote. A sense of personal responsibility is lacking from all of these suggestions: making Election Day a holiday, registering on Election Day, compulsory voting, letting felons vote.

Also, these suggestions would create new constituencies: the criminal constituency, the lazy constituency, the whiner constituency, the uninformed constituency......

Citizenship and participation

Laguna Beach, CA

Voting is a privilege and should not be subject to any legal enforcement. However, it must be made convenient for people to vote. Registration should be simple and convenient.Time should be made available for employed people to vote. However the most important thing is to make people realize that it is important for them to vote. That in addition to national policies many import local matters are decided. Schools, property taxes, parks and recreation facilities etc. Door to door campaigning about local issues as well as national issues would help.

Citizenship and Participation

Indianapolis, IN

To get more people involved in government and society in general, we need to move the idea of citizenship and patriotism from the abstract to concrete. We pledge alliegence to a flag (abstract) but why not to the constitution (concrete). We all have had those essays what it means to be an American and they are all abstract emotional concepts, (i.e., apple pie, mom, flag, duty) but we never define for our kids what being an American is all about.

We would do far better to take 5 minutes every day in school and have a discussion about one element of the constitution, bill of rights, declaration of independence, etc. than what we do now with a "pledge" that means nothing to the kids/adults." When do we instruct our children that the notion of America is all about sharing ideas, exploring options and coming to a compromise for a solution? The parties and politicians all would have us believe that their way is the only way or no way approach to society's problems and challenges.

I find it hard to believe that we send kids through school who have no idea how to deal with living in society once they turn 18. When do we teach them how to fill out a tax form--(the EZ or short form not the complicated long form whereby we imagine our way to qualify for deductions). When do we walk them through how a jury works and give them practice to examine the facts and not let preconceived emotional feelings get in our way to make decisions? When do we inform ourselves how to file some court transaction to address some wrongs? The answer is we don't. Society tells us that we must hire an expert to do all this for us and that we are not intelligent enough to figure it out. --So whatever the issue is, taxes, legal, jury duty, making decisions about our society, --we build into ourselves and our children the notion that we can't comprehend and must deferr it to someone else.

Want to get more people involved in society, we must give them the fundamental tools to be able to function. Those that have these tools participate, those who are intimidated sit back and think they are not able.

To be patriotic is more than having a flag on your porch, a pin in your lapel, and a bumper sticker on your car. It means that you not only listen to other's opinions, concerns and problems, but that you also offer real suggestions and together we come to a solution. After all participatory democracy is involvement with one another. Otherwise it is just another form of autocratic government jocking to get the masses to keep them in office

Voting

Ohio

I have been hearing so many people say that felons should not vote. They are "bad" people and not "worthy" of voting.
Has anyone ever stopped to think about how many things can be deemed a felony? Or the reasons behind them?
I can see questioning if a hard core, unrepentant, drug using, alcoholic, gun toting murderer should be able to vote. But what about the following example:
A 35 year old housewife, mother of two, happily married, starts going on mass spending sprees and spending extreme ammounts on the lottery. She bounces checks to do so. She is convicted of a felony. After extensive testing, and looking at her past medical history, it is found she has Bi-Polar Disorder. She gets the proper help and correct medication, and goes on to live a normal life.
Is she such a horrid person that she should have to give up her right to vote?
There are others with medical/mental health problems that have led them to commit felonies.
Once they have been treated, they have posed no threat to society, and, in fact, want nothing more than to be functioning, contributing members of society.
I think we should let them.

Increase interest in voting

Livermore

I agree with Jim that we should all learn the Pledge of Allegience, but It's not necessary to repeat it every day like a mantra. That may even reduce it's impact/meaning.

The teaching of Civics in all grades is the MOST important, and Jim's idea of taking just 5 minutes daily to discuss some part of our government, is great - not just the Constitution, but all parts of the way our government works. Teachers may even be able to tie it to current events.

When I was in 9th grade - a LONG time ago - we studied the United Nations and had an assembly of the whole school to watch contestants (who had the highest scores in the final test) compete in a quiz show. We didn't even need big prizes - it was just fun.

Simple things like that could be done in the classroom to raise interest in learning about a lot of things.

We may not want to make voting required, but we need to instill the idea that our form of government only lasts as long as we citizens support democracy by practicing its principles.

Voting

Idaho

It seems that the nation's low voting numbers are of interest only sporatically . . .as we approach the Presidential races every four years. Then we start our national breast-beating. Emphasis to obligations of citizenship must be taught in the schools and re-inforced in the home.
I don't believe in penalties for not voting . . . what, we drag people kicking and screaming to the polls? Not sure that results in a reasoned, informed vote . . .

VOTING RESPONSIBILITY

Ramona, CA

Every person has a responsibility to vote.
Using the internet for voting may be an option.
Making polls accessible and voter friendly is another requirement. Polling areas should be conducted so that a citizen can feel his vote is private.

Voters interest

Ramona, CA

A citizen nees to have a candidate to vote for, not against. If a person practices transcendental meditation there is more consciousness involved in choosing a proper candidate that represents the consciousness of the nation.

Candidate Fatique

Tennessee

Among many different rationales given for not going to the poll on election day there's one that, in my opinion, holds some validity - candidate fatique.

Here we are 5 months before the TN primary and already the political pundits (including Pres. Bush) have given the Democrat candidacy to Hillary Clinton. How do any of them know how TN will vote?

Running for the Presidency in the United States has become a money making event for cable television at the cost of electing the right candidate for the important job of President. We have way too many meaningless early debates, which feed into more and more rhetoric for the talk show hosts and pundits, which feed into poll numbers that become skewed and meaningless, and leads to an election day where people either stay home or feel they MUST cast their vote for the 'winner'. Thus we are left with a candidate that cable news has selected for the country and one that has not had to answer any of the hard questions the electorate wanted answered.

Limit the cable news, and I mean truly limited!, coverage of our elections, limit the daily advertising slots for candidates, limit (2 maximum) of primary debates, and force the candidates to do town hall meetings with the 'real' people so they find out how this country views the issues of the day. As it is today the candidates only listen to those that can furnish the $$$s needed to fund a campaign - not to their electorate.

Get back to basics. Force a candidate to answer to and for the people. Maybe, just maybe, people will return to their civic duty of knowing who/what the candidate is and will take pride in casting their vote on election day.

Proportional Representation

Bellingham, WA

I, too, am surprised (as Deborah from the Carolinas was) that there truly proportional representation has not been discussed. Why not increase the House, say, to 1,000 members, and do more Congressional work on the internet? Representatives could spend more time at home and less on airplanes. They would be more in touch with their constituents and perhaps less influenced by money. If Congress met like some state governing bodies (face-to-face 3 or 4 months out of the year), we might see our Congressional leaders as partof our communities and true leaders.

Voting complaints

Ohio

I am shocked at the number of complaints regarding election day.....are none of you aware of the absentee ballot which is widely used in my area and certainly the choice of most people including myself?
I am an election day worker and observe that most people voting are enjoying a social moment seeing their neighbors and friends.
No to compulsory voting - we need informed voters.

Federal Elections

Seattle, WA

The electoral college is usually very popular within the party who has carried the election and disparaged by those who lost this time around.
Dumping the electoral college in favor of a popular vote might give a few people a renewed belief that their vote counts. It's time to dump the electoral college.
As for a lack of education being a driving factor in election turn out, I wish I could find data of election turnout prior to 1960. If, on average, election turn out for the last 100 years shows an average around 60% it might just be that this is the "American Way" and that the debate is pointless. Unfortunately, so many people forget that our history goes back further than Eisenhower that our views are often skewed. Just when was the time that our elections were "better"?
Election day should be changed to Friday and should be a half day holiday. Gives business a bit of recognition that yes, we do understand the cost to business and yes, we do recognize the need for easier access. I wonder how easy it was to vote in Kansas at the turn of the century.
We need to take a much longer view of our history.

VOTING

FLORIDA

Our society has changed greatly since our founding fathers set forth the methods of selecting our Country's leaders. Today we are overwhelmed by media, usually for entertainment, seldom for education, and almost never for enhancing our citizenship rights and privileges by independent analysis of National, International or local political issues.

You can, as the old saying goes, "lead a horse to water, but you can't make him drink". Enforced registration and required voting will only create a new kind of "task" that people will grumble and obey without actually caring about the effect of their vote,they will only care that they won't get fined.

I believe that you can't solve the problems of Presidential elections by focusing only on National elections, changes have to start at the local level, with empowerment of people to make changes at a local level being the beginning of increased participation and effective Government.

Those changes must start with our education system and our media presenting more local and State issues to the public in a way that would encourage them to participate and vote.

Voter Apathy Linked to Campaign Finance Reform

Gig Harbor, WA

As I see it, voter apathy will only be relieved when we solve the core problem of meaningful Campaign Finance Reform. Most of us know our elected representatives spend all but two months of their terms working to raise money for re-election. This situation illustrates how broken our election system has become. How can our elected officials fairly and equitably represent ALL the people, when they spend all their time begging corporations and interest groups for money?

I believe voter apathy arises from public cynicism that meaningful repairs to our broken system are likely to occur. They know corporations, pacs and interest groups are loathe to give up the influence they can now buy. Thus, even though I am in favor of the proposed list of reforms in today's discussion, I feel they distract from the core issue, which is not even on the table.

I believe we do need to teach government at every level of our schools, we should restore voting rights to persons who have paid their debt to society, we should have day of Voter Registration in all fifty states, we should abolish the Electoral College or award each State's EC votes to reflect the popular vote, and we should have paper-trail voting in every district, nationwide. However, these reforms will not resolve voter apathy until undue financial influence on elections and elected representatives is removed from the process.

Other western countries have solved this problem by mandating a set amount of public campaign money for each candidate, in each political race. I believe most thinking Americans understand, monied interests are going to fight to perpetuate the political influence their money can buy. All those lobbying firms on K Street in DC, are not willing to pack up and go home in the name of equity in government. Taking an Anti-Socialism stance, their First Amendment, Free Speech argument has, up to now, stymied meaningful reform. While it is hard to stir up rousing nationalistic sentiment over Campaign Finance Reform, this unsexy issue appears to be the core electoral problem of our day, yet it's not even on the radar screen. I believe Campaign Finance Reform needs to become a part of every conversation. Perhaps, in this instance, a little bit of socialism would not be a bad thing.

Democracy

Youngstown, Ohio

I must disagree right away with calling the U.S. a democracy. The U.S. Constitution calls it a Republic.

real people

wi(southern canadaa0

we need real people to run for high office who will tackle real problems like healthcare for all and all the education you could desire, enviromental clean up, corporations be damned.

Participation in politics

Surprise, AZ

I feel that many Americans have an attitude problem. They view voting as a right or an obligation; it is neither. Voting is a PRIVILEGE; one that our family takes seriously.

Teaching our country the importance of voting must come from individuals in every home. We have discussed issues as a family and have taken our young son with us to vote for years. Now we often use the mail-in ballot and still include him in the whole process: Getting informed, voting AND following the results. We experience the reality of politics together - when we "win" and "loose." We are still amazed that so many Americans take voting so lightly.

I often wonder if America would have to loose the privilege of voting altogether before voting became important again. :(

The right to vote is a privilage

Oklahoma City

I feel complelled to respond to the individuals discussing the right to vote and convicted criminals. As a parent, I work hard to teach my children that there are consequences to behavior, particularly bad behavior. Adults who choose to break the law and commit felonies - whatever the situation made the choice to reject the system in which I live. Their rejection of the system should result in punishment. While the penal system "punishes" each crime, revoking the right to vote seems appropriate as well. I must admit that I never imagined a convicted felon would ever get the right to vote again. Can we trust their ability to make good choices? While I believe in forgiveness, we never forget the crime.

In light of individuals who wish to show compassion to individuals who committed felonies as a result of a mental illness or some other special situation I must skeptically disagree. As a medical professional, I witness daily these patients who continually use and abuse this argument for their self-preservation. Can you put significant decisions in the hands of those with questionable judgement? Our laws are designed to protect vulnerable citizens from abuse, yet our society is often victimized by those our laws protect (another matter entirely). Restricting voting rights to responsible citizens is one of the few privilages we continue to have.
Just my opinion.

Citizen Participation

TX

Election Day holiday- sounds great, but does it address the workers who do 12 hour shifts. In TX we have early voting and it has increased voter turnout. I think there needs to be broader acts to encourage participation. I receive a voter registration card prior to elections...would it be so hard to also include a ballot.
I would not support any kind of Election Day voter registration. I do not feel the current system would be prepared to handle that. I also believe there would be too much fraud. I would not support compulsory voting, but would support what another suggested for compulsory voter registration.
I would like to see the EC reformed or done away with. Everyone's vote should count.
I am not against felons having a right to vote, but I do believe it should be after they have served their sentences.

Democracy vs "Republic"

Brooklyn

I find it mind-boggling and sadly tragic to repeatedly read the right-winger's cry that we are a Republic, not a democracy. The US Constitution, an incredibly brief, yet inspired document, does not imply rejection of the term at all. Of course we are a democracy.

Yes, I looked it up: "1 a : government by the people; especially : rule of the majority b : a government in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised by them directly or indirectly through a system of representation usually involving periodically held free elections. " (Merriam-Webster online Dictionary)

I believe that there are many Americans, especially these days, who prefer not to have the people decide. Doesn't the Constitution describe this system (at least with the present amendments)?

Technical issues

Western North Carolina

I lost my text-messaging capacity about 10 minutes into the discussion and there seems to be no way I could communicate that to your tech people--then we lost the audio and then the queue was too long to get back on there (I would have taken the first few seconds of my time to report it but never got the chance). Also, I could only hear about half of the others. Bummer! :-(

Minority voting

Boston

On the point of minority voting, by which I assume we mean legal immigrants, I don't think there can be a sound political or democratic argument made for dissuading them from voting.

I always understood one of the basic tenants of democracy to be that elected leaders would be representational of, and reflect the view of, the people that live in that society. While some people might not necessary like the fact that the U.S. is becoming more diverse and that minorities are becoming a larger proportion of the population, it is a fact and what kind of democracy would we be if these views were not heard and not reflected in our numbers.

Earlier someone had mentioned that our low voter turn out rates might be made a bigger issue than it is by the media, but I would argue that their claim that our voter turn out is so low can be strengthened by comparing the U.S. to other democracies overseas, which have much, much higher voter turnouts. Perhaps we can take some hints from then.

And finally yes on weekend voting and/or voter holiday; and No on compulsory voting.

Forum

I want to thank the participants. what a diverse and interesting group. I hope Dr. Deb finds the time to explain proportional representation which is a very different thing from the electoral college.
Thank you John Q Public for emphasizing the need to have a verifiable trail in voting and absentee voting/paper ballots are the best way to do that. Every polling place should have touch screen machines (with paper trails) available for those whose disabilities prevent them from using other methods.

The electoral college only impacts our presidential elections. Eliminating it would probably make no difference in voter turn out although I think many would prefer to feel that their direct vote was what made the difference.

I believe public financing of elections would increase voter turnout.

In most states felons can vote after they have paid their debt to society although they usually have to petition to regain that right. I doubt very much that changing this rule would increase voter turnout by any appreciable degree.

Thanks, group, - it was quite an experience. Look forward to next week.

Briefing document issues

Brooklyn

The briefing document is an excellent piece of work, in my opinion. It describes the situation fairly, accurately and intelligently. I will use it when my 7th graders study the Constitution for 5 weeks this winter. Thanks.

I too have been voting since I was able to register at 18, two years after became a citizen. I believe that jail time should not be a deterrent to voting. Remember the phrase, "paid your debt to society"? Many have been sent to jail because of trivial drug offenses or crimes committed under the influence of alcohol. If we got everyone guilty of this, half of our elected officials would be behind bars {perhaps not a bad idea.} :lol:

I was having technical difficulties

Columbus, Ohio

I found the discussion to be very edifying. Being from the notorious swing state of the 2004 election, I can attest to the long, long lines for hours in the driving rain. As for how voter turnout has changed, one can look at www.infoplease.com/ipa/a0781453.html and find that low voter turn-out has been an issue for decades.

The actual turnout in 1972 and 2004 were essentially identical. Every year since 1968, about half of eligible voters voted... Raw numbers of voters, however, have drastically increased as the population has increased. (As one might expect.) In 1960, about 68.8 million people voted, and in 2004, 122.3 million voted. (the population of voting-age people was only slightly more than double.)

This does not adjust for 18-21 year olds, who didn't have voting rights in 1960. If the 2004 eligible-voter numbers were readjusted to disclude that age-group, I wonder what the percentage of turn-out would look like? Hmmmm. Is there really a crisis over Democracy in this country? About the same numbers seem to consistently participate, if one considers percentages over time. Just something to think about.

Citizenship in 21st Century America

MD

I thought the article was very good but did leave out a major reason for low voter turnout, which is the low ratings Americans have for our political candidates. The current national assessment of the performance for both the President and congress show the broad based unhappiness with both. When it is time to vote, voters look at the limited choices and decide not to vote.

Voter Holiday, etc.

Sorry I got cut off, but I feel if we have a voting holiday, greedy retailers would still drag people into work. It's the low paid citizens that need more presence at the polls and I think that would defeat the purpose.

Felons should be allowed to vote. Otherwise, their punishment would be deemed "cruel and unusal" if they have served their time.

I just want to thank all that participated for a wonderful exchange of ideas!


:)

State of our Union

NY

Truth: Americans are sick, tired, frustrated, but not yet pissed off. Not really. Not enough to rise up and demand their country back. To have their elected officals be honest and true with them. Of the people, by the people, and for the people that is what one of our Presidents said before. That is what OUR country is supposed to be like. How many of us have seen that the America of 1775 is not the USA of 2007? Or looking back at the union during Wordl War II and how looking at the Ununited States of America acts now during the Iraq War? Americans are disgusted, tired but not angry. We say we want low taxes but more programs. Where is the money suppose to come from? We want to do more with less and see the great pryamids spring out of the desert.
We have gotten so comfortable that we compromise to changing our surroundings. Then we grumble and whine under our breathe because we don't to be embarassed by strangers on Youtube. I was wrong it is the America made of the people. At least I think so. :x

Feedback

Gig Harbor, WA

While my mic didn't work and I didn't get to speak tonight, I got to hear everyone and that was exciting. So many good points! My particular concern, as I read today's materials was they missed the connection between voter apathy and Campaign Finance reform.

I have talked to so many folks who don't vote because they feel the decisions are already made by the people with the money. I like the idea of a blind trust or public financing. I believe that would highly increase voter turnout. We all want to feel our opinions matter and our decision to vote or not makes a difference.

See you next week!

Citizen Participation

Santa Rosa, Calif.

I got into the discussion very late due to technical difficulties (as they say). Just wanted to add my two cents. Felons should have their rights restored upon having paid their debt to society. Public financing will go a long way in restoring faith in our politicans. I think making voting day on either Saturday or Sunday makes more sense if we are truly committed to greater voter participation and turnout. We have a huge percentage here in California of vote by mail voters. I personally prefer voting in person because it means a lot to me to be able to do that - but I recognize that voting in person is not convenient for many people. It has increased participation here. Finally, I didn't hear anything about voter education. People have busy lives and often do not make the connection that decisions that are made at every level of government affect their everyday lives. Thus, all forms of media need to do a better job of informing people of their right and duty to make the effort to vote and why. :)

Voter Registration

Oklahoma City

I stated that I and other staff were forced to register persons we knew were not eligible to vote through Motor Voter. Someone replied later that any citizen had the right to vote & was startled at my comment. I knew these people were not US Citizens because I had taken a look at there Green Cards but was told by the Democratically run election board that that was none of my business and I was ordered to register them. Therefore, I and the person registered both committed felonies. A person with broken English will usually do what they think is wanted. What's more we were required to present these forms every 3 months to the same households. Other persons obtained voter's ID as proof of ID for other things. I cannot get more specific. Anyone who thinks voter fraud is code for "black voters" has listened to old diatribes too long. Before we even consider whether or not to give the felon the right to vote, we need to clean up our voter roles, issue proper IDs. Let's face it, if a felon wants to vote he only needs to fill out a form as no investigation or background check would be done I am certain.

Once our voter roles were cleaned up, our voter woes would probably clean up too and there would be no looking for hung chads or any other such ridiculous things again. :)

Felon Voting

Fla

I still believe that the issue of felon voting is a "smoke screen" to cover the larger issues of apathy and citizen disenfranchisement. Actually, I think restoring felons' voting rights is just a ploy to get some Congressment back to work!! :-)

The discussion was very impressive. I personally was sorry to see it end. An hour just isn't long enough.

Proportional representation

Oklahoma City

I think the discussion of proportional representation should be pursued. I think it is what I was driving at when I said maybe we would know what each and every bill was that went through Congress (provided we wanted to know). Cudos for persons bringing this up...after all, if we really, really know what's going on and they know we know what's really going on..what choice do they have but to work for us and our boys in Iraq and to lower our taxes and to spend our money wisely, and what need would they have for big lavish budgets to tell us what we already knew?

Great discussion to all. :D

Participation in the Process as Prerequisite for Citizenship

North Bend, WA

A true citizen is someone who makes a contribution to the whole and gives of themselves to the betterment of others and the country.

All Americans should be required to serve their country in order to reap the benefits of citizenship. It is no longer enough just to have been born here.

If developed correctly, a Service Based Citizenship program can solve many of the pressing problems that are facing the United States as it transitions into the 21st Century.

Citizen Participation

I think we need to change campaign finance laws in this country. The pre-election campaign's have almost no discussion of the issues anymore. Now all we hear about is who's gotten the most campaign dollars contributed to them this quarter? Is that what elects our president these days? I'm ashamed to say maybe yes it is. Maybe TV commercials and other advertising should be free or not so expensive that only the rich get a chance to be seen to the voters.

website w/voter TURNOUT

Tennesee

Below is a link to an Election Project done at George Mason U. that you may find useful when talking about voter turnout (it also includes numbers by state for ineligible felons)

http://elections.gmu.edu/voter_turnout.htm

Also please keep in mind that 6 of the top 14 states with the highest % of turnout in 2004 enjoy 'same day registration'. ND, which has NO registration requirements ranked 7th.

(sorry, but my statistical background always leads me to looking at numbers :)

Holiday to Vote

Minnesota

On Veterans Day how many people celebrate our veterans? On the 4th of July, how many people celebrate the birth of our country? The majority of people on any of these holidays just enjoy the day off work. If election day was Friday with a half day off, how many people would go to the lake for the longer weekend?
I have been dirt poor and still managed to vote. Most places that I have worked would give extra time off to anyone who wanted to go vote. Also, the polls are open from very early in the morning to late at night. But if you know it is not convenient in your area you can always vote by mail anywhere in the USA. :O

Democracy, Republic, and the Electoral College

San Francisco, CA

This post is about words and arguments over the meaning of words. Although dictionaries are useful, only extensive dictionaries like the Oxford unabridged provide the history and origin of words, as well as historical examples of use. Brief definitions are often more confusing than helpful. Wikipedia, however, does provide extensive discussions.

I notice many arguments over the words "democracy" and "republic". These two words do not have the same context.

At its most fundamental meaning, a "republic" excludes any hereditary leader, such as a king, but does not address how leaders are chosen. Thus, a dictatorship may claim to be a republic [and most do, these days].

"Democracy" specifically addresses how leaders are chosen and how they exercise power: By consent of the governed through free and fair elections to determine some form of a majority (or, in some instances, a plurality).

As usual, the problem is with details. At the time our Constitution was written, George III was a hereditary ruler, but depended on leaders more or less freely elected by a small minority of the population. "Democracy" was a dirty word, much like "communism" during the 1950s in this country. It is true that the Constitution does not use the word "democracy" and the new United States was described as a "republic". The Constitution mandated democracy as a means of choosing leaders, even going to the extent of requiring a census to determine the number and distribution of people entitled to vote in the free and fair election.

So, in reality, the United States is a republic and a democracy. We do not have hereditary rulers and we do elect our leaders in what are intended to be free elections in which something resembling a majority is sought. The hair-splitting over "republic" and "democracy" is not productive of useful argument.

The matter of Electoral College is messy and deserves far more attention than posible in a post.

First, the phrase "Electoral College" was not used in the Constitution and did not come into use until almost the mid-19th century. The Constitution specifies "electors" and is quite vague about details of how they may be chosen, or what rules the electors must abide by.

Furthermore, the compromise made by having "electors" choose the President was not simply a matter of big-state versus little-state. It had also to do with the issues of slavery and rural vs. city, as well as fear of "mob rule". Wikipedia has a nice discussion of this history.

We have only followed the strict Constitutional formula in one electorially-problematic election out of three. By the year 2000, things were really very messy.

No other country has an Electoral College. Almost every other country, however, does choose some leaders indirectly through elected representatives [who are, therefore, "electors"].

Members of England's Parliament are directly elected by constituents, but the de facto leader of the country - the Prime Minister - is chosen by Parliamentary majority and falls if that majority is lost. The Crown "chooses" the Prime Minister, but this "choice" is actually an acceptance of the Member representing the majority. Holland and Sweden and Spain have a similar system, called a "Constitutional Monarchy".

Other European countries, Ireland, France, etc., are clearly Republics and have directly elected Presidents who may, or may not exercise much power, but all of whom have the responsibility of accepting a majority leader of the "Parliamentary" body.

All of these countries differ from the U.S. because they have "responsible" governments - that is, the government must rule by strict majority in the lower house. Once the Prime Minister or Premier loses the majority [which may be assembled from several parties], the government can no longer govern and must either go to the people, or assemble a new majority government.

The United States was the first modern country to become a democratic republic. There were no direct models for the Founders to follow [pre-modern republics and democracies were problematic examples]. The legacy of that is a unique system not directly copied by any other country.

Our Constitution was largely driven by fears of a leader taking over as King, fears of "mob rule", even greater fears of a standing army, problems with slavery, how to count population, and how to decide who might vote. Interestingly, the Founders were also very very disinclined toward "factions", their word for parties. Unfortunately, the details of our Constitution have the practical effect of forcing a two-party system. So much for the law of unintended consequences.

Citizenship and Participation

Montgomery

In my opinion I think everyone should have the opportunity to vote no matter what the situation is because everyone vote counts. I think the society should take voting very serious because I no everyone want the person who is running to do what they say they going to do. People should make it their effort to get to the polls and vote even if the peron they voted for win or lose it is the thought that they did cast their vote and I think thats what really count is going to the polls and casting their vote. :D

Participating in Democracy

St. Petersburg, FL

We have become a society where personal responsibility is not emphasized. Things are "someone else's" fault or responsibility. Unfortunately, participating in our democracy has become something we do in our "spare" time and reserved for those "liberals" and "conservatives" with agendas. The media does not help by focusing their reporting on "top tier" candidates and not providing all candidates equal time.

We, the people have to decide for ourselves that we DO have a voice and make it heard. It starts at the local county and municipal primaries and elections.

Todays discussion-Felon's voting

Oregon

On the felons voting matter: Of course felons still in prison have lost that right to vote while they are in there. The ones who have paid their debt to society should be given the chance to vote again but only on a structured level of crime. Murderers took the life of someone who will never be given the opportunity to vote again...these felons should lose their right to vote for the rest of their lives. Other felons are so mild-I could give you a great example-those should have their right to vote restored if they so chose.

I do not believe in mandating voting. You have rights in this country and if you chose not to vote, then it is your loss. As for making voting day a holiday--that will not help much, people will use this day off for fun--not voting.

I do believe that kids should be taught in high school of their upcoming option to vote and how to get informed on the issues.

Thank you for reading my opinion!! :)

Felon voting

The law says, after a person has done his/her time. They are free to carry on with their lives. I belive this should include voting and anything else. There could be C.E.O.s with felony records for all anyone knows. When you make a mistake, it shouldn't follow you around for the rest of your life. Unless you committed an unspeakable horrific crime. In which case you should never return to the general public untill your to old to harm anyone else.

Disenfranchised Voters

Florida

Great discussion tonight, but I would like to clear something up for someone. A disenfrachised voter is someone who has been deprived of their right to vote, such as a felon. Unfortunately, many others are wrongly deprived of their rights.

People For the American Way (PFAW) has a great report on disenfranchised voters on their websiteThe New Face of Jim Crow: Voter Suppression in America. You can read this report online or download it as a pdf.

This report will give you insight into this ongoing problem. I volunteered for Election Protection through PFAW during the last General Election and witnessed voters being denied their right to vote firsthand. That experience is what made me become a pollworker in Florida!

Thanks everyone who participated!

Felons voting?

Seattle

Public apathy is scarier to me than ex-felons, not to mention that a lot of recent lawMAKERS are also lawBREAKERS.

I'm more interested in measuring the eligibility of potential voters by their level of concern and willingness to take an active role in governance for the public good than whether they've done time or not. One factor to consider is the percentage of Americans who are--or have been--incarcerated, and the disproportionately severe sentencing of minorities.

All Voters

Florida

What most Americans are seeming to forget or ignore is that voting is a privilege, not necessarilly a right. If a citizen of this country is so inclined as to not actively exercise this right, forcing them to vote will not improve the quality of the election process. Imagine a presidential election decided by individuals who have neither the initiative nor the concern to immerse themselves into the electoral process.
An eligible voter who, for whatever excuse, cannot even take the time to register within the proper time frames of his or her's states requirements has forfeited the right to decided the course of this nation by their actions.
Any individual who has commited a felony is well aware of the loss of rights/freedoms that they once posessed. Why should they now be told that even though they have commited serious crimes against the citizenry of this nation, "We will not punish you as harshly as we once did"? Why should another deterrent for criminal acts be removed?
One final but very critical point is found in our own history. It was a minority of the colonists that decided to become independent from England. Had every colonist been required to vote, we could very well still be part of the English Commonwealth, or at the very least, taken a significantly longer time to acheive our freedom.
I much prefer those actively involved in our counrtry to those sitting on their posterior being involved in the election process.

Right of Felons to VOTE

Central Islip, NY

I'm a social worker and i advocated to have felons with a minimum offense to get out of prison or not to go back to prison at all. Well I found out how hard it is to get community involved with the right of these ex-felons to have the right to vote. number one is they don't want them housed in their back yard so why would I want them to vote because they don't know what is going on in society-they've been incarcerated.

We speak about the electoral college, the Constitution, and the rights of America citizens, but you know something-How many of us just sit and talk but don't follow through? How many on this panel discussion will do the same thing?

Do we realize how many of our representatives have some type of criminal past or damn near close to it? Here in Long Island, we are in the process of investigating misuse of funds. I don't see our communities in town meetings or legislature meeting addressing these issues? One reason is because the people are not informed and the government prefers it that way, the old saying the less they know the off our pockets.

Look Scooter Libby, he is a felon but guess what the money bought his rights back. You will see him at a voters poll or secret ballott, but we want let an ex-offender vote. The other area we need to look at is the percentage: African Americans and Spanish descent males & females are the highest numbers of incarceration victims. Now how many of this discussion of people and the communities are willing to give up that kind of control. Then when you investigate those numbers, guess what, the number of the same nationalities are veterans from the Korean War, Vietnam War, Desert Storm and now we see some of our veterans coming back from Operation Iraqi Freedom going into prison-losing every right they ever had, down to their service commendation and their thank yous for serving-while our fat government continues to deny any problems associated from being at war is a cause for these terrible reactions by veterans.

As an African American female veteran-Vietnam War ERA-I have a hard time convincing myself that my vote counts, the electoral college counts, and its a feeling of being oppressed by society and the government.
So when we talk about the Constitution & the Electoral College & Citizens Democratic Rights, I don't feel its equal and just but for some reason I keep going to VOTE. Then I PRAY

Session

KS

Jsut finished a very good session. This was an intersting process. I wonder what the folks who have been gathering all of this will do with the info.

Felon voting

KS

If they did their time (including parole) then yes they should vote.

After all, someone should have an idea who all the judges are on the ballot besides the lawyers! :eek:

Tonight's discussion

Idaho

For some reason I can't get into the discussion tonight, I live in the country and am always having electrical problems out here. So this is my top ten list, for voters.

1. Allow vote by mail to all registered voters. Fine them for not voting. But allow a space on the card that if they do not like an issue, or candidate and do not wish to vote for any or some of the issues or candidates, i.e, (protest vote).

2. Allow voter registration on voting day. Allow person to get time off work if they aren't registered to go to a polling place to register and vote.

3. Auto register if you get state ID, Driver's license, library card, register for school, or when you register your child in school, or if you register your car. Allow registration all year.

4. No paid advertising or sponsership. Use public access TV., every time there is an upcoming election to briefly explain issues or candidates. Do not allow anyone to slant or misrepresent any issue or spin any candidate.

5. Do not allow politicians to advertise w/paid advertised commercials. Give equal time if the form of public service announcements.

6. Teach kids in high school what voting is all about, their responsibility, and teach the constitution and how laws are made and passed. I learned this stuff in the 7th grade.

7. Publish, mail, or handout to every voter or motor vehicle address, a pamphlet that teaches the same information, that is taught to high school students in my number 6 (above).

8. Make every politician accountable in his job, voting record and responsibilities to all of us. Everyone accepts that all politicians are corrupt and are liars, pandering to special interest groups or foreign countries. Why is this acceptable? It should not be!!!!
If they are on the wrong path, reprimand them and get rid of them out of office. Immediately. Hold them accountable. Everyone forgets that they work for us. We are treated like taxable slaves and we have no say in what they do. Make them work for us. Treat them like employees, not masters or Gods.

9. Create an internet site like this one that you can go to, to keep track of voting records for the House, Senate. If your State reps and Senators, do not vote every day on every issue, the way they said they would represent you when elected, then why are they there. On this site, each state can then use the information and exercise the right to reprimand and recall their reps. And I don't mean that the government of the corrupt state either. I mean by the voters that elect these people. And if our President is not doing his/her job then we contact our reps in Washington and force them to have open hearings of impeachment and really impeach the President for not doing his/her job. No exceptions.

10. Finally, until we have every state on board with vote by mail,(make a 3 year time limit), then before we have the next Presidential election, make every state, county, and parrish, or whatever, fix all voting machines and problems. If any fraud in any of these entities occur, then they do not get to be counted in the voting until fixed. Have this mandatory, no exceptions. Each state or county, etc will be fined for this occurring.


Finally, we need to start enforcing the Constitution and its laws and principles. No foreigner, foreign government, or citizen of this country, serving another country's agenda, or if they are knighted by another country, i.e., (Rudy Guiliani), or in foreign special clubs, like(George Bush Sr.), that are part of another country can be in any office of our government. FYI, In order to be knighted or in these special clubs you must swear allegiance to the foreign government or entity. No one can serve two masters. No money or favors can be paid by a foreign person or entity to buy our politicians. As they currently are.

As we know, it is our right and privilege in this country to vote, be counted or not vote. We have all sacrificed loved ones and ourselves in order to be a part of this system. However, when the system is broke as it clearly is, then we do need to fix it and change it. We need to be bigger than ourselves and our current government. WE need to make the changes and DEMAND to be heard. WE need to speak out and not just talk to hear ourselves or puff up with pride and bigotry. We do not need foreign governments or ideas from other countries and how they do things to fix our own problems. We are the democracy and the reason we are in this position today is because we do not allow our fellow citizens to be a part of our government or even ourselves. Our government specializes in dividing us all and making us afraid to speak, or afraid of each other, and our government causes us to hate each other because we are all different. They do not want us to stop this awful rollercoaster that we are on. People in this country want a good life for themselves and each other, we don't want to attack other people in other countries. Voters vote when they feel comfortable in the knowledge that when they vote they are making a good choice and their choice will help themselves or someone else. But when you feel that your voice is not going to be heard because the system is so corrupt, you are not going to vote. When the choices are based on the best of the worst, any choice you make and any one you vote for is going to cause harm to us all. Who wants to be a part of the problem, who wants to be involved in their own destruction or deconstruction. I know I don't. I would also like to add that I am neither a republican or a democrat, I am not affiliated with any entity. I only vote on whom or what I think is the best possible choice. :D

Re prior message

Illinois

Robert, your message is filled with words like "make" and "require" and "prevent" and "stop". You don't appear to want to allow voting, you seem to want to control it. Ideally, the system should be changed in such a way that 1) Protects the integrity of the registration process, 2) Incentivizes people to vote and 3) Ensures fair and accurate tallying of the votes. In general, the fewer requirements for voting (or pretty much anything, for that matter), the better. Make it secure, make it easy and make it accurate.

Is the Vanishing Voter myth or reality?

San Francisco, CA

Reading the voter tea leaves is difficult, especially earlier than 1948. From the Census Bureau and various random sources, I found: 1840 = 80%; 1916 = 62%; 1948 = 54%; 1960 = 68%; 1964 = 69.3%; 1980 = 59.2%; 1992 = 61.3%; and, 2004 = 58.3%. Some values were taken from graphs, so are approximate, others from tabular data. No real trends are evident from these scattered data. I suspect the vanishing voter is a myth driven by grinding axes.
W

To ardavis, Illinois

If you took the time to read the message.
The words "allow" out number your negative words and negativity.

The negative parts are directed towards the entities that run the elections and not to the voters.

The problems we have are because the people running the elections are the problem.
The voters aren't the problem.

I don't see that you have any solutions at all.

Every statement in the blog was to empower the voter and thus giving them incentive to vote.

And we don't need to adopt another government's ideas or dictatorship policies, we only need to utilize our own government's constitution to govern ourselves. Utilizing the Constitution itself has already been paid for.

There are valid ways without incurring a lot of expense to fix the system. Not everyone has a nintendo game or computer to vote on. We don't need to spend alot of money on gadgets or crap in order to have an election that is not corrupt. Because as we all know, our gadgets cause a lot of problems and are always corrupted, and very imperfect.

And by the word "incentivize", not really a word at all, I assume you mean incentive, I hope that you don't mean that we have to give gifts or monetary gain to buy someone's vote.

Felons voting

Lansing, MI

If felons were allowed to vote they wouldn't bother! Just a gimmick in my opinion by the Dem party to try to flood the polss with possible like minded voters in areas with a high offender population. On the other hand if I have served my time then firght should be restored. Should be a simple part of probation or parole release check a box "voting right restored...beside who checks any way? If i am an ex felon move to a diffrent state register to vote legally how would they even know! Waste of breath on this issue. :)

Changing our government

Mesa, Arizona

Some say our votes count...HA ! In whose lifetime? With the electoral colleges, the decisions are made b/4 the "little" votes are in, which never make a dent. So we write to our congressmen, senators, representatives and what do we get? "Thank you for your concerns; have a nice day". And how can we honestly choose the best person for the job...the "hash slinging" is so severe, and the lies so prevalent, and the promises they have no earthly way of keeping...and shall we touch on the subject of how they all beg for money for their campaign? OMG. No wonder there is a lack of interest in showing up at the polls. It's a total disgrace. Then there is the lack of education in government affairs...ask most people ages 35 and under who their congressman is, local or state or government...ask them what his duties are...ask them anything...they know computers, calculus, and a few odds and ends about pleading the "5th". We are not educating our citizens to be responsible or knowledgeable.

How hard is it to change the way we vote...?

San Francisco, CA

The Constitution specifically allocates the responsibility for methods of voting to the States. Although the Federal Government carries out the mandated census, redistricting is given to the States. Chosing Presidential Electors is reserved to the States. Management of primaries is left to the States. The methods of collecting, safeguarding, and tabulating votes is reserved to the States.

What this means is that many of the voting and election changes proposed and presented might be implemented individually by States, but nation-wide implementation would require amendment(s) to the Constitution.

As we have seen with ERA, amending the Constitution is difficult, slow, and uncertain of success.
W

The Constitution

Mesa, Arizona

Didn't Bush just change something in the constitution? Hasn't he made his own rules for this crazy war? Hasn't Greenspan just explained that the war for oil, after all was said and done...just like Viet Nam? Big money and lobbying changes the constitution...who can give a better a backscratch to whom.

Citizenship and Participation

Acra, NY

I don't think that it should be an obligation to vote because people that are not interested would just vote for anybody without any real thought. To get more people to vote I think that in their senior year in high school it should be a subject and at that time if students are 18 years of age then at that time they can register. Also, on that subject they should have a discussion of who is running and what they think about the candidates. I also think that felons should be allowed to vote if many years have passed and they have shown that they are conducting themselves lawfully and their record has been clean.

Kathy W from Oklahoma City's posting of 10/3/07:

Nebraska, the Huskers! GO BIG RED!

Kathy, I want and NEED to tell YOU that your posting about the ILLEGAL handling of voter registration in your fine state, as well as the fact that YOU were TOLD that what concerned YOU was NONE OF YOUR BUSINESS and to just REGISTER the Green Card holders anyway has ME so WORRIED that I can't even TELL you good folks!

Tonight, as I participated in this excellent forum, I was thankful for this event on the worldwide internet, and blessed to have been with a wonderful and well-informed group of people, sharing our thoughts, opinions and ideas for the changes that are obviously needed in our country. I am truly and emphatically looking forward to next week, but will come and go out of this area, seeking out thoughts of you good people within...Thank you all for your time and may you all be blessed in your daily lives...Kyrie Eleison! ;)

Writing to the U. S. Senators...

Nebraska...the Huskers...GO BIG RED!

Upon reflecting over Kathy W. from Oklahoma City's writing in here about her problems she has encountered with registering voters down there, I wrote this to HER U.S. Senators, James M. Inhofe and Dr. Tom Coburn, as well as to MY representatives in Washington, D.C.:

October 5, 2007

Dear Sen. Chuck Hagel (R NE),
Sen. E. Benjamin Nelson (D NE),
Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (R NE-1),

Dear Senators and Representatives,

Chuck Hagel and Ben Nelson, you've both already received an email concerning this issue, and so have the two senators from Oklahoma, James M. Inhofe and Dr. Tom Coburn, but, I need to get this out to the widest circle of MY representatives, AND to other representatives as well, in Washington, and A.S.A.P., as this is of vital importance to ME, as a bonefide voter of this land of we free people and home of us brave folks out here. Please do NOT keep this to yourselves and also, do not make me go thru and email every single member of both the Senate and Congress, either. I am terminally ill, and really can't do this, BUT, I can and most assuredly will, if made to do so, have others do this for me.

As I've previously stated to all four of you United States Senators, I am currently involved in an online discussion project, hosted by Harris Polls, Stanford University, and Jim Lehrer. And within this project, I have been informed by a woman named Kathy W. of Oklahoma City, who works to register voters in her fine state of Oklahoma, and she has stated, publicly, within this website that we currently have as our forum for these discussions on democracy and citizenship, that she is now registering Green Card holders and has been told, when she questioned this fact, that it was NONE OF HER BUSINESS and then actually ORDERED to register these folks.

Now, I, as a voting member of this country, the United States of these Americas, sure AM taking issue with this, and I do so expect responses concerning this from every one of you representatives of mine, as well as you two from Oklahoma.


I do NOT feel that a Green Card holder is a full-fledged, bonefide member of MY country with MY Constitutionally-guaranteed rights and MY privilege to vote - period! And YOU folks in Washington owe YOUR wonderful time there to ME, because I did, indeed, get YOU there by MY vote - right?

I will be expecting your responses to this, and thank you all for your time involved in reading this, getting this checked OUT, and thereby, informing ME, as others, besides myself, are awaiting your responses.

Cordially, I am

L. B.

Already a response from Jeff Fortenberry in the House...WHOA!

Nebraska...the Huskers...GO BIG RED!

MY House Rep is a good man, and always, just ALWAYS, lets me know where HE'S coming from, as with this response: ;)

Dear L:

Thank you for taking the time to contact my office.

I am honored to serve as your United States Congressman. Please know
that
I value your opinion and look forward to reviewing your concern.
Should
your inquiry request a response, and you included your name and
address, I
will reply via the United States Postal Service.

Thank you again for your comments. Your thoughts and ideas are
extremely
important to me as I work to represent you in the United States House
of
Representatives.

Sincerely

Jeff Fortenberry
Member of Congress

Writing to Senators and Reps

Tennessee

Gee L. your elected officials and mine must have the same mind set - your message from your Rep. is almost word for word in response that we receive from our TN elected officials.

The letters I enjoy most are the ones I receive thanking me for taking the time to write - then they proceed to talk to an issue that has absolutely nothing to do with the subject of my letter I had sent. OR...

When there is NO response and I write a letter to the local papers about the lack of response from DC and - whoa - withing 10 DAYS the letters arrive! Alas, they are 'back dated' - hmmm - not giving up I called their DC office and ask about the date of the letter. Interestingly I am told, "they had problems with mail delivery and were just sending duplicates out to assure all constituents received a response to their issue." (Sure made me have a much 'warmer and fuzzy' feeling that I was not truly being ignored! :)

I will continue to write, email, send letters to local papers, speak out whenever I can, AND VOTE - it's my civic duty and also a duty and commitment I have quietly made to my grandchildren.

In response to Mary from Tennessee's response to ME...

Nebraska...the Huskers...GO BIG RED!

Mary, I sure hear you out there...and that, too, torks this voter off as well, SO, whaddaya do? You pick up your phone, track down the Rep. that sent you the form letter, and ask him about it...IF that form letter truly bothers you...period.

Because I know Jeff Fortenberry, and am keenly aware of just what he's doing in our nation's capital, I give him one to two weeks, to respond to this specific inquiry, by U.S. Postal Mail...after that, he's mine...I'll take the time that's necessary to HOUND that man, until I get a satisfactory answer to my inquiry...

I firmly believe, that I PUT him in that office by my very VOTE, to do a job that I want him to do, represent ME, and he most assuredly IS accountable to ME...and for YOURS in your fine state of Tennessee, to YOU, too...period...

As of MY understanding, this country was founded BY we people and FOR we people, and in MY sucky little mindset, this still holds true...until somebody actually changes this, and like YOU, Mary, for the sake of handing this country over to my children and grandchildren, I will continue doing this...and so should each and every one of YOU VOTERS out there...this is my story and I'm sticking to it, every word...and I thank you for your time. :D

A needed response

Tennessee

L., I have done everything in your post and more...but...no way was I going to let even ONE day go by without a post on this Text Discussion are of 'By the People'! I believe in what is being done here - getting people talking from all areas and walks of life - this is on of the better things I have been involved with - and there have been many throughout the years. Thanks for the suggestions and I hope those that have read your great post have taken your advise to NEVER give in or to give up. It's the American way and YES it IS being patriotic. :O

Voter participation

Cookeville, TN

After listening to opinions during the last discussion and reading the posted messages, I believe there are multiple reasons why people do not vote. I noticed one message which listed statistics that went back to 1840. Those numbers could not be entirely credible because in 1840 the only acceptable voters were free white men. My point is we have had many changes through out the years. One very important change is the reduction of civics classes in our schools. Somehow civics got down graded like " The Pledge of Allegiance". We are short changing our children if we allow the current situation to continue.

Our country's reputation is based on freedom of choice. How can anyone consider forcing everyone to vote? I believe it would help if all citizens felt an obligation to this country. This concept needs to be taught early in life. A national service program requirement might help. It could be military, health care,disaster assistance or numerous other ways to serve.

When people feel obligated or responsible for their country, they are more likely to participate in the political process.

response from congressman

Iowa

I have a friend, who when she writes to her Senator, specifically requests a personal response, not a form letter. She gets them.
Of course, always attend open door meetings with your congressmen and senators to get responses to your concerns. When one of our congressmen hadn't been in our town for 8 months to talk to constituents, we announced an open door meeting to gather people's concerns so they could be sent to him. We invited the press to come and made it clear the congressman would not be present. His staff showed up and he scheduled a meeting within the month.

Voting Regulations

Shorewood Wisconsin

Just finished reading the comments in preparation for this upcoming weeks session.

First voting by Felons. Felons who have served their time and have had their rights restored should have the right to vote. I agree that many would not, I agree that most felons are poor and would vote against the interests of the wealthy, and I agree that more than statistically expected are minorities. None of that offends me, they have returned to our society and should have the right to vote.

Gerrymandering. I am a victim of this evil process. Wisconsin has been sliced up into districts that protect the incumbent no matter what the party. In the 2006 national election two of our eight districts were available for change, the other 6 districts had entrenched incumbents who had no chance of being removed.

I, (sigh), was moved to F. James Sensenbrenner, Jr.'s district and, even though I went to his very rare public hearings in Shorewood, it was clear that communication between him and the voters in this new area (for him) was not easy. The vote in this area was against him but was swamped by the strongly Republican area to the north.

We need a Proportional Representation system in order to give me back a representative. :lol:

Re-districting

California

Here in California there is talk of using computorized redistricting...I think that is a great idea. And update every 3-5 years. Boths sides of the fence are guilty of abusing the redistricting issue.
Just a thought for this weeks discussion...wouldn't it be grown up if we stuck to the topic of discussion and not rant on with hate and inuendo...just a thought to ponder. God Bless our Troops!

Exercising Choice

Kirkland, WA

Some preliminary comments on Exercising Choice:

- the problem of representation goes deep into what "democracy" really is. The system set up by our founders was the result of profound arguments about the ability of the general populace to actually govern itself. Hence, a history of limited franchise and, as I understand it, the two-party system. I am intrigued by proportional representation. We have grown, the ability for us as a nation of diverse peoples to communicate has grown to the extent that I would like to see a more vigorous exchange of ideas. Certainly, it could seem chaotic. But I would rather have a voice, a chance at shouting out, than believe I can only go with the flow. True democracy is messy but maybe the challenge will attract, rather than repel, participation.

- the two-party system we have has been co-opted by lobbyists (I am not entirely opposed to them, however) and by strong-arm tactics within the parties that stifle individual expression. What passes for the Republican Party today is the pre-eminent case in point. I think that proprtional representation, with the argument and debate and coalition-building it will require, sounds like a breath of fresh air compared to the vapid sound-bite world we live in now!

- Re Incumbency, term limits, redistricting, and political funding: the system we have is calculated to preserve power. Incumbents should have no advantage in the mechanics of getting re-elected (free mail, easier access to media). Redistricting in the hands of partisan legislatures is a contradiction to democracy. Likewise, Secretaries of State who simultaneously hold office in re-election committees. Funding should be public, and campaign time restricted, as a means of leveling the playing field. This, in part, an answer to severely lowering ballot access; I am not sure a free-for-all is in our best interest. Term limits I view skeptically; it does limit free choice and it downplays experience and capability. Given that other measures can be emplaced that increase democratic choice, I don't see the need for term limits. In fact, it smacks of panacea.

We do need to talk about these things and seek change. It is time for our democracy to grow up. With all the structural limitations, we have been approaching a de-facto aristocracy. How's that been working out lately?

WOW! I'm in the company of DEEP-THINKERS here...

Nebraska...the Huskers...GO MISSOURI!

I've bee-bopped in here a few times over the weekend and was somewhat feeling like I had done WRONG by everyone with my previous messages, only to find this morning that this is NOT so...good deal...

You folks are sure priceless to our nation, and I hope you all realize this fact...

Mary in Tennessee, YOU GO GIRL! We two grannys must surely be twins...uh-huh...

Sylvia in Tennessee, too, danged straight on that National Service Program, so lets now MAKE that happen...yeah?

JoAnn in Iowa, keep UP that excellent work over there!

Len in Milwaukee (MY birthtown!), I totally am in agreement, based on what I know, about that proportional representation...so what to do now, hey?

Pat in California, good deal - computerized redistricting - that sure merits some deep and serious thinking thru...yes?

Tom in Washington (the STATE, yes Tom?), I feel the need to give out a quote here: "Government exists to protect us from each other. Where government has gone beyond its limits is in deciding to protect us from ourselves." Ronald Reagan...

And there's yet another one for the gipper!

Kyrie Eleison and good day, all! ;)

Choice

Dayton, Ohio

I don't see it as either or but more multi-dimensional akind to describing life which we should be reflecting in my view. I think the Europeans have a better idea of this when you see their political bodies having more different competing parts or parties in their government and of courese they have more experience and a mature culture than ours. :) :)

Voters want change

Muskegon Michigan

I have read the document on Exercising Choice . There are several problems I see . One is whoever wrote it forgot the one thing that puts these individuals in a position to be on the ballot . Money ! With out money and the backing of major cooperation's backing those running they will not have a chance . I watched the news over the weekend on all the networks . Every network has its own view . The media is promoting it . Look into the backgrounds of these politicians , What's behind them in the news coverage . I saw people holding signs saying Blank cooperation for Hillary . Hmmmmm . Interesting .
The other thing I had done was talk to several of my friends and family to get there views . The one I heard the most was , From 1993-2001, Bill Clinton served as president . He was not very popular at times , made many mistakes/decisions that we the civilians of the U.S. did not agree with . Clinton had many failures and the nation has forgotten them because time heals wounds I guess . Now his wife wants to take a shot at us .
Voters want a change . The citizens of the United States want a change . Guess what ? They / we are not going to get that . No matter how many forums we have , polls , blogs etc . This nation will continue to be ran by the wealthy and they will make the decisions on what they feel is best . In my research I discovered that the average wage in the U.S. is 39,190 dollars a year . No wonder the family needs both parents working .

No matter what changes , beliefs , lifestyle etc we think needs to happen . Until the politicians realize, what the average American is about, what they need to make there American Dream come to realization . Voter turnout will remain low . The politicians need to listen to us instead of trying to make the other that is running look like he or she can not do the job .

Gerrymandering and chang

North of Boston

I would like to comment on redistricting and point out that the in june of 06 the supreme court allowed states to redistrict at will and affirmed that redistricting or gerrymandering is itself a political exercise and entirely within the constitution. This should impress on citizens the importance of statewide elections.
Texas also makes a great example for why although some of the ideas supported here are idilic they are just unnecessary. Texas as well as most of the south was solidly democratic for generations. Events change minds and minds change ways. The west has been solidly republican. I think primarily because of republican support for the right to bear arms. Now because of poor stewardship of the environment by republicans some see cracks in that support. There's nothing to hunt in a strip mine.
For over two hundred years we have peacefully transfered power from one executive to the next. We've survived civil war, world war, assassinated executives, amendments to our constitution and repeal of those amendments. Whole political parties have come and gone and we managed to do all that with just the citizens who cared enough to participate in their own government. Now even though voter participation in the presidential election is up. that's up around twenty million (20,000,000) to around 124,000,000. We are bending over backwards to accommodate citizens who are currently too disinterested to participate.
I would suggest continued or increased study of civics in the public schools emphasizing the importance of citizen participation in a our republic.

redistricting

Iowa

Here in Iowa we have a non-partisan committee that does the redistricting and it works great!! We don't have those totally weird shaped districts. Everyone should be so lucky.

Exercising choice and seeking change

Pacific NW

Voting for change is going to be very difficult during this presidential election cycle. The media and the leaders of the top two parties have already selected our candidates.
The media concentrates and interviews only the top 3 or 4 (according to their polls) candidates and the voters have little chance, unless they are willing to do a lot of research, to hear the platforms of the lesser know candidates.
AND, campaign financing has a lot to do with who is higher in the polls. Money buys ads and attention. Some multi-millionaire candidates like Mitt Romney contribute to their own campaigns.
That is why I am in favor of total public financing of elections similar to the Clean Campaign finance systems in Arizona and Maine. Corporations and other wealthy special interest groups have little chance to influence elections by "buying" candidates.
I also support the idea of term limits for members of Congress. The Office of the President is limited to 8 years; why not the Senators and Representatives? Most of the recently elected freshman members have had experience at the local level and are more in touch with their constituents.
Term limits and public campaign financing would go a long way to prevent undue influence by lobbyists and would lessen the revolving door syndrome whereby retiring legislators get high paying and influential positions with large corporations. It's really infuriating the way legislators are so in hock to corporate America. :x

Overwhelmed...

Iowa

Wow there is SO MUCH information here! Some great posts...I couldn't begin to get through them all.

Last week I was very frustrated that there were SO MANY TOPICS and so many people that there was time for each person to speak once.

Hopefully this week will be better. I recently listened to Gore Vidal talk about the founding fathers, who didn't want the unwashed masses going to the polls to elect the officials and came up with the electoral college; it was and remains a system structured for the elite. It has certainly become more that way in the last 30 years. When we tolerate the elimination of habeus corpus, something is insanely wrong.

I have always felt that a competition when there are only two involved; a meeting where important decisions are to be made where only two are involved; any time we need something done and two are involved; EXPECT it to be less than ideal in its outcome.

We have, as a citizenry, sat idly by and let this happen. It may now be too late to fix what has grown. Grass roots efforts MUST get stronger, and we must continue to find a united front from which to express our needs; and STOP relying on the mainstream media for news skews. :eek:

Exercising Choice

Hot Springs SD

Wel-ll, as I said in the week one text comments, we need NONE OF THE ABOVE and paper trail Nevada-style voting machines first, so people trust the system when they are at the polls.

A "proportional vote" without NONE OF THE ABOVE is garbage and systematically disenfranchises the properly cynical voter. "None of the above" is an absolute vote for every round of the proportional voting. Talk to an expert, such as a mathematician specializing in "n-dimentional problems" to see what is wrong with going to proportional voting without the null choice.

The text for this week says, "both Democratic and republican candidates rush to the middle in order to appeal to the greatest number of voters, thus leaving no real choices for people whose beliefs are further to th eleft or to the right on the political spectrum." I find this dangerously simplistic. Both candidates rush to the center but retain code words and symbolic postures that are invisible except to political junkees. Then when they try to implement their covert program, it blows up (like health care after Bill Clinton's election in 1992). The Bush presidency, similarly, was failing until it was saved by 9/11. The pretense of a contest between two "moderates" thus annoys the electorate in the first year of power and justifies the cynicism of those not participating. The only winners are the political junkees, who have a lot to chew on at all times as they watch their favorite pastime.

Personally, I'd like to see ballot access more or less universal throughout the US, but the Constitution says states determine their ballots and access and method of proportioning them, including electoral votes.

I think we would be better off if we went back to the old way of electing Senators (as selections by the various state legislatures) and congressmen (directly). The direct election of Senators means that it's a millionaires club with some members being lobbyists or their puppets. And the house! With redistricting every ten years, the state legislatures SELECT congress. Read that again, I'm right. The power to draw those district lines is the power to elect. Look what happened to Congressman Solarz (D-NY) after he voted for Gulf War I. He got gerrymandered out of a district for the next election. Frequent redrawing of district lines gives too much power to the two parties and to ideological conformity. Anyone looked into the most recent Texas redistricting? Same thing.

The presidential primary system is busted and you can bet that the candidates with the biggest warchests the night before the New Hampshire primary are going to be the nominees (which will be clear after
Super-dooper Tuesday. I don't have a fix -- I recommend Larry Sabato be consulted on this, he realizes the horror that has been created.

Our salvation here might be the internet. It allows a big megaphone for a national or international group to become powerful and well-understood by each other, and may ultimately prove the creation of a third party or a movement to stop gridlock (such as the gridlock we have now over an ongoing war with no end-game).

I like the text suggestion of redistricting "done in a non-partisan way," but I can't imagine how to successfully implement it. We might be better off FORBIDDING redistricting unless the number of US house representatives changes to at least minimize the frequency of gerrymandering (!).

Re: Exercising Choice

North of Boston

Urban coyote that was a good post.
I agree about the election of senators but I like the fact that redistricting itself is a political process. Look at Texas. Ignore the fact that the funds to do it may have been illegal. The republicans campaigned at the most grass root level to change the balance in the Texas legislature therefore giving them the power to redistrict congressional districts to their advantage. Now Texas is a very big state. If a party could do it there (again excluding the maybe illegal money) any state could bring about such change within the existing rules. I must be one of those political junkies!

Redistricting

Muskegon Michigan

In order to make American's votes truly count in legislative and congressional elections, to create more accountability among elected officials and to put citizens, not elected officials, in charge of who gets
elected, we must remove redistricting decisions from the purview of partisan legislators and establish fair criteria that guide the development of state and congressional districting plans. By taking these steps to achieve a process based on fairness, not on the struggle for partisan advantage, Americans will see the benefit of better representation at the state and federal level.

What Democracy?

Last week's dry discussion started with a false premise -- that we have a democracy in which to participate. We don't. And, probably we don't deserve one. As a society, we have quietly and calmly acquiesced to:

o Preemptive war
o "shock and awe" tactics against civilian centers.
o The unchallenged coup d'etat in which the Legislature, with its own blessing, has been rendered irrelevant.
o The outing of a CIA agent for political purposes and the band-aid of offering up one underling for a wrist slap.
o Government propaganda against the electorate including planted news items that have been blended in with what littlel is left of actual news in the mainstream media.
o Torture as an official weapon (even though we didn't seem to need to condone it during two world wars and a cold war with an enemy that had a nuclear arsenal pointed in our direction.)
o Rendition (outsourced torture)
o The replacement of a citizen's army by a professional army abetted by mercenaries.
o Bare-faced lies including by the Vice President and the Attorney General.
o the classification of politically inconvenient documents.
o the censoring of scientific reports.
o the appointment of ex-industry lobbiests to head the agencies that purport to regulate the industries.
o election shenanigans on an unprecedented scale.

When the populace does awake to make its feelings known, the response is . . . peculiar. The 2006 mandate to get out of Iraq was met by . . . a surge and the totally predictable twisting of the facts when the surge's efficacy was reported to a Congress of posturing congresspeople who spent so much time preening for the cameras that they barely managed to get out a question or two.

The lobbiests and Eisenhower's military-industrial complex are wholly in control. Democracy in the U.S. has become a coat of paint applied directly over a rotting structure that needs extensive repairs. I don't know how to get from here back to a principled America. I fear that we won't.

Job requirements for presidential office

Florida

Soon we will be selecting candidates for the president of the United States. Before most other jobs are filled, employers list qualifications that candidates must demonstrate before applying for work. If you were going to write a job description for the job of president, what skills or experiences would you require? I have my own list and this is the criteria I use in evaluating candidates during the debates.

Instant runoff voting

Arizona

I would like to see a more thorough discussion of the "instant runoff" voting system used in some other countries. I know that more people would be willing to vote for third-party candidates if they knew their vote would go to their second choice if their first choice didn't get a majority.

Anybody agree/disagree?

re: Instant runoff voting

Texas

I like that suggestion, not sure how it could be implemented though. I know I would sure use that option if it were on the ballot.
I just read this whole message board. I am very impressed with everyone. I didn't get to participate during the call due to problems that were corrected towards the end of the call.
I do agree that the E.C. has out lived it's time and should be eliminated. It would take a constitutional amendment, but I think it would pass ....if you could get folks to the polls.
;)

IRV

Pacific NW

We have just instituted instant run-off voting for electing our county officials.
The League of Women Voters supports it.
There are several websites that explain how it works if you wish to do a little research.
:)

re: what democracy posting

Woodsfield OH

The post "What democracy?" from 10/8 raises issues that seem to me very valid. We could also include laws and signing statements that have rendered several portions of the Bill of Rights non-operative. This summer we saw the Vice President argue that he was not part of the Executive Branch, and thus not subject to regulations/restrictions applying to the Executive Branch.

In this country, there has always been tension between the government and the governed. The framers of the Constitution themselves were concerned lest they create a government that could become a tyranny. And the framers had varying degrees of trust/mistrust in the aggregate wisdom of the common people.

If you are old enough, you might remember when the Coke company announced they were scrapping the Coke formula, and would be producing only "new" Coke? Whenever I hear or read that the American people are incapable of acting together, I think about public response to that Coke announcement.

Fractured, divided/Red vs Blue as we are as a people, I think we can act together to accomplish something. I only wish it were more significant than the taste of Coke. And that I didn't agree with the writer of the "what democracy" posting that we get the government we deserve.

Election

Bloomington, Illinois

2000 election Al Gore won the highest number of
votes, Bush became president. Why should people
trust that their individual vote should matter?

We do not have a democracy anymore. We have
a president who doesn't care about the law, he
wants expanded powers to do as he pleases.
Is this a democracy?

Proportional Representation

Maryland suburb of DC

The consideration and subsequent blending of idfferent voices is called the primary process.

Term Limits

MD suburb of DC

Term limits shift power to the executive branch which hires and fires civil servants.

Instead of term limits which restrict choice and availability of the experience of the best:

a. mandated amount of time must be spent in Washington, DC

b. mandated amount of votes a rep/sen must be present for

c. mandate amt of time that legislators have to read/absorb the details of any bill they are required to vote for. This would include automatic extension if/when any amendments/changes are added to a bill.

d. mandate that if an electioneering statement is made, that supporting material must be available & mandate the form that the supporting material must be in (such as printed press release available online.)

RE Gerrymandering

MD suburb of DC

Mandate that a state's election results to be added to the whole, its Congressional and Senatorial boundaries be created by an independent body made up of judges who are not elected from either party. Return to re-distribution/re-drawing boundaries according to population only every 10 years following the census (and to include ONLY registered voters).

National Primary

Md suburb of DC

a. free air time to be allotted for each type of race (air space is a licensed right that can be so allocated for the national good)

b. different months for primaries on the national (allow two months), state, and local candidates/issues--in that order (well, maybe it ought to be in reverse order--to maintain interest).

Proportional voting

Los Angeles

A principal benefit of democracy and multiple jurisdictions is that we do not have to experiment5 on a national basis, and we can learn both from our own mistakes and from others' mistakes. Proportional voting is used in Israel, and it is a disaster.
Coalition governments and instability with an almost total lack of accountability are the rule there. Parties splinter, and new ones form frequently. The system is a failure, and in recent yeats they have been experimenting with ways to make their system more like ours.
Astonishingly, it turns out that all the arguments agqainst proportional voting are true, and then some!
We should not copy failure.

National primary day

North of Boston

A national primary day is a bad idea. It would limit the field to only those who have sufficient money to advertise country wide. A candidate could not show strong in early states allowing him/her to continue fundraising for the remaining primaries. If you want to guaranty another candidate beholden to monied interest hold a national primary.

Voting Problems

California

In the previous 2 discussions I notice many complaining about not being allowed to vote....first this is very hard to believe, but why don't you people complain to YOUR elected officials, your local officials that handle YOUR voting concerns that is what they are paid to do.....it is not the fault of the president or anyone else. Your local officials are responsible to you. When you are in a Dem controlled area then you need to complain to them not Bush, not Repubs...
Was watching a study done on inner city problems...most if not all are ran by guess what party...check it out. Los Angeles ran by Dems, New Orleans ran by Dems. I get very tired of hearing all this hate spewed at Repubs when in reality if thier elected officials would do the jobs they were elected to do you would'nt hear 1/4 of the complaints. Seriously check it out and if your polling place is closing to early let you officals know and stop complaining until you do.
I have worked polling placing in my area many times when called on...learn how the system works instead of blindly complaining. Your precinct officials handle your areas needs....not Washington D.C.
As for perfecting the voting system in my opinion all we need to do is take the big money out (no government funded ) and stop the voter fraud. Voter fraud is key and it is everywhere. Our system is the best in the world that is why others imulate ours...we just need to keep it honest and stop the 527's. God Bless our Troops!

Term limits and national primary

Pacific NW

There were many positive comments in my discussion group about having term limits and a national primary. But HOW would these positive changes be effected? You'd have to convince the entrenched lawmakers to do something that is in their constituents best interests and instead of their own.
I don't see how it will ever happen. :(

term limits and national primary

Montgomery, AL

I agree with the previous post that term limits, although they have merit, would be nearly impossible to get done - congress would likely vote against it. The National Primary has some promise - hopefully it would cost less and most candidates say that the worse part of politics is raising money. . . it might put everyone on a more even plane.

Voting Districts

Floridaf5bd2

I would like to see voting districts set by retired judges from the state level. Over time you would get a mix of political types in this body. They would understand the basics of government, and we would get less districts that look like a squashed bug. ;)

Rotating primaries

Georgia

We discussed this evening the idea of rotating primaries. Here is an article from USA Today that discusses the specifics of the proposal by Lieberman, Alexander, and Klobuchar:
http://www.usatoday.com/news/politics/2007-09-19-primaryproposal_N.htm

As you can see, the proposal would be to change the primary system in 2012 to have rotating primaries in sections of the country (the area to be first would vary from election to election) with primary voting on the first Tuesday in March, April, May, and June.

An interesting proposal, but it might not be constitutional at this point.

Incumbent advantage and financial advantage

Ohio

I'm concerned that there may be citizens willing to serve in office that can't get the support of a major party and can't afford to campaign without the support of a party. I've heard concerns about representatives feeling an obligation to special interest groups. It also seems clear that part of the incumbent advantage has to do with the ability to raise campaign funds. All of these are related in some way to money.
It is a radical and maybe even naive proposal, but is there a possibility of a non-partisan body moderating campaigns? I'm not sure what it would look like, and I recognize that it is susceptible to abuses as well, but is there a possibility that a non-partisan moderating body could level the playing field? Could it press candidates to give more complete answers to tough questions rather than waffling and skirting for a two minutes and then moving on? Could it make there responses to questions as important as special interests that they represent?

National Primaries

Florida

I don't see a point to stopping anyone from saying they will run for national office ahead of time. Let them spend their money. Set the qualifications reasonably for the primaries, say 100,000 verifiable party member or voter petitions. If you want to keep the national parties in the game, then you have national party primaries two months later. You vote for the candidates in your party only. Having picked national candidates, you have a full, open primary, each party boosts their candidate for two more months and everyone votes. Finally, you take the top two candidates from that, and you can choose, the top vote getter wins, even if it is only by one vote. This will not weight things towards California or New York - large parts of both states disagree politically with the megalopolises. People in Austin would count for the first time in their lives. Ideally, you could make these votes the method of choosing senators and representatives, too. States could be free to choose their own ways to choose their own government - paper-scissors-rock, shotgun duels, or even Pokemon. :lol:

Representative Voting and Voting Rights

Florida

You should not have to live in a state to have your vote count. Right now, people in Washington DC, Puerto Rico, Guam, American Samoa & the US Virgin Islands are American, can be drafted and asked to die for the country, pay taxes, but still have no say in federal government. This lack of a voice is a shameful relic. If you are an American, you should at least have a say in the Presidency. Perhaps you could be assigned a state's elections to vote in for the purpose of gaining representation in Congress. Hawaii could get the population and extra voice for many Pacific islands. Florida could speak for the Caribbean till Puerto Rico chooses to take control of its own fate. :)

Blind Trust Campain Finance Reform

Gig Harbor, WA

Am trying to get my mic fixed for tonight's session as it didn't work last week. In case it doesn't "fix", here are my thoughts after reading up on this week's topic.

My question, central to all discussion about voter apathy, citizen participation, districting and representation has been, "How to truly restore individual voter influence in the outcome?" The core issue always in the way is, "How to get Big Money out of our elective process?

My first choice has always been to federally fund candidates (like Switzerland does) who achieve sufficient numbers of voter signatures on petitions to qualify for funding. This also greatly reduces party influence and restores diversity in representation up and down the spectrum.

However, lobbyists have long stymied that option with the First Amendment argument that contributions are an expression of Free Speech.

Okay. Failing that, mandate all political contributions to candidates be deposited into a Blind Trust. The candidate of the contributor's choice receives the money, thus the First Amendment is satisfied. However, because the Trust receiving it is "blind", he/she will never know who it came from, so it can't influence their position on issues.

Then why give the money? Because the contributor likes the candidate's views and opinions and wants to support their goals. If we passed that for Federal elections, all those lobbyists on 'K' Street would just have to pack up and go home. The Military/Industrial Complex would once more have to justify their costs and Congresspersons and Senators would feel free to ask questions and demand answers. We could get back to an atmosphere where elected representatives could speak and vote their consciences. True, there are other ways to get contribution information to a candidate, but officially, they would not know where the funds came from.

This one change could restore civility and co-operation, would allow representatives to truly represent their constituencies and choke out graft, corruption and influence peddling. It might even force the media to begin actually reporting the news again, because "lockstep" politics and corporate influence could never again be enforced.

Just take a moment to imagine how this one change, would influence the end game... Awesome, isn't it? It's not perfect, but it would be a great start. :D

Proportional representation!

Western NC

Yay! PR is finally on this agenda! First, no PR advocate that I know is talking about the Israeli system! What we ARE talking about is a simple, structural way of avoiding "tyranny of the majority"--that is, when 51% (or less, in a plurality situation) of the residents of a given district get ALL the seats and no one else is represented. That is NOT "democracy." Even when "majority" rulers sincerely intend to represent "everyone," they simply don't have the information, experience or insight to do so effectively. PR systems insure that the voices of SUBSTANTIAL minorities are included in the decisionmaking process--and allows for identity groupings to be fluid as populations and issues change over time--it does NOT result in a bazillion parties--this is all rhetoric from the two parties that don't want any competition--when they get it all, they want to keep it all and wield it exclusively in favor of their friends!

On national primaries...

Western NC

Managing elections is an explicit power delegated to the states by the Constitution (I would say this was a big mistake on the parts of the Founders, but I do understand their thinking behind it). What that means is there would have to be a Constitutional amendment that changed this in order to impose a national primary process. Federal legislation like the Voting Rights Act was possible because states were denying citizens the right to vote, which is also mandated by the Constitution--in effect, violating another provision, which states aren't allowed to do. A national primary, however, is a different kind of creature and I would say not within Congressional authority to do.

Where do we begin?

Cedar Rapids Iowa

There are so many things that have fallen apart in the last 30 years...I have heard others talk about campaign finance reform in both sessions thus far, and I have spoken of it as well. http://www.publicampaign.org/ will get you there; let's make our congress do at least this to help us find a responsible electorate. Then the discussions such as we have here may again become meaningful. Meanwhile, I intend to keep campaigning for my favorite candidate, listening intently TO the other candidates (and not the media's interpretation of it!), and donating money to the Public Campaign fund, to help get the word out!!!!

Access for Third Party Candidates

Ramona, CA

Access for third party candidates would allow voters a candidate that represents more moral issues. If a person is against war and represents more programs such as transcendental meditation that would allow the country to progress without using past remedies which do not work, then that person should be a viable candidate for the country.

FRAMING THE QUESTION

San Francisco, CA

One of the more pernicious tactics in debate and politics is to "frame" an issue. "Framing" an issue means putting the question in terms favorable to positions the "framer" wants to push.

In party politics, framing is intentional. In a forum, such as this one, it can also result from a well-meant wish to channel discussion onto an orderly path. I believe this has happened here, with the result that many participants are proposing broad fixes to a system not really broken.

In the first session, the issues were "framed" by asking what we should do about a non-existant long-term downward trend in voter turnout. Quickly picking election data off the Internet showed no clear downward trend between 1840 and 2006, but the questions were framed as if we were in the midst of a voter crisis. So, the discussion was framed as a political crisis.

In this second session, the issues have been "framed" again. This time in terms of "...there is little difference between the Democratic and Republican parties...", with an invitation to fix the "problem" in ways ranging from instant runoffs to whole-scale rewriting of the Constitution.

Folks were saying "no difference" when I arrived at voting age at the end of the Kennedy / Nixon race in 1960. I am not sure it was true then, but if it was, things have certainly changed 47-years later.

Acutely-felt differences between Bush Republicans and the Democrats have resulted in an enormous and growing participation by Democrats since 2000. Participation sufficient to turn an apparent Republican lock on the legislature into a Democratic majority; and, participation sufficient for the Democrats to raise by small donations almost twice the primary election money raised by the Republicans [traditionally the Democrats raise less than half as much as Republicans].

Last week, ordinary citizens of both parties sent more that 100,000-letters to Congress about Bush's veto of the children's health-care bill.

What I have described above is very real participation... "put your money where you mouth is" and "tell'em when you're angry" participation...! It also seems a healthy sign, to me.

Out here in San Francisco, local participation ranges from belonging to neighborhood associations to sitting on City boards to large turnouts for meetings and discussions. A little later this afternoon, I will be attending a hearing before the Sunshine Ordinance Task Force, a local "freedom of information" commission. I expect the room to be full. If anyone has failed us our here, it has been the leaders we chose. The process seems alive and well.

Of course, I may be wrong in my perceptions. So I put these questions, that the organizers of this forum did not ask, squarely to you:

In this pre-primary year, are the positions of Democratic candidates Obama, Clinton, and Edward simply carbon copies of, say, Republican John McCain, or even President Bush?

Do you really feel choice, options, and participation at your local level is so reduced that the system is broken?

National Primary

Laguna Beach, CA

I am opposed to a national primary. As it is, money has too great a role. Going to to a national primary would greatly increase the effect of money. I am opposed to bunching of primaries for the same reason. By having small sates first in the balloting it gives the newer, less well financed candidate a chance to gain some name recognition and acquire some funding. I think it is very beneficial to democracy to have early primaries in states that use the caucus system. It lowers the funding barrier and presents opportunities for new ideas to be presented.

Democracy

ohio

we are a Republic as defined by the Constitution

Re: Framing the Question

Ohio

W., great post! I agree with you that the system isn't broken, but I think it could use some improvement.

For example, for me, that would include automatic voter registration when obtaining a drivers license or state id.

I also agree that when "we the people" aren't happy with "business as usual, we vote, we write letters to elected officials, participate in community groups, become poll workers and join diverse discussions like this.

By the way....the Democrats have indeed provided a great selection of candidates :D

term limits

I would like to clarify my comment on having a representative who has been in congress for ever and brings back $$ to our state. My sarcasm did not show through unfortunately. I firmly believe in term limits and there just aren't enough of us voting to get this person out of office!

:(

Tonight's Discussion

DC Area

I have two comments to make. The first one pertains to limiting the terms for members of congress.

I feel that some of the members of congres no longer have our best interst at heart and that they are only out to line there pockets and not to help us in any way. I feel that we should be able to limit them to one term and as someone had mentioned in the discussion earlier that if they are not doing there job then we should be able to recall them.

Second comment
If we are such an equal opportunity nation, why do we have more problems than other countries, Why should electing a President be so expensive, why can't we just take everyday people and people from the goverment and have a forum on issues and discussions that the people can vote on how we go about choosing a President. The President should be chosen by the people not the electorial college or whoever makes that the decision, I was so frustrated in the last two elections that I did not vote. Now that I have moved to the DC area I did register to vote and I want to make my opinion count and be heard. Thanks for listening

Exercising Choice???? What are the choices?

Central Islip,Long Island NY

I've been off the scene here for a few days with the old bug, the flu. I have taken time to read all of the messages and I am impressed but also worried. There are a lot of intelligent and deep thought messages but where do we go from here?

It only seems like yesterday (1968) when we as a community went out to assist people to the polls, made sure people were registered, and, etc., I was getting ready to graduate high school, even though, it was important to me to work with my community to do what we can concerning elections and those who were running for some type of office. But I look back at all those forty years and honestly, there has not been any changes except my gray hair and wishing I was 10 years old but knowing what I know today.

Choices, Dems, Repub's, Inde, Right for Life, No right for Life, come on now, do we really think our vote counts. The man or woman who has the greatest amount of money and corporate sponsors are the ones who may finally be President and Vice. I never gave up my right to vote, even when I was in the military, I voted by secret ballot. Oh, Yeah! what has happen to that way of voting. Maybe that is the best solution but today we can do it by sitting at home on our computers instead of going to meetings and speaking out. Here in the beautiful suburb of Suffolk County, NY it is well known that this is Republicanville and who ever thinks they are going up against them, you have another thoughtless mind. Even with all the corruption on both sides of the fences, who do really have a choice to vote for?

These are the problems I see with CHOICE; I don't have the money to make a difference; I can't really believe any of the candidates b/c as soon as they are elected , they must satisfy those corporate sponsors, etc.; when you feel outnumbered and surrounded one tends to keep quiet and be 3 monkeys; our Constitution was like set in stone (like the Ten Commandments) but along came a few and changed certain interpretation and had another law put into force; I pledge to defend and support these United States of Americas, uphold the Constitution without wavering, and be ready to do as my Commander-in-Chief so dictates and still keep myself separate from myself, only to realize that the rich keep on going rich and making all my choices hard to reach.

So many of you have really looked hard at this problem but I use to hate it when my WW2 veterans keep saying if isn't broken do try to fix it. Number they don't see some of it as broken, they remain patriotic and steadfast and I respect them for it but it still comes back to the choice of money ruling over honesty, conscious, humility, and the Oath to keep the people and the peoples government as the one and only Commander-in-Chief.

So there are my redistricting and my choices-let the rich continue to rule over the disenfranchised (poor) and May God Bless America and Forgive Us. :lol:

Democracy, Republic, or Really Both...?

San Francisco, CA

In answer to jim1s and others who assert, without further explanation beyond noting that the Constitution fails to use the word "democracy", that the United States is a republic, not a democracy.

One can use any dictionary to look up these two words, but a very complete one is the unabridged Oxford, because it gives the history and examples of the first recorded use of the word. In the Oxford we find:

Republic - "... a state in which the supreme power rests in the people and their elected representatives or officers, as opposed to one governed by a king." It is from the Latin, "respublica".

Democracy - "Government by the people; that form of government in which power resides in the people as a whole, and is exercised either directly by them or by officers elected by them." It is from the Greek, which this site does not support, but the latin equivalents are "demokratia".

Now, to me, these two definitions are rather similar. Moreover, even a casual read of the Constitution indicates an intent that power reside in the people rather than in Kings, and that power either be exercised by officers elected by the people.

So, what does it mean to state that the United States is a Republic, not a Democracy? All I can gather is that the statement made by Jim1s and the other folks of this opinion is a code of some kind, perhaps related to party or political view not shared by the rest of us out here in "Radioland".

If someone in on the "code" would explain it, using ordinary dictionary meanings, it would help ignorant folks like me. Do please, however, omit lengthy statements about the Electoral College [or, simply "electors" as used in the Constitution]. The election formulas for all the other "officers" are quite clear and the matter of the "electors" is a confusion we all share and enjoy describing to mystify folks in other countries [without rubbing in in that their own Prime Ministers are elected by parties or by Parliamentary majorities, rather than being directly elected by the people].

Last night's discussion

Pennsylvania

I was a little disappointed that so many of our comments condemned our system of government. For those discouraged because they think one vote cannot have an effect - look at the 2004 vote in Washington State for Governor won by 129 votes out of 3 million cast. In Pennsylvania we traditionally approve retention of Judges by 80%, (60% is considered a landslide). Because the Chief Justice of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court met behind closed doors with the leaders of the legislature and concocted a law to bypass the Constitution of Pennsylvania so pay raises could be passed for Judges and Legislators and could be made law without public notice or discourse, we, the voters, voted not to retain one Supreme court Justice and narrowly retained another, who subsequently resigned. A number of legislators also lost their seats with hopefully more to follow.

One of the reasons for the success of our Government is that it is slow to change and while that can be extremely frustrating to those of us who see various needs for change, it does give us incentive to participate and the stability to enjoy the results. For those of us who don't think change is possible through participation I would suggest becoming more active in our communities. I have always been amazed by the power of people to effect change.

I do see potential problems in aspects of motor voting and convicted felons enfranchisement. In many States you only have to be a resident, not a citizen to procure a drivers license. Common Law has eliminated many privileges upon conviction of a felony, i.e. the right to serve in public office, the right to be employed in education, law enforcement; for certain felonies even the right to live near schools and in most states the right to vote. The consequence of deciding that you will not abide by the laws of our society and getting caught and convicted of a severe crime has never been limited to just serving time. I am not sure what test should be applied to ascertain that a citizen who is a convicted felon should regain their privilege to vote but just having spent time in prison doesn't seem to indicate a desire to be part of a system of Government.

I think the goal of increasing participation in the electoral process can only be achieved by education about the responsibility of being a citizen, voting only being one part of that resposiblity.

Tom from Pennsylvania

Democracy or Republic?

Pacific NW

In response to W. in SF regarding the difference between a democracy and a republic, I suspect he has discovered the real point of this semantic conundrum. And that point is that those words ARE code.
"Republic" suggests "republican" and "democracy" suggests "democrat". Use of either of these words may reflect which political party you prefer. :D

Felons and voting

Tennessee

Amazing to read so many that have the feeling that once a felon you right to vote should, or must be, lost in this fine country of ours. In my humble opinion once our military opened the doors for felons to be accepted into our military - the door MUST also be opened for the felon to have the right to cast a vote. It's called a 'moral waivers program' in the military and there have been thousands of these waivers granted to meet recruiting goals. I find it funny and sad that the country/this adminitration/the Supreme Court/our elected officials of the 'free' interpret our laws to suit their needs.

If a felon is of sound enough mind to carry a weapon along our sons and daughters while in Iraq/Afghanistan they should be of sound mind to cast a vote.

Campaign dollars

Mesa, Arizona

Just a quickie...instead of visiting states, spending boo koo money on travel, speaking, assistants, aides, etc, etc, why not devote a year-round TV station for any and all politicians to voice their views. No hash-slinging allowed...just positive, informational talks. Having a perfectly good person lose to money matters is a crime in itself. Give them all equal representation on that national TV station with equal time on the air. We would have year-round information and feedback from our politicians...they could announce bills sent to congress, comment on our suggestions we had sent in...supporting a TV station...a public service TV station...makes so much more sense to me than anything I have heard or come across. Think of all the millions and millions of dollars saved, and put to a worthy cause. Tax dollars saved, equal representation, and being able to be interactive. Is this a pipe dream? Does it make sense to you? I rather fancy the idea...

Term Limits

California

For those who favor term limits, why don't we try it out on the local officals first. It couldn't mess things up too much more than they are like in Los Angeles, New Orleans, San Francisco. I think it would be good actually. Term limits for local politicians and if this proves to work better then go with it on the federal level. God Bless America! :)

Judy's compaign idea

South Carolina

I like Judy's idea! I have thought before that the networks out to be required to give EACH candidate and equal amount of time for campaigning. Maybe a national channel would work. Something has to be done to slow down the money. Who can say no to corporations who gave you the money to get elected when they want a bill passed in the favor. Not any politician I have seen so far.

Democracy or Republic

Central Islip, Long Island NY

In reply to W. L from San Francisco: I don't think you are dumb or dumb folks in RadioLand but apparently you don't get it. We all know what the Constitution specifies and we or better yet I know what it states in reference to being a Republic. But my good man, for too many years it has been this settle propaganda from our government specifying that these United States of Americas are indeed a Democratic entity that is for the people and by the people????? Anyway, I still know and express that there is only one type of democracy and that is How Deep are YOUR POCKETS? Either Rich or Richer. :D

term limits

Indianapolis, IN

What is this noise about term limits. ALL elected offices have term limits. That is why the run again in the next election. It seems that too many people don't understand this fundalmental element of democracy and elections in the USA. Actually, I beleive there are too many lazy people out there who don't like what is taking place in government and need to blame someone other than themselves for the problems. It is so much nicer and neater to to say the problem is there is no maximum amount of terms a person can run for a particular office. This way they do not have to take responsibility and vote someone out.

If we are going to put limits on amout of time serve, would it also make sense to limit the number of times someone can enlist in the army. Oh my, we might develop a professional amry that will take over the country by force if we let people keep enlisting and amassing power. Then in a time of war or national crisis we will have a bunch of amatures trying to make sense and finding their way.

I say no to term limits. I respect that not all of Amerca's freedoms are won on the battlefields of war, but in the halls of Congress. The voting rights act, end to discrimination, women's right to vote, these were not won by military and they were not won by amature freshmen congressmen. You want term limits, then vote them out of office--that is the term limit.

Want to make the playing field more fair, not that is another topic and another concern.

Public Financing of Elections

Ohio

Tonight in our discussion we touched on public financing of elections. I am interested in exploring this idea, but, I didn't mean to imply that I am anti big business. Corporations are in business to make money. That is what they do and for those of us that are shareholders, employees or retirees that is a good thing.
Sometimes, corporations (and other special interest groups) spend large sums of money to influence legislation and politicians for agendas that will have a negative and sometimes irreversible effect on the common good. This bothers me. To level the playing field, I think this idea is worth considering. As far as financing is concerned, we are already spending a great deal of money on agendas that do not represent a majority of "we the people." Peace

Term Limits

San Francisco, CA

Three cheers for Jim...! Term limits start with the idea that voters are too stupid to vote their own interest and need an "authority" to tell 'em when to stop voting for someone they like. Term limits are a direct limitation on your right to run for office and on your right of choice in casting your vote.

Financing elections

San Francisco, CA

Comment to Bonita - Democrats never give to politicians...! Until this year and last, when ordinary folks in huge numbers have given small donation... $25, $50, maybe $100... to the Democratic Party, or to their favorite Representative, or Senatory, or Primary Candidate. By this month, the Democratic Primary Candidates all together have raised almost twice as much money as the Republicans [who are running about normal]. Usually the ratio is the other way around, with Republicans raising twice as much.

This shows we do not need all sorts of campaign financing, just the involvement of voters who want to support their candidate and care enough to "put their money where their mouth is...!"

I have no idea if this will be a coming trend, but I find it very positive. Lots of small donors can offset all the special interests and big business.

Healthy trent, no...?

All

Maryland

I heard a lot of good points before and tonight. But, I couldn't get my mike to work?? I'd like to leave this message. America is capable of destroying everything on the planet 1 1/2 times. Along with Russia which has the same. We (America) cannot let people not vote. People like Bush and Cheeney Have killed, depending on the estimate. 57,000 to 160,000 innocent Iraqi citizens and going on 5,000 of our own brothers and sisters in a needless war!! Hussian rendered harmless via the "no fly zones" He was ready to go into exile. There was no need for this war. Afghanistan could have been fought in and won in 12 hours with one missle. A (W-80) A "dial- A- yeild nuclear weapon. Capable of 5Kt. to 150Kt. At 10 Kt. The entire mountianside would have been rendered a wasteland and even deep in a cave. You have to get your air from somewhere. As a world power should. The war could have been fought fast and clean. But my friends. Bush and Cheeney are sciopathic, in my personal estimate. And this shows you just how important it is to VOTE. And for all you republicans out there. It's OK to make a mistake. But be a MAN and admit it and IMPEECH Bush and Cheeney now! Clinton simply made a mistake that men and women all over the world have made. And look at how fast he was impeached???? And now Iran and North Korea are the enemy as well???? Ladies and Gentalmen, I think Iran and North Korea want nukes; not to bomb other countries. But to blow up their own country once the Bush/Cheeney regime have sucsessfully stolen THEIR country from them. And any day now, Your 4.0, riches, lover/s whatever you cheerish in life. Could be gone. How important is it to vote?? Bet your life on it. Also the congress has to be made to realize we will impeech them as well. This is OUR country not theirs. Also "proportional representation" could very well get the foot of a green party/Independant person in the Congress/ Senate and perhaps be like penicillin to this cancer that is spreading in today's Govt. I wish you all well. Keep up the good work!!

Response to Steve

Tennessee

I agree from the bottom of my heart, but I just did not think this would be the forum to voice my strong feelings on the Bush/Cheney war of destruction and the debt I am leaving to my beautiful grandchildren....thank you for doing it for me!

HATE SPEECH

Lake O'The Pines,Tx.

To TOM !!
your post suggest you are the sociopath. You seem to be in favor of the democratic party(although on the outermost left loon part).i'm sure somebody in your state will cancel your vote THANK GOD. Hope now that the Dems don't win the whitehouse in 2008. They are laying down the policies now leading to Bigger govt. The apparent policies(talking points) are the ones applauded by our Enemies:Al Queida - N. Korea -IRAN etc.If the current front runner wins She will start enacting policies that take us down the road to SOCIALISM.
Stalin-MArx & many more have proved already that this type of Govt. is NOT the kind AMERICANS want!!! :eek:

Re: Financing Elections

Ohio

W., I still like the idea of public financing of elections. We'll see what happens in 2008. Hopefully, this isn't a blip on the radar screen.
Keep the faith. Peace :D

Hate Speech

Lake O'The Pines Tx.

ooops that last postng was meant for STeve NOT Tom-sorry folks :oops:

Terms

Mesa, Arizona

The shorter the terms, the harder they will work to keep their position. Simple.

EZRIDER

MD.

EZRIDER, you don't think killing all those people and opening the door to civil unrest and destroying a country's infrastructure and destableizing an entire region and spending over 1/2 TRILLION dollars to do what one bomb could do is love do you? I like Republicans too. Just right now. Sir, We're in trouble!

cont.

MD.

Oh, and the dems are going to raise taxes as well. How do you think we're going to pay for the 1/2 TRILLION dollar loss??

Talking To Each Other

San Francisco, CA

Well, three cheers for the folks in my discussion group. This time we did talk to each other and we had a real discussion. It was so much better than the sterile first session, which appeared as totally "framed". I was encouraged...! Folks actually agreed and disagreed with each other, possibly saw things from a different view, and I hope everyone had as good a time as I did. I look forward to next week. Oh, and by the way, do send in your $10, or $25, or $50 to the candidate(s) of your choice - it will not be wasted, even if they belong to a party the rest of us never heard of (or even if they belong to no party at all). Such a donation is cheaper than Lotto and a lot more satisfying.

tonght's discussions

Mesa, Arizona

W. !!! TY and I agree w/you wholeheartedly. We did well tonight, and I believed it can only get better. You have very interesting viewpoints and tonight's varied views were stimulating all around.
Until next week, tc.....

Constitution, Republic, Democracy, Elections...

Youngstown, Ohio

@ the guy from San Francisco not seeing any difference between a Republic and a Democracy:
Notice that a Republic does in no way want a King in power. Instead of using "king" use dictator, tyrant, one with absolute authority. Then you might understand the difference between the two. Even though we have a president, he is ultimately not the absolute authority here in the U.S. The U.S. Constitution says so. I've heard lately that there are some people comparing Bush to a dictator. I must admit that I believe they are right. Every day it seems to me that Bush is doing something unconstitutional. He's more concerned about the U.N. than he is about the U.S. He's more concerned about globalization, the global economy (NAFTA), and ultimately a one-world global government, the early form of that being the NAU here in the North American Continent.
As far as elections are concerned, I've heard some of the blame for the condition we are in being directed at the voters for many reasons, i.e. apathy, lack of interest, not being informed, etc. I honestly do not buy that. I'm blaming this sad condition we are in on the elected who make all the right promises during their campaigns, tickle everyone's ears and then get the voters to believe in them and trust them and then, once they get elected, they do practically the exact opposite of what they promised they were going to do. Then their electorate become disenchanted, disappointed and sometimes angry over the fact that they were basically conned by another con artist elected into office in Washington or their state or their city. And this is true what 99% of the time. It's not the electors who are to blame, but it is the elected for this sad state of affairs.
Our Constitution and it's foundational principles have been ignored for a long time now, ever since the League of Nations was formed and foreigners invaded stealthily into our Government. Our form of government is not to blame, it's the people running it. They are out to destroy the Constitution and replace it with the constitution of the United Nations.
We all should be upholding our Constitution. Because the more it becomes ineffective, the more you are going to lose in the end. Your freedom is at stake.
If any of our elected officials do something unconstitutional, we must inform them of their wrongdoings. And if they continue, they should be removed from office and replaced with a person who is a patriotic American. But therein lies the problem because it is up to these very same elected officials who are responsible for impeachment proceedings. Our forefathers are turning over in their graves realizing how many traitors to the Constitution and this country are in, and have been in for a long time, our government offices.

Constitution, Democracy, Republic

Youngstown, Ohio

Look up "social democracy" in the dictionary. I believe all of us will find it quite interesting. As far as Republican and Democrat being 'codes', I've heard Bush refer to the U.S. as a Democracy. Why not? I believe he is far more liberal than the far left liberals.

to the girl who suggested having one party: good idea. How will we ever have unity if there are two opposing views. But you see, and I learned this a long time ago that in reality, both of our parties that we have are in actuality walking hand in hand. They want it to appear as though there are two parties, but the Insiders, the conspiritors from both parties are working together, against the majority of their electorate, towards their common goal- Globalization. Globalized economy. Globalized government. These Insiders want to say bye-bye, adios, toodle-loo, to our Constitution and the United States sovereignty and to the United States as we know it and through the United Nations, usher in the New World Order- their one-world government.

jim1s: Republic vs Democracy

Central Islip, Long Island NY

Hey Jim1s, I agree with you concerning whether we are a republic, as specified by the founding fathers. You raise some very good points and I have been on this war path for some time concerning whether Bush is for this country or the foreign country that has the majority of oil. Now if we look back Bush Sr., all this was planned due to his failure to have a good relationship with the Arab countries. Bush, now is only putting the plan together and trying his damnest to enforce it at the cost of our children. We didn't need to go to Iraq and commit genocide, as a veteran we know exactly what needed to be done to get Osama bin Laden but we chose the coward way and call it defending the American democracy. Al Queada was in the mountains all alone and we forced small units to come and create havoc in many of the small towns/cities. Just remember, Bush Sr. is the presiding President I think of a foreign country policies and relationships. We also need to remember that the Bush family has a large investment in the oil industry and they will not be offering to pay the trillion dollar bill from Iraq. The next country we will attack is Iran, then N. Korea, and then will upset Pakistan and India with result of all those countries having a full scale war against the USA.

My question to Bush is do you have a conscious? My question to all the candidates presently running for Presidency is, What are you going to do to prevent this full scale war from happening? You know that over 160,000 troops are over there and you can't withdraw them all b/c we will be in a bigger mess. So where are my democratic rights-b/c Bush utilized 9/11 to carry out daddy's plan without consulting the American people with the truth for the invasion. I feel that at this point of time we are living in a dictatorship, instead of a republic or democracy. The standards and actions of one President will be the downfall of the next one afterwards, and we all know it. So yeah, these candidates are going to tell all promises to get the vote but in actuality they can't do a darn thing about until Congress and the American people say it is enough. And then you might be lucky if Congress agrees with you.

What are we leaving for the children coming up? We are not teaching them to have trust in the government! And the majority of the young men and women don't even care b/c they haven't focused on what is going on around them, except for their gadgets.

Re-districting: as I said last night it was a blessing for this area of NY but this is still a strong Republican base census and let me tell you: money does walk and talk, and if you don't work the political circuit and know somebody you are lost to waver but I have learned to get to know each one of my local legislators, my Congressman Steve Israel, and even down to some judges. We the people are the Constitution and United States and it is going to take the people to stand up an present their voices and make the changes. For example, when I go to the VA hospital for my medical situation and some of them people give me an attitude, I tell them immediately, "You would not be working here if it was not for all of us-Veterans. I pay your salary and keep you in your job, so erase the attitude and listen up." Therefore, if you are against re-districting voice it up, get a neighbor who agrees and then let them get a neighbor before you know it you have all your constituents to fight and debate with the government.

One last thing, in regards to next week's topic, I believe in the Armed Services of America and when there is peace time , you are able have a relaxing mind and learn more in your MOS-military occupation skill-your job so one can be promoted. When it is like this I wouldn't mind my grandson going in the service but when I am lied to , no way are you going to get my grandson. I thank God that my grandson has paved a route his wishes to take, in order to further his education, but I let him make his own decision, I may not like it but he feels very comfortable with his decision. Does he want to go to war, no, but he knows that he has a lot to offer JAG and /or NCIS.

Thank you for letting me digress and see you on blog and next weeks discussion.

Service to one's country

Arizona

As far as service to one's country, the founding fathers gave service to their country without the thought of remuneration. They left their families to fend for themselves. They left their wives to take care of their farm and the children. John F. Kennedy said, "Ask not what your country can do for you, but ask what you can do for your country". Today, I think the military should be voluntary. If there was a world war, then the draft should be implemented. Service to one's country is an altruistic reality. Service to one's country is not just military service nor political service, but service to one's neighbors and friends. The scope of service to one's country is a broad issue. For America to truly be great, it behooves all Americans to give service to their country in whatever capacity they are able.

nelsena1

ohio

Like you, I am also concerned about the escalation of this war- after all is it not a "war on terrorism", and not just a war on Iraq. Calling it a war on terrorism enables Bush and all his Insider freinds, both "republicans" and "democrats" to widen the range of this war and not just limit it to the borders of Iraq.
As far as next weeks topic is concerned- THE MILITARY DRAFT IS UNCONSTITUTIONAL. The U.S. Constitution specifically says that it is to be VOLUNTARY.
I think our founding fathers had some pretty good heads on their shoulders and I TRUST them before I can trust any of these yahoos in Washington now or even those administrations going way back to the early 1900s. Our forefathers were PATRIOTIC to THIS COUNTRY, not some foreign country.

Voluntary Military and Public Service

Ohio

I am in favor of keeping our current system of an all-volunteer military and public service opportunities on a voluntary basis. I don't believe that you can legislate or mandate a sense of civic pride in people. Leaders need to act with integrity, model responsibility and
most important of all lead by example. It is that simple and that difficult. It works for families, small businesses, large corporations and nations. When "we the people are inspired by leadership" we will do whatever it takes. Peace
BTW... Go Tribe!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! :D

The State needs the Church

Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of patriotism who should labor to subvert these great pillars.

Last night

Texas

I very much enjoyed last night's "meeting". There were lots of ideas posted that I felt were excellent. I would like to agree, that education of the voter is important. But, it is much like the "you can take the horse to the water but you can't make him drink." Some with learn, but most won't. Education of the voter alone is a huge subject anyway. Who is going to educate the voter? How do we as voters know that the information being given is the truth? Who's "truth" is truth? Those running for office can lie with no worry of prosecution. We as voters can choose to not vote for them, but the other choice, most likely is just as bad. So who then educates the voter? And, then we have voters who feel their vote doesn't matter, ....that "it won't be counted so why bother?" Well, in local and state elections, one vote can matter and has made a difference before. However, nationally, their vote really doesn't matter, thanks to the Electorial College. The majority does NOT rule in national elections. I heard some say that without the EC certain states would have no representation. NOT true. They have Senators and Representatives who were elected to do that very thing. The President and Vice President should be elected by the most votes, collected from all the states. Then my vote, if it is Democratic, here in a Republican state will count. (I am neither but I am making a point.) Level the playing field, ...make campaign financing paid for with public funds, and therefore remove the power the 2 major parties have over the canidates. Just my thoughts, and do enjoy hearing yours. Hope some of our ideas do something to make our lives better. :)

Framing the question

MA

I have to agree with W. that I feel these discussions are framed. At first I thought it was a way of keeping people on a neat track and a way of providing consistent topics to discuss within the contraints of time and medium. Now, I'm not quite sure. Whenever someone starts expressing ideas, topics or opinions outside the realm of the framework, we are reminded to stay on topic and address only the specific agenda that has been set forth. ;)

The war in Iraq and the draft

MA

After reading Jim from Ohio's post about the draft being unconstitutional, I have to agree with him on this point. During WWII, the draft was put in place but there was also a large numbers of citizens signing up for duty, especially after Pearl Harbor when we were directly attacked by the Japanese. I think the citizens of this country know when their service is needed and they do the right thing when the cause is just, as in WWII when Germany threatened to overtake all of Europe with its dictator and the Japanese were expanding in Asia. Unfortunately, this sentiment was abused by calling the war in Iraq a war on terrorism and many citizens feel they have been lied to by their own government and used as cannon fodder for the wrong reasons. Whether this was done strictly by an inept President and company or for other reasons remains unclear, but it had the effect of taking our direct assult against the real terrorists down the wrong path to the point of creating a more widespread threat to this country. I compare it to World War II and instead of attacking Japan after Pearl Harbor, we took our troops to wrong place to fight based on the fact that we could "maybe" have a problem there, too, despite all indicators that they had already had been crushed. I, too, believe our founding fathers had our country as the forefront of their concern and not some foreign entity. I'm not so sure that this is the case in modern times and I feel our country has turned defense of the nation into involvement in political/economical situations that are far removed from our immediate defense. I also believe that the citizens of the US are reluctant to serve quite as much because they also feel this shift in our approach is far-removed from the plan our forefathers put in place. One can argue that conditions have changed in our modern times, but as a result, we are now viewed as war-mongers and have the reputation throughout the world as an imperial power that is too quick to involve ourselves to mold the politics of the world and without the need of allies. The majority of Americans are now against the war in Iraq and feel we missed our window of opportunity in Afganistan to really fight the terrorists who are probably deeply embedded in Pakistan. Unfortunately, I think many of those against the United States recognize this blunder and it as created a situation where we will be facing terrorism from many different factions in many different locations and without the sympathy of our allies who have also been ignored and overrun by the imperialist attitude of the present administration.

Draft; Service to one's country and commitment

Central Islip, Long Island, NY

I really must plat my verity number. Any who, to all my bloggers, I am so fearful that our country has no protection b/c all if not the majority of our all-volunteer armed forces are off fighting in all these wars and starting new ones as the commander-in-chief orders. We all have seen the patriotism of the American people and when it comes down to someone trying to come through our doors will be there to defend our country. I remember all the talk about WWII and how the American people rallied beside their presidential and government leaders-that is all Americans, rich, poor, Caucasian, Afro-American, men, and women. I agree that we went directly to the source of our attack from the Japanese but there were also another different type of soldier in that war.

Do we remember the movie the "Dirty Dozen", well in actuality those things did occur, harden criminals were offered the choice to serve out their sentences fighting the real enemy and if they make it back their time was considered serve. I think we really need to look at that scenario again, instead of taking these young kids, especially males b/c their the only one's that has to sign up for selective service, and offering them all these promises that really don't come true b/c of the high death rate. I also, feel that if the males have to sign up for the selective service why not the women, we as females fought so hard for equal rights then lets be equal.

A lot of us were there at the beginning of Vietnam and some of us served during and in that war. The rally cry wasn't about not serving the country but protest was actually about entering into a useless non-negotiable, no-win war. We had never prepared our young men and women how to fight in jungle wilderness, they weren't prepared but then the men were called to duty. Well if you're going to take my brothers, then take me also, as a woman I volunteered and I did so b/c no one would give a new college grad a chance to be employed, per se, no experience. Well off I went to get the experience and WOW did I get it-good, bad, indifferent.

What I am saying is since in our earlier discussions some of us feel there is no choice, but in this matter there is choice. Don't take that away and lets make it equal all across the board. The draft should only be used when it is a war cry like WWII otherwise, get rid of the damn thing it serves no justice. Then the criminals in prison should be placed in the service b/c, look at the amount of money each state will save and secondly some of them gave up their right to be a citizen. There are really no definite solutions, b/c you can please one group and piss off the next but if you leave it up to individual choice we'll be a lot better off.

Let's all advocate to send Congress back into the armed services-but really, I am proud that I served, even though it was for crazy reasons, but today I still choke up when I see that FLAG waving in the distance. Next month will be the tenth anniversary for the Womens Museum and the twenty fifth or fortieth of the WWII museum, so let's be thankful that Old Glory still waves but remember it waves for everyone.

Service

Our obligations to our country never cease but with our lives.

Serving One's Country

Kirkland

Well, it's hard to feel obligated to selfless service to our country and fellow citizens when our president tells us, after 9/11 and as we are heading to war, that the best thing we can do is go shopping. Yikes.

The best use I can think of for a draft is that it will serve to galvanize opposition to a foolish war, as it did with Vietnam. Worked for me, anyway. Along with that, our nation is not "at war" in the sense that all citizens are called to sacrifice for the cause. Perhaps that is appropriate, since this present war in Iraq has been waged so incompetently by our leaders and with very questionable legality at best. Who honestly wants to identify with such wanton misuse of our people and resources? It is too bad; we all say we support the troops but we don't live it.

Not only may the draft be unconstitutional, but it has subjected the conscripts to adventures that ultimately have little to do with national defense as I would think the founders saw it.

I don't support a draft. I could support something like the German system. Perhaps it could be coupled to a system of education aid; receive aid from the governement for higher education (something we should already be doing, but that is a topic for another forum) in return for a period of military or public service (but not just military service). As public service, "civil protection" sounds good, in the context of disaster response, considering the scale of some national disasters lately and the llikelihood of more.

War

Dayton, Ohio

We should protect on the Continental United States and have only a military that accomplishes that purpose! A national civilian program that would accomplish domestic improvements while giving education, vocation, health benefits etc would be only second to the military idea would take care of alot of our concerns today. I think we have too many bases overseas, too much involvement there and any corporation there should protect themselves and not be seen as an american interest. :)

Service to the Nation

This week's discussion involves serving the country.

Military service is an obvious option but other service should count just as well. A voluntary system appears good but we must realize that if people join only to get promised benefits then the voluntary nature of joining becomes one of purchasing a future benefit with your blood. Rich people who can afford advanced education will (correctly) tell their kids to keep out of danger and will provide the education and poorer people will see this roll-of-the-dice change to get a needed education as a fair gamble. That is NOT voluntary.

Other service makes good sense and has been tried, not only elsewhere but even in the USA.

I would gladly require service but only if non military service was included as an option.

len

Service - Mandatory or Voluntary

Livermore

We need to instill the idea of service to our country as a community into our next generations. Our parents & grandparents had the concept of "community" being our whole country.

My grandmother's mother was born just before the Civil War. The roots of the Revolution/Civil War/WWI/WWII were strongly felt in my mother's time and passed on to me. At the same time, there was great immigration; most of those escaping from war-torn and ravaged homelands were eager to embrace this country and "community"... even if the feelings weren't always mutual.

My children and their children don't have the same sense of country or "community". Our capitalistic market economy - focus on accumulation of "stuff", the lack of stability - moving around the country for work, and growing isolation from our neighbors - long commutes to work, nursery schools, private schools, etc - all contribute to this lack.

I continue to believe that Public Education is the source to which we must turn. Education in the family - while a noble concept - has let us down. Education inside the family has failed, not only because we have had breakdown of the neighborhood community and breakup of the extended family but also because "increased productivity" has robbed the family of time together. Granted that we have a population of home-schoolers - but that tightly held group only leads to further isolation from the wider world.

We should have longer - not shorter- school days. We should have classes like "current events" and "citizenship" alongside US history, World history, all the arts, math, science and English. Our teachers need to be supported not only with remuneration but with assistants and special aides; and the bar should be high to get into teaching. ALL schools need to supplied with proper equipment - not just the rich areas. National tests for "accountability" are not a panacea.

As for "who" shall be the judge of the above.... I say that local control needs to be measured alongside the need for parity across the nation. Therefore, federal guidelines need to be in place as a minimum.... isn't that how many of our regulations are now?

I have strayed from the original thought - but it all ties together. To instill a sense of community and service to the community we need to educate our population in all ways.

Serving One's Country

California

I think at the very least one year public service should be a requirement for graduation from high school.

I'm going to take a step further and say that I think all elected officials from local to federal should be required to have at least two years public service other than the political field.

We need to put service to your country back on the list of something you should be proud of, instead of the hate America ignorance we are hearing today.

Bring back patriotism in our classrooms. We are a very blessed and caring nation and we have nothing to be ashamed of. We need to express this to our children.

So yes I think there should be a require period of public service by all citizens.

We need to undo the me, me, me attitude and teach our children to care about others.

mandatory service

Iowa

Mandatory service?? I think if we had a draft now there would be a lot more people paying attention to Bush's war. We have not been asked to sacrifice---taxes were cut instead of raised to pay for the war and we were told to go shopping. We call this a volunteer army, but there are some really big sign on bonuses. And are our kids still being told the military is the place to go to get their education and to "see the world"?? I think a draft is a good idea, but there needs to be an option for domestic national service.

As for teaching kids patriotism. Yes. Teach them to love this country enough to pay attention to what their government is doing and to get involved in the decision making that is voting and lobbying their representatives. The reps in Washington figure that if they don't hear from you, you like what they are doing. Love this country enough to want it to do the right thing. Patriotism is not blindly agreeing with your government.

Pariotism, the Constitution, the Draft and other things

youngstown, ohio

JoAnn from Iowa- I couldn't agree with you more. We must all realize that the biggest thing we must be paying attention to is if these elected officials are voting in Congress following Constitutional guidelines. If they are not using the Constitution as their basis for decision-making, then it is quite obvious that they are not true patriots to this country. They may be patriotic to their own ideas, patriotic to their party and/or patriotic to the United Nations, but they are not being patriotic to this country. They are not only breaking the rules, but they are in actuality being treasonous.
@ everybody who's concerned about education in this country: did you realize that the United Nations has control of what is to be taught in our public schools? It's a fact. Think about it. Our children are being taught things that have to go through the United Nations first, and be approved by them, before they are taught to our children. Of course, not to mention other grips the U.N. has on this country i.e., the World Bank, the World Trade Organization, NAFTA, etc., and the stranglehold they have on our economy.
Thes things would never had happened in the first place if our elected officials would have abided by the Constitution. Most, if not all of the problems we face go all the way back to Woodrow Wilson's administration. That's when the League of Nations was ram-rodded down our throats and that's when "foreigners" had invaded our government in Washington. When Warren G. Harding was trying to tell the U.S. what had happened in Washington, look what happened to him. He was assassinated. By a "foreigner" or at least an American who was brainwashed into thinking like one.
Our Constitution states that we are to protect our borders, not to mingle into anybody else's business, not to force our form of government on any other country.
Our elected have neglected far too long. They are doing it right now as we speak. They should be oustede from office.

Mandatory service

Everett, WA

I Think the of mandatory service could be a very good idea.
As has been said earlier, very few people here in the US have little to no connection with what is happening in relation to issues of war and defense of our country.
These also tend to be the ones who least understand what is at stake should we "gather up our marbles, and come home".
For this reason alone I think it would be positive to have some sort of mandatory obligation.
Not all military service focuses on war, but on the prevention (deterrence) through being prepared for war.
I look at the country of Israel for example where a time of service is required.
If it is to be expanded to include civil or social service I think opportunity for simply another wasteful govt. program would emerge

Service to the Country

Hawaii

If the draft was still required this war might never have gotton off its feet. If it did them there would be much more uproar (especially on the college campuses) and it might have come to an end by now. All of our politicians would have a different feeling about sending THEIR kids off to a useless war. It might be a good idea to make service to the Country mandatory, either through the military or by some domestic style of the Peace Corps.

The need for participation in a democracy

California (near Sacramento)

After reading many of the comments made by those involved in this effort I believe that things are OK and we don't need to mess with things. The quality and depth of thought by many of the respondents would do credit to a grammar school student body! We live in a very dangerous world and, if we desire to survive and prosper, then we need to keep a world view in our minds at all times! Some think that all our troubles began when Bush went into Iraq. Not true. Students of world affairs will tell you that our recent troubles really started when the UN created Israel and placed it in the heart of the middle east muslim world. I don't care how many people vote because so many do not care about getting the knowledge needed to make decisions about our future. Maybe what we need is a citizenship test before being allowed to register to vote! ;)

citizenship test

California (L.A. county)

What a brilliant idea.....a citizenship test before you can vote!
This is not such a far feached idea :)

Going to run this by some legal beagles.

Service

"Mankind will in time discover that unbridled majorities are as tyrannical and cruel as unlimited despots."

Serving One's Country

Florida

Tonight's topic is important to me and I have very strong opinions about community service. I don't think a person can be
counted on to be a part of a group unless they participate in some way. Everyone has some talent that can be shared and valued by another. Much of the deadlock in Washington can be the result of politicians seeing themselves as republicans or democrats rather than American citizens.
The responsibility to serve must be taught at young ages as children experience the pleasure that results when one contributes to a shared project that helps another.

Response tp

Vermont

I am so tired of

Response to Steve and others

Vermont

Sorry; this mouse is very touchy...sent my last message before I intended. I just wanted to say how tired I am of the "Bush lied" stuff. Regardless of how one feels about how the war has been managed (and I don't feel it has been done well), isn't there another possibility: that President Bush didn't lie; that there WERE WMDs that were moved to Syria after we telegraphed our intentions, and fooled around with the UN once again? If Clinton, Kerry, et al hadn't also said what a threat Hussein was, previously, and if 911 hadn't happened, you would have an argument.. However, I believe there was good intelligence that he possessed biological and chemical weapons, and that he had nuclear programs that could have been readily reconstituted.

And those of you who state numbers of civilian casualties that have no basis in fact never mention how many of those are killed by Al Quaeda; where is the outrage at barbarians who use children as bait? Didn't any of you read about the insurgents who posed as a family with two small children in carseats to get through a checkpoint, and then abandoned the car, leaving the children in it, and blew it up!? I hear worse comments about the president than I do about these vermin, and I'm sick of it!! How about the innocent people who have had their heads cut off by these savages?? Where's the outrage at them?

SERVING OUR COUNTRY

Michigan

Tonight we spoke service to our country . The moderator was looking for some specifics towards Ameri Corp and Peace Corp . I mentioned how my 12 year old son asked about these 2 organizations .
It now has been 40 minutes since our conversation and I have seen 3 commercials on T.V. One for the Marines ,One Coast Guard and One Navy . I never see commercials for Peace Corp or Ameri Corp .
How can people be apart of these organizations if they are unaware of them .

Our Election System

Texas

I agree with John Adams. Strictly popular voting is not a good idea. As you see with Hillary Clinton, offering $5,000.00 per child born in the US or $1,000.00 for everyone who invest for their retirement, politicians will eventually try to buy the votes of the majority who are less well off. I think our current election system spreads the influences of popular elections fairly across the states. We have peaceful exchanges of power on a regular basis on the local, state, and national levels. We have systems in place to deal with contested races. I just do not see the urgency to change our system.

Who's in control?

Education is a weapon whose effects depend on who holds it in his hands and at whom it is aimed.

Reinstitute the draft

North of Boston

Old stories tell of a time when kings would exchange children. Keeping as guests your neighbors sons would protect you from having your neighbor attack you. This is why I would like to see the return of the draft. To protect his/her own son/daughter the Senator would protect everybody's. Either call everybody to serve except the unable or revert to the lottery system. This would ensure greater political participation by the populace because everyone would have an interest.
Late in tonight's discussion I proposed tying a draft to war authorization but we ran out of time . Maybe we could legislate that any time US combat troops are deployed the draft would automatically initiate and continue for the duration of the deployment. This may make politicians of both parties at least care enough to read the intelligence reports before taking us to war.
On a light note let me point out that our group was unable to vote for the question to be posed to the experts without problems. In a group of about fifteen, twenty votes were cast. I don't know if Mayor Daly delivered them from the grave, but I should have demanded a recount.

Required public service/draft

Los Angeles

At one time I thought that reinstituting the draft might be a good idea. But I fear that the powerful among us would arrange for their children to serve the way George W. Bush did[n't].

This would be bad for our country.

Public service in a broken system

NYC

All this talk about "Public Service" is rather a moot point if it involves serving a country whose government doesn't respect or care about the needs of its citizenry.

Why would anyone serve this country if for the all the taxes tha we pay we DON'T get: Properly funded schooling, properly funded and affordable healthcare for all, and proper upkeep of our infrastructure, proper funding for national emergencies (i.e. Katrina and New orleans) and proper government oversight against corruption.

Instead for our taxe dollars we get: 1/2 of our national budget going to fund a HUGE and wasteful military; Government corruption in the form of corporate lobbyists literally buying our elected representation away from us; A government that allows corprations, both foriegn and national, to run ripshod over our economy and forcing american workers to ever lowering wages; a government that allows foriegn made goods into the country that have danergous levels of poisons (lead, food contanminants, etc.); a government that can't even properly fund the inspection of the food that we eat to make sure it isn't contaminated.

Overall, We have a long way to go to correct things to give our citizens the incentive to have civic pride enough to do "Public Service" :(

serving your country

I used to think that serving the country was a good idea and that it would be well to have some form of mandatory service for all citizens between the ages of 18 and 35. Then this current administration and the neocon core that support it took over. The military has been used by this administration to kill women and children in Iraq in a preemptive war based in lies and propaganda in a futile attempt to gain access to Iraqi oil. There were no weapons of mass destruction. Instead we have killed innocent people and our young soldiers are dying, squandered by a callous administration that does not give one whit about these people.

Service to the country in the peace corps or Americore is a good idea, but the administration undercuts it with inadquate funding and believes it will cost too much in taxes. Service to this administration means being in the military and murdering innocents in the name of their greed. Sorry, I am so cynical now about service but I learned from a cynical administration.

Service

Greece

"It is difficulties that show what men are."

College days

Florida

Until everyone understands how and when and why the electoral college came about, and what it is empowered to do, changing it will likely result in something worse. Yes, it's Civics 101, but most Americans need a refresher course.

Terrorists and the war in Iraq

MA

"However, I believe there was good intelligence that he possessed biological and chemical weapons, and that he had nuclear programs that could have been readily reconstituted"

Leslie...this statement flies in the face of all of the searches preformed looking for these very weapons, as well as what was reported by the UN appointed personnel and later, our own troops.

I'd like to suggest watching the program "Frontline" on PBS, if you really want to know how the "intelligence" was "positioned" to support the administration's ambitions to invade Iraq. How they demanded that any evidence indicating a counter-position to the intelligence they used be changed or squashed. It will open your eyes to what actually happened and also provides evidence that we failed to capitalize on our efforts in Afganistan, making the Iraq invasion the focal point.

When I mentioned that we are now facing different terriorist factions that is happening. We are now caught in a civil war of various factions in Iraq (who are kidnapping and cutting off heads) and we have de-stablized and destroyed the country (that we are now trying to "rebuild" as our own falls apart. Not to mention the billions American Corporations are making on the process.) An interesting video of Dick Cheney is currently on the web...where he tells the interviewer (following Desert Storm and Bush #1) that to invade Iraq would bring us into a quagmire and the condition of the country following that war was not worth the price of any American lives. Saddam was actually contemplating an exile for himself prior to our invasion and the blockade was effective.

So, I have to ask the question...would you draft a young, 18 year old girl to serve in the military in Iraq when George Bush's relationship with the Royal Saudi family and his investments in oil remain quite a mystery? Sorry, but I cannot equate what is going on in this "war" with anything to do with patriotism. I support the troops in that I want proper armored personnel carriers to save their lives (which they didn't get), for good medical care when they come home without limbs (which they're not getting), support for their familes and finally, an end to the death of these citizens for a cause that is questionable.

I lost two co-workers on 9/11. They were on the first plane that was flown in the World Trade Center. I also love my country. But I believe that we went down the wrong path and for the wrong reasons and that this current situation has little to do with the lives lost on that day in New York.

Women and war...

Western NC

First, I teach an online course called "Gender Perspectives on Contemporary Terrorism" at Eastern Kentucky University's Center for Police and Justice Studies (cross-listed with Women's Studies) so I have a wealth of internet resources I've assembled for my students regarding conditions in Iraq and Afghanistan and viewpoints re the U.S. "War on Terror" that challenge our mainstream media representations. Iif PBS or any participants are interested in these materials/links email me.
Second, in most pre-colonial Native American cultures it was the women who decided if the nation went to war. There is MUCH practical as well as philosophical wisdom in this, which also supports the importance of equalizing women's status, participation and representation in our contemporary electoral process.
Third re National Service I firmly believe it should be required upon high school graduation, of all citizens regardless of gender, and include military, community, and foreign service options. As we are discussing this, please let's include some strong policy recommendations to rectify the appalling levels of violence against servicewomen by our own servicemen!

Service to One's Country

Indianapolis, IN

Service to one's country goes far beyond being in the military. I believe some service should be required for all citizens, as well as a requirement for all non-citizens who desire to become citizens. Already we allow foreigners to serve in the military as an avenue to become US citizens, so it is not such a great leap to require this as a condition for citizenship.

I believe that a requirement for high school graduation should be a certain amount of public service. I also believe it doesn't have to be with just one agency--but to allow the student an opportunity to explore the types of service that are possible. I have mixed feelings if this public service should be limited only to non-profits as that is such a vague term and I feel that just about anyone can become a "non-profit" organization. Volunteer services to hospitals, nursing homes, and day care centers may not qualilfy as non-profit, but are very important than a non-profit political action committee, gender group, or hobby/special interest group.

Then after high school, I would propose an actual term of full-time public service be required at a more indepth involvement rather than as a part-time limited involvement one had in high school. The length of service would need to be discussed and agreed upon on the National level. During this time of service, the individual doing the service would receive a pay (just like in the military) to cover his/her basic needs. It should be requied by both men and women. Naturally, military service would also be one form of public service.

I would also agree that during a declared war or when congress passes a resolution authorizing military action, then a lottery system should be implemented for both men and women to serve in the military. Those who have already completed their public service would be exempt from the lottery unless congress passes a temporary resolution to the contrary.

The Amish and Mennonites aready perform civilian service in lieu of military service. I belive besides these two groups, the Mormans also require some form of service from its members. I believe these groups and participation is a model to begin to build on such universal public service. I know that from the Amish and Mennonite participation, it seems that these groups do have a sense of belonging to a much larger community. And although one might point out that Amish set themselves apart from the rest of society, their compasion and care for anyone who is in need cannot be matched by most other orgaizations or groups.

I had a German exchange student who I have kept close contact with not as a personal friend, and what he has told me about his public service is very encouraging. He worked driving senior citizens to doctor appointments and grocery shopping. One of his friends worked with youth who had serious physical and menal handicaps. They both tell me that they have a new perspective on social issues and a special interest when it comes to legislation that affects the goups in which they had volunteered for.

Serving One's Country...

Nebraska, the flying at half-staff State Flag country... :-)

YES, I agree that every body IN my country needs to be doing something, JUST for the privilege of living in this land of we free folk!

Back around 25 or so years ago, my children and I were instrumental AND fought a wicked battle, here in our town of which we live, by opening a Soup Kitchen to feed the hungry FAMILIES that we KNEW were out here...to offset the extreme opposition, we agreed to make it a 6-month trial...and this Soup Kitchen is STILL up and running...feeding around 100 hungry folks a day...in a town of less than 24,000 people...

My children are still HERE, preparing for this upcoming Presidential Election...and so are THEIR children...right now, my beloved grandchildren have posed a challenge to ME... they have told me to get this country on track, as it's been screwed up on MY watch...that's what they said to ME, their Granny...and they are so right...this country HAS gone thru literal HELL on MY watch...and on YOURS, too...

I need to tell you another thing; NO ONE in MY family is at ALL willing to give another Clinton four more years to "dishonor" our country, just as Bill Clinton sure DID back in 2000, when he thumbed his nose at Navy Regulations and ORDERED the Vietnamese Flag to be flown ABOVE our own! :(

Serving my country

Minnesota

There are loads of people who contribute to our society everyday. Our government and media chooses to ignore us. I enjoyed the entry by the person who noted that they had never seen ads for AmeriCorps or PeaceCorps. Think about it...The people who tend to serve our country via those programs tend to be interested in social justice, grassroots issues. Often, they are the people who oppose war and the actions of our military, the cutting of social programs (that they are work for) and call attention to the ever widening rift between the rich and the rest of us. I don't think requiring people to commit to public service is the way, but investing in already existing programs would bring immeasurable benefits to this country. Call me a cynic, but I just don't think it's an oversight that these programs are underfunded and the brilliant, committed people who participate in them are ignored.

Exercising Choice

The so-called 2-party system is a sham and a fraud because these 2 parties, so called, are actually 2 arms of the same extragovernmental leadership cadre that has arrogated to itself the right to select the our leaders. I hate to sound like Karl Marx, but he was right on the money when he defined our type of government as the executive committee of the bourgoise. This monopoly of power with its reliance on money to resist the popular will - is the primary reason why the governance of this republic has become increasingly corrupt and unrepresentative.

It is probably not realistic to expect the existing system, which serves its special-interest clientele so well, to reform itself. The construction of an effective 3rd party, dependent exclusively on popular support - including nongovernmental financial support- will have to be a total grass-roots effort.

Serving one's Country

Cal

I prefer the voluntary service commitment but it must be made more attractive. You rarely see advertisements for AmeriCorps or the Peace Corps. Compare the time and exposure of advertisements for public service to the advertisements for military service.
But an all voluntary public service commitment requires instilling 'a sense of civic pride and duty in our (young) citizens'.
If we go to a required period of service it should be early, like right after high-school so as to be the least disruptive and it should be open to military or non-military. I believe a nonmilitary force providing international aid would go a long way to decreasing the need for a large military force.

Serving One's Country

Ramona, CA

The duty of serving one's country can be performed in many ways. One way to protect the country is to practice the Transcendental Meditation Program and the extended TM Siddhi Program. Many people are spending most of their days meditating to increase the collective consciousness of the country and enable the county to proceed to peace. Peace will help protect the county. If our county acts in a positive way, then positive actions will affect the country.

Serving One's Country

The premise that serving in the military service of our country is a burden on those who have fewer resources and opportunities available to them is a FALSE PREMISE. In addition, it is an insult to those who serve in the military as it is by choice. There are many choices availabe in our great nation for those who have fewer resouces and opportunities.

Serving One's Country

Ohio

The Privilege of living in America and enjoying all of it's benefits is accompanied by the RESPONSIBILILTY of being a contributing member of this society whether it be through volunteering in a soup kitchen or hospital, tutoring slow leaarners, serving in the military or social programs. Both children and adults reap the benefits of their contribution and these benefits need not be limited to economic benefits. We need to get away from so self indugent. My experience has been that many of the persons with the so called least options or opportunities have the most time on their hands and are dressed better than those who have contributed and earned their way!

Service

stonyfield

Is the present state of the national republic enough? Is virtue the principle of our government? Is honor? Or is ambition and avarice, adulation, baseness, covetousness, the thirst for riches, indifference concerning the means of rising and enriching, the contempt of principle, the spirit of party and of faction the motive and principle that governs?

mandatory community service

Indianapolis

I was surprised to hear so many think that public service that would be required is a form of slavery. I just don't see it. The arguement that noone should be required to do something they don't want to do is a little off the wall. When you go into a court, you are required to stand when the judge comes in. You are requried to drive on the right hand side of the street, You are required to pay your income taxes. Do I need to go on. Requiring people to do responsiblie things promotes freedom, knowledge and public order. :(

Service

Ohio

I am in favor of voluntary public service because I don't think that you can legislate humanity.
Here's a thought from Mother Theresa on what we can do to help..
" It is easy to love the people far away. It is not always easy to love those close to us. It is easier to give a cup of rice to relieve hunger than to relieve the loneliness and pain of someone unloved in our own home. Bring love into your home for this is where our love for each other must start. " Mother Theresa

In regards to the draft, I have now lived through two wars that I have protested against. The first time as a student at Kent State in 1970. The second time, as a 50 something human being when the war in Iraq appeared to be history repeating itself. I do believe that we must find a way to defend our country...for the right reasons. Feel free to enlighten me. :(

Service and the Draft

Louisville

I just finished our 9:30 EST group discussion and wanted to say thank you to the folks who contributed. I found it helpful and informative. I particularly appreciated the input from those with direct experience with the military in the past and currently. I learned that my understanding of minorities and poor people being over represented in today's military is not accurate. My experience with veterans has been with more f rom the Vietnam era and I now understand some of the differences.
I made the point that it bothers me that those in power (in Congress and the White House) are sending other people's kids off to war rather than their own for the most part. I still think that is true. I heard from those with more accurate data about the composition of the current force that our military is made up of people choosing to serve their country in this way and that the groups most heavily represented are working class and rural folks.
It still bothers me that politicians are sending these folks (as opposed to my previous belief that it was minorities and the poor) off to fight and I still doubt many of these are the children of politicians. It bothers me that there is a disconnect with politicians and those who are serving.
Having said that, I can better appreciate the quality of our service members compared to when people were forced to serve. And this has reshaped my thinking about a draft. Only as a last resort should a draft be employed. The most desparate situations.
Thanks again to those who shared in our chat room tonight.

Mandatory Service

Hoffman Estates, IL

I am not in favor of any kind of mandatory service, whether it be military or public service. I watched what the draft did to this country in the 60's - it not only served to divide the public, it also divided the military (the army helped create the divide by assigning military numbers beginning with RA for regular army and a different designator for those who were drafted). Those who volunteered felt bitter toward those who didn't volunteer and those who were drafted felt bitter against the society that forced them into a war that they did not believe in.

One thing I have learned in my almost 60 years of living and 18 years in the United States Air Force is that you can't force loyalty from your citenzenry. Not everyone is capable of conforming to military life.

I believe that an all volunteer military is a strong military and once we revert to conscription, we will once again see the divisiveness that plagued the military of Vietnam and, take my word for it, that wasn't a pretty sight.

Mandatory Public Service

Elmhurst, IL

I believe that mandatory public service should be required, with several conditions.

It must be mandatory for all. Draftees (and let's not dance around the semantics) should include all people, male and female, of eligible age (18-25). A deferment for up to 4 years of education (technical or collegiate) should be available, but not more than 4 years. Service options should include all federal jobs - the military, the park service, AmeriCorps, and all federal agencies such as HUD, VA, etc. The draftee should be able to complete a preference form, but preferences could not be guaranteed. The service requirement should be no more than 18 months to 2 years; maybe less. Benefits equivalent to the GI Bill should be available, but perhaps only to those who volunteer for longer commitments or serve outside the choices on their preference form. THERE MUST BE NO EXCEPTIONS to the requirement. Federal employment is currently available to virtually every employable but disabled citizen; that should extend to required service as well, and the sons and daughters of the rich and powerful should have no ability to opt out of the program for any reason.

Many have posted on instilling a sense of duty and commitment in today's youth. Requiring that they serve is an outstanding way to do it. It is not slavery, it is paid employment and, for some, it may offer a viable path from poverty. For others, it may offer a valuable exposure to the stresses facing the working class. For all, it offers a glimpse into how the federal government functions, which can be valuable both from the practical sense of figuring out how to navigate the bureaucracy and by providing a basis from which to evaluate future proposals regarding the creation, elimination and function of federal agencies.

Regardless of the details, the key is that it must apply to all.

Service Based Citizenship (Manditory Service)

North Bend, Washington

Service Based Citizenship

The Comprehensive approach to revamping America's image of itself and the image we portray to the world. The basis of this initiative is that ALL American's are required to serve their country in order to reap the benefits of citizenship. It is no longer enough just to have been born here. A citizen is someone who makes a contribution to the whole and gives of themselves to the betterment of others and the country.

If developed correctly, Service Based Citizenship can solve many of the pressing problems that are facing the United States as it transitions into the 21st Century.

Problems that need solving:

1. Social Security
2. Immigration Reform
3. Foreign Policy and America's image in a global community
4. Military Strength (including veteran's affairs)
5. Education
6. Social Services


Social Security. During a person's period of mandatory national service, all Social Security taxes paid will be forfeited to the Social Security System and no service credits will be accrued during this time. This allows each individual attempting to meet their citizenship requirements to donate their service credit years to the Social Security System bolstering the fund for the future.

There will always be those who feel that they are above this program or should be exempted from it because of there station in life. There should be serious consequences for those who decide that they are above the reaches of this program.

1. If an individual reaches the age of 25 years and has not met the requirements of this program, they are automatically placed in a flat rate 50% federal income tax bracket. The difference between their normal income tax rate and the 50% flat rate will be used to fund Service Based Citizenship programs.
2. Their Social Security benefits will be cancelled until such a time as they meet the requirements of the Service Based Citizenship program and all Social Security Taxes paid up to this date will be forfeited to the Social Security System.
3. Their right to vote is suspended until they have met the requirements of the program.

This program should have a phase in period of ten years. Children who are ten years old on the day that the program becomes law should be able to plan their futures to include their years of service to the country. Persons who are 26 years old on the day the program becomes law should be offered alternative means of meeting the requirements without losing the right to vote or their Social Security benefits (possibly a temporarily increased tax surcharge). During this transition phase, persons on means between the ages of 20 and 25 may buy their service credit with a single very substantial lump sum payment directly to the Social Security System. This lump sum buyout must have a strict sunset date halfway into the phase in period (5 years) so that it can not be abused. It should also be so cost prohibitive (say 2 million dollars…) that putting in your time is a much more reasonable option than trying to buy your way out.

Immigration Reform. There does need to be a reasonable path to citizenship for the people who have come to this country in good faith (by whatever means). In most cases, these people given the opportunity would be willing to do what it takes to become legal citizens of the United States. Immigrants to our country should be required to earn their citizenship like any other American. Immigrants who have entered the country illegally but have otherwise followed our laws and contributed to our communities and economy should be given a path to legal citizenship that can not be construed as amnesty. Legal immigrants should be required to due the same period of service as all other Americans. Immigarants who have entered our country illegally prior to the effective date of the law yet have met all other requirements for citizenship should be allowed a path to right this wrong by additional service time to the country before being granted full citizenship rights.


Turning our Country Around. America has become a nation of individuals. This me attitude has led us down a path that has damaged our standing in the world. A team mentality is what it is going to take to give our citizens the self esteem to project who we are as a people to the rest of the world. Service based citizenship is the path to changing our self image and projecting our constitutional values to a global community.

There should be a certain number of service credits required for an individual to qualify for full citizenship. There are many programs that should be allowed to qualify as the source for potential Service Based Citizenship credits. Some will be more attractive than others but there should be something for everyone. Some programs may have higher citizenship qualifying credits than others. The privileged few should not be allowed to buy their way into the more attractive programs but should be allowed to participate in a lottery for those available slots. A lottery system for available program slots would ensure diversity within the programs and make the system fair. The earning of service credits should not be limited to adults but should be encouraged as an educational development system for our children.

Service Based Citizenship programs should be available to Federal, State and Local Governments to administer thus meeting the needs of both the small community and the nation as a whole. The qualifying programs should provide a wage commensurate with the skills required and some should be subsidized if not fully funded. These programs should include but not be limited to:

The Armed Forces (all branches)
Habitat for Humanity
Doctors without Borders
The Peace Corps
Americorps
The American Red Cross
Meals on Wheels
The United Way

Participation in some Faith based programs may qualify as appropriate service for citizenship credit but these programs should not be federally funded. These programs should have to meet stringent criteria in order to be considered.

Military Strength. Our military is in a shambles. There should not be a draft but serving in the military should be encouraged as a route to gaining the service credits needed to qualify for citizenship. This is particularly true for immigrants. Serving in the military teaches loyalty, discipline and teamwork. It is also the perfect opportunity to teach American history and constitutional values to a captive audience who might not have had this education otherwise. It might be possible to have military service be worth more service credits than other programs thus making this an attractive way to qualify for citizenship in an expedited manner.

Veteran's Affairs. Employers should be encouraged to provide jobs that are specifically designed for the returning veteran (disabled and otherwise). There should be incentives to incorporate back into the fold the people who have sacrificed to keep us free. Participating in these programs should have some incentive for employers.

The military is a vast pool of people experienced in all types of fields from high tech to the trades. They are models of discipline and service. These returning veterans should be encouraged to share their experience as teachers of our children. A dedicated soldier to teacher program would benefit our country immensely.

How would we pay for this? I don't know. That is a job for Congress to decide but we can start by taking the 200 billion dollars plus per year that we are spending in Iraq and Afghanistan…

Serving America

Phoenix AZ

To me, it isn't a question of service in any capacity to the country, but a better oversight to those in office, those who profess family values and have none and march with their evangelical rhetoric they are honest people working for the people who elected them.

Social Security benefits for nearly 50 million people will rise 2.3 percent starting in January, the smallest increase in four years. The typical retiree will face the challenge of using the extra $24 to cover higher costs for everything from gasoline and food to medical care. The new cost-of-living figure announced by the Social Security Administration means the typical retired worker's monthly benefit check will go from $1,055 to $1,079. Then too, think of that pathetic raise Congress gave minimum wage, first in ten years. Looks sick, when you think of the hefty raise Congress gives itself EVERY year, doesn't it? And, don't forget the measly minimum wage increase that took ten years and was given reluctantly by Congress. A reluctance that doesn't seem to reach their consciousness when doling out a raise for themselves. We've allowed our elected crooks in Washington to outsource millions of jobs. We've allowed our elected crooks in Washington to allow corporate greed to rape pension plans or do away with them altogether, and they worked hand in hand with Enron type tactics across the board. We have a scandal with toys and food being rejected as dangerous to the consumer, and yet Congress embraces continued trade with China while American businesses go belly up.

Doesn't it seem strange that our politicians are willing to lavish all kinds of social benefits on ILLEGALS, (and themselves), but don't support our troops. ICE spends more than $98 million a year of our tax dollars to provide "humane and safe detention environments," detention population that has tripled over five years to more than 283,000.

We watch as Isalm buys up American ports and Nasdaq, thousands upon thousands are killed by peaceful Islam, and we have a president who insists Islam is peaceful. The recent purchase of Nasdaq is more than a purchase of a financial institution.
What is "Islamic" finance? Islamic, or Shariah-based finance, is the 1920s invention of Muslim Brotherhood founder Hassan al-Banna. He ordered the Muslim Brothers to create an independent Islamic financial system to supercede the Western economy, facilitating the spread of Islam worldwide. Hassan al-Banna set the theories and practices and his contemporaries and successors developed Shariah-based terminology for "Islamic economics," finance and banking. [emphasis added]. Attempts by Muslim Brotherhood members in the early 1930s to establish Islamic banking in India failed. Egyptian President Gamal Abdel-Nasser shut down the second attempt in 1964, after only one year, later arresting and expelling the Muslim Brothers for attempts to kill him. Saudi Arabia welcomed them and adopted their ideas. In 1969, soon after a mentally deranged Australian Christian fundamentalist, Michael Dennis Rohan, tried to set fire to the Al Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, the Saudis convened the Conference for the Islamic Organizations (OIC) to unify the "struggle for Islam," and have been its major sponsor ever since. The 56 OIC members include Iran, Sudan and Syria.

We need to pay more attention to what is going on under our noses. That is the best way to serve America.

COST OF MILITARY SERVICE

San Francisco, CA

Reading the Briefing Documents and the posts from earlier discussions, I came to wonder what the cost of a Conscript Military Service might be. After all, todays troops are much more highly trained, their equipment is technically sophisticated, and their missions are more technically demanding.

According to the Army, it costs $15,000 just to recruit a soldier. To properly train a soldier for assignment costs an average of $250,000. Helmet, rifle, unforms, and body armor cost $25,000. For every 100 men recruited, 76 complete basic training. For every 100 women recruited, 63 complete basic training. Overall, only 46% of soldiers reinlist after their first term. At recruitment, the Army gives aptitude tests and assigns a recruit to one of four categories. In the past, category IV recruits were rejected.

Training for Marines and the Navy costs about the same, although some Navy specialist training is more expensive. Training for the Air Force is difficult to estimate, since Officer Pilots are few, but their training can exceed $1-million, while training for the majority of enlisted technical personnel is highly variable, up to around $400,000. The Marines, Navy, and Air Force reject a higher percent of recruits.

Counting combat and support, the Department of Defense employes some 5.1-million people. I was astonished to find that around 1.4-million have seen tours in Iraq or Afghanistan. We have 247,000 troops stationed in 130 other countries.

Let us assume only the Army figures.

According to U.S. Census figures, we have about 50-million people between the ages of 18- and 26-years old. Roughly 5- to 6-million reach 18-years old each year [it is a little harder to predict future numbers, since our birth rate is presently dropping].

If we had universal conscription, with various service choices to include a military choice, and only 25% elected the military choice, training the yearly crop would cost more than $300-billion per year [assuming today's dropout rate]. If most served only 4-years, that would still give us roughly 20-million troops at any time.

I have doubts about the practicality of universal conscription. Certainly we could not take even 25% into the military option. We are unlikely to maintain 20-million, or even 10-million military personnel.

It is not clear to me what other service options might be practical. Even service requiring much less training would still be very expensive for an intake of 5- or 6-million men and women per year.

How to SERVE our Country (Community)

Tennessee

I have reservations about not only the cost but the full implementation of 'Serving ones country'. I think the idea is what should be done, but I can't see this government taking the ball and running with the idea - they would find a way to make this into a political thing that some lobbyist would become rich and the politician would only put "gold" into their war chest....therefore....I think that everyone should by the time they are seniors, ready to graduate, have spent ONE semester in community service. It could be working with the local library, the mayor, the police/fire departments, park and rec dept., local habitat, the local or state part systems, distributing food to seniors, working at a senior center, working for a nursing home, the animal shelters, etc. etc.....but some kind of community service BEFORE they are able to graduate from high school.

Week # 3 Discussion

Oregon

What a great discussion today!! Just want to put down my opinions: 1st--a do not agree with having a mandatory military. There are so many circumstances that would prevent someone from going in the military. There are many people that work so hard to make a living now and leaving their families behind could cause many problems. I do favor a voluntary military as we have now. People who volunteer, most of them, actually want to be there. I support women doing any job a man does in the military. We have asked for equal opportunity for so long......this should also be equal.

Thanks for all the great opinions you have given me to think on for the next week. :)

Living in the 21 cent.

chiefland florida

I would like to pose a question THERE IS A LOT OF THINGS I SEE COULD BE CORRECTED BUT I CANNOT FIND A WAY TO GET ANYTHING DONE I VOTE ALL ELECTIONS GO TO MEETINGS OF MY GOV> BUT AS SOON AS THE PEOPLE GET ELECTED THEY CHAGE COLORS THEY SEE YOU AND AGREE THAT CHANGE NEEDS TO BE BUT AS SOON AS THEY GET BACK TO WASHINGTON IT JUSTS GETS TO THE SAME PLACE :D

Living in the 21 cent

It can be very discouraging to see elected officials changing their tune once the voting is done. There are a lot of organizations, many grass roots, who work on issues. While signing a petition or sending a letter or email might sound discouraging it does make a difference. Because it's not just you. When enough people are pursuing these issues our officials will be forced to pay attention. After all, they do work for us and if they hope to get themselves or others in their party re-elected they have no choice.

Voting on Our Question

Ohio

We had an imbalance on our number of votes on our question in tonight's discussion. No wonder we have problems at the polls. That is why I started volunteering as a poll worker last year. The passion
of your beliefs will point you in the right direction. It is my small step. It is up to you to find yours. :D

The Question for Experts

I'm one of the three or four people who didn't vote for this question and now I'm wondering if I misunderstood it. Isn't anyone else here familiar with the concept of the "tyranny of the majority"? It seems to me that this question presupposes that majority rule is always a good thing and I'm sure we can all think of historical examples as to why that isn't the case. I'd be curious to hear what others think on this issue.

The Question for Experts

Ohio

Is majority rule always the right way to go? Certainly there have been times when it's not, invading Iraq comes to mind. However, it's still the best game in town and beats the alternatives.

Serving ones country

Tennessee

I did not have an opportunity to say this tonight, so here it goes.......

We all appear to be from the age of 20 to in our 60's and many, if not all, support our troops in Iraq unconditionally but do not support the politics that have gotten us into a war with no end in sight. Having said that....I would like to suggest to ALL that read this to go to www.anysoldier.com and sign up to sponsor one of our tireless troops. Get their address and send them a card or letter of encouragement and your support. If you really want to show support - send them a care package. I am on my 60 or 70th box being sent to Iraq and it's my own personal way of showing that I do care. They truly need our support and a kind word of love. This is a challenge to everyone on PollingPoints I hope will take hold!!! (It's a way to start the process of Serving Ones Country.) :)

Discussion

Ohio

I do not agree with a draft. I feel that we would have more people volunteering if our military were treated better. I don't mean by the American people who wholeheartedly support them. Nor am I talking about their leaders in the field. My brother-in-law is a Navy commander currently stationed in Iraq and I know he puts the well being of those serving under him first. What I have a problem with is our soldiers being put in harms way without the needed equipment or with equipment that is unsafe. And serving multiple tours without sufficient downtime or training. Their families not having enough income to survive. Men and women returning to find they've lost custody of their children, this is becoming more and more frequent. Soldiers who are wounded, mentally and/or physically receiving very little assistance or ongoing care. America is failing these men and women. People who are considering enlisting see this and it's no wonder they change their minds.

Tennessee Mary's shared website...

Nebraska, the STILL flying at half-staff State Flag country... :-)

Mary, you wonderfully patriotic woman! How THANKFUL I am to YOU for suggesting we go check out that site!

FREEDOM is sure NOT FREE; "any one of these soldiers would proudly DIE for a "grateful" nation, in their ongoing fight against terrorism", is what Sgt. Brian Horn said and FROM Iraq in November of 2003, and THEN, in November of 2005 and from Afganistan this time, he professed his gratitude and also made the statement that the soldiers are over there fighting so that maybe, just MAYBE, neither MY grandbabies OR YOURS, would have to.

He also requested our prayers and, you betcha those fellas over there have MINE, and I sure HOPE they have YOURS as well...

~ L. ~ :lol:

Service to Country

Arizona

If men had not volunteered for the military during the Revolutionary War, we would still be British subjects.

Mandatory "service"

Arizona

We can't mandate generousity. We can't mandate empathy. We can't mandate kindness. We can't mandate compassion. We can't mandate anything of an intangible positive nature.

We currently have many wonderful individuals who give freely of their time and resources. To mandate such service would rob them of their personal rewards for being generous, compassionate, caring, individuals. It would dicate how and when they give of themselves.

Forced service is not of a willing spirit and as such would not instil any lifelong desire to continue to provide such service.

We need to expand on our current systems of service and open new opportunities for reaching out to our communities and nation. Many fail to comphrehend how many individuals currently freely offer their time and resources to aid those in need. We have thousands of individuals of all ages who help in large and small ways. The news fails to focus on these fine individuals because it is not sensational enough to receive the coverage they deserve.

I firmly support an all vollunteer military, and vollunteer agencies and invididuals. It matters not how large or small the effort may be, each and every individual who feely gives of him or herself is a valuable and vital individual in our communities and nation. Their value and vitality would be diminished if they were forced to provide what they so freely give.

In theory, it may seem a good idea to compel everyone to give service. However, this is contrary to what our nation stands for, and in my opinion is not much better than slavery. Regardless of the spin put on it, it is still forced compliance to do a good deed. This is not at all the same as standing up when a judge walks in the room, or pledging allegiance to the flag, etc. It is the intent which matters and an unwilling spirit should not be compelled to do force labor. I for one would not appreciate assistance from a begrudging individual.

If everyone is required to do Service, how then would we know the actual pure of heart, the true compassionate people, those who have real empathy, and possess a giving and willing spirit? Lets allow the cream to come to the top, and let the muck stay at the bottom. In my humble opinion, our current system works just fine. I am priveleged to know many very good people who happily give of themselves. I give freely in my community in small ways too. I would not wish to have this taken from me, or from my children, or their children. It is up to individual familes to teach their children the value of giving and of service to others, their communities and nation. It should not be mandated.

Dissatisfaction with government

Utah

Am appalled at 75 percent of the postings from all three sessions. There are so many complaints - it sounds like most would not be happy unless they lived in a dictatorship and they were the benevolent (?) dictator. There is only one answer - GO BACK TO THE ORIGINAL CONSTITUTION. Recant all the taxation, repeal/cancel every government "program", return s.s. monies to those who paid in and go back to the bare basics - providing a military for our defense, operating the interstate hwy. system and interstate commerce, protecting our borders, amd tending to public lands and natl. parks. EVERYHING else is done by the state i.e. education, welfare, healthcare, etc. That way you will have a hands on feeling that you DO make a difference. LET'S GET RID OF THIS VAST BANKRUPTING FEDERAL BUREAUCRACY that promotes graft, greed, fraud, etc. and GO BACK TO STATES RIGHTS.

To Leslie

MD.

I'll try to make this short, this is not the forum for a discussion on Bush/Cheeney and their policies. We'll have to find another place to discuss that. As simply as I can put it. If you kill my mother/wife ect. I will then want you dead. Most of the killing over there is because we(AMERICA) started this war. ALL of the experts more then lean toward the FACT that it is not Al Quaeda, but, civil unrest ( Normal everyday citizens) fighting amongst themselves because some oppose the war and some favor it. Some want the power lost by Hussian and just want revenge for the death of loved ones caused by this shameful act. Hussian was ready to go into exile. Bush wouldn't let him. Bin Laden could have been killed clean and fast as a super power should. I'm not sure i'm spelling it right but you say you care about the savage attacks. What about "Darfur" twice over as savage yet we're not there?? No profit and no oil. Seriously unless Stanford and P.B.S. want us to continue along these lines of discussions. This will be my last statement on this subject. I was just using and providing proof of my point of how important it is to pay attention and VOTE. Or VOTE him/her/them/ out of office. Steve of MD.

Response to Steve, MD

Tennessee

I agree whole heartedly with your sentiment on WHY is has become so important to vote - going into a war blindly and unjustified. There's such a vast cross-section of this nation in these discussion I wish they would leave this site up and running so we could get into the politics of 'entering' into a war once the 4th session is complete.

I would welcome other's views and input. My mind, my soul, my values, my belief that we are all God's children, my belief that it is just as important to take care of a child once born as to protect them as an unborn, cannot find justification for the Iraq war. It has become my mission to get 25 people that would not vote into the voting booth on election day!

Dumbing down of America

MA

I am going into next week's and our last topic of discussion, but I wanted to post some thoughts on this. The document goes into areas of funding organizations to educate Americans on politics and the issues, as well as suggest possibly making sure internet access is enjoyed by all. I'm sorry, but I guess I'm experiencing a different economy than the producers of this forum.

Don't get me wrong, I think a lot of this discussion is interesting food for thought, but what I'm really impressed with is the complete absence of the practical side of all of these suggestions. Where is all the money coming from that will be required to put these suggestions in place? The producers present things in black and white (change it or leave it alone) without asking to invoke thought about why these situations are necessary or even are taking place to begin with. Although I don't dispute the study showing Americans are failing in their political knowledge or familiarity with current events, I believe there are other reasons why this is happening and a lot of those reasons fall into the lack of education on these topics in our schools and civic activities during the high school years. What are our educators doing in graduating these students that are failing these these studies or not presenting them or even putting them into the world without embedding the need to keep current on them and realize it matters? I know that it is almost taboo to attack our teachers...but I have to ask the question as to why THEY are producing these kind of results? We paid them via our taxes already to teach these kids (between teacher's conferences, all holidays, breaks and their month plus off in the summer) and now it's suggested we have to further fund education of the citizens that didn't get that education! Duh...seems like something is wrong with this system. I'm also not sympathic to how underpaid educators are...living in MA and hearing their salary for the actual time worked, including their extensive benefit packages and retirement, it falls on a pair of deaf ears in this state compared to private industry. One only has to log onto the Boston Herald website and see the database of their salaries and retirement to know that they are very well paid. OK...so why are their students failing these studies or not getting them in the first place?

Internet access is available in most libraries, coffee houses, schools (which adults can use for evening classes, etc). Certainly, the terrorists of 9/11 had no trouble getting access to the internet in various locations to plan their attack without taking advantage of publically funded programs! Also, most people would mistrust any organization interpreting politics or issues and rightly so...regardless of where their funding comes from or maybe because of it. What happened to the unbelieveable thought of making up our own minds? At the very least, these organizations or groups would be accussed of misinterpreting the facts by any organization who did not agree with their stance. My real point is, however, where is all the money coming from to support a lot of these suggestions and others.

For instance, kids being drafted into the military or public service after high school or college (all draining on our tax dollars and economy) when we are faced with a shortage of workers in the coming few decades due to the birth reduction of the baby boomer generation. Also, how are these kids going to pay back their enormous student loans which are in the thousands of dollars when they're forced to forego a career after school to either serve in the military or work for a year or more in public service?

Back when I was growing up as a child, we had two than three TV channels. A good part of the day, we had to wait for the TV channels to start broadcasting. I'm in my 50's! We also watched the Watergate Hearings that were broadcast entirely. We have been overwhelmed as a nation with too much information, from too many sources and not all of it is in our best interest. Anyone trusting the internet to bring them total clarity on any issue will quickly learn that it is a minefield of misinformation and a forum for anyone on anything, including the truth and the facts, if you can find it. On television, we have the media covering Brittany's loss of her underwear, as well as her children or the high drama of Ellen losing her dog. We focus intently on how to catch pedofiles, watch questionable people compete against each other on a tropical island to survive, or perhaps have more knowledge on how to prove a murder by watching a body being cut up in an autopsy. Madison Avenue rules! They have molded us over the last 50 years into dummies. We are victims of mind control. Take an exhausted population working more and more hours just to survive or be laid off, put them in cars right after that for a long drive home to the only place they can almost afford, make them into the most productive and overworked population in the world, then mind control becomes very easy and desirable when you attach enormous profit to the feat! One of the major problems facing our country is the lack of sleep not internet access!!!

I hate to sound like a complete cynic but America is not on the right path and hasn't been for some time. Somewhere we have a disconnect of "we the people". We cannot even stop a war that most of us don't want to fight! The truth is that it's not about us anymore and we have lost control of our country. We are being distracted by mindless dribble (and eating it up) because the real truth of the matter (a la Jack Nicholson) is we cannot handle the truth. With all the information that is being thown at us by our information technology, the work we are being asked to do by corporate America, while at the same time we have not realized the loss of control we have over our lives and our well being and the deadening of our values. We start to think that if we just throw more money at a situation it will make it better, when in fact, we need to get back to basics and perhaps tear down some of what is wrong in this country and ask our politicians to make it happen. We need to make teachers responsible for what they teach. We need to move the power back to the people and away from Corporate America and the media and especially the politicians who are pons to their agenda.

There are nations (Ireland, for one) where every student gets a completely free college education and they enjoy the highest educated population in the world. They have completely turned their economy over by using their brains to bring in business by revamping the tax laws. Right..no army. There are nations where they don't believe the only means to survival is a standing army.

At the fear of sounding unpatriotic, our violent history stands in our way at times to using our brains instead of our braun. Has it occurred to some that perhaps the fear we put into the world requires us to maintain that fear through outdated military options instead of negotiation and alliances in an ever smaller global community? Guns do not win minds. Do we question the fact that our military drains us of the opportunity to put a chicken in every pot and every kid through college? Are we really fighting and dying to protect America or Corporate America? I think we need to redefine "we the people" as a discussion and take our government back out of the hands of Corporate America and the media, and politicians who keep running this country with "business as usual" which allows an overly ambitious rich kid with money to buy and dupe a brain-dead population to masquerade as a down-home cowboy leading us to debt and destruction. We need to wake up and fast.

Corporate America

Utah

Thank God for corporate America. Corporations are the backbone of our nation. They are the risk takers - private enterprise, investor funded, entreprenual genius at its best. They are the wheels of industry that keep our economy afloat, our families fed, our life style comfortable and exciting, provide the tax dollars for our government, find new drugs to heal our sick minds and bodies, take us to new frontiers and into outerspace. What turnip patch have you "corporate America" haters been living in? Corporations are entities that have to be responsible to their customers, their employees, their communities and their stock holders - otherwise they fail. (Enron was not any of those and they FAILED)

"We The People" is it TRUTH?

Central Islip, Long Island, NY

Kathy, I must say right on, and you are truly a patriot, so don't doubt it. Anyway, I have being delving in and out of political forums since I was child when Jack Kennedy was running for President. I often look back at the words he spoke,"Ask not what your country can do, but ask what you can do for your country." Every time I have voted I have asked myself that question, what can I do for my country? I know I have honorably served my country as a female army Vietnam era soldier. Even though I used my enlistment for work experience, my mind actually changed after I got in especially during basic training. I chose to enlist instead of going into Officers Candidate School, right away with my degree, b/c of the way my recruiter explained the differences between an officer, a non-commission officer, and an enlistee, as they called us, the bottom of the totem poll, that does the actual work, making everybody else look good. I thought, well ok, I go in as an enlistee, therefore, I can make a difference. Well it is truly sad but just as corporate America is so there goes the military armed services-just a different forum, now, that the government owns you from the tip of your head to the tip of your toes and you are not an individual who has a mind of their own and/or individual rights.

Just as our soldiers today, if they speak their mind, their lives are made miserable in the all-voluntary army, b/c the "Lifer's" will find some way to ostracize you, almost like terroism, but on a low keyed scale. Therefore, "We The People" doesn't work as a soldier in these United States of America military service. Just to let you all know, eventually, when I got accepted into OCS and was going to return back to the states, I spent seven days in a coma at Landsthul, Germany, then was placed in a psyche ward, then, had been raped twice, and b/c you fight back and stand up for who you are, eventually it comes back to you. I have so many of my fellow friends (women) who as nurses, etc., stationed in Vietnam during the war suffered at the hands of our own soldiers abuse, rapes, and beatings, by-the-way still go on today, that can tell you stories about trying to be "We The People." I received my general discharge under honorable conditions b/c I chose to express my right to savor my individual rights, and the soldiers who violated me were allowed to continue in their service b/c they were the real army and they fight to keep the gov't safe. Not to go off into a tangent but, who in this suppose democracy has actual individual rights to make a productive change.

These discussion have been a privilege , especially, we have had an opportunity to discuss and express what is the backbone of this country. I am truly proud to have been born in this country but we do have a great deal of changes to make and guess what, We can't leave it up to our youth that will be coming of age, to accomplish it! We the baby boomers still have some gusto left so we need to start up our own little website for change and petition our fellow boomers to get involved so we can leave our children and grand babies an opportunity to carry the sword of change and be proud to be an American-America of the FREE and the HOME of the BRAVE, even with multicultural and multiracial harmony and PROUDNESS.

I believe in "WE THE PEOPLE" but I know that it is going to take ALL of US to BRING about CHANGE, without reprisal. Therefore, it is of grave importance that WE VOTE and get as many people to VOTE. But before the actual vote takes place WE need to use our libraries, schools, community centers, and other services to educate the people on the candidates, previous records in Congress, State records, and community record, so the people can have an actual choice that is as close to truth that we can prepare.

Yes, Jack Kennedy, I am trying to do for my country but I am only ONE praying for THE MASSES to join me. Remember one becomes us and US is United States of the People & For the PEOPLE. GOD BLESS AMERICA & AMERICA BLESS THIS GROUP OF PARTICIPATES.

Everyone has their price

MA

Yucca,
All I can say from my "turnip patch" is that everyone has their price. As far as the drug companies, they over-charge Americans while offering their products at reduced prices outside the country. Corporations are responsible to their share-holders, but I doubt you'll find too many that are responsible to their employees, outside what the government has mandated. Most CEO's make salaries in the millions and have severance packages that pay them millions even if they fail at their jobs. Most CEO's get bonus money based on how many workers they have laid off. I could go on and on, but why bother. You have bought the package. I'll let you get back to your exciting life.

the last week

cedar rapids iowa

yes, yes, yes, yes, and omg YES, we HAVE TO.

I've gotten very frustrated with this format, I don't care for it, I don't think it's a discussion but a chance to orate, and I could much more easily answer these questions in writing, where the medium actually functions adequately.

Being informed

Dayton, Ohio

:) Corporations should lose their individual rights, pay taxes (instead of being allowed to pass them on to customers), pay for their business (workers have to pay for theirs). Enron economics is the standard today and should be replaced by "Atlas Shrugged" by Ayn Rand who exposes what true capitalism is which bases itself on the constitution, uses ethics etc. Science will save us if only we would take politics away from emotions, lies, deceit, smoke screens and many other criminal type activities and apply them to our systems that unfairly measure, deliver and belittle our humanity! We currently have a lottery mentality where few win and mostly after cooking the books.

PARTICIPATION IN DEMOCRACY

This whole program is, in my opinion, based on a misconception that logical intelligent solutions can be found to the intractible problems of voter apathy, public service and election disparities.

Human beings are always going to follow the dictates of their own self interests first, and then ( if they have been exposed to the rewards of cooperation and working for the "greater good") they MIGHT expand their "self interest" to include their personal family, their ethnic or religious "family" and their Community or State or National "family".

People who have NO exposure to the rewards of cooperation and who have no desperate self interest needs will continue in their own comfort zones and choose to NOT be informed or educated or to participate in any activities that do not entertain or re-inforce their own "place in society".

That is why both compulsary Military and Public Service is a good idea. If young people are exposed to the intrinsic benefits of cooperation and working for the greater good at an early age, it will provide a "kick-start" to their "altruistic" genes.

Remarks about this week's briefing

South Dakota

Citizens have an obligation to become informed before they vote or participate. Only then will democracy produce a meaningful expression of the 'will of the people.'
-- this week's briefing

The problem with this attitude is that it assumes an elitist superiority only the informed citizen can meaningfully voice the mysterious will of the people. Another problem is getting informed from unbiased sources (discussed later in the briefing).

I agree with the basis of the discussion about becoming informed if we follow through on it to the ultimate conclusion -reverse the 1968 Supreme Court decision and re-institute literacy tests, state by state, for voters. Then, additionally, deny federal funds to states which fail to educate their populace to nearly the norm.

Because American campaigns are conducted almost entirely through the media, candidates are also very dependent on TV commercials to spread their word and attract voters.
-- this week's briefing

This just isn't entirely true. Young voters and independent voters (and most particularly, young independent voters) tend to make their political decisions informed by the comedians. In the 2004 election, young voters regarded John Stewart, the host of The Daily Show on cable television's Comedy Central program, as the most important source of political news. Older voters rely on television news. Nationwide among all groups, network television and network news are, blissfully, dying. Why cure a problem (fuzzy-wuzzy happy-talk political television) that's dying on the vine?

If you've ever watched John Stewart or Bill Maher, you'll find that comedians ask the sharpest questions and make the best ad-libbed face-to-face commentary. Professional comedians are our very best analysts today. The opposite of this is the overpaid talking head asking insipid softball questions, for example, Barbara Walters.

As for 30-second political ads, these appear much less effective than in the past. Can you find a way to cut them or ban them without violating the first amendment's free speech protections? I can't.

Yes, there is a plague of vain thinking about politics. People think they know and can thus fairly judge the people they see on the television screen. Politicians count on this. To this day, the most popular presidents in my lifetime, John Kennedy and Ronald Reagan, were the ones who were best at portraying a likeable persona on television. I don't have a solution to this problem. A few people are actually competent at judging the human images on the television screen lifelong Shakespeare scholors and blind people, as two examples. But the country and its voters would be better off if visual images weren't used at all to make election decisions. Who follows elections be reading debate transcripts and the select unbiased political websites? Not very many. Who listens to the candidates debate on the radio when the television is available? Virtually no one.

Wealthy people are likely to have high-speed internet and poor Americans have less access to modern electronics. Ho hum. Been to the library lately? All libraries have the internet. And the patrons, almost all of them, are glued to the monitors and keyboards. So, I personally would support state and federal legislation to FURTHER saturate the nation's libraries with computers. Bill Gates is acting as a modern Andrew Carnegie in this respect, though he's gotten little publicity or credit for it. Many libraries hold classes which teach use of the internet.

I also suggest that modern public education, as dismal as it is, needs to focus on the art of rhetoric as an important topic. There are fine but clearly detectable differences between good data and bad data, between information and propaganda. Today's children need the talent of discernment about reliable internet sites and unreliable sites, and that's a rhetorical skill that ought to be taught in the elementary schools. They also need essential mathematical skills (often called numeracy.) This is the 21st century without the ability to distinguish between expository writing and propaganda, coupled with competent numeracy, you are certainly going to be conned about politics.

Nothing is going to stop voters from using lazy procedures like voting for a candidate because of party or voting for a candidate because of a celebrity endorsement. I don't see how public funding of focus groups or citizen's groups is going to help look at the mess public education has made of history classes.

WOW! Everyone's sure THINKING out there...

Nebraska, the GOOD LIFE! :-)

After just breezing thru everyone's writings here, I'm just majorly impressed with this area of this worldwide internet - AND I'm downright honored to be a part of it, too! THANK YOU, P.B.S. and Stanford for this outstanding opportunity, to talk and learn from others.

I'd like to address Yucca from Utah's posting of last Friday: he states that we need to go back to the original Constitution, go back to the individual state's rights to govern, and federally maintain the interstate highways, the parks and such...and make differences in that way...I say RIGHT ON! And I wonder what the experts say about this...?

It just makes such perfect sense to me...I'll ask the next two generations under we baby boomers and see what they have to say about this...will be getting back to you all on that...

~ L. ~ :lol:

Corporate America and Is It America

I have to respond to those who "Thank God for corporate America. Corporations are the backbone of our nation."

Yes, the measurement of society is often its "corporate wealth" and the private funding of genius often helps. But ... I must also note that the Enrons of this nation destroy myriad points in our economic structure (people, places, and entities) when they act to further their bottom line.

We are wise to remember that most everything cuts both ways ... and remember that, as the individual worker is the back on which corporations are built, this nation in not built on corporations, but people.

Becoming Informed

Florida

We have become so accustomed to the sound bites fed to us by the media and the current administration. How many times in the past has the current administration explained policy through the use of slogans? (Stay the course) Now presidential candidates are being described through the use of labels and I fear that the busy voter population will be influenced by this propaganda.

Come on folks, it's time to decide what qualities we expect of our next leader. What skills or abilities make a superior leader? Each of us must have some expectations. We can judge the candidates by examining their achievements in the past and their responses during the debates. Hopefully, we can learn from the mistakes made in the last eight years.

These are some of the qualities I look for in a leader:
. the ability to communicate clearly
.the ability to recognize leadership in others
.the ability to listen to a variety of opinions, think critically, and formulate sound decisions
.knowledgeable about world and domestic affairs
.sense of humor
.fairness and respect for other's opinions

Candidates each have past experiences that can be used to make decisions about their qualifications for the office of president.

Becoming Informed

Kirkland

Re the ability to be informed: Pay attention to the FCC public discussions that are coming to an end soon regarding opening up media to yet more conglomeration. If Kevin Martin, FCC chairman, gets his way, it will be another nail in the coffin of our still-nascent democracy.

Election Fraud vs voter fraud

WA

The question was posed, " What can we do to combat election fraud as opposed to voter fraud". Voter fraud is, I think, a canard used to divert attention from evidence of real election fraud.
The question was not posed as a question about electronic voting machines as Prof. Shaw supposed in his audio response, although that is part, but rather in looking at the totality of the voting experience in the US.

The question actually touches on a range of issues encountered in these discussions. The election fraud suspected in 2000/2004 has more to do with the lower level mechanics of the voting process. Some topics from our discussions (sorry for the outline form; so much to say):

- (Citizenship and Participation) the lack of voter participation,
- both disaffection with an arcane process (Electoral College),
- forces attention on key states where fraud has likely occurred (Ohio, Florida)
- speculation and evidence of systematic voter disenfranchisement in the last two presidential elections,

- (Exercising Choice) The system works against us.

-Secretaries of State hold simultaneous positions in re-election committees,
- gerrymandering is a science,
-Our two-party system aids and abets those who attempt to manipulate elections by suppressing turnout of certain voting blocs ( demographics like black voters) or manufacture one of their own (Values Voters)
- Litmus tests are given way too much play,
- dialog is minimized, replaced by meaningless debates,
- campaign financing as presently realized, along with lobbying, skews elections toward incumbents and money; it's institutionalized election fraud,

- the discussion of ways to facilitate participation are, in no small part, actions that impede the ability to perpetrate election fraud,
- facilitating voter registration,
- adequate voting stations in all precincts,
- proportional representation ideas remove the ability for slim majorities (or fraud) to create a huge swing in governance with microscopic mandate,
- special election days or other measures make it harder to suppress the vote of people with logistical problems,

- (Serving One's Country) The desire to serve is dampened by the tactics used to suppress voter participation. Why bother if recounts are cut short, if voting lines are artificially long, if the type of paper used for registration determines your validity as a voter, if a similar name to yours make you ineligible to vote, if provisional votes are simply discarded.

- (Becoming Informed) This is another aspect of the election fraud landscape. The more ignorant people can be kept, the more easily swayed they are by happy jingles or simplistic litmus test issues.

- pay attention to the on-going FCC discussions, coming to an end soon, to let media conglomeration grow apace. This serves no one but those who wish to be able to sway, influence, or stifle dialog and information

Again, sorry for the outline form. It didn't render well and I type to slowly to redo it ;)

My thanks to all who have participated. It has helped me to become more engaged.

The media are the messengers

Pac NW

The media are driven by the bottom line - profit. Using the free air waves, the corporate TV media will only send messages that massage their bottom line. How? By appealing to the lowest common denominator, the television media strokes the emotions instead of the intellect.
TV news broadcasts have morphed into gossip sessions, with each local or national news program showing the same stories, stories that make us laugh or cry, but no stories to feed the intellect.
PBS news is sometimes the exception.
Comedy Central, as someone suggested, puts news in a format that tickles our funnybone. But that is their mission: to show us how farcical life can be.
Voters will never be well-informed if television is their only source of information about the candidates. ;)

Off the subject

Utah

How did corporate America become part of a discussion on voting and the electoral system? The little paragraph explaining corporate America was written to rebut the position that people do not vote because of feeling that corporate America controls and/or overly influences elections. The premise appeared in many postings. Some even inferred that corporations don't pay taxes. That is a myth just as is the rich don't pay taxes. Undoubtedly this info has been put into peoples minds by those who are opposed to a free and open society. When an election doesn't go according to their wishes, they must blame someone, forgetting that there may be more people with other ideas. Corporations are limited in what they are allowed to contribute and any company with brains always donates to all parties as they want an open door to present their views on legislation affecting their interests. Alas, that unfortunately, is not true of unions. Apparently, Economics 101 is a foreign subject to too many. It should be a requirement for graduation. Corporations are made up of good 'ole American workers. It's not just CEO's = a corp. linvolves everyone from the producers of the raw materials to the finished products and all the support services in between. I am sure each of you was a beneficiary of at least 50 corporations today (unless you never got out of bed this morning). Certainly, there are bad apples in every barrel. Those who cheat, lie, exploit the consumer and their employees, and resort to fraud and bribery always fail. As long as we have free enterprise and competition in the market place, the bad will ultimately go down. This is a discussion on the electoral process, but somehow the discussion as drifted to place blame where it does not belong. Let's not succumb to the mundane, boring, expensive, bankrupting, unproductive existence of a socialistic society.

Missed week

Silver Spring, MD

My computer crashed last week and my computer guru husband was out of town. Sorry I had to miss the session.

Being informed

Los Angeles

Thank you Tom in Kirkland; you're absolutely right.

Meanwhile, the internet can be as much a source of misinformation as of information, but obviously it has a lot of good, and, through public libraries, it is generally available to virtually anyone.

Sadly, not only has broadcast journalism declined in quality (from never a very high level), but newspapers seem to be declining too.

Daron Shaw's comment on citizen apathy

Washigton State

You suggested that voting is not difficult and that you can take a cursory look at the candidates and make a decision based on whether or not you like them because of what they say they're for and against. This idea assumes that politicians don't lie and that they have provided succinct and accurate disclosure of their intentions. Has that ever happened? Making an emotional decision would insure that advertisement campaigns had the most influence on the outcome. People voting based on feelings is how we ended up with the worst executive branch, with the most dangerous policies in US history. A candidate should undergo a complete background check like a prospective employee in the private sector. Would you hire a felon to be a bank teller? Maybe we should give Democracy a chance and trust that the population would make the correct decisions based on truth and facts, and stop treating them like they're stupid. If people knew George W. Bush was a 'C' student who got into college because daddy was influential, was a multiple failure in business, went AWOL, owned a pro sports team because of other people's money, became governor of Texas through lies, deception and slander, his presidential candidacy may have come out differently. Good for you that you with a PHD in political science find it easy to vote. However, I would be disappointed if you didn't understand the importance of reading the fine print. Most people in America have no degree and it's not easy to read legalese let alone understand the full implications of laws on society. If you have to take a shortcut in voting, look at who's financing the campaign. This will indicate who the beneficiaries would be. Then check to see if you're on that list.

To another opinion in Washington

Pac NW

Great post!
But you forgot to mention that people who vote on feelings and who rely on endorsements from people they trust, voted for Bush on the basis of all those endorsements by NASCAR drivers. :lol:

Cursory voting policies

TN

I too was a bit disturbed by an expert in political science believing that voting should or is 'easy'. I pray that each and every voter takes the time to listen to more than ONE comment and speech made by each and every candidate - Republican or Democrat - before entering a voting booth in this November. I am so very tired of being lied to with a smile by politicians. It seems all politicians have gone to the same school and learned this as a 'technique'. 1) Listen to the voter, 2) Repeat what they heard and assure the voter (w/a smile) that they agree, 3) Hope like heck the smile did the trick so they got the vote, and then 4) once elected - do what they darn well please, at any expense, even going against the nation's Constitution, keep the Nation scared, etc. etc.

Please, no more voting on just the issue of ABORTION! Everyone that voted for Bush in '00 and '04 because of his rhetoric on abortion - what has he done? Nothing on your issue, but he has managed to inflict enough deaths, pain and suffering since 2003 on thousands of innocent people of the world. This is not the 'compassion' to mankind that I have been taught or part of my values.

Voting CORRECTLY is NOT easy. Voting for the best SMILE is.

Electoral College

Washinton State

It is my opinion that politicians will never favor a popular vote because they would have far less control of voting outcome and it would cost them a lot more money to campaign. It is well known among advertisers what stimuli create particular responses in different demographics. Politicians don't have to be nearly as effective when they just have to appeal to a majority of groups. If citizens stopped believing they were a this or as that, removed themselves from group mentality and created their own individual thoughts, politicians would have to work a lot harder. Divide and Conquer.

Typo on previous post

Washinton State

'This or a that', not this or as that.
Sorry :oops:

On Becoming Informed

The Smoky Mts. of TN

I feel the biggest turnoff for those w/incomes under $30K and voters between the ages of 18 to 25 have been: 1) election fraud, and 2) the Supreme Court stepping on states rights in the 2000 election. Helpless is the first word that comes to mind. In my humble opinion, the issue of election fraud has been amplified with the rush to electronic voting after 2000. Hopefully the Supreme Court has had an awakening to stay out of national elections in the future.

Public funding of elections is not a waste of tax dollars. HOW the system uses that funding may be the waste. That's where we the people must become vocal on our views and needs. Am I concerned that the candidate uses the funding to 'make superficial appeals or just to attack their opponent'? Heck NO. They would get politely turned off and not receive my vote because they lack the leadership qualities this country so needs. (I would write them a personal Thank You note for allowing me to see their lack of understanding of the country's issues)

In my opinion public funding for political reasons should not be given to a non-partisan organization sadly, I don't trust anyone in this government to make the decisions of 'non-partisan'. Being an owner of the public airwaves I would suggest that every area of this country has 3 stations (TV and radio) set aside for political issues which are financed equally by public funding aired 365/24/7, not just during elections. The stations are run by the RNC, DNC, and the Independents. They decided on what issues and which candidate will and will not be aired. NO MORE 30-secound TV, radio, or print media ads can be purchased other than on the 3 political channels until 30 days before an election! NO MORE polling can take place or results aired before 12 months before a national election! ANY and ALL churches found to be preaching from the pulpit, in writing, or at church gathering on politics, issues (abortion comes to mind), or candidates will IMMEDIATELY lose their non-profit status and any funding received from the government.

A majority of voters in this country have declared themselves as Independents their vote will be cast for the candidate, not a Party. Give these Independents a place to direct potential voters to turn to make up their minds on which candidate will match and implement their values and issues. The public funding of the airwaves, with written and enforced rules, just may be the answer to getting the information needed to vote.

Voting

Chiefland Florida

I see things that are hard for people without internets to become aware of. In the Internet there is always pros and cons, most people who read things on the internet can be checked. You can find almost anything you want on the net. I think it would be great to have these resources available to everyone regardless of income. And remove the ELECTORIAL VOTE and have a paper vote recorded for every vote cast. That would BAR people from being able to change the votes of the people, MONEY COULD NOT CHANGE THE VOTE the way it has done in Florida in recent elections. Where I live in Fl. people cannot afford a 100.00 dollars a month for the internet, you cannot get T.V. without SAT. I did not realize all this untill I retired and moved here. A lot of people do not know who their SEN.& REPs. are. Most have two jobs they do not belive that they can change anything by their vote THANKS TC :oops:

Becoming Informed

When the voter needs to be informed, there are a lot of criteria in choosing the right candidate for the position. When choosing who will lead our country, some factors should be 1) who has experience in leading, 2) who is intelligent enough to be the President of the United States, 3) who can make the economy better, 4) who has the most sound ideas. A candidate that wants to spend billions is not the right candidate. I want a candidate that will lower my taxes. I don't want a candidate that will be doing his/her internship while being the President of the United States of America. A voter can become informed simply by visiting his local library, even if he doesn't have access to the internet. A candidate should not be chosen just because they will be the first woman or the first black to run for a particular office. I want someone who can change Washington for the better. Perhaps I am naive, but I'm hoping for an honest, decent person like the lead character in "Mr. Smith goes to Washington".

Becoming informed

Cal

The people involved in this discussion are motivated, well informed and vote. The people we need to energize are the others. Making the access to the information is important and necessary abut as the saying goes not sufficient. To use another cliche you can lead a horse to water but you can't make him drink. I don't know the answer but surely there are people who make a study of motivating people. Certainly advertising agencies understand this. We need to find a news commentator that knows how to present facts in an interesting and yes entertaining way. The people who don't vote, are not interested are that way because they don't see how participation will affect their or their children's lives.
We must turn to those who know how to sell people on being involved.

Discussion

Seattle

Our 4 pm West Coast Time discussion never started, or at least I never got a connection. Anyone know why??

Response:
There must have been a problem with your connection, because the meeting did occur. The good news is that you can review the final meeting in the "Archived Meetings" section of your lobby.

Social/Political Unity

Washington State

There is political unity among people who believe there is no way to justify fabricating excuses to spend a trillion dollars of taxpayer's money to slaughter a million people, displace two million people, destroy a countries infrastructure, make more enemies for America and create more unrest in the world in an attempt to control another countries oil resources! There is a lack of unity between those who have a conscience, and those who are detached from reality.
It has been suggested that the media is culpable for negativity among Americans. Sensationalism and bad news are unfortunately good selling tools, but where the media fell down on the job this time was not uncovering the Bush administration's fabricated excuses to invade Iraq. The news is negative today because there are some incredibly negative events taking place. Sensationalism is tiresome but I don't want to be fed pabulum or have stories not covered.

google group

Would someone from Michael's group please post the google group that Tom set up? I am looking for it as discussion-in-democracy and not finding anything. Thanks.

dbodeh

OH

we need to get Tom to give us the exact group name because there are 300k+ groups talking democracy! Remember it's not a democracy but a republic according ton the U.S. Constitution :lol:

google group

He gave the group name as discussion-in-democracy but that is not coming up as a valid group. I've "googled" many variations but again, coming up with nothing. I'll keeop checking. Hopefully, he will come back and post for us.

Becoming Informed

Unfortunately, I was unable to hear most of the discussion today. I'm not sure what the problem was. I tried to make contact with the right people, but nothing worked for quite a while.

Becoming informed begins with available information

San Francisco, CA

The most specious argument AGAINST providing information is that the UNinformed might not use it.

This argument has been used against providing nutritional information on packaged food; against providing ingredient information on over-the-counter medicine; and, against providing user safety information on goods and services ranging from power tools to loan obligations. If you don't want the information, don't read the label...!

In the Briefing Documents for Session 4, three arguments AGAINST providing voter information made the claim that voters might not take advantage of it. Nu...? The object is not production of well-informed think-alike robots...! It is to provide opportunity.

A necessary condition for a healthy democracy is an informed electorate. Candidate media time and voter access to information resources such as the Internet are very good investments in democracy. For a nation that already spends a sizeable part of its GNP on gladiator sport events, such investments are cheap at twice the price.

teachers

Columbus

Yes, it would be great if teachers could get out more info on current events, etc. But they have to have the resources, time & funding. Many of us live in good schools systems. However, considering that 25% of American children live below the poverty level, not everyone is that lucky:

*In the last 10 years, Las Vegas, Nevada, has seen its school enrollment double from 100,000 students to more than 200,000.

*Every three days, the Elk Grove, California school system gets enough new students to fill a high school classroom. 15% to 20 % of teachers switch classrooms throughout the day. At the most crowded schools, 30% of teachers don't have permanent rooms.

*In Fairfax, Va., elementary schools have 591 fewer classrooms than are needed to accommodate student enrollment.

*The Los Angeles school district, the second largest in the country, projects a shortfall of 85,900 desks within
the next six years.

*Already in some classrooms, there are twice as many children as there are desks.

Add into that:

*A report released by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development found that teachers in the United States spend more hours at work; 1080 versus 803 hours; than their counterparts in 29 other countries, but are among the lowest paid.

*The average salary of just over $40,000 for a U.S. primary teacher with 15 years of experience ranked the United States 12th among the countries surveyed.

*The average starting salary for teachers in the US is $31,704. Americans graduate from college more deeply in debt than college graduates of any other country so the newer teachers will most likely have years worth of student loans to pay off. Sure they have time off for holidays and vacations but their salaries have to last all year and the larger majority of teachers have to work in the summer to make ends meet.

How do we come up with the money to hire the teachers, build the schools and provide the equipment to make sure our students are more informed? Simple. As of 1 hour ago the money we've spent on the War in Iraq would pay the salary of 8,021,769 teachers for a year. Our government needs to rethink their priorities.

Nonpartisan... what...?

San Francisco, CA

Our Briefing Document contained this sentence:

"One proposal is to provide public funding for non-partisan voter information groups who aim to help voters become informed. "

I used Google to search "nonpartisan". I recommend it for a deep understanding of this concept. Among the first few hits were...

"...the Arab American Institute (AAI) is a non-profit nonpartisan national leadership organization."

"Your source for comprehensive, independent and nonpartisan information about the FBI."

"The president said Thursday in his press conference that he was reaching out to the press corps. ... And why would he feel the need to reach out to a group of supposedly nonprtisan people?"

"The nonpartisan Center on Budget and Policy Priorities today issued an analysis confirming that climate change policy can effectively reduce greenhouse gas emissions and at the same time generate ample revenue..."

Narrowly-viewed, these statements are "nonpartisan" because none of them came from directly either the Republican or Democratic parties. Yup...! Nonpartisan.

Campaign Finance

Washigton State

I disagree that a corporation should be defined as a person. A corporation is a group of persons who collectively may have more influence than an individual, giving them unfair access. A corporation's interest is in serving its shareholder's portfolio. Their views may not benefit anybody but themselves and the candidate to whom they have contributed. If a corporation's views conflict with any of its member's views, by association the member will have contributed to a vote against themselves. Therefore, free speech turned around and used against you. The constitution is supposed to promote the general welfare of We the People of the United States, not the general welfare of the few that can afford it. This is a bias toward Corporatocracy.
I favor public funding of campaigns. If the public had an equal financial investment, it would create more equality between campaigns, and the public may be more inclined to become informed. Politicians should be beholden to all the people in equal measure.

Polls are bogus

western USA

This discussion and polling has confirmed what I have always supected - the people who have nothing better to do just like to hear themselves expound their socialistic views and sign up for these discussions. The genuine concerned citizens are out there doing something productive!!! If you look at the states that are identified by people in the discussion, there is a proportional misrepresentation from Wa., Ca., Minn., Ma., NY - extremely liberal bastions. This is not the sponsors fault - they probably got a much larger response from those areas, as the liberals like to shout loud and long and make the most drastic statements with no factual background. If your discussion was like mine, you witnessed lots of talk from the socialist with a few responses from conservatives and that was mostly to rebut mistruths presented by other participants. Nothing was accomplilshed.

Great 4 sessions

Oregon

Wow!! What a great 4 sessions and so much left to think about. I still am in favor of a vote by mail on every level just because I have seen it does create a larger voter turn out.

We will never be able to force people to like politics or get involved. I feel we don't want these people voting anyway. They will not be informed or educated and their votes will be meaningless and could have a major effect on the out come of the election.

I think the younger generation of today worries more about their computers, video games and time with friends. Maybe once they mature, they will be more involved in polictics and their future in this country.

Thanks again for a great 4 weeks.
:)

Becoming Informed

Ohio

This research takes a considerable amount of time. Let's take for example Global Warming. Before I can make an informed decision on which candidate represents my point of view, I have to get to the truth. Have we created this problem, or is this just the way the earth is?
We have a Nobel Prize winning, Al Gore with his scientists stating "that we have created this mess and we need to fix it." On the other hand, we have John Stossel on 20/20 with his group of experts implying that we are scaring the children, polar bears have nothing to worry about and things aren't as bad as they seem.
Taking this even further, we have Barbara Boxer asking to see the six out of twelve pages that were removed from the CDC report on the effects of global warming.
In addition, we have a myriad of websites to find additional points of view on this subject including a very recent interesting article from Time Magazine.
If you have any additional credible websites regarding this topic, let me know.
Excuse my oversimplification but my plain and simple point is how do ordinary people like myself get to the
truth?
For those that think that I am looking for too much truth... you can always go to the VA Joe.com website, answer the questions and find the candidate that comes closest to your point of view. It will certainly save you time. :eek:

Internet Access for Poor

Washington, DC

Maybe I am the only person in the chat tonight who knows any poor people. C-SPAN? Cable? Are you serious? In the projects? These people are living in public housing in violent drug infested neighborhoods, folks. I doubt there is anyone in the room tonight who still uses dial-up and I am willing to bet that at least a third of us have more than one computer in our homes.

Many inner city kids are living with one parent.They simply don't have the luxury of skipping off to the library after school to get on the internet. And in rural areas, kids probably have to travel some miles to find a public computer.

We are in the 21st century and a computer with internet access today is what basic phone service was 30 years ago. Every home should have one.

Re: Becoming Informed

washington, DC

It sounds to me like you're off to a good start in terms of informing yourself. I try to listen to as much as I can from both sides but I think it's also important for people to read and listen with a critical eye and ear. Personally, I can think of any number of ways in which one side of the global warming debate benefits from their stance but I find it very difficult to view those with the opposing point of view as self-serving. Ask yourself what each side stands to lose or gain vis a vis a given issue. That's something I don't think a lot of people are open to doing.

To disillusioned

TN

Sorry to hear to felt your group leaned to the liberal view (hmm, I wonder what that really means?) anyway, I have to say we had a very diverse group from all political sides. And I am pleased to report we all appeared to actually listen to one another's view. In my opinion, we had a great group that came in with an open mind.

Thanks everyone !!!! I will be setting up a discussion group on yahoo so we can continue on and possibly cause CHANGE for the good of this country!

Where do we go from here?

Seattle, WA

For me, one of the most important parts of this process has been the opportunity to "meet" and talk with so many different people from different places and who have different beliefs and perspectives. I believe this very diversity and our ability to share our views are key parts of the richness that IS America.

In my neighborhood, we have a growing sense of community that is inspired by a few simple principles: stopping to chat with neighbors, patronizing local businesses, having gatherings at the local library and neighborhood book store, where we discuss things that matter, in meaningful ways.

If we can continue the same kind of dialog nationwide with our online contacts, we have the opportunity to build the same kind of community on a much broader scale, and to take these simple ideas of expression home to our own neighborhoods, blocks, apartments, or even the local grange.

I saw a great sign that said: "The trouble with life is, I was halfway through it before I realized it is a do-it-yourself job."

The same can be said for democracy, and our representative government. It isn't enough to elect officials and stand back waiting for them to do what we think they should, We need to explore our own ideas by discussing them with others, and then spread the experience across the nation by encouraging everyone else to do the same things: Listen, think, speak up, and take action!

I appreciate everyone's contributions, and particularly the opportunity this project has provided. Congratulations to McNeill/Lehrer and By the People for this outstanding project.

What's next?

A few resources of interest

Seattle, WA

I've had the good fortune to encounter several organizations that offer opportunities for continuing involvement, available on the Web:
www.newstrust.net is a citizen-journalist project where news articles are posted and reviewed for accuracy, bias, derogatory or positive terms, and overall value. It's a wonderful innovation and a great source of--and venue for--analytical evaluation and critical thinking.

www.letstalkamerica.org gives a global invitation to "we the people" to talk about what is important to us. They offer training in how to host this kind of discussion.

www.conversationcafe.org is a related organization that also provides coaching and opportunities to set up local discussions about critical issues.

www.cecileandrews.com/Topics.htm is a link to one of my neighbors's sites and projects, and I'm pleased to report that I have long been a participant in the Simplicity concept, and our newest projec is building Sustainability Circles. My transition is a bit slower than I'd like, but the ideas are winning me over more each day, particularly when I'm stuck in traffic.

Is all of this relevant to political discourse? Absolutely! At the most basic level, politics and our lives are inextricably intertwined. Understanding and being active in one will lead to greater satisfaction and enjoyment of the other.

PJ's comments about the war in Iraq

Massachusetts

I agree with what PJ said about thre trillions of dollars we've spent on the war in Iraq. 2% of it could have paid for health insurance for all children. I think that would be a lot better than hearing President Bush say, "Let them buy private health insurance." He might prefer to pay for 1 billion bullets per year to be fired in Iraq and Afghanistan, but I'd rather see Medicare expanded to everyone who wants it. If self-employed people making $50,000 a year can afford to pay $15,000 per year for private health insurance for their family, that's good. However, if they can't afford the $15,000 per year, it doesn't seem right to me to let their child die because they can't afford treatment for an infection. Maybe they could get treatment when the infection became an emergency because it had spread to their bloodstream in a life-threatening sepsis, but needing to wait for that to happen cost everyone more in the long run. (Also, the child died in the story I read about).

Our Discussion

Youngstown, Ohio

I found our disscussion to be very good. Thanks Michael, you moderated it well. And I found the participants in this Wednesday group to be very well informed. I really appreciated all of their comments. My own personal conclusions are that we all should look to our Constitution and make sure that our elected officials are abiding by it. And that we, the people who are informed and know the truth, should be telling everyone we know or even happen to meet, the importance of political knowledge and that we should be active in monitoring our elected officials. I don't think it would be a good idea to have our people in government to teach us these things. I'm afraid it wouldn't be very clear if it were to be coming from them. I believe it is up to us "common folk", we who are informed and somewhat knowledgable, to start spreading the news about what is going on. A grass-roots movement, if you will. I see the United States slipping away into obscurity, mainly through the efforts of the Washington elite, who pay no attention to us common folk. Both the Republicans and the Democrats ( which by the way I have been taught are actually one and the same, they only want it to APPEAR like they are separate parties) are working together towards a common goal of Globalism. Ultimately, global government- the New World Order. Just look at what this global economy scheme of theirs has done to this country. They know that once a nation's economy is taken over, then it's government is soon to follow. Bush's SPP in 2005 is leading up to the NAU, the North American Union, where Canada, the United States and Mexico will be combined into one, much like the European Union. Lou Dobbs of CNN said that the end of the United States as we know it is in the future with Bush's signing of the Security and Prosperity Partnership (SPP) in 2005. Bush and his Washington Insiders are out to end the U.S. as we know it now and ultimately bring it under the control of the United Nations with it's New World Order. But it is not too late to change things. These people must be exposed for the entire country to see. It is being done everyday by concerned patriotic citizens of this country. Some of their plans, like amnesty for illegals have been thwarted. Our Government and it's Constitution are not to be blamed for all this. And the people who voted are not to be blamed for it either. It's these elected officials, the Elite, the Insiders, who are to blame. We the people, it's up to us, to do something about this, otherwise the U.S. as we know it will one day be just a memory.

being informed

Columbus, Ohio

Thank you all for the websites and information! I really enjoyed the opportunity to hear other people's opinions and ideas which gave me much food for thought.

*Most of us look at our ISP as a necessity, like electricity. But what if you're in a lower income family and have to chose between an Internet connection or dinner? We're all equally worthy of having access to the information that will help us make informed decisions. Again, when we need to look for how to finance this, we spend $200,000 PER MINUTE on the War in Iraq.

*For "disillusioned". I'm from Ohio, hardly a "liberal bastion". Anything I present as fact has been extensively researched, with at least two sources. I spend a minimum of two hours per day, every day, working on the issues that I feel are important not sitting around waiting to sign up for discussions.

*I was disturbed at one person's comments that unless we have children we don't care much about the future & that we should go out & procreate. My husband & I chose not to have children, why is our business. I've always firmly believed that everything we do on this earth should be based on how it will affect our children, both now & in the future. I didn't have to give birth to feel that way.

http://www.nationalpriorities.org/database.html is a great source for info. Especially how our money is spent, how it is apportioned alteratives, & a running total of the cost of the War in Iraq.

Again, I really got a lot out of tonight!