Thursday, March 26, 2009

One Description of Proportional Voting

"Through proportional representation electoral systems, like-minded groupings of voters win legislative seats in better proportion to their share of the population. Whereas winner-take-all elections award 100% of power to a 50.1% majority, proportional representation allows voters in a minority to win a fair share of representation. Proportional representation describes a broad range of methods that require at least some legislators to be elected in districts with more than one seat."


Wednesday, March 25, 2009

US Voter Turnout

Compared with other nations the US voter turnout is at 139!

Fair Vote has some suggestions.

"Proportional representation, which is a system that better represents the varied choices and beliefs of the electorate, is usually associated with higher turnout in contrast with winner-take-all plurality districts. A National Popular Vote (NPV) with Instant Runoff Voting (IRV) would also better represent the views of members of minority parties. IRV would also reduce negative campaigning with the proliferation of multiple opposition candidates. These both are associated with higher levels of turnout, especially among minorities and young people, in the United States and abroad. Finally, FairVote advocates Universal Voter Registration to make the voting process easier. The barrier of registration in the United States has been estimated to deter voters and decrease turnout by as much as 10 percent. Furthermore, registration barriers that depress turnout contribute to the "socioeconomic skew" of elections in which the wealthy are more likely to turnout than low-income voters. Thus Universal Voter Registration would likely reduce class barriers to voting. There are also a number of turnout boosting institutional changes that are issues not represented by FairVote. ..."

Monday, March 23, 2009

Interesting Information (3/23/09)

The Second International, which was an international organization of political parties, led to the founding of the Socialist International.

In 1889 they declared May 1 as International Labour Day. A day that began in the US. And in 1910 they declared March 8 as International Women's Day. Some nice facts.

A side note - in 1980 the National Chicano Moratorium Committee, Union del Barrio, and Partido Nacional La Raza Unida declared August 29 - Raza Memorial Day, honoring those who died for Chicana and Chicano freedom and liberation.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Adjournment of NM Legislature

NM Legislature will close tomorrow and there isn't a count of what parties are eligible. The Secretary of State is supposed to take care of this before the end of session the way I understand it.

Red House Meeting

We met this week at a beautiful red house and reviewed our principles and policy directions to come to prioritize policies we want to work on.

If you want to see the draft posted here please leave a comment and we'll post it. Have a wonderful first day of Spring.

The next Join the Party Party is Wednesday, April 1st at 6:30 at 2602-C Coal SE.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Improving Health (3/17/09)

There are places where social inequalities have been reduced and the health of the population improved. Two of these regions have been studied extensively because they are a region within a country and not the entire country. Mostly showing how inequality reduction supports public health.

These areas are the state of Kerala India and the northeastern regions of Italy. Over the last 40 or so years these areas have improved the health of the population and reduced social inequalities for their regions. What they have in common? They have parties that intentionally implement policies of equity.

Because we often have such a negative view of parties and politicians in the US we lose sight of this. This is not to say that the corporate friendly parties that we have in charge don't disappoint. In fact, in almost all countries people's expectations of parties and politicians lead to a lack of engagement.

Political parties are important because they the policies they implement when in government determine the level of equalities and inequalities in a society and relates to the health of the population as a whole. If you look at the social democratic countries (Sweden, Finland, Norway, Denmark, and Austria) the labor movements and their related parties have been very strong.

What does this look like? Social democratic parties are in power at least half the time. The percentage of people in unions is about 60-80%. In the US? About 13% Social security expenditures are high, taxes are higher, public employment in health, education, and welfare are higher. And importantly women's participation in the workforce are higher.

Besides the fact that it pays to be union, parties can make a difference as well. Worker oriented parties also work at full-employment policies. This leads to lower unemployment. Universal social policies. Things like universal health care, paid time off for all workers, and childcare available for all families. These fit together very well also.

One quick example. For universal health care to work there would need to be an increase in health care workers. This would require increasing support for education to build the work force needed. And that requires more teachers to train the work force. By expanding the work force in a wide variety of ways more people are employed in general and also more women.

There is so much more. But really quickly let's look at the reasons for inequalities in a country. Three major areas of policy are involved. One is the amount of money that goes to capital versus labor. Even our stimulus has gone mainly to corporations and focused on credit versus wages. A second the wage disparities within the labor force. Again worker friendly governments have the lowest wage disparities within the work force. The distributive effect of state interventions. Changes in disposable income as a result of taxation system.

We can easily see in the US that these three policies which work in "corporate friendly" countries are most corporate friendly here. How can we change this? Only through a lot of hard work done by all of us. We have to take the caring we have and the responsibilities that come with it to form a strong stand for the entire population. Our government has been serving mainly the top 5% for a long time.

Working together we can change that. Working together can make the incremental changes that will lead toward strong communities. We can have freedom from want, freedom from intrusion, and freedom to thrive by taking a strong and caring stand together!

Monday, March 16, 2009

Role of Political Parties (3/16/09)

La Raza Unida is an independent group building a democratic organization that can promote policies that serve democracy, fairness, and freedom. This will be a challenge given the system we have now, but it can be done. It will take participation from many, many people over a good period of time. But the option is more of the same failures we've endured for decades.

Political Parties play an important role in any modern society. When parties and politicians fail to meet their role, people become disillusioned. Some still believe in democracy but give up on parties and politicians as a result. That look many people give when you say the word "politics" is the result of this dynamic.

In some of the progressive movements people say that they "don't do politics" or that they are past doing politics. This itself is fairly self-delusional as parties are who organize a great deal of our society by enacting the policies we deal with. Parties and politicians are who we lobby when we want change.

It is time to improve this situation. We need to understand the role of political parties. We need to understand the role of the political process. And we need to understand our role in democracy.

Four functions that political parties play are 1) developing policies and government programs, 2) pick up demands from constituents and create a cohesive platform, 3) recruit, select, and train people for positions in government and elected office, 4) to oversee and control government. These are important roles that we have often tried to fill from the non-profit sector, thinking that somehow that was "cleaner." This is often behind the illusion of "non-partisanship" or "bipartisanship."

The non-profit sector can support democracy but cannot replace it. The fact that it is beholden to funders automatically limits it. Even though there is a range allowable for advocacy, there are laws that will limit how much change can happen directly from the non-profit sector.

The functions that parties play also feed into their fundamental roles. For a party truly outside there are very distinct roles as the "opposition." Developing alternatives, gaining support for change, and building a pool of competent people. We saw some of this in the last election. We also saw some limitations because of our two-party system.

Political systems characterized by individuals rather than parties cannot provide an institutional memory of previous policies and politics. Ross Perot is a classic example of this. Other parties also lean on individuals as opposed to party building as their ticket to power.

Parties can have some standard goals. For example, three easily identifiable goals are 1) maximize votes, 2) obtain as many elected officials as possible, 3) push a specific policy agenda. There is a link but enough difference between them to consider them separately.

The party system we have now has often been detached from citizens' concerns and without creative answers to our problems. This has led to low turnouts because people are tired of that. More and more people are registering independant or "decline to state" party.

La Raza Unida is working with people interested in creating more democracy, healthier democracy, and more responsive government. La Raza Unida is pushing an agenda for healthier politics. La Raza Unida is building an organization that will be responsive to social, political, environmental, and economic justice needs of our communities.

We look forward to working with you on this.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

IDEA International

Here's a link to learn about democracy internationally.

International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Instant Runoff Voting (3/11/09)

Why so many posts on Instant Runoff Voting? For a few reasons. One is that what we have is called "First Past the Post" (fptp) or "winner take all" electoral system. This system tends to gravitate to two parties. This is known as Duverger's Law.

Our current system is defended in its simplicity. That sounds to me as an insult to be able to understand more than two choices. We expect people to understand lots and lots of choices when shopping, but not for something as important as who leads us to war. Very interesting and sad notion.

Often our style of system leads to single party governments. Wait you say, we have two parties right? Well we actually have many. But there are only two national parties and often on has a strong majority over the other in our type of system. Like the Republican Revolution we have just survived we now have a Democratic Majority. Well, after that what will we get? Depends on what organizing we do NOW.

Disadvantages to our system is that it actually excludes different voices. Since the set up is that a vote for a new voice or party will not likely get the plurality (most not always majority) of votes they are seen as "wasted" votes. So in our system voting for who you REALLY want is considered a "waste."

On average our voting system excludes minorities from fair representation. People may think we are past that now, and in NM it sure doesn't seem to be the case. But look at the range of political thought considered part of our norm and you'll see that minorities can mean many different things.

Women are also often excluded in our system. Around the world women represent 11% of national elected officials in fptp and 20% in proportional representation systems. This and a lack of general responsiveness is enough problems.

With a fptp system you get a lower voter turnout and much less responsiveness. If you don't need a majority to get elected then why bother being responsive? Democracy requires responsiveness. Democracy needs participation.

If we made a minor adjustment and went with Instant Runoff Voting, we would still have some problems but they would be much reduced. With IRV you would need to be careful of attacking another politician because you would want to be that politician's constituency's second choice. You would have to try and come to a true center in order to win elections.

Minor parties would be able to become part of the debates and elections without being a "spoiler." This spoiler effect limits our debates and dialogues and thus our real choices. We think in the US that we have a "left" and a "right" yet we really have a right and a center. A whole range of thinking is missing.

We would greatly improve our politics if we could encourage more choices. A democracy needs many options to be true. The millions it takes to run for national office, the limitations on who can run for that alone is shocking. Then take into account who doesn't even bother to run because they don't want to be a spoiler and we have a truly limited democracy. This one simple step would open the door to better ideas and greater participation. And that's what democracy is all about.

Aspen Council Adopts Instant Runoff Voting

Here is some good news about Aspen Colorado adopted IRV.

On March 9, the Aspen, Colorado, city council voted to use Ranked Choice Voting in the city election set for May 5, 2009. The offices up are Mayor and two at-large city council seats. The Aspen voters had voted in 2007 to use Ranked Choice Voting, but the city council had to determine the details. The city spent a great deal of effort choosing among competing sets of rules.

Monday, March 9, 2009


As the economy crashes, and as Warren Buffet says - "falls off the cliff", we are seeing a big crises and sense of tension around us. For a short version we need to have some general strategy to continue to move forward. I'll lay out a rough draft for comments and reflection here.

In the short term we need to promote, stand for, and applaud things that reduce suffering. From wage increases, creation of jobs, and support of families. We also need to push for more support for working people and the unemployed. We still need to push for better wages, better services, and better government. Opening up democracy and creating a culture of more participation is key right now.

There are plenty of organizing opportunities at this time. From democratic changes in politics - public financing, Instant Runoff Voting, same day voter registration, etc. to changes in health care availability, food systems, and transportation. Whether we voted for Obama or not we need to keep pushing him and all other elected officials right now. Even if we are developing independent models we need to push the elected officials because their decisions still have impacts on even our models "outside" of the system.

Mid-term - we'll need to be able to create alternatives, whether through "reforms" or dramatic changes. Alternatives to business, food, health and most of the rest of our daily lives. This can be hectic but also will be rewarding.

Capitalists may have lots of dollars, but they can get our loyalty and creativity only if we give it to them. Now is a great time to look at building and organizing all of our progressive organizations and projects. The Obama election opened a door for progressive and radical work. And the economy is providing a clearer need for that work!

As the saying goes - "Hasta La Victoria!"

Friday, March 6, 2009

Dia De Los Muertos Meeting

The next DDLM 2009 planning meeting is on Saturday, March 7th AT 6:30pm at 1411 Roma Ave NW, Alb, NM 87104. It's downtown, between 14th and 15th street and between Lomas and Central.

Instant Runoff Voting Explanations

During the election people often said they were too scared to vote for who really represented them, or that a vote for anyone but Obama was really a vote for McCain. This is a systematic problem.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

IRV In Burlington Vermont

Here is an account of Instant Runoff Voting from the League of Women Voters.

And a brief description of the value of IRV voting by a blogger.

This from the FairVote website linked on the top left corner of this blog or directly here for more IRV info.

Two Important Bills - Action Alert

Who to Call: Call House Judiciary Committee Chairman Al Park at (505) 986-4411 or email at

What to say:
HB 441 and HB 651 have been awaiting a hearing for over two weeks. These bills deserve a fair hearing and need to be scheduled as soon as possible.

Tips on Making a Call:
* Most legislators' staff answer their phones during the session and log all of the messages. The call will only take a minute!
* Be courteous, positive and brief.
* Identify yourself, and mention if you are a constituent.
* Ask Representative Al Park to schedule House Bill 651, the Felon Voting Rights Immediately

After Prison bill and House Bill 441, the Substance Abuse and Crime Prevention Act, in House Judiciary Committee as soon as possible.

Talking Points on HB 651, the Felon Voting Rights Immediately After Prison Bill:
By focusing on the successful reintegration of people coming out of jail or prison and welcoming individuals back into our communities, we can facilitate the reentry process and contribute to the success of people with convictions.

When people with convictions are allowed to vote they feel connected to their larger community, making choices which affect themselves, their families, and their state.

Talking Points on HB 441, the Substance Abuse and Crime Prevention Act:
Our state is suffering from a serious fiscal crisis. Drug treatment will save New Mexico millions of dollars every year. House Bill 441 will offer substance abuse treatment in lieu of incarceration for people arrested for drug possession and drug-related probation and/or parole violations. Review detailed talking points on treatment instead of incarceration here.
Offenders need treatment.
This legislation will make communities safer.
We need to break the cycle of addiction.
Treatment will not be more expensive.
People will get treatment from appropriate community-based treatment services.

Al Park's district is bordered on the north by Menaul and the south by Gibson. On the west by San Mateo and Louisiana and the east by Wyoming.

Ideal Democracy (3/4/09)

From a wikipedia page on Robert Dahl:

"In another landmark book, Democracy and Its Critics (1989), Dahl makes his view about democracy clear. No modern country meets the ideal of democracy, which is as a theoretical utopia. To reach the ideal requires meeting 5 criteria:

Effective Participation - Citizens must have adequate and equal opportunities to form their preference and place questions on the public agenda and express reasons for one outcome over the other.

Voting Equality at the Decisive Stage - Each citizen must be assured his or her judgements will be counted as equal in weights to the judgements of others.

Enlightened Understanding - Citizens must enjoy ample and equal opportunities for discovering and affirming what choice would best serve their interests.

Control of the Agenda - Demos or people must have the opportunity to decide what political matters actually are and what should be brought up for deliberation.

Inclusiveness - Equality must extend to all citizens within the state. Everyone has legitimate stake within the political process.

Instead, he calls politically advanced countries "polyarchies." Polyarchies have elected officials, free and fair elections, inclusive suffrage, rights to run for office, freedom of expression, alternative information and associational autonomy.

Those institutions are a major advance in that they create multiple centers of political power."

The question then is then - what can we do to move closer to the ideal? In Dahl's book How Democratic Is the American Constitution? he seems to say that multi-party democracies are more participatory than two-party democracies.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Women of Color Conference

Anti-Bias Legislation

The Committee Substitute for HB 428, the bias-based profiling ban, is scheduled in House Judiciary Committee for tomorrow at 1:30PM or ½ hour after the House floor session ends in Room 309.

Please review the most recent draft of the legislation that has developed through negotiations with the district attorneys, the chief of the state police, the Attorney General’s office, and Representative Cote.

The main components of the legislation include:
1) Officially defining and banning bias-based profiling in New Mexico .
2) Requiring law enforcement agencies to:
a. develop policies and procedures to prohibit and prevent profiling
b. provide training to officers at least annually
c. develop complaint procedures, including submitting a copy of all complaints to the Attorney General
d. develop discipline procedures for officers who violate the act
3) Directing the Attorney General’s office to develop procedures for receiving complaints and investigating complaints.

Follow the link to the House Judiciary Committee and contact the members and ask for a DO PASS on banning profiling!

Monday, March 2, 2009

Public Health (3/2/09)

As social and economic inequality widens dramatically and becomes impossible to ignore, the connection between the vulnerability of people who live on the margins and the importance of working together collectively as a community for the public good has become more salient, if unarticulated. A clearer picture is emerging of the relationship between community-level well-being, resources for basic infrastructure, economic equality, and good healthy. Yet in the Unites State, the federal government continues to target diseases rather than health and redirects resources toward bioterrorism and military preparedness instead of the public health infrastructure.

Richard Hofrichter

Sunday, March 1, 2009

From Fair Vote

On February 20, the New Mexico house passed National Popular Vote (NPV) legislation, making it the 23rd state legislative chamber to pass the bill in its short three-year history. The anniversary marks a milestone for NPV, which is on track to reform the Electoral College by 2012. NPV is a national effort to enact an interstate compact ensuring that the winner of the popular vote wins the presidency. The compact will go into effect once states totaling 270 electoral votes enact the legislation.

The NPV bill has been introduced in 49 states and has the support of more than 1,240 state legislators who have sponsored or voted for the legislation. Representing nearly a fifth of the necessary electoral votes to implement NPV, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, and New Jersey have already passed the legislation. Recent polls indicate more than 70% of voters support NPV in a full range of states.

New APS Board Members Sworn In

Monday at 4:30 p.m. Board Member Oath of Office Ceremony, APS John Milne Community Board Room, 6400 Uptown Blvd., NE

I think it would be great to have a turnout and let the new Board know that community people care and are planning to stay engaged. I doubt that the members being sworn in have forgotten the Anti-Racism Forum.