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Our Electoral System Needs Fundamental, Progressive Change

Campaign finance reform and clean elections are the beginning of any discussion.

May 29, 2014
Nikhilananda - Co-Chair, Green Party of Hawai‘i , Maui Weekly

The Annual State Convention of the Green Party of Hawai'i (GPH) was held Saturday, May 17, on Hawai'i Island, where GPH officers and delegates to the National Committee of the GPUS were selected.

The GPH first appeared on the ballot in Hawai'i in 1992, has maintained ballot access for every election since and has ballot access through the elections of 2020. In Hawai'i County, where their County Council is elected by a "district" voting system, three members of the GPH have been elected seven times.

The GPH is part of a coalition of independent State Green Parties, affiliated with the Green Party of the U.S., plus various Green Parties throughout the world. The platform is based on 10 key values and the four pillars--Social Justice, Nonviolence, Grassroots Democracy and Ecological Wisdom.

Again this election year, most of the money and media attention will go to candidates from the two corporate-controlled political parties. Independent and grassroots candidates, plus those from third parties, such as the Green Party of Hawai'i, will be ignored more often than not. A newly formed political party is "independent" in name only.

Fundamental modifications are needed to the method by which we hold elections; otherwise, there will be little chance for significant change in who ultimately wins in our current electoral system. Campaign finance reform and clean elections are the beginning of any discussion. Limit the influence money has in politics as much as possible. Sadly, many decisions made by an elected official will continue to be tied to the money they have raised for their campaigns.

When voting, people deserve to have as many choices as possible. Hawai'i is one of only five states that does not allow "write-in" voting. In many situations, voters are limited to only two individuals, often with insignificant difference between them.

Open up media to all candidates. With access to traditional media almost exclusively the purview of members of the two major political parties, the alternative ideas expressed by other candidates do not receive a balanced discussion by the electorate. Even with the growth of social and "new" media, the opportunity to equally reach a majority of voters is limited. Whether the GPH or another political party has a candidate, if they do, all candidates need to be given equal coverage by and access to the media. This will allow voters an opportunity to make a clear and meaningful choice.

All debates and forums must include every candidate for an office, not just the "frontrunners" or members of the "major" political parties. Citizens need to be informed about all of the various positions and choices available to them, not only those from the two entrenched parties.

Another progressive change would be to have "ranked," preferential or "instant run-off" voting, especially in local, nonpartisan races, allowing voters to "rank" their preferences when there appears to be more than two people on the ballot, especially in "primary" races. This would avoid the feeling that one's vote would not count when voting for a "third" or "alternative" party candidate, or for a candidate who a voter truly supports, but feels may not be strong enough to win. This method allows voters to always make a positive vote for a candidate, rather than for the lesser of two limited choices, or voting against a certain candidate. This progressive change could then eliminate the primary, saving a significant amount of money and holding only a general election in November.

Term limits for Hawai'i legislators and reducing the threshold for successfully having an initiative placed on the ballot, both for State and County elections, are additional changes needed in Hawai'i.

On Maui, election of our County Council by distinct electoral districts, as our state legislators are elected, always meets with opposition from those who benefit from this absurd, undemocratic system. Thus, money plays an even larger role. Who can afford to stand for office on three different islands, get elected by residents of the entire county, then claim they only represent one residential district!

With huge issues, such as poisoning of our water, air, land and 'aina, by multi-national, for-profit, petrochemical and other companies, little emphasis will be placed on important sustainability issues. Whether it is expanding water resources, renewable energy, reef preservation, invasive species control, the experimentation upon the population of potentially harmful substances, plus many others, it will be for the most part "business as usual," as many candidates will spend much of their time raising money from those who will then have excessive influence upon those elected to office. We have been told for years that something must be done with our homeless population; however, their numbers continue to grow.

We live in one of the wettest places in the world, yet many residents are told to ration their water. When was the last reservoir constructed to collect all of the runoff from the enormous rains which continually occur in the north and east sections of our island. A proposal has recently been made to burn our garbage for power, rather than expanding our renewable energy capacity, while instituting curbside residential recycling. Could these situations be because both our water and electricity are controlled by for-profit, multinational corporations, rather than publicly owned, as our state constitution demands for our water resources? Along with this proposal, there are now plans to plant over 2,000 acres for a crop to provide material to burn! Is this ridiculous or what? Why are we not encouraging planting 2,000 acres of edible food for the local population?

Since most of the individuals in the legislature, the governor's office and on our County Council come from one political party, little substantive discussion of these crucial issues will occur. Though groups such as Clean Elections Hawai'i have worked diligently to change the emphasis that money has on our local elections, there is little reason for the major political party, which controls most seats, to do anything about this.

Will these issues be discussed during this campaign season? Probably not, unless there are candidates not affiliated with the two main political parties, especially the supposed "lesser-of-two-evils" party, which is mostly and directly responsible for the poor environment on Maui and in the state.

Find out more about the GPH at www.greenpartyofhawaii.com, by visiting our Facebook page, by sending an email to nikhilananda@hawaiiantel.net, or by calling 572-USUS (8787).

 
 

 

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