In last night’s State of the Union speech, President Obama laid out his vision for the country, highlighting a future of “opportunity and security for our families; a rising standard of living and a sustainable, peaceful planet for our kids .” But none of those goals can be reached, the President said, unless “we fix our politics.” Here are the three key areas of democracy reform the President promised to “travel the country” to support this year:
(1) Redistricting Reform:
What the President said: “We have to end the practice of drawing our congressional districts so that politicians can pick their voters, and not the other way around.”
What the President can do in 2016: President Obama should work with members of Congress to advance a bill instructing the states to enact nonpartisan redistricting systems, which has support from Republicans and Democrats. Next, he should use the power of his office to push for nonpartisan redistricting reform in state legislatures across the country.
(2) Money In Politics Reform:
What the President said: “We have to reduce the influence of money in our politics, so that a handful of families and hidden interests can’t bankroll our elections — and if our existing approach to campaign finance can’t pass muster in the courts, we need to work together to find a real solution.”
What the President can do in 2016: President Obama should start by listening to over 1 million Americans who have petitioned him to issue an executive order requiring federal contractors to disclose their political spending. Next, he could use the bully pulpit and work with members of Congress to push for passage of the Government By The People Act, which would empower small-dollar donors by using public funds to supplement their campaign contributions . Finally, he could renew and intensify efforts to overturn the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision through passage of the Democracy for All constitutional amendment, and again call on Congress to help end secret money in elections with the DISCLOSE Act.
(3) Voting Rights Protection & Election Modernization:
What the President said: “We’ve got to make voting easier, not harder, and modernize it for the way we live now.”
What the President can do in 2016: President Obama should work with Congress to pass the Voting Rights Advancement Act, which would repair damage done by the Supreme Court in 2013 to the Voting Rights Act. The President also should get behind legislation to restore voting rights to formerly incarcerated Americans and work with states and localities to implement the 19 recommendations made by the bipartisan Presidential Commission on Election Administration to reduce long lines at the polls. President Obama should also issue an executive order making Election Day 2016 a national holiday.
As the President said last night, he can’t deliver “a better politics” alone. He will need support from both parties and voters of all political stripes.
Office: Common Cause National