In addition to populist movements that challenged both major party establishments, and was ultimately part of the winning formula for President-elect Donald Trump, voters at the local and state level worked together to win democracy reforms across the country. A total of 20 pro-democracy reform initiatives were on ballots and almost all of them won with comfortable margins.
Many Americans sense politicians don’t listen to voters, only to big donors, so ordinary Americans are taking matters into their own hands to create a 21st Century democracy that works for everyone. Many Americans feel increasingly alienated from, or lack trust in, government and other civic institutions. They see money and gerrymandered districts as major obstacles to their full participation, and the regressive laws making registration difficult and voting less convenient as impediments intended to discourage people from voting. With support from Democrats, Republicans, and Independents ordinary people are working together to create local campaigns like these, and win! We expect to see even more in the coming legislative sessions and in the next election cycle, to involve more cities and states. Voters are focused on overcoming obstacles by solving problems to improve and strengthen our democracy for the 21st Century,
Here are ballot initiatives Common Cause led with outstanding allies:
- Berkeley Citizen Funded Elections (Measure XI) WINS with 63.1 percent
California Common Cause led a campaign to create a more representative and accountable government in Berkeley with a citizen funded elections program.
- Sacramento Redistricting Reform (Measure L) WINS with 52.9 percent
California Common Cause supported Measure L, which would create an independent citizens-led redistricting commission to draw city council districts.
- San Francisco Lobbying & Ethics Reform (Proposition T) WINS with 87 percent
California Common Cause supported Proposition T, which would strengthen the city’s lobbying and ethics laws to create a more accountable government.
- Strengthening Legislative Transparency (Proposition 54) WINS with 64.3 percent
California Common Cause led a campaign to pass Proposition 54 statewide, which would strengthen transparency in the state legislature and increase citizens’ access to information.
- Overturning Citizens United (Proposition 59) WINS with 52.3 percent
California Common Cause led a campaign to pass Proposition 59 in California, which calls on Congress to pass a constitutional amendment to overturn the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United v. FEC decision.
“Voters are sending a message that we want to take our government back from special interests and ensure everyone has a voice in our democracy.” Kathay Feng, executive director of California Common Cause.
- Howard County Citizen Funded Elections (Question A) WINS with 52 percent
Common Cause Maryland led a campaign to create a more representative and accountable government in Howard County with citizen-funded elections.
“We are pleased that Howard County is joining Montgomery County and states and cities across the country with citizen funded election. This reform will help put people back in the driver’s seat of our elections and local government, and help build momentum for Maryland and the nation to adopt their own fair elections programs.” Jenifer Bevan-Dangel, Common Cause Maryland, executive director.
- Ethics Reform (Question 2) WINS with 77.6 percent
Common Cause Rhode Island led the campaign to pass Question 2, restoring the Ethics Commission’s constitutional authority to police ethics violations by members of the General Assembly.
“By saying ‘yes’ on Question 2 today, voters said ‘yes’ to ethics, transparency, and a better Rhode Island. Because of this victory once again our lawmakers will be held accountable for any conflicts of interest, and citizens will know that legislators are serving the public interest, not their own self-interest.” – John Marion, Jr., Common Cause Rhode Island executive director.
Other pro-democracy reforms that Common Cause took a position on but did not have a lead role on include:
- Automatic Voter Registration (Measure 1) WINS with 63.4 percent
Alaskans will be automatically registered to vote when they apply for the permanent fund dividend (PFD), a yearly dividend funded by oil wealth that is received by nearly 90% of the Alaskan population. The measure has bipartisan support, including the endorsement of both of Alaska’s Republican U.S. senators, Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan.
- Ranked Choice Voting (Question 5)
This initiative would take on political polarization and establish statewide ranked choice voting.
- Contribution Limits (Amendment 2) WINS with 70 percent
This initiative establishes limits on campaign contributions for state and judicial candidates, committees, and political parties.
- Voter ID (Amendment 6) wins with 63 percent (Common Cause opposes)
A person seeking to vote in person in public elections may be required by general law to identify himself or herself and verify his or her qualifications as a citizen of the United States of America and a resident of the state of Missouri by providing election officials with a form of identification, which may include requiring valid government-issued photo identification.
- Benton County Ranked Choice Voting (Measure 2-100) WINS with 54 percent
Takes on political polarization and establishes ranked choice voting in Benton County.
- Anti-Corruption Act (Measure 22) WINS with 51 percent
This initiative puts limits on donations from parties, political action committees, and lobbyists, require more transparency, and institute other money in politics reforms.
- Redistricting Reform (Amendment T) loses with 42 percent
This initiative would create a statewide independent redistricting commission.
- Overturning Citizens United (Initiative 735) WINS with 63 percent
This initiative calls on Congress to pass a constitutional amendment to overturn the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United v. FEC decision.
- Accountability & Transparency (Initiative 1464) loses with 47 percent
This initiative includes a menu of changes that includes publicly funded vouchers and a ban on large campaign contributions from lobbyists and public contractors.
Common Cause is a nonpartisan grassroots organization dedicated to upholding the core values of American democracy. We work to create open, honest, and accountable government that serves the public interest; promote equal rights, opportunity, and representation for all; and empower all people to make their voices heard in the political process.
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