Political season

As we watch both the Democratic and Republican conventions, one cannot help but think of the election process and its cost. The linchpin of democracy is the right, ability, and responsibility of every citizen to take his or her beliefs and informed opinions into the voting booth and to vote for whomever he or she believes will best guide our democracy. Like a good marriage, democracy needs work to maintain its benefits for all who live under its umbrella; but lately, in Vermont, our democracy has taken some hits. Gov. Douglas vetoed the Campaign Finance Law again this year. Vermonts Hous e of Representatives was one vote short of overriding that veto. Campaign Finance laws are designed to limit the very powerful influence that money has in our elections. This is the second year in a row that the governor has vetoed a law designed to limit campaign contributions. The governor expressed his preference for no limits on the amount of money that the state political parties could give to a candidate. The House was unwilling to leave the spigot open for an unending flow of money from the state and national political parties to their candidates. I did vote for the Campaign Finance Law as well as supporting the veto. In addition to vetoing Campaign Finance, the governor vetoed Instant Runoff Voting, or IRV, a method whereby each voter selects his or her first and second choices in an election, thereby avoiding costly recounts and re-votes when one candidate does not win a majority. This method has been used successfully in local elections in Vermont and elsewhere in the country. The governors staff has sent signals that the governor is concerned about the National Popular Vote bill passed by the legislature. This bill deals only with the presidential election. It is a method whereby the President of the United States would be chosen by popular vote rather than the current system whereby the members of the Electoral College cast votes in a state by state winner take all electoral vote, as is current practice. Four times in the history of our country a President has been elected who did not receive the majority of the popular vote. The last time was in 2000. It seems evident that there are two broad themes in conflict. One set of beliefs focuses on empowering as many citizens to vote as possible, removing barriers to voting where they are found, and mitigating the influence of the power of money. The other set of beliefs seems to support limiting the number of voters by adding barriers to voting as the U.S. Supreme Court did in upholding Indianas requirement for a photo I.D. before voting and empowering money. The resolution of these conflicting beliefs will have a fundamental impact on the future of our democracy. Please be in touch. You can reach me at 802-985-8515 or by e-mail at jglenes@aol.com. Joan Lenes is the Representative for Chittenden County, District 5-2 in Vermont. Her column appears regularly in the Times Sentinel.

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