Anti-democratic practices have become a staple of U.S. politics. We have seen it in so-called electoral reforms in many states that restrict the opportunity to exercise the most basic of rights—the right to vote—of minority and other voters based on their party preference. We have seen it in Supreme Court decisions that have equated money with speech, privileging the political rights of corporations, millionaires and billionaires at the expense of the 99%.
We have seen it in the gutting of the Voting Rights Act, in restrictions on voter registration and in restrictions on early voting. These changes are intended to limit the voting population to persons most supportive of conservative and reactionary political perspectives. The right wing hope is to preserve, at least in non-Presidential and state elections an electorate that is whiter and much more conservative than our population.
The struggle for basic democratic rights has always been a part of the democratic socialist political agenda. Real democracy requires more than simply beating back the efforts of the extremists. We cannot have democracy without popular movements that empower ordinary people and we must build an electoral system that fosters the participation of most of the voting-age population.
DSA is not in a position to lead a national movement for real democracy. But there are important national and state reform campaigns that where possible, either nationally or through our local organizations, we should support. These include:
- Campaigns to restore and expand the pre-clearance requirements of the Voting Rights Act. We see no reason why it could not be applied to all states.
- Campaigns to overturn the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision.
- Campaigns to institute public financing of elections.
- Campaigns to ease the process of voter registration and voting, including safe guarding the voting rights of students in their college community and preventing states from denying voting rights to anyone eligible to vote in federal elections.
- Campaigns for anti-gerrymandering legislation.
- Campaigns to institute Instant Run Off voting procedures.
Efforts to expand our democracy cannot be limited reforms of the voting and electoral process. We must also expand the electorate itself so that it is more reflective of the population. We also should support campaigns that:
- Restore voting rights to convicted felons on their release from prison.
- Require that prisoners be counted as living in their home community rather than in the location of their prison for the purposes of districting and population based federal and state aid to states and localities.
- Allow immigrants, with or without documentation to vote, in as many political jurisdictions as possible.
Finally to counter organized efforts to suppress voter turnout we should explore new measures including:
- Making it a serious crime for a public official to provide false information to prevent individuals from voting or registering to vote.
- Making Election Day a national holiday, extending in-person voting to 24 hours or national mail-in voting.
Adopted by DSA National Convention October 27, 2013.