This past Thursday I had a chance to hear Krist Novoselic, former bassist for the band Nirvana discuss his new book, Of Grunge & Government: Let’s Fix This Broken Democracy! at the offices of the Foundation for a Feminist Majority in Beverly Hills.
Mr. Novoselic was accompanied by Rob Ritchie fo the Center for Voting and Democracy. Both discussed the perils and promise of meaningful electoral reform and managed to make a potentially dull topic quite interesting.
Novoselic’s book is part personal memoir, and part political polemic with some interesting suggestions to make our electoral system more competitive and more representative of the public at large. He is a big supporter of San Francisco’s experiment with Instant Runoff Voting and has made his own proposal to make the Washington State Legislature more representative of the voting public up there.
Novoselic’s proposal for Washington is actually quite simple. Rather than have 98 legislators elected in 49 districts (often times gerrymandered to favor one party over another), Novoselic proposes 9 “super districts” each electing a slate of 11 legislators, selected through a system of proportional representation. Thus each “super district’s” 11 legislators would be divided up amongst the parties based on the percentage of the vote received, and there would be no way to gerrymander seats for individual incumbent legislators.
Thus, you could have a district where 30% of the voters pull the lever for the Republican Party, 30% for the Democratic Party, 20% for the Green Party and 10% for the American Heritage Party. The seats would then be assigned to each party for their candidates, with each party getting a number of seats based on the percentage of the vote cast.
More people would have a chance to have their voice heard, and there’d be a chance for all parties to compete with their ideas and candidates on a level playing field – and the results would more accurately reflect what the public wants. Why not have a four party system that allows the electorate to tilt in whatever way it likes, and change its mind later on? What’s wrong with a little drama, and a little competition at the polls?
To be sure, there are several kinks to be worked out, but the concept is inherently a fair one. Why should a voter be reduced to voting in an effective one-party state because one party has gerrymandered that voter’s district, making other parties not even bother to compete? Novoselic decried the lack of competitiveness in legislative and Congressional seats as a big reason why people get so turned off of voting. “Competition makes our economy stronger – surely competition can make our democracy stronger too,” he commented.
It’s nice to see a celebrity get involved in politics that shuns the limelight in favor of the hard work and careful study needed to be truly effective in politics, and I certainly hope one day Washington voters will get a chance to vote on his proposals, if not for Novoselic himself, someday.
There was talk that he was thinking of running for Lieutenant Governor of Washington State, but he decided to focus his attention on issues instead of his own political ambitions. In the Age of Governor Doofinator, that’s something to be admired as well.
The group also heard from Roy Ulrich of California Common Cause speak briefly about the ill-conceived Proposition 62 which would limit the choices voters would have on their ballot through the introduction of a new “primary” system in California.
I’ve often said that this proposed law is the wrong cure for the wrong disease – it’s like trying to cure a stomach ulcer with Tabasco sauce. The only result we’re going to get with this is a big mess – just as you would if you drank a bottle of Tabasco after getting an ulcer.
In other words, it makes no sense. Plus when you read who’s spending the big money to support this initiative, it reads like a “Who’s Who” of special interests who have never show any interest in real reform – they just want the government to give them more goodies – and make you pay for the privilege.
All in all, an interesting evening for sure. I urge everyone to take a look at Krist’s book the next time you’re at the bookstore – it’s a fun read and worth your while.
© 2003-2006 Greg Dewar | All Rights Reserved | Originally Published at www.schadelmann.com
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