Legislative and Electoral Reform
Ending Corporate Personhood
A legal challenge as to whether the State of California had the power to tax a railroad fencing resulted in the finding, written as a headnote by a court clerk in 1866, that corporations are entitled to equal protection under the law, and can be accorded the same rights as persons.
Over time, legal statutes and high court decisions have granted increasing rights to corporations resulting in the notion of corporate personhood, which is the idea that corporations should enjoy the legal status and protections created for people. Its effect is that corporations and business interests can use their massive resources to compete with voting individuals for the control of public policy. This is problematic because the intent of a governmental enterprise is the well being of the constituents that it serves, while the intent of a corporate enterprise is to earn the highest possible revenue with lowest possible expenditure to produce the highest possible profits for their owners and investors The interests of the public as persons thus become vulnerable to the rights of corporations to spend money at incredibly high levels to affect political matters which can advance their interests. The inevitable result is that public gains become privatized; while public losses are socialized, with little regard for the best interests of society.
In the later case of Buckley vs. Valeo, 1976, the United States ruled that limits on campaign spending violated the First Amendment rights of free speech by prohibiting the quantity of expression. It was judged that corporations had as much right as citizens to spend as they choose to promote a political message, lest their right to free speech be abridged. Again, the interests of the wealthy and/or well organized (this includes organized labor-unions) have prevented an equal ability for individuals to speak to one another or to an elected representative.
In 2010, the United States Supreme Court extended this logic in Citizens United v. FEC, which prohibited any limitation on spending by all entities in political campaigns as a violation of their rights to free speech under the First Amendment. In essence, corporations and other organizations, who are capable of spending significantly higher sums on political campaigns, can outspend citizens and the public with their vast resources in order to influence elections.
It is therefore the position of the California National Party to support challenges to the legal notion of corporate personhood, as well as to endorse laws and practices within California that recognize the political rights of human beings over artificial corporate entities.
Campaign Finance Reform
Perhaps the longest standing flaw in the United States political system is how parties and campaigns are privately financed, resulting in a concentration of political power with the wealthy. This was exacerbated by the Supreme Court’s decisions in Citizens United and Buckley v. Valeo which paved the way for the Super PACs of today.
The California National Party endorses strictly limiting private financing of candidates, political parties and other political entities, including a reversal of Citizens United, to reduce the influence of entities other than individual constituents. There are many structures used in Europe and Israel where governments pay for the operation of parties and campaigns for elected offices. We believe we need to use these as a guide for establishing a more equitable campaign process.
Open Source Voting
The California National Party believes it is essential that the hardware and software we use for gathering, aggregating, and reporting votes to elect public officials need to be secure, accessible, auditable, and transparent.
For this reason we advocate for the adoption of open source voting platforms such as the one being defined by San Francisco’s Open Source Voting System Project. Such a system would include:
- A touch-screen voter station where the voter selects their choices.
- Alternative voter stations that include accessible features such as sip and puff input, a keyboard for write-in votes, voice activation, synchronized audio and video, joystick input, tactile buttons, etc.
- A human- and machine-readable printed ballot that the voter would review for accuracy.
- A scanner to capture the ballot’s image as well as to record the voter’s selections.
The actual equipment to collect and tabulate results should primarily include OSI-approved copyleft open source software. Because the source code is publically viewable, claims about its integrity and security are independently-verifiable as compared to “secret” proprietary software.
Ranked Choice Voting
Following the lead of cities like Berkeley, Oakland, and San Francisco, the California National Party encourages the statewide adoption of Ranked Choice Voting.
With Ranked Choice Voting, also called Instant Runoff Voting, voters rank candidates in order of choice: 1st choice, 2nd choice, and so on. At tabulation time, if no candidate receives a majority of 1st-choice votes, the candidate with the least number of 1st-choice votes is eliminated and their votes recast for the voters’ 2nd-choice picks. This elimination and retabulation process continues until there are two candidates left in the race; the one with the most votes is declared the winner.
We believe that this system has many advantages:
- Encourages candidates to build a coalition of support and avoid negative campaigning because they may need voters to consider them as their 2nd or 3rd choices.
- Results in a winning candidate supported by the majority of voters.
- Provides more choices to voters while minimizing strategic voting.
- Saves money when it replaces primaries or runoffs.
Local Government Reform
The complexity and diversity of California requires that we recognize and respect that different regions face many specific, localized needs and obstacles. For many rural and unincorporated communities—even in counties with a great deal of urban development—the Board of Supervisors and other county officials are the most direct government for citizens. The California National Party will support candidates at the local, county, and California level that will fight to bring more accountability to local officials.
We will work to convert all counties with populations greater than 200,000 into charter counties instead of general law, either by voter initiative or through the board itself, so they may set their own number of supervisors. Expanding the number of Supervisors in large counties will allow rural and unincorporated voters a greater voice in county representation which tends to affect their lives more directly than those who live in incorporated cities and towns. We propose the following minimum number of supervisors based on population, although counties may expand this number to meet their needs:
- 5 supervisors for counties with a population below 200,000
- 7 supervisors for counties between 200,000 and 700,000 people
- 9 supervisors for between 700,000 and 1.5 million
- 11 supervisors for 1.5 to 5 million
- 13 supervisors for 5 to 10 million
- 15 supervisors for over 10 million people
Such charter counties would also be free to locally experiment with different models of county governance—for example, a separate county executive office—provided they are in compliance with California electoral law and are not disenfranchising groups of voters or designed to give undue power to certain parties, organizations, or industries. The Secretary of State will oversee counties in terms of electoral compliance, but we support existing law that such structural government variations would be the choice of local voters and not require external approval. We support the right of counties, especially less populated rural ones, to construct regional plans for issues such as transportation, or to merge together into larger counties if they so desire.
Proportional Representation in the Senate
The California National Party proposes that California retain legislative bicameralism, but convert the Senate into a system of Party List Proportional Representation. This is by far the most common form of proportional representation in the world, numerous variants of which are used, especially in Europe. This would require an amendment to the California Constitution, either by the initiative process or through the support of two-thirds of the present legislature. The Assembly would remain based on district representation for the unique needs of that area, while the Senate would represent the ideological variation of California’s entire population.
Election for Senate would be by all California voters, not by district. Each party would run a slate of up to 40 candidates in a specific order. How each party determines this– by party primary, either closed or open to unaffiliated voters, local districts elections, etc.–is up to the party and its members. Each party receives one Senate seat per 2.5% (1/40th of 40 Senators) of the total vote, with remainder determined by Largest Remainder Method. This allows smaller parties that have a following throughout California, but not concentrated in any one place, representation in legislating proportional to its following, while locally large parties and independent candidates also can still gain senate seats.
We believe that there are numerous strategic benefits to this approach to reform:
- First, simplicity and minimal change. California voters would chafe at losing an elected executive branch or a direct district representative. But there is no reason to have two bodies in the legislature elected by the same method, the Senate simply having more populous, and thus more unmanageable and unrepresentative, districts. This change gives a reason again for a bicameral legislative branch post-Reynolds v. Sims, which ended Senators as county representatives.
- Second, alliances with other groups. It is is highly probable that all alternative parties of California, likely along with the Republican Party, would benefit in terms of representation from such a system and can hopefully be expected to support this reform, along with many unaffiliated voters—in essence, anyone without a vested interest in the Democratic Party’s monopoly of power throughout the executive and legislative branch. Indeed, many of those in the Democratic Party who feel disenfranchised by the party establishment may also see reason to support it. Since it seems unlikely that the Democratic-controlled legislature will voluntarily undertake such an action with the necessary supermajority, this reform will likely require a direct initiative and broad support.
Increase Size of Legislature
At present, each member of the 80 person Assembly must represent roughly half a million human beings, while those of the 40 person Senate therefore represent nearly a million. Many members are forced to represent multiple counties across diverse regions, with boundaries drawn not based on the shared interests of the population, but with the interests of the two-party system in mind. This is in fact representation in name only.
The California National Party believes that expanding the size of the Assembly would enable each member to represent, and be more directly accountable to, a smaller group of Californians with shared economic, social, and geographic conditions. Rather than enshrine a set number of Assembly members, they can be required by law to represent an average of no more than 100,000 constituents. As the population increases, members are added to the Assembly once the average number surpasses 100,000. As is done now, district lines will be redrawn after each decennial census by an independent commission selected specifically and solely for that purpose, although ideally the California Citizens Redistricting Commission, which presently is designed to reinforce an assumed two party system, would be reformed. Variants of this dynamic increase to the legislature as needed are performed by a number of nations, e.g. Germany and the Scandinavian countries.
At present, such a California Assembly would be comprised of 397 members. This would place us roughly on par with many similar democracies. Rural areas would be better represented as districts would not be forced to encompass such diverse interests, while densely populated urban areas benefit from increased representative access.
Likewise, increasing the size of the California Senate to 50 Senators will enable proportional representation in a manner that is intuitive—2% of total vote equals one Senator—as well as expanding the range of voices which may be heard.