Grassroots Democracy & Election Reform

Section 1

Grassroots Democracy & Election Reform


Our nation was born as the first great experiment in modern democracy. We seek to rescue that heritage from the erosion of citizen participation and dissolve the grip on public discourse by big-money interests that cast government as intrinsically opposed to liberty. All citizens should have the right and opportunity to participate in the political and economic decisions that affect their lives. Political power should be transferred from elected elites and bureaucracies to the people at the grassroots. The Green Party seeks to replace the vertical hierarchy of the centralized government, with a horizontal confederation of citizen assemblies.

 Our guiding principle is to think globally and act locally. Community needs recognize a diversity of issues, and local control recognizes a variety of approaches to solving problems, ones that tend to be bottom-up not top-down. We take the conversation among informed citizens and the New England town meeting system of participatory democracy that dates back to colonial times to be the foundation of participatory democracy. Community is the basic unit of green politics because it is personal, value-oriented, and small enough for each member to have an impact. Community involvement is a foundation for public policy and we call for local governments to be organized accordingly.

We believe the power of civic action is an antidote to the control of government exercised by corporations and special interests groups. The pervasive abuse imposed by corporate power increasingly undermines our democracy. The Green Party seeks to rekindle the flame of strong, participatory democracy. As voting citizens, taxpayers, workers, consumers, and stakeholders, we unite to exercise our rights and, as Thomas Jefferson urged, to counteract the “excesses of the moneyed interests.” Toward this end, we consider serious reform of campaign funding, curbs on the influence of corporations on lawmakers and regulatory agencies, and fundamental election reform like preference balloting and proportional representation to be essential along with strong participatory democracy through neighborhood assemblies and town meetings to be essential to fulfill the promise of democracy.

The Green Party considers United States democracy to be an ongoing, unfolding project that is both an ethical ideal and a dynamic way of life that requires experimentation with new ways of creating a more human experience in which all share and to which all contribute. We are committed to the strengthening of our civil society, including the many mediating institutions at the community level that have always characterized our democracy. Everyone deserves the opportunity to influence the governmental decisions that affect them. To achieve genuine citizen participation, citizens must share in the power of governing. Greens seek to bring vibrant grassroots democracy to every community through fundamental reform of how policies are made and how elections are conducted, including election finance reform and   conducting elections in more fair and representative ways that transform the predominant winner-take-all voting system which results in low voter participation, little choice or competition in countless elections, and far too few women, minorities and diverse policy perspectives in elected office.


Section 1

Grassroots Democracy & Election Reform


1-1. Honor, Respect & Trust Indigenous Nations: The Green Party’s understanding of democracy, as an ethical ideal and a way of life, compels us to honor the heritage, respect the rights and trust the actions of the indigenous nations that we share a homeland with. We recognize the sovereignty of indigenous nations and support New York’s recognition of the right of indigenous nations to self-determination and self-government.

1-1a. Negotiate Settlements of Grievances: We call for negotiated settlements of grievances and land rights actions of the Onondaga Nation and the other indigenous nations of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy.

1-1b. Support the Two Row Wampum Renewal Campaign: We support the “Two Row Wampum Renewal Campaign” that seeks to restore the mutual commitment to friendship, peace between peoples, and living in parallel in perpetuity established in the chain of treaties between the Haudenosaunee and federal, state, and colonial governments.

1-2. Establish Neighborhood Assemblies & Town Meetings: The Green Party calls for establishing Neighborhood Assemblies and Town Meetings for direct democracy in city neighborhoods and county towns. The Neighborhood Assemblies and Town Meetings should be grassroots legislative assemblies, similar to New England Town Meetings open to all community residents.

1-2a. Create a New Grassroots Structure for Syracuse: Create Neighborhood Assemblies that reflect natural neighborhood patterns of affiliation to replace the current TNT Area Planning Councils. The new Neighborhood Assemblies should be open to all residents and address barriers to participation, such as transportation and child care.  Assemblies should organize around criteria established by residents and city and county planning bodies.

1-2b. Organize Neighborhood Assemblies with Policy & Budget Authority: Neighborhood Assemblies and Town Meetings that meet established city and county criteria should have the power to instruct their elected representatives on policy issues and utilization of resources provided through city and county revenue sharing for neighborhood programs and projects.

1-2c. Create a Council of Neighborhood Assemblies: Each Neighborhood Assembly in the City of Syracuse should elect a representative to city-wide Council of Assemblies that is advisory to the Mayor, Common Council, Syracuse School Board, and representatives to county, state and federal governments.

1-3. Allow Citizen Initiated Referendums & Right of Recall: The Green Party supports amending the city and county charters to allow citizens to initiate legislation and to recall elected officials by initiative petitions that put proposed issues before the voters in a referendum. This should include enacting signature gathering standards that empower volunteer collection efforts and financial disclosure requirements that identify the sources of funding behind paid signature efforts and advocacy for or against ballot initiatives.

1-4. Promote Fair, Clean Money Elections & Electoral Reforms: Our fundamental commitment to strong, participatory democracy compels us to call for fair elections with full public financing, clean money, and proportional representation that transform the predominant winner-take-all voting system that results in low voter participation, little choice or competition in countless elections, and far too few women, minorities, and political viewpoints in elected office.

1-4a. Promote Full Public Financing, Clean Money Campaigns: We call for systems of  full public campaign financing at all levels of government to stem the domination of big money and corporate power in our political system. These systems should provide for full public campaign financing through clean money that is awarded as equal grants to all ballot qualified candidates, not partial matching funds that only provide supplemental public funds to privately financed campaigns.

1-4b. Require Full Financial Disclosure: The Green Party believes that full disclosure of financial interests from all candidates running for local public office, including source of salary and non-salaried income, is required to help prevent moneyed special interests from controlling elections.

1-4c. Establish Equal Ballot Access: We advocate eliminating all ballot access laws and rules that currently favor the two major political parties and discriminate against smaller parties and independent candidates; and place an undue burden on the right of citizens to run for office We call for reducing the number of petition signatures required for independent candidates to gain ballot access.

1-4d. Utilize Instant Runoff Elections: We support electing all single seat offices, such as Mayor, County Executive, district Common Councilors, and County L:egislators by preference voting, where voters rank their choices in order of preference and a candidate must take more than 50% of the vote to win. If no one wins a majority in the first round, second choice votes of the last place candidate are distributed and counted, and this process continues until a candidate exceeds 50% of the vote.

1-4e. Implement Proportional Representation: We support replacing the winner-take-all system with proportional representation in order to give all ethnic communities and political viewpoints their fair share of representation and power. We believe that a more just representation of diverse demographics and viewpoints will result from electing both the County Legislature and the Syracuse Common Council by a “mixed-member” system of proportional representation in which half the representatives are elected by district, half at-large, and the overall composition proportionally represents the voters' support for each party. Schools Boards should also be elected with proportional representation through ranked choice balloting.

1-5. Restore Full Voting Rights for Felons: The Green Party advocates changing New York State law to permit individuals convicted of a felony to vote while incarcerated or on parole. We also call for criminal justice officials to inform individuals of the current law that allows felons upon completion of a sentence (including parole) to exercise their right to vote provided that they register with their county board of elections.