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There are measures that can be taken to restore our democracy to working order. Some of them are simpler than you might think. But getting them passed is rarely easy. It takes a great deal of coordination and hard work. But we don't need to reinvent the wheel. These organizations are already doing the work and building the coalitions necessary to bring about real change. They just need our support in order to grow and promote these crucial issues.
  • Open Debates - Open Debates is a 501(c)3 nonprofit, nonpartisan organization committed to reforming the presidential debate process. Currently, the presidential debates are entirely and covertly controlled by the major parties, through the bipartisan-controlled private corporation called the Commission on Presidential Debates, resulting in the stultification of format, the exclusion of popular third party candidates, and the avoidance of pressing national issues.

    Open Debates is launching simultaneous campaigns to inform the public, the news media and policy makers about the fundamental and irreparable problems with the bipartisan Commission on Presidential Debates. It is also promoting the creation of an alternative presidential debate sponsor - the nonpartisan Citizens' Debate Commission - comprised of national civic organizations committed to maximizing voter education.

  • MoveOn - MoveOn has been one of the most effective groups in getting messages truly heard by our representatives. During consideration of various recent bills, including important media reform issues and the war in Iraq, they have generated enough activism to actually be credited by the Congressmen themselves for the volume of participation they have created. In one campaign, Congressmen were actually asking them to stop because of the overwhelming number of calls they were receiving from MoveOn members.

    MoveOn is working to bring ordinary people back into politics. With a system that today revolves around big money and big media, most citizens are left out. When it becomes clear that our "representatives" don't represent the public, the foundations of democracy are in peril. MoveOn is a catalyst for a new kind of grassroots involvement, supporting busy but concerned citizens in finding their political voice. Their international network of more than 2,000,000 online activists is one of the most effective and responsive outlets for democratic participation available today.

    In the fall of 2000, for example, their members chose campaign finance reform and protection of the environment as their two top issues. Accordingly, these two issues are their major strategic priorities for the current congress. MoveOn was started by Joan Blades and Wes Boyd, two Silicon Valley entrepreneurs, with their family and friends. Although none of them had experience in politics, all shared deep frustration with Clinton's impeachment proceedings and the lack of congressional leadership toward quick resolution.

  • National Voting Rights Institute - While there are many progressive activists worth admiring, there are few that are considered genuine geniuses. John Bonifaz, however, is one of them. In 1999, Bonifaz - a cum-laude graduate of Harvard Law School and the founder of the National Voting Rights Institute - was awarded a $250,000 Macarthur Foundation Fellowship - popularly known as a Macarthur "genius award". The award served to recognize the crucial nature of NVRI's efforts to remove current economic barriers to full and fair electoral participation by all Americans.

    NVRI was founded in 1994 and works through litigation and public education to redefine the issue of private money in public elections as the nation's newest voting rights barrier, and to vindicate the constitutional right of all citizens, regardless of their economic status, to participate in the electoral process on an equal and meaningful basis. Whereas some reformers work peripherally on symptomatic problems, Bonifaz and NVRI go straight to the root, focusing on the most powerfully influential legal precedents that underlie our current campaign finance system, allowing private and corporate money to play an inordinately influential role.

    Their work attacks the legality of the "wealth primary", reframes campaign finance reform as a civil rights issue, defends state and local campaign finance reforms, and reexamines the linchpin Buckley v. Valeo Supreme Court case, one of the greatest barriers to the implementation of meaningful campaign spending limits.

    You can listen to an interesting interview with John Bonifaz at Democracy Now (interview begins at about 34 seconds in).

  • Fairvote: The Center for Voting and Democracy - Fairvote describes itself as "the leading national organization acting to transform our elections to achieve secure and universal access to participation, a full spectrum of meaningful choices and majority rule with fair representation and a voice for all." It specializes in advocating and educating on issues including a Constitutional Right to Vote, National Popular Vote, Instant Runoff Voting and Proportional Representation.

    Fairvote has played a key role in my life. They were instrumental in supporting our campaign to bring Instant Runoff Voting to Ferndale, Michigan both during the campaign and through their Claim Democracy Conference at which I learned how to coordinate the campaign. I have also written up an extensive review of Fairvote's website.
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