The New America Foundation, The Center for Voting and Democracy,
and America Speaks
cordially invite you and your colleagues to a policy discussion
CAN THE U.S. TAKE LESSONS FROM A CANADIAN EXPERIMENT IN DEMOCRACY?
Chief Research Officer, Citizens' Assembly on Electoral Reform
Senior Research Fellow, New America Foundation
Executive Director, America Speaks
Executive Director, The Reform Institute
Executive Director, FairVote -- The Center for Voting and Democracy
Senior Fellow, New America Foundation
Tuesday, June 7, 2005
3:30 p.m. - 5:00 p.m.
New America Foundation
1630 Connecticut Avenue, NW, 7th Floor
RSVP to 202-986-4901 or to Jennifer Buntman at firstname.lastname@example.org
Last month a majority of British Columbia voters approved replacing winner-take-all elections with a proportional voting system. This policy outcome was not unprecedented, but the method used to select it was. The final recommendations were derived from the Citizens' Assembly on Electoral Reform, a group of 160 randomly selected individuals from British Columbia. This group met for one year and produced the electoral reform package that was placed on the ballot.
In the last chapter of his new book, Speak Softly and Carry a Big Stick (see www.spectrumpolicy.net), New America Foundation Senior Fellow J.H. Snider argues that the type of democratic innovation represented by the Citizens' Assembly may solve a large class of democratic reform problems. When elected politicians have a blatant conflict of interest -- such as in redistricting, campaign finance, legislative ethics, and civic oriented public TV- they have strong incentives to create information and electoral systems that favor their own re-election. For example, in every election since 1996 for the U.S. House of Representatives, there has been at least a 98% re-election rate of incumbents.
But would a Citizens' Assembly type reform really work in the U.S.? Are large, randomly selected juries adequately motivated and skilled to serve this type of democratic function? Won't they be subject to manipulation by elites just like referendums and other populist reforms? Is this the philosophers' stone of democratic reform that we've all been waiting for?
Join us for a discussion on a topic that, while receiving scant coverage in the U.S. media, could prove to be one of the most important democratic experiments of our era.
For background information on the Citizens' Assembly, see http://www.citizensassembly.bc.ca/public/inaction/history
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