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20 Proposals to Resolve Electoral Conflicts and Strengthen Democracy

Electoral democracy has gone through a period of profound conflicts, yet each unique conflict points us toward potential solutions and more collaborative processes.  Here are 20 proposals to help resolve electoral conflicts between political parties, fortify voting rights, improve trust in outcomes, strengthen democracy, encourage dialogue between differing groups and factions, and promote participation in political decision-making, based on the core democratic principles of popular sovereignty, majority rule, and minority rights. 

  1. In advance of elections, initiate facilitated dialogues in diverse local neighborhoods and communities to increase communication and understanding, and elicit consensus-based recommendations for ways of conducting upcoming elections more collaboratively, fairly, and securely.  
  2. Create a bi-partisan national electoral commission to summarize popular input, synthesize ideas, reach consensus, and recommend improved rules and processes, including minimal standards for electoral fairness for all elections, including those in states, cities, and counties.
  3. Invite representatives of opposing political parties and factions to meet, aided by professional mediators and facilitators, to discuss, collaboratively negotiate, and reach consensus on the rules that will govern elections, including the conduct of candidates during debates, ethical campaign ads, limits on financial contributions, ways of reducing fraud and dishonesty, resolving contested outcomes, and accepting final results.  
  4. Establish and enforce a Voter’s Bill of Rights that guarantees one person/one vote as a universal right of all citizens, including those with felony convictions.  
  5. Establish automatic, life-long voter registration for all citizens, based on a commonly used form of identification, such as social security or drivers’ license numbers. 
  6. Permit and protect mail-in ballots and advance voting, and require that all such votes be counted in advance of in-person voting, wherever possible.
  7. Require that voting machines be secure, non-hackable, manufactured by non-partisan companies or agencies, and capable of creating a paper trail.  
  8. Fund the development of free, secure, easy-to-use apps that inform citizens of their voting rights, provide multiple forums for facilitated dialogues and discussion of the issues, enable fact-checking, support on-line dispute resolution where requested, and permit on-line voting, making sure there is access to computers and internet for those without.  
  9. Re-conduct the census to ensure that everyone is counted, including immigrant and homeless citizens, so that future elections and seats in Congress can be distributed accurately and fairly.
  10. Initiate in-person and on-line dialogues and town-hall meetings in local communities following candidate debates, led by professional mediators and facilitators, in which participants are asked to discuss and reach consensus on recommended solutions to issues raised during the debates, as well as ways of improving both debate and dialogue processes.
  11. Tighten restrictions on private, special interest, and foreign campaign contributions, and on all electorally related contributions to candidates or PACs above a mutually agreed-upon amount.  
  12. Shorten the electoral timetable, and provide public funding for federal campaign ads, with a precondition, that these be fact-checked and candidate approved prior to airing.  
  13. End the Electoral College, or its ability of to disregard the popular vote, or revise its rules to ensure fairness and respect the principle of “one-person/one vote,” and legislatively block partisan state legislatures from altering electoral outcomes or overturning the popular vote.  
  14. Use mathematical modeling, artificial intelligence, and community and public policy mediation to identify, restrict, and repair gerrymandering, and make it easier for citizens to challenge electoral boundaries in court.
  15. Improve, automate, and streamline the process for recounting ballots, using neutral or bipartisan observers wherever outcomes are contested, and mitigate winner-take-all elections by using percentage or proportional representation, instant runoff voting (allowing second choice votes to count) fusion voting (allowing two or more parties to nominate the same candidate), and similar methods.  
  16. Pass legislation making election days partial national holidays, with paid time off to enable those who work to vote.
  17. Prohibit taxation without representation, by allowing everyone who is taxed to vote and be represented in Congress, including residents of the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, should they so desire. 
  18. Create a branch of the Justice Department that is isolated from political influence to protect and enforce voting rights, with the power to record contested votes for subsequent determination and counting. 
  19. Establish federal, state, city and county Ombuds offices to investigate and resolve electoral conflicts, with teams of mediators and facilitators who convene candidates and representatives of political parties in an effort to prevent and resolve conflicts that arise before, during, and after elections; and encourage them to mediate these issues before going to court.
  20. After elections are over, invite people in diverse neighborhoods and communities to participate in on-line and in-person dialogues to evaluate the electoral process, reach consensus on recommendations for future elections, and discuss ways of healing, reuniting, and commit to working together to solve common problems, using restorative justice circles and facilitated “truth and reconciliation” types of processes.  

Kenneth Cloke

Kenneth Cloke is Director of the Center for Dispute Resolution and a mediator, arbitrator, consultant and trainer, specializing in resolving complex multi-party conflicts internationally and in designing conflict resolution systems for organizations. Ken is a nationally recognized speaker and leader in the field of conflict resolution, and a published author… MORE >

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