Comprehensive Election and Campaign Reform
Updated Mar 27th, 2016

The best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago. The second-best time is now.

We look for specific behaviors and actions in our candidates and elected representatives:

  • Campaigning on ideas that meet peoples’ expressed needs rather than ideas based on idealistic philosophies that conflict with practical considerations, and proposing progressive legislation that is feasible within the present political environment.
  • Speaking for their own position and respecting the position of others.
  • Clarifying challenges and long-term issues.
  • Distinguishing short-term and long-term solutions.
  • Working to understand the needs of all constituents and recognizing that everybody matters.

We work to set a good example and demonstrate the behaviors and actions we want to see from others:

  • Inclusiveness
  • Respect
  • Everybody is equal
  • Mutuality – We learn from each other.

We have three specific goals for ourselves as well as for candidates and our elected representatives:

  1. Speakers seek to express themselves in a way that is understood by the listeners.
  2. Listeners will assume that the speaker knows something the listener doesn’t. If something doesn’t immediately make sense to the listener, the listener will ask questions and offer the speaker an opportunity to clarify the subject.
  3. Speakers will assume that questioners know something the speaker doesn’t. Speakers will accept questions as an opportunity to re-evaluate and clarify a position both for the questioner and for the speaker.

Our specific goals for overall reform are:

  1. Encourage strong communication/problem-solving/conflict-resolution skills in candidates and elected representatives. Look for these qualities as we "interview" the candidates for the position. We, the voters, are hiring them for the position. We can select for these skills.
  2. Reduce the influence of money on elections.
  3. All parties/interest groups/perspectives should have some representation in a multimember governing body (city council, school board, state legislature, etc.)

We have an additional goal that we may take up at a later time:

Encourage ballot initiatives that address the needs of most citizens and discourage ballot initiatives that primarily benefit a single business, industry or other limited interest.

Goal #1 of encouraging strong communication/problem-solving/conflict resolution skills is potentially very challenging and very rewarding. If we’re going to elect people with the desired skills, those skills have to be an issue during campaigns. This requires joint efforts by voters, candidates and journalists. Candidates should demonstrate their abilities to work things out with those who may disagree. Candidates should also demonstrate their ability to present common ground and differences to voters in a clear, respectful way. If candidates can’t deal effectively with differences during a campaign, they’re not likely to deal effectively with differences on budgets, health care, retirement benefits or other divisive issues after they’re elected. The same is true for candidates’ abilities to clearly and respectfully communicate to voters their common ground and differences on divisive issues. The process is quite simple: All candidates for the same office collaborate on a joint campaign statement of common ground and differences. These statements would be printed and distributed at no cost to the candidates. Costs would be covered at first by donations with a long-term goal of getting public funding and shifting responsibility to whoever runs the election. We will have no direct editorial control but will review the statements and may question the candidates about reliability of claims and encourage them to either further explain why they consider certain information to be reliable, or issue a disclaimer that some claims are uncertain. Evaluating competing claims and determining reliable sources can be a big part of resolving certain conflicts. This also simplifies things for voters since they get comprehensive, reliable information in one place.

Cooperating candidates might also be given reduced rates or increased word limits in their sample ballot statements. Several candidates might be allowed to combine their sample ballot statements, perhaps including charts or tables clearly showing their differences.

Goal #2 of reducing the influence of all money (from corporations, wealthy self-financed candidates, PACs, private contributions, etc.) is met to a large extent by our solution to goal #1. Distributing campaign statements at no cost to candidates reduces a large part of the campaign budget to $0. There are no attacks or one-sided statements requiring a response since all statements are approved in advance by all candidates. If candidates need less money, they don’t need to raise as much and voters don’t need to contribute as much. If we do a good job educating voters about the desirability of joint campaign statements, and the corresponding reduction in costs to the candidates, we can encourage voters to divide their contribution between the candidates and helping to pay costs for the campaign statements of each voter’s preferred candidates. Limiting campaign contributions and public financing can also be part of the solution.

Goal #3 of providing representation for multiple perspectives can be achieved through proportional representation which in turn can be achieved with an established voting method sometimes known as “Ranked Choice Voting”, “Choice Voting” or “Proportional Voting”. Voters rank all candidates in order of preference and the votes are counted in a way that provides majority control with minority representation. General law jurisdictions such as Mendocino County and the cities within Mendocino County cannot legally use any type of ranked voting until the California election code changes. Until then, we'll focus on education to prepare voters for the day when ranked voting will be an option. We will also provide local support for efforts of groups like Californians for Electoral Reform ( and which promote ranked voting throughout the state and work with state legislators to change the election code.

Better to light a small candle than curse the darkness.

We recognize that reform is a moving target and we need to constantly reevaluate our own goals and solutions. The solutions involve a long-term effort with a grass-roots movement pushing from the bottom, candidates pulling from the top, and journalists squeezing on the sides. Voter, candidate and journalist education is an important part of any change as people aren't likely to support an option they don't understand.

Contact us if you'd like to participate.