January 9: Both of our speakers today mainly focus on improving the representation in government. One through means of changing the electoral system to be more representative. The other encourages the government to be more responsive to voters by looking at how policies regarding money in politics can be better.
Drew Spencer from FairVote spoke to us about the Fair Representation Plan for Congress, which he hopes will be introduced later this year. To quote John Adams, the House of Representatives is meant to be a “portrait of the people.” At FairVote they believe that a system of rank choice voting in districts with a maximum magnitude of 5 (states with more that 5 house seats would be divided into districts). They believe that their plan would result in fairer representation and less wasted votes, and lessen polarization.
Later in the day we met with Tyler Cole and Bill Gray of IssueOne. Cole does legal and lobbying work on the Hill and Gray works with communications. At IssueOne they believe a big problem in the country’s government and elections is that people do not feel their interests are represented. This stems from lack of trust, often related to certain uses of money in politics. While they acknowledge that there will always be money in politics, they believe there are things that should be done about abuse of Super PACs, pay-to-play, dialing-for-dollars, and lack of rule enforcement. “Dialing-for-dollars” is specifically problematic because it takes away a great deal of time that is meant to be spent governing. This form of constant campaigning takes away from time elected officials should be spending serving their constituents, and leaves work left to staff overwhelmed by work and reliant lobbyists. Retired Congressmen have been able to get some attention to the issue of the extreme amount of time raising money, but not much has been done to change the practice. Both speakers agreed that it is often difficult to even draw attention to the issue because many in mainstream news outlets do not see it as something voters are interested in.
Tomorrow is the last day of the D.C. Winter Seminar, until then,
Allie Thibault ’19
American Politics Seminar