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A Call for Election Reform, Beginning with New York

Huffington Post

In a 2011 speech on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives, civil rights hero and Congressman John Lewis (D-Ga.) eloquently described attacks across the country on Americans' access to the ballot box: "Voting rights are under attack in America. There's a deliberate and systematic attempt to prevent millions of elderly voters, young voters, students, minority and low-income voters from exercising their constitutional right to engage in the democratic process."

Across the country, powerful forces that can't win on their message have decided to simply restrict the voting rights of people who oppose them. It's a direct affront to the American ideal of one person, one vote.

But it's not just restrictions at the ballot box that are impugning our democracy--the flood of special interest cash drowning out the voices of everyday Americans is also endangering a government that is purportedly of, by, and for the people.

Deep-pocket interests drive the law-making agenda on issues that range from gun violence to our unfair tax system to the availability of decent jobs.

About one quarter of one percent of Americans make donations to political candidates in a given election cycle. Seventy percent of that campaign money comes from donors giving $200 or more, a number out of reach for many Americans. As the cost of campaigns has soared, this small group of campaign funders has become increasingly important to politicians seeking re-election.

Which means, as the New York-based think tank, Demoswrote in a recent report, "As private interests have come to wield more influence over public policy, with ever larger sums of money shaping elections and the policymaking process, our political system has become less responsive to those looking for a fair shot to improve their lives and move upward."