President Obama Highlights Importance of Strengthening American Democracy in 2014

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In State of the Union address President says, "the power of our vote, not the size of our bank account, that drives our democracy"

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

In tonight’s State of the Union address President Obama discussed the importance of strengthening American democracy by protecting the right to vote, amplifying the voices of ordinary citizens, and improving voter systems to increase participation. U.S. PIRG sees these solutions in the campaign finance and elections modernization realm as two sides of the same coin and has been working on both at the federal and state level with our state affiliates.

President Obama said, “it should be the power of our vote, not the size of our bank account, that drives our democracy.” U.S. PIRG has been working with allies to advance policy solutions that both limit the influence of big money on our elections and put systems in place to amplify the voices of small donors as a counter to the flood of special interest cash. U.S. PIRG and Demos’ recent report, Billion-Dollar Democracy, found that these reforms are more important than ever: in the 2012 elections, 32 of the largest contributors to super PACs donated as much as every small donor to both Obama and Romney combined, over 3.7 individual contributors. The soon-to-be-introduced Government by the People Act (H.R. 20) from Representative John Sarbanes would set up a voluntary grassroots financing system that would encourage candidates to seek out small contributions from their own constituents and match those contributions with clean funds. The bill would also set up the “My Voice” tax credit, which would put money in the pockets of ordinary citizens to support their chosen candidates and causes.

President Obama also mentions the bipartisan commission set up last year which has, “offered reforms so that no one has to wait more than a half hour to vote.” U.S. PIRG has been working with allies at the state and federal level to advance common-sense reforms that would make it easier and quicker for citizens to register and vote. Many of the recommendations from the Presidential Commission on Election Administration urge states and the federal government to enact these basic reforms, like creating systems of automatic registration, upgrading technologically outdated voting machines, and replacing costly, inaccurate paper systems with electronic databases all of which would make voting and registering more efficient and save money for states and municipalities.

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