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Voting Principles

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Declaration of Voting Principles

To encourage citizen ownership of transparent, participatory, and vibrant democracy.

The United States of America is the first nation founded on a set of ideals rather than a common race, ethnicity, religion or power structure, such as a monarchy or dictatorship. "In America, to be an American is not to be someone, but to believe in something.”*  It is those shared ideals that laid the foundation for America’s growth and greatness.

 

The Declaration of Independence framed a vision of a people capable of self-governing and articulated principle values and goals. All men are created equal … life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Words that touch heart and soul … the dream of what America and Americans can be.

 

These have been our fixed North Star serving to guide us. Yes, meaning has evolved but the larger vision remains.  We were next given a framework to develop the principles that would support the vision … founders moved to more concreteness through the Constitution, keeping in mind the promise and compact inherent in our Declaration of Independence. 

 

Laws are evaluated as to whether they support or inhibit the larger framework of the Constitution, which itself was written within the frame of the ideas and ideals of the Declaration of Independence. 

 

As Proust noted, “The real act of discovery is not in finding new lands, but seeing with new eyes.” Our founders saw with new eyes what a nation could be and built from there.

 

It is time that we view voting, elections, and the roles and responsibilities of citizens and our representatives with new eyes based on our founding principles. We must have an overarching vision that outlines citizens’ core role and rights as the sovereign power in self-governing.  We must set out principles that ensure our voting rights and the open, observable integrity of our election process.  Those principles must include citizens in voting-related decisions at all levels.  It is time we consider voting and elections within that same framework. 

 

Overarching Principles

First and foremost, the sovereignty of America is vested in her citizens.  All power is meant to flow from the people and always back to them.  Our government is subject to our Constitution and the will of the people.

Citizens have a right and responsibility to be informed of the operations of government at all levels and to oversee that government, which must serve the interests of citizens.  Government at all levels must also support our core values and principles outlined in our Declaration of Independence and the American Constitution.

One of the primary methods of citizen participation in government is voting.  The vote belongs to the people. It is our first right, from which all other rights derive.  Every effort must be made to ensure citizens’ right to vote freely, without interference, barriers, discrimination or intimidation. 

The brilliance of our founders was especially evident in the creation of the requirement of a system of separate and independent checks and balances for the operation of our government.  Since the vote is the foundation and mechanism of the selection of representatives to administer our government, the voting process must also be based on the design and use of a system of separate and independent checks and balances.

Since the vote belongs to the people and not to private entities or partisan interests, citizens must be an active part of the process, working together with government and independent experts to monitor and improve the system while ensuring all citizens access to the opportunity to participate in such management.

The primary purpose of voting is to exercise of our duty to share in the process of self-governance. Citizens must have a voting process that ensures that their votes are recorded, counted and reported accurately.   Original source ballots completed by the voters are the "real votes" and must verify results.

Only our vote is secret.  All processes governing our elections, including decisions, regulations, laws, oversight, machines, programming, testing, certification, operating methods, and provability must be open, transparent and observable.

Citizens should also have the right to say No,  I do not wish to vote for one or more candidates offered, whether because I do not prefer any of the given choices or do not have enough information to make a good decision; thus every ballot must have an abstain selection which is to be counted and reported and which can affect results. 

No law or government or agency has the right to force citizens to vote using a process/system that is insecure, unreliable, unobservable or unverifiable.

All voting laws, regulations and processes must be evaluated frequently as to whether they support, advance or inhibit these principles and specifically how they do so.  If not clearly demonstrable as supporting and ideally improving, they must be modified or removed.  Criteria and evaluative methods will be used to check continually on the effectiveness of government’s meeting the overarching objectives and principles.  Proof or clear explanation must also be provided as to how government supports the overarching objectives and principles. 

Citizens have both a right and a responsibility to participate in our self-governing process, especially through informed voting ... to study, discuss, be informed of issues and candidates' positions. Voting is not a popularity contest but a sacred and serious responsibility, the fulfillment of our founding covenant to come together as a community, sharing our views, voting our conscience in line with founding principles and our Constitution.

Mary Ann Gould

 

*Professor Gordon S. Wood, preeminent authority/historian of the American Revolution and Constitution, on the internet/radio program Voice of the Voters.