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We have all heard this quote by Abraham Lincoln during his Gettysburg Address unfortunately it no longer reflects our country. What power do we wield as citizens? The simple and resounding answer is none. Yes we get to vote for elected officials but do we really get any choice in which elected officials  we can vote for? Not really, the Republican National Committee and the Democratic National Committee decide who we are allowed to vote for. Rarely are the choices even remotely good and it is almost impossible to get an independent or 3rd party candidate into national office. Then even if you elect a representative that you support and like there is no guarantee that person will represent you or even generally represent the district. Districts are so gerrymandered anymore that nearly all seats of Congress are completely safe from challengers. Once elected Congressional members are free to do as they please without regard for their constituency because it is extremely unlikely they will be ousted from their seats even if they anger those that they represent.

Instead Congressional loyalty lies with the parties and campaign contributions. Money is what gets Congressional members elected not people. Yeah it is technically votes but candidates get no votes if they don’t have money. They have to have the resources to spend all that time campaigning instead of working. Candidates have to have the money for campaign materials, advisers, TV ads and much more. It is money that makes it possible for a candidate to get elected so their loyalty is to the money not to the voters.

Elected officials are no longer concerned with representing voters so we the people need a direct channel to influence the government. We can’t rely on the indirect method of going through our elected officials anymore. A national initiative, referendum and recall system must be instituted in order to grant the public direct access to the “government of the people, by the people, for the people”.

Ballot initiatives are proposed laws which originate from outside of Congress. The initiative requires a predetermined number of registered voters to sign a petition in support of the proposal. If enough people sign it then the proposal is put on a national ballot for the next Congressional election. Then the entire country can vote on the issue. If it passes then the initiative becomes law. That means we the people can introduce and pass laws without Congress. That would allow us to get the work done which Congress is unwilling to engage.

Referendums are like initiatives in that they originate from outside of Congress. But rather than trying to implement a new law referendums attempt to repeal an existing law. Referendums also require a petition with a predetermined number of signatures from registered voters before being placed on the ballot. Once on the ballot then the entire country can vote on the referendum and if it passes then the law it addresses is repealed. This grants the people power of repealing laws that we feel are unjust. That allows us to undo the work of Congress when it does not represent the people.

Finally national recalls must be instituted. Like initiatives and referendums, recalls originate outside of Congress and require a petition in order to be placed on the ballot. A recall allows voters to remove an elected official from office. If the people are unhappy with their representation by an elected official then they should be able to have that official removed from office. We should not be forced to put up with poor representation until the next election. In fact recalls should require an immediate special election to determine if the official will be removed from office.

Initiatives, referendums and recalls must be granted to the people. In the US there is a lot of talk about public participation in our democracy yet we can’t write laws, we can’t veto laws and we can’t recall our representatives. Our participation is restricted to gerrymandered party driven elections with no guarantee that our representative will represent us in the least bit. Few people can manage expensive drawn out legal battles to challenge the law in court. Very few people can afford an army of lobbyists in order to purchase new laws or regulations. Even fewer have the wealth necessary to directly influence a candidate through contributions and fundraising. Instead most of us are left with virtually no means to direct this “government of the people, by the people, for the people”. Ballot initiatives, referendums and recalls will grant us the power to directly influence this great country.