Tuesday, April 30, 2013

FDA Talking Points Series: 60-day Rule

The 97-day campaign period in Venezuela shows no signs of causing electorate disinterest. This finding is supported by recent Venezuelan voter turnout in the 80 percent range (Venezuelan presidential election, 2012). (Photo source: facebook.com)
The Foundation for Democratic Advancement (FDA) takes the position that in multi-party electoral systems comprised of large, small, and new parties that a 60-day campaign period is sufficient time for all parties to inform the electorate of their platforms and backgrounds, and the public to process the information. The FDA acknowledges that a balance must be established between too long a campaign period and too short of campaign period. An overly long campaign period may cause excessive campaign expense on political parties and public weariness and disinterest. A very short campaign period may prevent small and new parties from informing the public and the public from adequately processing campaign information. The FDA assumes that 60-days is a reasonable balance the two extremes: 40 days to inform the public and 20 days for the public to process the information. The reasonable length of the campaign period may vary based on the number of registered parties and the nature of the parties.

Comparative Campaign Periods

UNITED STATES

The U.S. federal campaign period for electioneering communication is 60-days. In addition, the U.S. informal campaign period for presidential candidates can be as long as 2 years.

Legislative Research

The FDA could find no legal limit on the length of presidential campaigns. Regarding limitation of awards during Presidential election year, the Presidential election period is defined as June 1 to January 20 in an election year (U.S. Code, Title 5, Section 4508).

Electioneering communications in television and radio format are distributed within 60 days prior to a general election or 30 days prior to a primary, nominating convention or caucus (Code of Federal Regulations, Article 100.29).

The U.S. federal campaign period meets the FDA standard for reasonable and fair length of campaign period. However, it should be noted that a reasonable and fair campaign period is only one component of an electoral system, and can be negated for example by unfair electoral finance processes. In the 2012 U.S. Presidential Election, there were 14 presidential candidates (Whiteout Press, 2013).

CANADA

The Canadian federal campaign period is 36-days. This period is 24-days short of the FDA standard of 60-days.

Legislative Research

An election must be held a minimum of 36 days after a proclamation by the Governor in Council for a general election to be held. Parliament must sit at least once every 12 months (Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, Article 5; Elections Act, Article 57).

Analysis

The short Canadian campaign period favours large, established parties over small and new parties, because small and new parties do not have reasonable time to inform the public of their platforms and backgrounds, while the large, established parties are already known by the public. Also, the electorate does not have adequate time to process the information on the small and new parties. In 2011, as an example, there were 17 registered Canadian federal parties, in which 12 of them were small and/or new parties. Moreover, the short campaign period when combined with other variables, such as public subsidies and media election laws which favour large parties, will likely have a significant negative impact on electoral competitiveness of small and new parties. Furthermore, Canadian constitutional laws have inadequate checks and balances on the powers of the Canadian Prime Minister, so the short campaign period may exacerbate this inadequacy by potentially allowing a party majority control of the Canadian Parliament without facing the public having adequate time to scrutinize the party's policies and members (Garvey, 2013).

VENEZUELA

The Venezuelan federal campaign period is 97-days. This period is 37-days in excess of the FDA standard of 60-days.

Legislative Research 

The National Election Council determines for each election the electoral campaign period (Election Law, Article 71).

The 2012 Venezuelan Presidential Election period is from July 1st to October 5th (Elecciones presidenciales de Venezuela de 2012, 2012).

Analysis

Venezuela's 97-day campaign period gives adequate time for all registered parties to inform the public and the public to process the information. However, due the long length of the campaign period, smaller and new parties will be at a disadvantage to large, established parties from the financial demands of a long campaign period. In addition, the public may become disinterested in the campaigns, which in turn will favour large, established parties because they are already known by the public. Though the polarized nature of Venezuelan politics appears to offset the lengthy campaign period and any grounds for disinterest. This evidenced by recent Venezuelan voter turnout in the 80 percent range (Venezuelan presidential election, 2012).

References

2012 Presidential Candidates. (2013). Whiteout Press. Retrieved from http://www.whiteoutpress.com/timeless/complete-list-of-2012-presidential-candidates/

Charter of Rights and Freedoms. (1982, April 17). Retrieved from the Department of Justice http://laws-lois.justice.gc.ca/eng/Const/page-15.html#h-38

Code of Federal Regulations. (2009, January 1). Federal Registry. Retrieved from http://www.fec.gov/law/cfr/cfr_2009.pdf

Elecciones presidenciales de Venezuela de 2012. (2012). In Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Retrieved from September 18, 2012, from http://es.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elecciones_presidenciales_de_Venezuela_de_2012

Election Law. (2012). National Electoral Council. Retrieved from http://www.cne.gov.ve/web/normativa_electoral/ley_organica_procesos_electorales/indice.php

Elections Act. (2000, May 31). Elections Canada. Retrieved from http://www.elections.ca/content.aspx?section=res&dir=loi/fel/cea&document=part00&lang=e

Garvey, S. (2013). FDA Talking Points Series: Checks and Balances. Foundation for Democratic Advancement. Retrieved from http://foundationfordemocraticadvancement.blogspot.ca/2013/04/fda-talking-points-series-checks-and.html

U.S. Code. (2012). Cornell University Law School. Retrieved from http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text

Venezuelan presidential election. (2012). In Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Retrieved from April 30, 2013, from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Venezuelan_presidential_election,_2012








Mr. Stephen Garvey, Executive Director Foundation for Democratic Advancement





Thursday, April 25, 2013

FDA Podcast: April 22, 2013 FDA Presentation on Alberta Democracy

The map depicts the division over the Bingham Crossing development (in Rocky View County, Alberta), and the fact that those councillors against the decision were the closest to the development, while those councillors in favour of the decision were the furthest away from the development. The red zone represents the five electoral divisions in favour of the development, and the blue zone represents the four electoral divisions against the development. The white triangle symbol is the approximate location of the Bingham Crossing development.
This podcast is a recording of Mr. Stephen Garvey, Executive Director of the Foundation for Democratic Advancement at the FDA Public Forum on April 22, 2013, in Springbank, Alberta. Mr. Garvey presents the main findings of the FDA's Alberta Municipal Process Review Related to the Bingham Crossing Development Application. Mr. Garvey focuses on the key democracy issue facing Alberta and likely all of Canada. He explains deficiencies in the Alberta Municipal Government Act and Local Authorities Election Act which undermine Alberta democracy. In addition, he discusses viable ways forward including mechanisms such as citizen-recall and referendum processes, and in the case of Rocky View County proportional weighted referendum. Moreover, he discusses proportional weighted council decision-making based on proximity to proposed developments. This podcast touches on some of the key democracy issues in North America. For non-mainstream, insightful, and provocative discussion from people working in the field of international politics, listen in or download the FDA podcasts.

2013 FDA Alberta Municipal Process Review Related to Bingham Crossing Development Application

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FDA Podcasts on Itunes

Friday, April 19, 2013

FDA Talking Points Series: Checks and Balances

The ability of the U.S. Congress to impeach the U.S. President is one of the chief checks on the U.S. executive branch of government. (Photo source: icollector.com)
The Foundation for Democratic Advancement (FDA) takes the position that checks and balances of government bodies are consistent with a free and democratic society, because these checks and balances will help prevent government corruption and unreasonable impairment of human and political rights. In addition, checks and balances help ensure the voice of the people from electoral districts are reflected in governmental decisions through ensuring adequate voice of governmental bodies and providing mechanisms for public say on governmental decisions. In its electoral fairness audits, the FDA values sound and effective checks and balances between government bodies such as a parliament or house of representatives, executive, and judiciary, and checks and balances by the people and media on government.

Example of checks and balances

UNITED STATES

Summary of Findings

There are three branches of government, executive, bicameral congress, and judiciary, all with political power over government policy and legislation, and checks and balances. For example, the Congress's power over legislation is offset by the President's power to veto and propose legislation, and the judiciaries' power to overrule legislation which violates the Constitution (FDA Electoral Fairness Report on the United States, 2012, Revised 2013).

Note there is no legislative check and balance between the U.S. federal government and the U.S. national media. The U.S. bicameral congress can impeach the U.S. President. However, there are no mechanisms for citizen-initiated referendum on national issues or recall of federal elected officials.

Legislative Research

The U.S. federal government is divided into three branches: legislative (comprised of Congress and Senate), presidency (executive), and judiciary (U.S. Constitution, Article I, Sections 1, 2, 3; Article II, Section 2, 2012; Article III, Section 2).

The U.S. House of Representatives and Senate have legislative power; the President has the executive power of government; the judiciary has power cases involving the U.S. Constitution, laws, and treaties under its authority (U.S Constitution, Article I, Sections 1, 2012; Article II, Section 2; Article III, Section 2).

The President has the power to veto bills from the Congress and Senate, and the House of Representatives and Senate with two-thirds vote in each house have the power to overrule presidential vetoes (U.S. Constitution, Article I, Section 7, Clause 2, 2012).

Every bill must pass in the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate to become law (U.S. Constitution, Article I, Section 7, Clause 2, 2012).

The President, Vice President and other civil officers can be impeached by the U.S. Congress and Senate for convictions of treason, bribery, and other serious crimes and/or wrongdoing (U.S. Constitution, Article II, Section 4, 2012).

The U.S. Constitution may be amended by a two-third vote of both the U.S. Congress and Senate, or two-thirds of states which call for a convention on proposing amendments to the Constitution, and the amendments are ratified if three-fourths of the state legislatures support the amendments (U.S. Constitution, Article V, 2012).


CANADA

Summary of Findings

There are three branches of government, bicameral parliament, governor general, and judiciary. The Senate, comprised of those with mostly non-elected positions, has limited say over legislation, and the judiciary is restricted to constitutional and legislative oversight. Due to the tradition of strict party discipline, a party with majority of the Parliament has control over legislation. A Prime Minister and his Cabinet, with a majority of the Parliament, has excessive powers. The checks on the Prime Minister are limited to constitutional and legislative oversight and exercise of Parliament powers via the Supreme Court, a vote of no confidence, which is highly unlikely when the Prime Minister has a majority, the Senate, which can merely delay the passage of legislation, the Governor General, which has taken on a ceremonial role, and federal elections. The first-past-the-post system exacerbates the powers of the Prime Minister because it allows for a political party with minority popular electoral support to have majority control of the Canadian Parliament (FDA Electoral Fairness Report on Canada, 2013).

Note there is no legislative check and balance between the Canadian federal government and the Canadian national media. In addition, the Canadian Prime Minister cannot be recalled by the Canadian electorate nor are there federal provisions for citizen-initiated national referendums

Some of the Legislative Research

Executive Power

Powers of the Prime Minister

To appoint the Governor General of Canada (through whom the PM technically exercises most of his/her powers, some of which are listed below) (History, 2013).

To appoint Senators to the Canadian Senate (The Senate Today, 2013).

To appoint Supreme Court justices and other federal justices (Supreme Court Act, Section 4(2)).

To appoint all members of the Cabinet [to remove any member of the Cabinet] (Guide to the Canadian House of Commons, 2011).

To appoint the entire board of the Bank of Canada (Bank of Canada Act, Section 6(1), 1985).

To appoint the heads of the military, Royal Canadian Mounted Police, and other government agencies (Governor in Council Appointments, 2012).

To appoint CEO's and Chairs of crown corporations such as the CBC (Broadcast Act, Section 36(2)).

To dissolve Parliament and choose the time of the next federal election (within a 5 year limit) (Charter of Rights and Freedoms, Section 4(1)).

To run for re-election indefinitely (no term limits) (Constitution Act, Section 14, 1867).

To ratify treaties (The Royal Prerogative, 2013).

To declare war (Constitution Act, section 12, 1867; The Royal Prerogative, 2013).

To determine Canadian federal laws including election law within the constraints of the Canadian Constitution and Charter and contingent on passage in the Parliament (Constitution Act, Section 41, 1867).

Checks on the Prime Minister

First-past-the-post, the current way to determine federal election winners, allows parties to form a majority of the Canadian Parliament without representing at least an absolute majority of the voting public (The Electoral System of Canada, 2012).

The Canadian Supreme Court (Supreme Court Act, Section 4(2)).

The Parliament through a vote of no confidence can remove the Prime Minister (House of Commons Procedure and Practice, 2000).

The Senate can delay or impede legislation (A Legislative and Historical Overview of the Senate of Canada, 2001).

The Governor General’s powers to hold the Prime Minister accountable to the Queen and people have evolved into a ceremonial role (Constitutional Role, 2013).

The Prime Minister appoints the unelected Governor General, and therefore it follows that the Prime Minister can remove the Governor General (History, 2013).

Freedom of Expression (Charter of Rights and Freedoms, Section 2).

Civil suits within the Federal Court System (Federal Courts Act, Section 17(1)-(2)(a)-(d), 1985).

The Canadian electorate votes every four to five years (Charter of Rights and Freedoms, Section 4(1)).


VENEZUELA

Summary of Findings

Venezuela has four main branches of government: National Executive, National Assembly, Judiciary, and Ombudsman Office. These branches create checks and balances that work to protect the interests of Venezuelans as a whole. In addition, Venezuela allows citizen referendums including recall referendums at all levels of government. The President has no term limits; however, in order to continue his/her period in office s/he must win the national election every six years.

Note there are checks and balance between the Venezuelan federal government and the national media during election periods through, for example, mass media time quota provisions for candidates and parties.

Legislative Research

The Venezuelan President is in power for six years, and may be re-elected with no term limit (Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela Constitution, First Amendment, Article 230).

Deputies to the National Assembly are elected for five years and may be reappointed or re-elected, depending on position, with no term limit (Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela Constitution, First Amendment, Article 192).

The Venezuelan government has four main independent branches of government: National Executive, National Assembly, Judiciary, and Citizen Power (represented by an ombudsmen office). The National Executive lead by the President and Vice-President is in charge of running the country; the National Assembly is the authority of national legislation; the judiciary led by the Supreme Court is authority on the Constitution and enforcing law, and the Ombudsman Office is in charge of protecting the people’s interests and rights (Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela Constitution, Articles 72-74, 225-283, 347-350).

Venezuelan people have the power to submit referendum bills to the National Assembly if the people in favor of the bill represent at least twenty-five percent of the electors registered. Treaties, conventions or agreements that could compromise national sovereignty or transfer power to supranational bodies, may be submitted to a referendum on the initiative of the President of the Republic in Council of Ministers, by the vote of two-thirds or the members of the Assembly, or fifteen percent of the voters registered and entered in the civil and voter registration (Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela Constitution, Article 73).

Venezuelan people have to power to submit referendum bills to wholly or partially repeal existing laws if the people in favor of the referendum have support from at least 10 percent of the registered electors (Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela Constitution, Article 74).

Venezuelan people have to power to submit referendum bills to abrogate laws issued by the President of the Republic under Article 236 if those in favor of the referendum have the support of at least 5 percent of the registered electors. The validity of referendum requires at least 40 percent support from registered electors (Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela Constitution, Article 74).

Budget laws including taxation are not subject to referendum nor are laws for protecting, guaranteeing, and developing human rights (Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela Constitution, Article 74).


 References

A Legislative and Historical Overview of the Senate of Canada. (2001). May 2001. Parliament of Canada. Retrieved from http://www.parl.gc.ca/About/Senate/LegisFocus/legislative-e.htm. Bank of Canada Act. (1985). Last amended December 19, 2912. Retrieved from http://laws-lois.justice.gc.ca/eng/acts/B-2/

Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela Constitution. (2012). National Electoral Council. Retrieved from http://www.cne.gov.ve/web/normativa_electoral/constitucion/indice.php

Broadcast Act. (1991). February 1, 1991. Retrieved from the Department of Justice http://laws-lois.justice.gc.ca/eng/acts/B-9.01/page-1.html

Charter of Rights and Freedoms. (1982). April 17, 1982. Retrieved from the Department of Justice http://laws-lois.justice.gc.ca/eng/Const/page-15.html#h-38

Constitution Act. (1982). April 17, 1982. Retrieved from the Department of Justice http://laws-lois.justice.gc.ca/eng/Const/page-15.html#h-38

Constitutional Role. (2013). The Governor General of Canada. Retrieved from http://www.gg.ca/events.aspx?sc=1&lan=eng

FDA Global Electoral Fairness Report on the United States. (2013). Revised. Foundation for Democratic Advancement. Retrieved from http://democracychange.org/2013/04/2012-fda-electoral-fairness-report-on-the-united-states/

FDA Global Electoral Fairness Report on Venezuela. (2013). Revised. Foundation for Democratic Advancement Retrieved from http://democracychange.org/2013/04/2012-fda-global-electoral-fairness-report-on-venezuela/

Governor in Council Appointments. (2012). April 13, 2012. Government of Canada. Retrieved from http://appointments.gc.ca/prflOrg.asp?OrgID=RCM&type-typ=1&lang=eng

Guide to the Canadian House of Commons. (2011). December 2011. Library of Parliament. Retrieved from Parliament of Canada http://www.parl.gc.ca/About/Parliament/GuideToHoC/who-e.htm

History. (2013). The Governor General of Canada. Retrieved from http://www.gg.ca/document.aspx?id=14615.

Federal Courts Act. (1985). Last amended December 12, 2012. Retrieved from http://laws-lois.justice.gc.ca/eng/acts/F-7/

Supreme Court Act. (1985). Retrieved from http://laws-lois.justice.gc.ca/eng/acts/S-26/page-1.html

The Electoral System of Canada. (2012). July 19, 2012. Elections Canada. Retrieved from http://www.elections.ca/content.aspx?section=res&dir=ces&document=part1&lang=e

The Royal Prerogative. (2013). Canadian Crown. Retrieved from http://www.canadiancrown.com/uploads/3/8/4/1/3841927/the_royal_prerogative.pdf

U.S. Constitution. (2012). Cornell University Law School. Retrieved from http://www.law.cornell.edu/constitution/






Mr. Stephen Garvey Executive Director Foundation for Democratic Advancement

Monday, April 15, 2013

Revised FDA Electoral Fairness Report on Venezuela Federal Electoral System

Nicolas Maduro, President Chavez's chosen successor, wins the April 14, 2013 Venezuela Presidential Eleciton
FDA Venezuela Report Revised as of April 15, 2013

Executive Summary

The Venezuelan federal electoral system is very satisfactory as determined by the overall audit score of 78.83 percent (out of 100 percent). The FDA auditors measured
  1. one unsatisfactory passing score for legislation pertaining to electoral finance (52.5 percent); 
  2. one very satisfactory score for legislation pertaining to candidates and parties (77.9 percent); 
  3. two exceptional scores for legislation pertaining to media election coverage (100 percent) and voters (84.9 percent).
The FDA audit focused on 52 variables, and it utilized matrices, financial analysis, and scoring scales. The most notable areas of the system are Venezuela’s commitment to complete and balanced election coverage, thereby supporting a fair playing field for candidates and parties, and a commitment to people’s right to vote and the act of voting through various innovative and progressive measures. However, electoral finances of candidates and parties are only transparent to the state, and there are no direct caps on campaign contributions and no direct limits on expenditures. The lack of public financial transparency creates the potential for pro-government parties to pursue corrupt financial practices and leave anti-government parties subject to unjust assessments of their finances including targeting their contributors. The lack of caps and limits on electoral finances may create an unfair playing field in the realms of billboards, flyers, posters, and campaign events, because these media are not covered by the complete and balanced coverage requirement. The FDA has no evidence of electoral financial wrongdoing, as does no one else, because only the Venezuelan State through the National Electoral Council is privy to party finances. The FDA recommends reforms that will bring about public electoral finance transparency, caps on campaign contributions and limits on campaign expenditures. If implemented these reforms would make the Venezuelan electoral system a model for the rest of the world. As it stands, these limitations have the potential to allow for corrupt financial practices and create unfair playing fields for candidates and parties.

Overall the FDA recommends that the public get continuously and actively involved with the government legislative process and implementation if they want to protect and advance their democratic voice, and create a society of their choosing.

Revised FDA Electoral Fairness Report on Venezuela (slideshare)

Revised FDA Electoral Fairness Report on Venezuela (FDA Website)

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Revised FDA Electoral Fairness Report on the United States


FDA Electoral Fairness Report on the United States revised as of April 11, 2013.

Executive Summary

The American federal electoral system borders a failed state as determined by the overall unsatisfactory audit score of 54.5 percent (out of 100 percent). The FDA auditors measured
  1. two failing scores for legislation pertaining to electoral finance (48.25 percent) and media election content (42.5 percent); 
  2.  one unsatisfactory score for legislation pertaining to candidates and parties (57 percent); 
  3.  one satisfactory score for legislation pertaining to voters (70.25 percent).
The FDA auditors factored in 52 independent variables and used matrices and financial analysis in its calculations and determinations. Based on its measurements, the FDA believes that the American federal election outcomes may not reflect the voice of Americans from electoral districts. The significant legislated unfair competition between American candidates and parties coupled with electoral finance legislation favoring wealthy money interests and media legislation favoring large corporate media and imbalanced election coverage creates a system tilted heavily to special and minority interests, rather than the American people. The FDA believes that reforms are necessary in electoral finance and election coverage in order to help realign the American federal electoral process with Americans as a whole. The FDA recommends, for examples, expenditure limits on congressional candidates and privately funded presidential candidates, caps on independent third-party expenditure, caps on media ownership concentration, and a voluntary media code of conduct during the 60 day campaign period which supports broad and balanced campaign coverage.

The FDA recommends that the public get involved with the government legislative process and implementation if they want to protect and advance their democratic voice, and create a society of their choosing.

"If liberty and equality, as is thought by some, are chiefly to be found in democracy, they will be best attained when all persons alike share in government to the utmost.”
- Aristotle

Revised on FDA Report on the United States (slideshare)

FDA Report on United States (FDA site)

Sunday, April 7, 2013

FDA Encourages Reform of Alberta's Municipal Acts

Photo of Springbank, Rockyview County, Alberta, Canada--the proposed district location of the controversial Bingham Crossing development.
2013 FDA Process Review of the Bingham Crossing Development Application

Executive Summary

The Foundation for Democratic Advancement (FDA) measured severe deficiencies in the Alberta municipal processes with regard to the Bingham Crossing development application. The FDA measured both individual and cumulative impacts of the Alberta municipal processes on the democratic welfare of Rocky View County residents and users of the area. Although the individual effects were in some cases insignificant, the accumulation of these impacts raises questions about the consistency of the Alberta municipal processes with a free and democratic society. The FDA determined that overall; the municipal processes give a greater voice to special interests over the voice of the citizenry. In addition, the FDA identified municipal processes that unreasonably limit the democratic rights of citizens and do not include adequate offsetting mechanisms; and are therefore in conflict with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The FDA concludes that the Bingham Crossing development application requires an inspection by the Alberta Municipal Affairs Minister and a provincial government-initiated referendum to determine whether this controversial development application should pass or fail. The purposes of the referendum are to compensate for the deficiencies in the Alberta municipal processes and accurately measure the voice of the Rocky View electorate concerning the Bingham Crossing development. In addition, the FDA recommends amendments of the Alberta Municipal Government Act and Local Authorities Election Act. The measurements and findings of this report have implications for all Albertan municipalities. Finally, the report’s overall purpose is to ensure that Albertans become more knowledgeable about the outcomes of Alberta government processes, and can then make decisions that are more informed.

This report is in no way an evaluation of the merits and deficiencies of the proposed Bingham Crossing development.

The FDA recommends that the public get involved with the government legislative process and implementation if they want to protect and advance their democratic voice, and create a society of their choosing.

“If liberty and equality, as is thought by some, are chiefly to be found in democracy, they will be best attained when all persons alike share in government to the utmost.” 
- Aristotle

2013 FDA Process Review of the Bingham Crossing Development Application 

FDA Website Post 

FDA Public Forum on the Alberta Municipal Acts 

Stakeholder Advisory 

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

FDA Talking Points Series: 0.5 Percent Rule

The bar chart shows overall the deficiencies in the Canadian electoral system (as of 2013) in the areas of media election content and candidates and parties. These deficiencies create uncompetitive electoral practices which favor large, established parties over new and small parties.
The Foundation for Democratic Advancement (FDA) takes the position that barriers of entry to the full privileges of a registered candidate and party are necessary in order to screen out less serious candidates and parties, and candidates and parties with minimal popular support. In addition, the FDA takes the position that these barriers are effective and simple, as opposed to applying barriers to every relevant piece of legislation.

To be consistent with a free and democratic society, the FDA believes that no candidate and party should be denied within extremes basic registration. Also, the FDA believes that any threshold to full privileges of candidate and party registration should be based exclusively on popular support, barring nominal payment to cover the costs of registration. 

The FDA believes that in determining a reasonable threshold of popular support for candidates and parties, a balance needs to be attained between too weak of a threshold which would let in less serious and unpopular candidates and parties, and too strong of a threshold which would keep out serious and relatively popular candidates and parties. In its research of electoral systems and calculations of different thresholds, the FDA believes that 0.5 percent of proven electoral support is a reasonable threshold for candidates and parties. To illustrate,

Table 1

Thresholds for Full Privileges
Number of Popular Support (Votes) Required out of 100,000 total electorate
Number of Popular Support (Votes) Required out of 1,000,000 total electorate
Number of Popular Support (Votes) Required out of 10,000,000 total electorate
0.1%
100
1,000
10,000
0.3%
300
3,000
30,000
0.5%
500
5,000
50,000
1.0%
1,000
10,000
100,000
1.5%
1,500
15,000
150,000
2.0%
2,000
20,000
200,000
3.0%
3,000
30,000
300,000
5.0%
5,000
50,000
500,000
10.0%
10,000
100,000
1,000,000
15.0%
15,000
150,000
1,500,000

The threshold to candidate and party registration has to factor in new candidates and new and small parties.

If we look at the 2012 U.S. Presidential Election, with a threshold of 0.5 percent only three parties Republican, Democrat, and Libertarian Parties would have full party privileges. (However, if the 0.5 percent threshold were in force, it is conceivable that other parties may reach the 0.5 percent such as the Green Party and Gill Stein who received 0.39 percent of the popular vote in the 2012 election.)

If we look at the 2011 Canadian General Election, only 5 five parties would have access to full party privileges. It is conceivable that if the 0.5 percent threshold was in force, it may have motivated the Christian Heritage Party to attain the 0.5 percent popular threshold. In 2011 the Christian Heritage Party received 0.49 percent of the popular vote.

If the threshold is 1.0 percent or higher, then new and small parties would have a greater barrier of entry to full party privileges such media access and public subsidies etc. 

Threshold Comparisons

Canada

There are minimal barriers to entry for candidates and parties. According to the Elections Law, the only requirements to register a party are as follows:

In order to register as a party the party must have 250 party members, a nominal barrier of entry. There is no financial requirement beyond the $1,000 per candidate. There are 308 seats in the Canadian parliament, and therefore, if a party wants to field candidates in every district, it would have to spend $308,000 (FDA Electoral Fairness Report on Canada, 2013).

However, there are a number barriers to candidates and parties within the Canadian system. For example, the Canadian federal electoral system offers a 50 percent refund of election expenses for registered parties that received either 2 percent of the popular vote or 5 percent of the valid votes cast in the electoral districts of the candidates endorsed by the parties.

If the popular vote total is 14,720,580 (like in the 2011 federal election) then 294,411 votes are required to receive a 50 percent refund.
If the popular vote total in electoral districts is 100,000 on average, then 5,000 votes are required per district of the candidates endorsed by the parties.

Venezuela

In contrast to Canada, Venezuela has a reasonably high barrier to entry for parties based on popular support, and minimal barriers within the system. For example, regional and national parties must have popular support of not less than 0.5 percent of the population enrolled in the electoral registry of the respective territorial area.

Renewal of national party registration require proof of 0.5 percent popular support, or at least 1 percent of votes cast in previous election.

However, within the electoral system, the election authority requires equal media access to all registered candidates and parties (Election Law, Principles and Rights, Article 72(10)).

In addition, public and private media election coverage will be complete and balanced without distorting the reality of the campaign. The media must observe “rigorous” balance in terms of space and time devoted to information on registered candidates and parties (Election Law, Article 81).

United States

Similar to Canada, there are minimal barriers to entry for parties. However, within the system, there are significant barriers. For example, the registration of parties is indirectly connected to the registration of candidates. No candidates means no party. Therefore, the $5,000 threshold for registration of candidates indirectly applies to parties. Consequently, for 10 candidates, there is a registration fee of $50,000. Outside of this registration requirement and basic disclosures, there are no other requirements.

Within the U.S. system, there is minimal regulation of private media election coverage, and therefore, registered parties may be at a disadvantage from narrow and imbalanced media election coverage. The 2012 FDA Media Study on the U.S. Presidential Election showed that third-party presidential candidates, for example, were at a distinct disadvantage, receiving in total only 1.20 percent of the total media coverage in the last 32 days of the presidential election.

Further, as example, voter thresholds are applied to public funds for candidates and parties. These thresholds favor larger and more popular registered parties and their candidates.

To illustrate funds in the Presidential Election Campaign Fund are divided up in three ways:

(1) Primary matching payments are based on the government matching individual contributions to a candidate, and only the first $250 of a contribution is matchable. To be eligible for matching, a candidate needs to raise more than $5,000 in each of 20 different states.

(2) General election grants are for Republican and Democratic candidates who win their parties' nomination. The candidates are eligible to receive $20 million, adjusted for cost-living-adjustment to cover campaign expenses. In 2008, candidates could receive $84.1 million. Third party candidates are eligible to receive a percentage of this grant if the candidates receive at least 5 percent of the popular vote. (The 2008 expenditure limit in 2008 was $88.45 million.)

(3) Party convention grants are for major political parties for their national Presidential nominating convention. The parties are eligible to receive $4 million, adjusted for inflation. In 2008, the major parties received $16.82 million. Third parties are eligible for the grant if they received at least 5 percent of vote in the previous Presidential election. The Federal Election Commission defines a majority party as 25% or more of the total popular votes in the previous election; minority party as between 5% or more and less than 25% of the total popular vote in the previous election; new party as a party which did not participate in the previous election (Federal Election Commission, Presidential Election Fund, 2012).

If the popular vote total is 12,074,873 (like in the 2012 U.S. Presidential Election), then about 3,018,718 votes are required to be classified as a major party. Third-parties need 603,743 votes to be eligible for general election grants. Minority parties need at least 603,743 votes to less than 3,018,718 votes.


References:

Elections Act. (2000). May 31, 2000. Elections Canada. Retrieved from
http://www.elections.ca/content.aspx?section=res&dir=loi/fel/cea&document=part00&lang=

FDA Global Electoral Fairness Report on the United States. (2012). Foundation for Democratic Advancement. Retrieved from http://democracychange.org/2012/10/2012-fda-electoral-fairness-report-on-the-united-states/

FDA Global Electoral Fairness Report on Venezuela. (2012). Foundation for Democratic Advancement. Retrieved from http://democracychange.org/2012/10/2012-fda-global-electoral-fairness-report-on-venezuela/

FDA Global Electoral Fairness Report on Canada. (2013) Foundation for Democratic Advancement. Retrieved from http://democracychange.org/2013/05/2013-fda-global-electoral-fairness-report-on-canada/

FDA Media Study of the 2012 U.S. Presidential Election. (2012). Foundation for Democratic Advancement. Retrieved from http://democracychange.org/2012/12/2012-united-states-presidential-election-media-study/

Presidential Election Campaign Fund. (2012). Federal Election Commission. Retrieved from: http://www.fec.gov/press/bkgnd/fund.shtml

Election Law. (2012). National Electoral Council. Retrieved from http://www.cne.gov.ve/web/normativa_electoral/ley_organica_procesos_electorales/indice.php






Mr. Stephen Garvey, Executive Director Foundation for Democratic Advancement