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Invitation to Endorse the Agenda for Strengthening Our Nation’s Democracy

Agenda for Strengthening Democracy picA new agenda to strengthen America’s democracy is being advanced to the incoming Administration. Everyone in the D&D community is invited to join this effort by endorsing the Agenda for Strengthening Our Nation’s Democracy. The Agenda, posted at www.americaspeaks.org/StrengtheningDemocracyAgenda, is comprised of an exciting set of recommendations, including a White House Office of Civic Engagement, a call for regular national discussions, and a unique set of policy reforms to increase participation in public life.

The Agenda was developed by a diverse group of 49 thinkers, advocates, and academics who came together from across the fields of electoral reform, deliberative democracy and community development. The three convening organizations were AmericaSpeaks, Everyday Democracy and Dēmos: A Network for Ideas.

The Agenda will build on the incredible participation we have seen during this election season by providing a real voice for every American in our governance process. Together these recommendations will transform the relationship between citizens and their government. NCDD has endorsed the Agenda and we encourage all of our members to add your names and organizations to the list of endorsers as well!

If you have ideas for improving the Agenda, you can submit them when you add your endorsement — or add a comment to this post and I’ll share it with our friends at AmericaSpeaks.

The Agenda includes three sets of recommendations…

A Champion for expanding Civic engagement: A “White House office of Civic engagement” and More

One of the most important things the next President can do to foster greater civic and electoral participation at the federal level is to create a White-House level Office on Civic Engagement. This office would serve as a focal point of government-wide commitment and provide leadership to a wide range of federal agencies.

Related steps the administration should take include:

  • Create an interagency network to provide agencies and staff with capacity-building services such as technical support and training in how to engage citizens in policy making.
  • Charge Federal agencies to coordinate with each other and with state and local decision makers on behalf of critical local and regional goals.
  • Take inventory of existing public engagement practices, in order to assess what works and what’s needed.
  • Direct new political appointees to become familiar with the Administration’s policy in regard to the importance of civic participation, and with their respective agencies’ civic engagement activities.
  • Provide leadership on an aggressive electoral reform agenda.

National Discussions: Millions of Voices at the Table

The next President should signal a new kind of governance by calling on the American people to take part in a series of national discussions, each engaging one million Americans or more, on the issues of highest public concern, such as the economy, health care, foreign policy, energy and climate change. The national discussions will provide policy makers with an independent, non-partisan means of assessing the informed opinions and collective priorities of the American people and forge a stronger link between Americans and their government.

This initiative could be overseen by a non-partisan working group of citizens appointed by the President and the majority and minority leadership of the House and Senate. The new White House Office of Civic Engagement should manage the national discussion and ensure a strong link to the President and Federal agencies.

A Legislative Agenda for Democratic Reform

The next President should work with Congress to pass an aggressive set of policy reforms to enhance democratic participation—electoral and otherwise.

In the electoral arena these reforms should include:

  • Committing to universal voter registration for all eligible Americans, beginning with Election Day
  • Registration for all Americans, and full implementation of the National Voter Registration Act.
  • Passing meaningful public financing of Congressional elections, and restoring meaningful public financing of Presidential elections.
  • Adopting a broad set of voter-convenience measures such as early voting and vote by mail.
  • Developing national standards for election administration.
  • Supporting ranked-choice ballots and instant-runoff elections as another way to protect voters from unrepresentative outcomes and ensure a fair reflection of voter sentiment.

In the broader democratic engagement arena, these reforms should include:

  • Passing the Public Engagement Act, to create constructive incentives and requirements for federal agencies to gain full benefit from public engagement activities, consultation and collaborative processes.
  • Developing model legislation, new measurement tools and technical assistance programs for states and local governments, to encourage and support their use of participatory practices.

Finally, Congress needs to adopt a series of policy reforms to encourage and support new residents of America as they enter democratic life. We offer a series of recommendations to encourage greater access to naturalization and voter registration, and call for adequate funding for the 2010 Census to make sure that new residents are counted and their voices are heard in policymaking and governance.

Download the full 22-page Agenda for Strengthening America’s Democracy here.

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Sandy Heierbacher
Sandy Heierbacher co-founded the National Coalition for Dialogue & Deliberation (NCDD) with Andy Fluke in 2002, with the 60 volunteers and 50 organizations who worked together to plan NCDD’s first national conference. She served as NCDD's Executive Director between 2002 and 2018. Click here for a list of articles and resources authored by Sandy.

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