The campaign post-mortems -- and recriminations on the Republican side -- already are underway and some big messages sent on Election Day already are being missed. Here are just a few:
• People are fed up with big money in our elections. Almost nobody in the media has noticed that millions of voters in five states -- red states like Montana, blue states like Massachusetts and purple states like Colorado -- voted for ballot measures instructing Congress to amend the Constitution to fix the damage done by Citizens United.
Through a campaign called Amend 2012, Common Cause helped get these issues on the ballot. But they took off pretty much on their own -- groups like ours don't have the money for slick TV ads -- and they attracted 70 percent or more of the vote. Look for Tuesday's returns to spark initiative and referenda campaigns in other states and localities on behalf of an amendment to get corporate money under control in our elections. When voters speak so directly on an issue, at the ballot box, elected officials had better take note.
• American voters understand that the right to vote is important and they're willing to fight for it. Despite the efforts by ballot bullies to scare them away with unnecessarily restrictive Voter ID laws and threats of prosecution for voter fraud, hundreds of thousands of people across much of the country stood in line for hours and well into the night to cast their ballots. Their determination says something reassuring about our country; it's also gratifying to the thousands of volunteers in the Election Protection coalition, including those of us in Common Cause, who worked for months to prepare for Election Day and flushed out anti-voter groups like the unfortunately named 'True the Vote.'
• The machinery of our elections is a shambles. No one should have to stand in line for hours, indoors or out, to exercise the most fundamental right of our democracy. One reason so many lines were so long on Tuesday is that our states and localities continue to neglect their responsibility to ensure that voting goes smoothly and that every vote is counted as cast. This is NOT a call for online voting -- that's far too vulnerable to computer hackers. It IS a plea for states to entrust election administration to non-partisan, bipartisan, professional administrators, and to invest serious money in voting systems that work and provide a verifiable count, with enough ballots and polling stations to ensure that everyone who wants to vote can do so in a reasonable time.
• No one should take comfort in the fact that much of the money poured into the campaign by Super PACs and their too-often anonymous donors appears to have backed losing candidates. We're already hearing cries that there's no reason to be concerned about the power of big money because a lot of big money candidates were defeated. In fact, Democrats and Republicans in the next Congress and freshly elected state legislatures will be even more beholden than those now in office to major donors. Here's a prediction -- by next November, we'll be watching public corruption cases in multiple states against officials nabbed delivering favors to or soliciting cash from, special interests. The case for the DISCLOSE Act and campaign finance reform generally is stronger, not weaker, because of what happened in campaign 2012.
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