What makes for a good democracy?
The League of Women Voters of Maine and Maine Citizens for Clean Elections teamed up to prepare a recent report – The State of Maine Democracy – that looks at the following:
- Representative Government
- Voter and Civic Participation
- Poverty and Voter Participation
- Voting Rights
- Election Methods
- Conduct of Elections
- Money in Politics
- Freedom of Information
- Newspapers and Media Access
- The Judiciary
A good democracy requires attention to all this stuff. I know people say that the United States is a Republic, or a Federal Republic, or a Constitutional Democracy, and other things, yet fundamentally don’t we want government by the people and for the people? To most of us, we think that basic democracy is when the leaders represent the people. That’s what most Americans expect of their government.
This report looks at factors impacting how well leaders represent their people; the list above.
As you might imagine, my home State of Maine gets good marks. We are proud of our consistently high voter turnout (3rd in the country at last look) and of our high integrity elections. We get high marks for freedom of information and for inclusive and protective voting laws.
Yet all is not well with democracy in Maine. “To put it bluntly,” the report says, “the Legislature is and has been dominated by older white men.” The report also cites gender disparity in the Judiciary. If we expect the leaders to represent the people, it works really well when the leaders look like the people.
Where voter turnout is lowest in Maine, there are correlations with race and poverty. These things (race and poverty) are barriers to voting and thus affect how well “leaders represent the people.”
The report does a great job of providing take-aways and conclusions from a variety of complex data. Thank you League of Women Voters of Maine and Maine Citizens for Clean Elections for helping us monitor the health of our democracy.