This area focuses on how well our governments work. Specific concerns, such as immigration or health, are handled as separate issues. Here, we deal with how fairly elections and political campaigns are run; how well and how fairly the legislatures and government agencies carry out their business, including the rules they follow; and accountability to the electorate. We are currently focused on the three areas below: Fair campaign practices, voter registration, and campaign finance. If you would like to be on the e-mail list to keep you informed of opportunities for involvement in any of these matters, send an e-mail to njaschik@ rochester.rr.com.
Fair Elections Practices Committee (FEPC)
The purpose of the FEPC, a joint project of TIAR and the League of Women Voters, is to encourage positive campaigning and to keep the focus of the election on the issues. Candidates are encouraged to sign a pledge to refrain from negative campaigning. Negative campaigns discourage citizens from voting; positive campaigns educate people about choices among candidates and makes all of us feel empowered with our vote.
There is an annual "Fair Election Campaign" ceremony at the Monroe County Office Atrium held right after Labor Day. Candidates are there to formally sign the pledge.
Members of the FEPC are selected by both TIAR and the LWV. The Committee is balanced between Republicans and Democrats and are respected former elected officials, judges, or party members. They are chosen for their reputation of not letting partisanship get in the way of a fair and honest determination. The FEPC hears complaints of alleged violations. In 2009, there were a total of 26 complaints received with 20 of them having a hearing. There were 3 primary election complaints and 17 general election complaints heard by the Committee. [These figures will be updaed]
Because of the formal selection process and the limited involvement of the TIAR and LWV membership, there are really no opportunities for volunteer activity. However, we always need a roster of potential nominees for the FEPC, so suggestions are welcome. Many, many thanks go to the current Committee members: Jim Morris (Chairperson), Ralph Esposito, Lois Geiss, Channing Philbrick, and Kay Wallace. Alternates are Jim Peters, Sue Roberts, Jean Keplinger, Carol Saum, Peter Knapp, Tom Frey, Michael Miller, and John Curran.
Rochester Voters Alliance (RVA)
The RVA is a coalition which was established several years ago by TIAR. Participating organizations recruit members who are willing to station themselves at various locations to register voters in advance of elections. Sites are chosen with an emphasis on those areas serving populations which are normally underrepresented in elections. Since interest in registration is very low in off-years – that is when only local offices are up for election and there are no state or federal contests – we will not be active in 2013. However, the coalition will be up and running starting in the summer of 2014 with planning beginning earlier. If you are interested in voter registration, contact [insert contact info].
Campaign Finance Reform
TIAR supports the public financing of election campaigns which is also an issue at the federal level. There are several state and national organizations working on this issue including Move to Amend, a national group with local activity focused on passing a US Constitutional Amendment that would overturn the Citizens United decision which allows for unlimited corporate campaign contributions. At the state level, Common Cause, Fair Elections for New York, Citizen Action, and the Public Campaign Action Fund are examples. If enough TIAR members show interest, we may select one of these groups with which to develop a hands on relationship. If you have any thoughts on this matter, contact Neil Jaschik at firstname.lastname@example.org. Go to the following web site for more information on this important issue and guidance on urging your Congressperson and Senators to add their support.http://www.campaignmoney.org/campaigns/main/make-fair-elections-a-priority