The duopoly of our two major parties leaves us with a second rate democracy.
With so much talk about equity – it’s unfortunate the conversation doesn’t transcend our election process. State election law, written by the Democrats and Republicans, requires the minor Independent Party cross endorse one of them, run our own candidate or lose the ballot line altogether, only to restart the cumbersome petitioning process again for the next election cycle.
It’s taken roughly 20 years for Independents to gain ballot access to 100+ offices across the state. This year, we are running our own gubernatorial candidate, Rob Hotaling and had to survive both a complaint to the Secretary of State and lawsuit by Republican candidate Bob Stefanowski, trying to kick us off the ballot.
Imagine if the overarching goal in our elections was to actually encourage different points of view? What if a party, representing the moderate middle had fair and equal access to the ballot? What if consensus building versus the polarizing two-party system was part of our process today?
Legislative policies that rank Connecticut near the bottom nationally in cost of living, housing, jobs, or with the highest achievement gap is due largely to a status quo political system, that all but ensures incumbent, career politicians like State Senate Majority Leader, Bob Duff (D) are returned to office 95% of the time.
A recent Quinnipiac Poll revealed that 69% of Americans – Democrat or Republican think our democracy is broken. Connecticut contributes. We’re one of the few states with closed primaries, still excluding 40% of the unaffiliated/independent voters. Both parties fearmonger and promote false narratives to rile up their bases and drown out reasonable discussion.
The redistricting or gerrymandering of voting districts to be either blue or red, combined with a winner-take-all system versus proportional representation, discounts half of those voting for the opposition. For example, the single party rule of the Democrat Party dominates every state and local office in my city of Norwalk, except one, despite 45 percent voting differently.
Another example, after 18 years, Sen. Duff is part of the Hartford political machine increasing people and cars on Norwalk’s 375-year old streets. Gov. Ned Lamont said he wants to double the population of Connecticut’s cities (presumably ours included), but water shortages and untreated sewage dumped into the sound aren’t by chance. When per/unit construction costs for affordable housing are three times higher than purchasing a condo in South Norwalk or when over $200 million dollars comes out of nowhere for a new regional high school (from a state construction grants coordinator under investigation) but Norwalk can only get $4 million in additional state Education Cost Sharing funds for our growing high need student population (and it takes until 2028 to get there), it warrants questioning.
State pension debt is more than double the national average. Our state’s housing, electricity, health insurance and infrastructure costs are among the highest in the nation, with double digit increases year on year. Our Department of Transportation ranked 43rdth in cost per mile of highway spending in a Reason Foundation report in 2021. Administrative costs per lane per mile ranked them 30th.
My election reform campaigns started six years ago, after discovering three-minute public comments in town meetings were pointless. In 2016, I used the municipal ballot to challenge Norwalk’s disingenuous charter revision and won. Did you know Norwalk’s one of only three Connecticut towns without a provision for political opposition on the Common Council or Board of Education?
In 2019, I challenged our then, three-term incumbent mayor and got close. He’s now in his fifth term. Last year, I reestablished the Independent line with 15 moderate, bi-partisan candidates for local office. While only winning one seat, we captured almost 30% of the vote, despite a bizarre, record number of blank ballot lines, presumably from Republican voters, who did not see a full slate of their own party’s candidates.
Without real election reform, we need independent candidates and/or coalitions with moderate Democrats or Republicans to put forth common sense, financially viable solutions ahead of party loyalty. At the end of the day, don’t Connecticut residents, regardless of party affiliation, gender, race or sexual orientation just want a decent education, place to live, and reasonable commute to a job?
Lisa Brinton is an Independent Party candidate for the 25th District State Senate seat and a member of the Independent Party’s State Central Committee.