What is Direct Democracy?
- (noun) a democracy in which the power to govern lies directly in the hands of the people rather than being exercised through their representatives.
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language
Direct democracy - or as some call it “pure democracy” - is a form of government in which people vote on policy initiatives directly, as opposed to a representative democracy in which people vote for representatives who then vote on policy initiatives.
We live in an age of instant communication. The Internet has revolutionized the speed at which we exchange information and ideas. We bank online. We shop for food, clothes, and cars over the internet. We even meet new people, and share pieces of our lives with them - all through technology. Why has our government not kept pace?
It’s time that each voice is heard and Jon Jones has a plan to ensure that the every person in our community can actively participate in Atlanta city government. With user-friendly technology, electronic voting will allow every member of District 5 to vote on legislation, author new legislation, or make pleas to the city. Electronic town halls will keep every participant informed, and provide a level of civic engagement unparalleled by any democracy in the world! Using simple tools on the web and telephone will enable the electorate to create, propose and vote upon all policy implementations that effect them. Imagine: a new era for the city of Atlanta.
Never before has City Hall allowed initiatives to be put forward by members of the general public. Never before has a city resident had the ability to directly vote on, or make changes to, legislation before the committees. This is YOUR city; and YOU HAVE THE RIGHT.
Elect Jon Jones as Councilman for District 5, and usher in a future that restores POWER to the PEOPLE!
The people don't know their true power...
Or so they THINK! Politics has become a morphed version of what the founding fathers intended it to be. Instead of elected officials making decisions based on common sense and a collective good for everyone in the community, they operate on behalf of lobbyists, corporate donors, and insider corruption.
I'm running for City Council to
make Atlanta the first city in the 21st century to have a functioning direct democracy.
As a voter, you wield an incredible amount of power. This election, use it to vote for YOUR seat at the table.
Frequently Asked Questions
Don't worry. It's natural to be skeptical. Below are a handful of answers to the questions that we get most often about how Direct Democracy will work in Atlanta.
Why should Atlanta have a Direct Democracy?
The current system of government is rife with inequality, misrepresentation, blatantly corrupt decisions, ridiculous laws, and ego-driven mistakes - all inflicted on us by our own elected officials. There is no doubt that reform is necessary. The key reason that Direct Democracy is the best solution is that it gives every voter a seat at the decision-making table, and gives each resident a voice in the public arena.
There are few cities outside of Atlanta that are better poised to take advantage of real democracy. The people of Atlanta display a unique urge to hold responsibility for their government. And no other city in the world has a greater supply of creativity, intellect, or diversity. We can use one district in Atlanta to check the excesses of concentrated power, to correct the deep cynicism engendered by the current system, and to give the people a political tool when their public servants are non-responsive or astray. The 21st century demands innovative solutions, and Atlanta has proven that it can be a leader on this front. This can be OUR city, powered by OUR solutions.
How exactly will citizen voting work?
Direct Democracy depends on giving every resident the ability to vote on all the issues up for debate in City Hall. How this will work is, when a bill is scheduled to be put up for vote, Jon Jones will notify every resident at least 7 days prior. Communications will be made by email, text message, telephonic robo-call, and/or posted to ADDI (Atlanta Direct Democracy Interface). Residents will receive the notification, which will include detailed summaries of the issue, and pro and con arguments that give an unbiased assessment for what happens if the bill is passed or rejected. Residents can then respond with a "Yes" or "No" answer, signifying whether they vote "Yes"" in favor of passing the bill or vote "No" calling to reject the bill. Voting can be done by calling into City Hall, emailing or texting responses, or by visiting the issue's Discussion page at ADDI.
After voting has closed on an issue, the results of the final total will be displayed on ADDI, and Jon Jones will cast his vote in City Hall exactly how the people of District 5 have collectively voted on the issue. Every vote cast by Jones in his role as Councilman will be a real-to-life identical reflection of how the residents have voted.
What about people who don't have access to technology?
There will certainly be issues regarding equitable access to the internet and technology. This direct democracy interface will incorporate internet, smartphones, and old-fashioned telephone hotlines for residents of all tech-user levels to participate. You do not need internet access to participate. As always, you will still be able to communicate with City Hall via telephone, mail, or visiting our offices in person.
Integrating Direct Democracy and technology into City Hall will not diminish the role or influence of residents who choose not to use technology. People who bank online are never given preference to people who prefer to walk down to their local branch and have a face-to-face talk. Although retailers like Best Buy and Target have opened online stores, they still cater to the needs of customers who want to visit their brick-and-mortar stores. We acknowledge that not everyone uses the internet; and we deeply value our communications with those residents who do not use technology. Jon Jones and his plan for Direct Democracy harness technology to make civic engagement easier for the general public by increasing the number of functions available to city residents over the internet. He would never institute a system that under-represents or alienates city residents who cannot log into ADDI. Also, Jon Jones recognizes the importance of visiting residents frequently face-to-face. As Councilman, Jon will actively reach out to community members by organizing neighborhood feedback meetings, block parties, and by attending neighborhood association meetings - all avenues by which residents can provide input into the law-making process.
The main effect of employing Direct Democracy is to lower the cost of participation for everyone. Getting the attention of an elected representative can be a challenge - especially if you’re not a deep-pocketed donor. But with Direct Democracy, a $20 cell phone or a 10$ house phone could give everyone an equal share of our district’s seat at City Hall’s table.
Has Direct Democracy ever worked before?
Though its history goes back millennia, Direct Democracy, and specifically an initiative process for citizens to propose and vote on laws themselves, was first instituted at the federal level by the Swiss in 1891. They had already provided for the right of the people to block government actions by referendum since 1848. And since then, for over a century, the Swiss have been successfully using Direct Democracy to govern their country. Large Swiss towns, with hundreds of thousands of people, have indeed demonstrated their ability to decide on complex issues, ranging from taxation to transportation ordinances.
In America a movement for initiative rights sprang up in many states toward the close of the 19th century. In the case of South Dakota the idea was homegrown. Most other places were introduced to the idea by James W. Sullivan’s 1892 book “Direct Legislation by the Citizenship Through the Initiative and Referendum”, which advocated for adoption of the Swiss process.
Atlanta, too, can make history by becoming the first city in America to have a Direct Democracy at the local level of government. By starting small, the people of District 5 can demonstrate that citizen-powered law making is a real alternative to the tired system of government currently in place today.
California sort of has Direct Democracy. Is this the same?
No. The state of California has ballot measures - where people can organize to get a proposition onto a ballot by getting thousands of signatures. The process for one citizen to get an idea considered by the general public is arduous in that version of Direct Democracy. The key differences between California and Atlanta’s proposed process are scale and access. The cost of getting on the ballot in California and waging a state-wide campaign closes its initiative process to real participation by most people until election day.
With Atlanta’s online portal, every resident is given a seat at the table by default. You don’t have to go around collecting signatures to get your idea heard. Simply log in and write your comments in ADDI's open forum. And if your idea is particularly noteworthy idea, the people of your community will agree, and the idea will rise to the top of the forum where it will earn district-wide attention and possible conversion into a bill before City Hall.
How will we write laws that involve using tax-payer money?
What about the influence of money/lobbyists?
Furthermore, corporate interests wield tremendous power over politicians, and it's affecting everyday citizens. Lobbyists can threaten elected representatives with character assassination. Lobbyists can coax elected officials into agreement with expensive gifts and steak dinners. And special interest money is what lines politicians' campaign funds, and keeps them in office. This relationship is bad for everyone, especially YOU - because the person you elect to represent you no longer has your best interest in mind. Direct Democracy is the solution to get corrupting money out of politics.
But aren’t citizens too uninformed/busy?
Jon Jones has a profound faith in the judgment of the people of Atlanta. Politicians want you to think they are special. They run campaigns that paint themselves as heroes with superior abilities, here to solve all of our problems. Yet nothing could be further from the truth. Elected officials are regular people just like the rest of us. They should not be given rights to make decisions that will affect our families and our livelihoods - especially without our input.
Direct Democracy is an ideal based on the founders' belief that "All men are created equal." With ADDI, making informed deliberate decisions about laws that will affect you becomes simple. You don't have to attend council meetings. You don't have to read through pages of briefings or studies. Every issue will be simplified and communicated to you in a way that is unbiased and truthful. And with the click of a mouse button, or 60-second phone call, you can cast your vote. Voting on the next tax bill would be as easy as voting for the next American Idol.
In a Direct Democracy, who do we hold accountable?
In our current style of government, you are given the opportunity to see how each elected representative has voted. If you agree with your councilperson's vote, then you chalk it up as a job well done. If you disagree with their vote, you wait for the next election to exact your revenge.
In a Direct Democracy, the votes of each individual will be privately cast. You cannot see how your neighbor voted. All you can see is what the final total tally is once voting on an issue has been completed. The objective of Direct Democracy is not to assign one person whom we can laud or assign blame to once decisions are made. The purpose of establishing REAL democracy is to work collectively to devise solutions, and to govern ourselves by consensus. The outcome of decisions may not be favorable for everyone; but they will be more representative of the will of THE PEOPLE than a system that holds one person accountable.
Wow! I'm excited! What can I do to make this happen?
So you want to make Atlanta the first city in America to have a Direct Democracy? Then sign up to GET INVOLVED. Or make a financial contribution in our STORE. Tell a friend about the movement. Blog about it. Tweet about it. Facebook Jon Jones, and get the ball rolling on making our voices heard!
But most importantly, VOTE! The election is November 5, 2013. Make sure you are registered to vote, find your polling place, and check the box next to Jon Jones - the only candidate that represents REAL Democracy!