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When Rights Collide: Keeping a clear head when claims clash

One of the most important acts of our citizens is the granting of our individual proxy to persons selected in an election who will then represent us in the workings of the government. For this relationship to be successful, the elected official must have a symbiotic relationship with his/her constituents, sharing a common worldview.

The primary purpose of an election campaign is to give voters the opportunity to take the full measure of each candidate to determine which one has the worldview, integrity, and interpersonal skills to best represent them in Washington. The fragility of a republic and the importance of the relationship between the elected official and their constituents make elections extremely important. For this reason, the very survival of a democracy may hinge on maintaining free and lawful elections where the voters have the quiet enjoyment of the election campaign without outside interference.

The election results in a personal-services contract between the voters and the winning candidate, and no outside party should be allowed to interfere with the development of this contract. They should not be given legal “standing” to participate in the election process.

Today’s communication technology makes this need all the more obvious, as television ads and social media messages funded by outside sources blanket an election district, drowning out civil discourse and doing little to convey valid information to the voters. Some observers believe that this cascade of money that moves freely around the country to influence elections has damaged the republic beyond repair, but we cannot accept that assessment. We must find a remedy for this very serious problem.

Proponents of special interest agenda claim they are exercising their constitutional right to free speech in these election interventions. But what about the right of voters to quiet enjoyment of their election, including interactions with the candidates? Effective reform should clarify and codify this right of voters, and in doing so would protect a key pillar of the republic: Free and fair elections that are protected from outside interference.

This reform will be hard for some to accept; those that have been fighting for many years to establish that gifts of money are expressions of our first amendment right to free speech may be reluctant to listen to this new interpretation of democratic elections. But its strong logic should prevail.

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