Promoting Democracy

Colgate students involved in the Democracy Matters group attended the fifth National Student Summit in Albany, NY last weekend. Members of the organization attended lectures and workshops focused on democracy in the United States. Democracy Matters is a non-profit, non-partisan organization that aspires to uphold and improve the democratic process by increasing student involvement on college campuses. Created in 2001 by Golden State Warriors forward Adonal Foyle ’98, Democracy Matters promotes fair elections and urges students to get involved in campaign finance reform. “Our goal at DM is to make the process more democratic because, although we call our current situation a democracy, it is really a democracy of ‘the rich’ in a nation where those who win more money almost always win 98 percent of elections,” sophomore John Kelly said. The topic of clean elections was a main focus at the Summit. Students from Yale, Arizona State University and the University of Portland discussed strategies for passing “clean money” legislation in their cities and states. “DM tries to take lobbyists out of the elections,” Kelly said. Connecticut was discussed as an example of a state that has successfully implemented a public financing option for candidates running for state office. The system, introduced last year, allows candidates to gather funds from small donors and makes them eligible for public funds ranging from $25,000 to $3 million. According to USA Today, public funding creates more competition and increases the number of women running for office. On Saturday, students participated in skill workshops such as “Civil Rights, Money and Politics: Building Coalitions” and “Becoming an Expert on Public Financing: The Basics.” “I attended workshops focused on spreading information on the issue and recruiting members to the organization,” sophomore Lydia Gottesfeld said. “Other DM members at the summit attended workshops relating civil rights to the money in politics and ones on the current scandals in Washington. These workshops provided an interactive setting where students could learn from each other and the staff link teaching the workshop.””Overall, the summit was great because it was awesome to see other people excited and involved in politics,” Kelly said. The students who attended the Summit envision a broader presence for Democracy Matters on the Colgate campus. “Unfortunately, at Colgate, I do not see a lot of interest in our issue,” Gottesfeld said. “Campaign finance reform is an issue that needs to be addressed first and foremost so the average citizen can have a voice in government. Now is the time for people to care about this issue and make a difference in fighting for it.”