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By David Futch
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By Jill Stewart
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Originally from New York state, Lynne, a graduate of Dartmouth with a bachelor's degree in government, currently lives in New Zealand and helps run campaigns for Green Party candidates all over the world. "I move where I am needed, and where I will get paid." In 1999, she lived in three cities, four in 2000 and three in 2001 ("four if you count the month working in Canberra, Australia, on the Global Greens conference"). She's been stationary for the past 15 months, but hopes to be back in the States by July 2003 for the Greens' annual national conference, where they will be making decisions about the 2004 elections.
Lynne used to volunteer at soup kitchens until she became disheartened by seeing the same people every day. "I don't want to be putting out fires for the rest of my life," she says.
Instead, she decided to turn her focus to electoral reform. In Green terms this means Lynne supports instant-runoff voting (IRV), a system that allows you to vote for all candidates ranked in order of your preference (see sidebar, "What Democracy Votes Like," on IRV and proportional representation). This system, which is currently in place in Australia and Ireland, allows for alternative parties to participate in elections without being viewed as "spoilers." It also enables voters to select their favorite candidate from a wider field, instead of picking the lesser of two evils.
Another Green-supported voting system is proportional representation (PR), which is used in most of the industrialized democracies around the world, including a large portion of Europe. PR works like this: If a party gets 20 percent of the vote, it gets 20 percent of the seats in multiseat districts, in contrast to our one-seat-at-a-time, "winner-take-all" system. This system is responsible for Germany's current ruling coalition of Social Democrats and Greens. Greens have also helped form coalition governments in Belgium, France, Georgia in the former USSR, Italy, Finland and Tasmania.
Just as third parties are not necessarily a liberal phenomenon, electoral reform is not purely a Green concept. In fact, conservative Republicans in Utah and Arizona are spearheading IRV as an electoral reform. Arizona's Republican Senator John McCain not only supports IRV but also was the architect of the campaign-finance reform that just passed.
"I try to remind myself that people fought and struggled and died for the right to vote. We owe it to them, and to ourselves, to make sure that voting continues to mean something," says Lynne, who also doesn't drive a car.
AT THE CASBAH CAFé, SHAWN IS SIPping his second cup of tea and pondering an uncertain future. "I think the youth for so long has been at a certain level of apathy. I read a quote on my way over here, for the AIDS Walk, that I think is a pretty good summary of what I feel for my generation. It said, 'I walk because apathy is the greatest enemy of our generation.' I think that's true."
Whatever obstacles they take on: war, apathy, media manipulation, a failing two-party system, racial and cultural prejudice, global warming, the health-care crisis, unjust sentencing laws, or diminishing resources, Cameron, Shawn, Alex, Cindy, Kirk, Erica and their fellow baby Greens appear bent on having fun doing it.
"Politics can be a party. It's accessible to people. We are grassroots democracy," says Shawn. "History is cyclical. Ages of great political, social and creative ideas and experience happen something like every 40 years. I think, in regards to what has happened with September 11, the age of scientific progress has reached its limit. Instead of using the Earth for our own purposes, it's about learning how to have some sort of symbiotic relationship with it. Realizing that there's not going to be much of it left if we keep progressing the way we are. It's time for us, whether it's by creative means, or by political or legislative means, to do something. And I'm just so anxious and ready to do that."