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Ideas to end the stalemate in Washington

Here is a sampling of ideas offered by an array of experts about how to solve Washington’s gridlock. Do you have a solution to the gridlock in Washington? Share your idea in our comments section.

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Problem: Caucuses and party conventions promote highly partisan nominees and limit widespread voter participation.

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Solutions: Eliminate caucuses and conventions; institute all-primary system; rotate which states go early in presidential years.

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Problem: Traditional winner-take-all primaries focus on wooing the most partisan “base” voters.

Solution: Open primary system in which top two finishers face off in general election, requiring appeal to wider swath of voters. Top four finishers in an instant runoff.

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Problem: Debates on debt ceiling promote partisan feud, endangers economy.

Solution: Eliminate debt limit, or require a balanced budget, as is done in most states, with exceptions for war or economic stimulus that must be approved by congressional majority.

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Problem: Unlimited, secret donations to independent committees.

Solutions: Institute public financing for campaigns in exchange for spending caps; constitutional amendment to restrict unlimited, secret donations to independent committees.

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Problem: Filibuster use has skyrocketed and used by minority to block much action.

Solution: Restrict or eliminate filibuster, which was never intended to be used so regularly.

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Problem: Federal Election Commission is ineffective because three commissioners from each party often deadlock.

Solution: Create an independent advisory board to recommend nonpartisan nominees for commission vacancies and create a seventh commission seat to prevent tie votes.

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Problem: Low voter turnout.

Solutions: Require states to register voters; allow mail-in and online ballots; change voting day from Tuesday to Saturday; small fine for those who don’t vote, as in Australia.

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Problem: Partisan think tanks produce biased reports for the government.

Solution: Forbid taxpayer money for reports by openly partisan think tanks; require disclosure of donors to think tanks that produce reports for government.

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Problem: Congress puts off tough decisions until last minute, creating crisis atmosphere.

Solution: Impose timetable for passage of measures in House and Senate and shorten session, as is done in many state legislatures.

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Problem: Treaties can be blocked by 28 out of 100 senators.

Solution: Lower the threshold for approving treaties from the current rule requiring approval of two-thirds of the Senate.

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Problem: Members of Congress do what is necessary for their own reelection instead of acting in the public interest.

Solution: Term limits. This has been adopted in 15 states but doesn’t affect federal office other than the presidency, which is limited to two terms.

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Problem: Congressional leaders unable to gather bipartisan coalitions.

Solution: Require leaders to be elected by 60 percent of members in each chamber, which would usually require bipartisan support, creating a coalition that could also support legislation.

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Problem: Supreme Court is unrepresentative of US population, and lifetime terms have led justices to have outsized influence.

Solution: Set mandatory retirement age.

Michael Kranish can be reached at kranish@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeKranish
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