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The scope of needed policy changes makes it essential that the political system work more effectively. Both the public and elected officials can do things to help. We encourage individualsto learn about the issues and policy tradeoffs we face as a nation. No one commentator or source, including AARP, holds a monopoly on the truth. A more informed public debate would emerge if more individuals exposed themselves to a range of opinion. We urge our leaders to work cooperatively and respectfully with each other, even when they disagree, for the good of the country. Excessive partisanship leads to polarization and gridlock, which don’t solve a thing.

Older Americans seek an effective government, in which officials observe the highest standards of integrity, services are delivered efficiently and tax money is not wasted. AARP supports policies to increase the accountability of officials, promote transparency, prevent conflicts of interest, and give Americans the information and access they need to make decisions and protect their interests. Government institutions have a duty to serve a broad, public interest rather than narrow, special interests.

An Accountable Congress

As one important step, many congressional districts should be redrawn to become competitive. Too many lawmakers hail from “safe” districts, carefully mapped out to protect incumbents and their political parties and to fragment the opposition. Excessive partisanship and uncompromising ideology flourish in such uncompetitive environments. Such districts should be redrawn with compact, contiguous boundaries that reflect traditional communities, rather than boundaries contrived for partisan advantage.

Other reforms can bolster the public’s confidence in government by targeting conflicts of interest and limiting the influence of special interests. Special-interest political donations should be publicly reported. AARP supports timely, complete disclosure of all contributions to political action committees and independent groups. Stronger rules for lobbying disclosure and gift limits for lawmakers and staff would reduce conflicts. AARP does not contribute to political campaigns, nor does it endorse candidates. We do, however, believe strongly in voter education efforts that achieve a better informed electorate.

An Engaged Public

Older Americans have a strong desire to help our nation, and AARP urges a new commitment to volunteer service. Not only would society benefit, but such efforts can prove extremely rewarding for people of any age who devote their energy and know-how to helping others. More than ever, we see retirees contributing to countless spheres of life through post-career service of all kinds.We expect this trend to grow stronger, as boomers and those who follow volunteer their talents in ways they may never have anticipated. There are countless ways to get started as a volunteer. Here’s just one: www.createthegood.org.

Exercising Your Vote

Our democracy also depends on an engaged citizenry that makes its voice known in the voting booth. Seniors don’t need to be reminded. They have the highest voting rate of any age group – an emphatic demonstration of faith in the system. But changing technology is sometimes a source of confusion in the voting booth. Public policies must continue to encourage the growth of our nation’s voter rolls, through ease of registration and user-friendly voting procedures.

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