E-Newsletter April 30, 2009

Released April 30, 2009
FairVote Updates

Featured Content

National Popular Vote - In the Spotlight: Now 23% of the way to enactment

America Votes 1-2-3 - New IRV elections in Vermont and Colorado and on campus

Proportional Voting Here and Abroad -Blogs from Yglesias and FairVote on South Africa, polarization and more

FairVote in the Field - Progress for advance registration and elections of U.S. Senators in RI and NC

FairVote News - David Segal testifies to Congress / Adam Fogel writes for the Washington Post / Krist Novoselic tours B.C. for choice voting /Rob Richie's blogs on Arlen Specter and publicly owned voting equipment / FairVote all a-Twitter

Featured Podcast - Howard Dean on instant runoff voting, March 2009

FairVote Reform News

We live in complex times. Americans have seen their retirement savings dwindle and the national debt soar. They've had friends and family lose their homes, jobs and health care. They worry about climate change, foreign wars, our schools and a possible pandemic.

Led by a new president marking his first 100 days in office, the federal government is confronting these challenges. But why does our political process so often fail to provide early warnings that enable us to prevent crises rather than react to them? When pushed to action as with the bailout of Wall Street, why do so few people make so many big decisions? Many of our democratic institutions deserve praise, but our electoral rules do not. They must be changed to unleash Americans' full potential to address the daunting challenges of the modern world.

FairVote and its lobbying arm FairVote Action have a few specific hopes for the current Congress. Certainly it should do more to protect our right to vote with funding and standards that result in registration of every eligible voter and publicly controlled voting machines and software that are secure, open source and grounded in voter-verified paper ballots. Congress should pass the new constitutional amendment proposal of Senators Russ Feingold and John McCain to require elections of all U.S. Senators and should repeal the 1967 law requiring single-member districts for congressional elections.

But pushing forward with better elections takes place primarily in our states and communities There FairVote and its allies are making real headway, and it's where you can be most involved in our work. Please join us in helping forge a representative democracy for all, based on a simple, but powerful vision: respect for every vote and every voice. Visit our
sign-up center to learn about reform opportunities in your area. Give us feedback on what matters most to you. Explore ways to get involved. Don't be shy about a generous donation to open our democracy to the best ideas and real change.

Finally, our condolences to the family of Voters Unite's John Gideon, who died on Monday, and our best wishes to those in the legal trenches at the Supreme Court this week fighting to preserve the protections of the Voting Rights Act - and those seeking to extend those protections to all Americans through a universal right to vote affirmatively established in the U.S. Constitution.

Rob Richie
Executive Director, FairVote

National Popular Vote - In the Spotlight: Now 23% of the way to enactment

On April 28, Washington governor Christine Gregoire signed the National Popular Vote (NPV) legislation that seeks to defang the Electoral College system and ensure every vote is equal in presidential elections. Washington, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland and New Jersey together have nearly a quarter of the 270 electoral votes needed to bring the compact into effect for the 2012 presidential election.

Just three years after FairVote's leaders joined National Popular Vote for its kickoff news conference, 27 state legislative chambers in 17 states have passed NPV, most recently in Arkansas, Colorado, Michigan, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon and Vermont. Introduced in 48 legislatures, the bill has earned the support of more than 1,650 state representatives. Recent polls indicate more than 70% of voters across a full range of states support a national popular vote of the president.

NPV was rightly featured as a reform proposal that would boost voter turnout in the Nonprofit Voter Engagement Network's excellent new report America Goes to the Polls (a report also highlighting the value of greater uniformity in election administration and instant runoff voting.) George Mason's Michael McDonald, writes, "A national popular vote for president may hold the key to further increasing American voter participation."

FairVote has been a key leader in supporting NPV and making the case against the current system. We also have produced a comprehensive FAQ for those wanting to learn more about why they're state should join this effort. See these links for more.

[FairVote's new FAQ on National Popular Vote]

[Olympian news article on NPV win quoting Rob Richie]

[Washington State editorials in the Longview Daily News and Columbian backing NPV]

[FairVote's 2008 video on NPV]

[America Goes to the Polls report]

[FairVote's December 2008 report, The Shrinking Battleground]

[National Popular Vote's comprehensive site]

[FairVote's board member Hendrik Hertzberg's latest NPV blog in the New Yorker]

America Votes 1-2-3 - New IRV elections in Vermont and Colorado and on campus

Recommended by Robert's Rules of Order for vote-by-mail elections, instant runoff voting (IRV) is used widely among organizations and on campus, including organizations with tens of thousands of members like the American Association of University Women, American Chemical Society, American Medial Student Association, American Mensa and the American Political Science Association. At least 51 colleges and universities use IRV for student elections, most recently at Columbia University.

In March, voters in Burlington (VT) elected their mayor for the second time in an election with IRV. The Progressive Party's Bob Kiss won reelection in final round of counting, coming from behind to defeat challenger Kurt Wright, 51.5% to 48.5%. The race was unique in that it had four candidates with a legitimate shot at winning. In most American elections, there would be fear of "spoiler" candidates, but not with IRV. IRV is also credited for making the race more civil and substantive than the norm, with city councilor Bill Keogh telling the local newspaper that the race was "the most respectful and informative campaign in Burlington in a long time.

Up next for IRV: hotly contested elections for mayor and city council in Aspen (CO) on May 5th and elections this November in communities like Minneapolis (MN), Hendersonville (NC), Pierce County (WA) and San Francisco (CA). IRV also is making great progress in Los Angeles County (CA), Duluth (MN), St. Paul (MN) and many other states and communities.

[List of private organizations using IRV]

[List of colleges and universities using IRV]

[Article on University of Toledo's student government elections with IRV]

[Article on American Psychological Association elections]

[Resources for bringing IRV to your campus or organization]

[League of Women Voters op-ed on IRV in Burlington Free Press]

[99.99% of Burlington voters cast valid ballots]

[Los Angeles Times news article on L.A. County's move to study IRV]

[New America Foundation's IRV in Los Angeles page]

[Former U.S. Senator Dave Durenberger and David Schultz make the case or IRV in the Duluth News Tribune (MN)]

[FairVote Minnesota] and [Californians for Electoral Reform]

Proportional Voting Here and Abroad

Proportional voting systems are the international norm for national elections in full-fledged democracies, as evidenced in 2009 in such countries as El Salvador, Germany, South Africa, Indonesia, Israel, Japan and the European parliamentary elections. But our nation's thought-leaders tend to lump all proportional systems together and are unaware of its history and current use in our own elections as well.

That's why we were pleased to see top blogger Matthew Yglesias' recent Think Progress post rightly suggesting choice voting (or "the single transferable vote") as a sensible way to tackle the no-choice elections and polarized representation that dominates the U.S. House of Representatives, citing New York City's history with the system. Also on the blogging front, see informative new posts about proportional voting overseas by FairVote's long-term intern Eve Robert and Program for Representative Government fellow Amy Ngai.

The Amarillo Globe News has an editorial praising the use of proportional voting in its elections coming up in May, while FairVote Lowell has an excellent site kicking off advocacy for choice voting in one of two dozen American cities once using choice voting. Hats off to FairVote's long-time ally John Rapp of Beloit College for convincing his academic colleagues to establish choice voting for faculty elections -- large number of private organizations and colleges use choice voting and let us know if you'd like to propose it in an organization.

[Matthew Yglesias post: One solution to polarization]

[Map of U.S. House results from 2008 showing how representation follows winner-take-all lines]

[FairVote Lowell]

[Amarillo Globe-News editorial on cumulative voting]

[List of private organizations using choice voting]

[IFES' election guide to international elections]

[Amy Ngai's blog post on British Columbia's May 12 referendum on choice voting]

Eve Robert's blogposts on proportional voting around the world:

FairVote in the Field - Progress for advance registration and electing US Senators in RI, NC and around the nation

From Maryland to Hawaii, legislatures across the country are taking up legislation to improve our patchwork system of voter registration. At least six states (AZ, CA, MI, RI, WA and MD) have debated legislation that would set a uniform advance voter registration age of 16-years-old. This policy would allow high schools to conduct effective registration drives and educate students about the mechanics of participation. Hawaii has debated a universal voter registration bill that would ensure anyone who does not want to register affirmatively opts-out, while California is considering legislation that would automatically register citizens when applying for a driver's license or filing their state income taxes. New Jersey lawmakers have introduced a bill that changes "motor voter" to an opt-out system, as opposed to the current "opt-in" regime. Connecticut, New Jersey and New York have legislation before them that would expand voter registration opportunities for high school and college students. The New America Foundation and other FairVote allies have built a strong coalition together for advance voter registration in California.

FairVote is particularly active in two states where it has field staff - Rhode Island and North Carolina. Two of FairVote Rhode Island's legislative goals - advance registration and direct elections for vacant US Senate seats - have passed both houses of the legislature with overwhelming margins, including 54-10 (advance registration) and 64-6 (Senate vacancy elections) in the house. Meanwhile, FairVote North Carolina has joined with Democracy North Carolina and a broad coalition of groups and legislators to back advance registration and promote civic learning in that state.

[FairVote's 100% Registration project]

[Factsheet on FairVote North Carolina's advance voter registration]

[FairVote Rhode Island] and [FairVote North Carolina]

[New America Foundation's factsheet on advance voter registration in California]

FairVote News

We're pleased to report that:

  • On March 11, FairVote analyst David Segal delivered well-received testimony to the U.S. Senate Judiciary subcommittee on the Constitution and the House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Civil Liberties in favor of the Feingold-McCain constitutional amendment to require election of all U.S. Senators. See his written testimony and watch the hearing on-line.
  • Right to Vote Initiative director Adam Fogel published an commentary on advancing democracy for the Washington Post on April 19. Erik Connell published a commentary on instant runoff voting in the Gazette.
  • FairVot'e's board chair Krist Novoselic regularly blogs about electoral reform. See his blog post this week about his upcoming trip to British Columbia to help campaign for the choice voting form of proportional voting.
  • We are pleased to welcome back Paul Fidalgo, our former communications director and give a big thanks to our spring interns Christian Abraham and Brendan Buff, who teamed with staff and our year-long interns Dalila Harrag and Eve Robert. We also look forward to an exciting new group of interns starting this summer and urge potential applicants to consider joining us in the fall - see our intern page.

Featured Podcast - Howard Dean on instant runoff voting, March 2009

On March 16th, former Vermont Governor and Democratic National Committee Chair Howard Dean appeared on Vermont Radio's Mark Johnson Show. Commenting on Burlington's recent instant runof voting election, Dean said "I think the best and most democratic way to use to elect people in multiparty elections is instant runoff voting." Dean also supported the system when it was first used in Burlington in 2006.

[Listen to the Podcast]

[Read transcript]

[See elected officials who have endorsed IRV]

FairVote on Youtube and Facebook: Spotlight on IRV

This summer, FairVote will be taking YouTube and Facebook by storm. Check the links below for pilot projects put together by new staff and interns. Our latest theme: increased understanding of instant runoff voting. Our ultimate goal? Young people across the country instinctively associate IRV with improved democracy. We, the intern team at FairVote, welcome your comments on how we can most effectively support YOU and young people you know raise internet consciousness around important electoral reform issues. Write to us at interns@fairvote.org. We'd love to hear from you.

Become a Facebook friend of IRV:

[FairVote's IRV Facebook page]

IRV on YouTube:

[Krist Novoselic Explains Ranked Choice Voting]

[Steve Mulroy's Elevator Explanation of IRV]

[Terry Bouricius on the Burlington Election]

From the FairVote Archives:

[Rob Richie featured in news piece on IRV in New York City]

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