E-Newsletter December 19, 2003

Released December 19, 2003
 Dear Friends and Supporters of the Center for Voting and Democracy,

A month ago I stood in a plenary hall of the Washington Convention  Center, making my opening remarks about the Center for Voting and Democracy and the urgent demand for fair election voting methods to some 500 attendees of our Claim Democracy conference. It was a thrilling moment and a fine cap to another remarkable year.

Following me at the podium were a series of wonderful speakers, including the Center’s Rashad Robinson and Rob Richie. I was particularly pleased to hear Texas state legislator Garnet Coleman highlight full representation alternatives to winner-take-all elections (which, boosted by his 1995 legislation, are now in place in more than 40 Texas localities) and offer them as the ultimate solution to the ugly partisan gerrymandering he and many fellow legislators dramatically fought earlier this year. The crowd and I then marveled at the power of Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr.’s call for adding a right-to-vote to the Constitution to ground his efforts for necessary reforms like instant runoff voting.

Claim Democracy was the most recent example of the Center’s ability and desire to work with a range of others in building a strong, vibrant pro-democracy network – what we call the Democracy USA initiative. Nearly every major electoral reform group, more than 75 in all, signed onto our conference call-to-action and helped make the conference a resounding success. 140 presenters discussed a full range of reforms in more than 60 sessions – a testament to the organizing ability of our small but talented staff.

In 2004 we will work with reformers and elected officials across the country to pursue pro-democracy reforms. Given our polarized, unrepresentative, non-participatory politics, the case for our signature reforms – instant runoff voting to ensure majority rule and allow more choices and full representation to open up our legislatures to voices that are silenced by winner-take-all elections – grows stronger with each passing year.

To succeed, however, we need your ongoing support.

I know that, like me, many of you receive appeals from countless worthy organizations, but let me explain why I hope you will support the Center as generously as you can. Here is a review of some of our most timely projects planned for 2004:
  • IRV Defense and Education: We have obtained three new grants to help our Center’s Steven Hill to: 1) build and maintain support for instant runoff voting in San Francisco, which adopted IRV in March 2002 and is set to finally use the new system in the November 2004 city elections; 2) assist community-based organizations in promoting effective participation in the initial IRV elections. IRV will also keep us busy outside San Francisco. Due to our advocacy, the number of states considering IRV bills rose from none in 1995-1996 to at least 20 this year, including four (Florida, Maine, New Mexico and Vermont) where state senate leaders publicly supported IRV. With leaders like Sen. John McCain and Gov. Howard Dean backing IRV, momentum keeps growing.
  • Nirvana in Washington – A New Voice for Full Representation: Krist Novoselic made his name as Nirvana’s bass player, but we know him as a passionate, thoughtful advocate of fair elections. He seeks to be Washington’s next lieutenant governor, and his 2004 campaign will highlight his proposal to elect the state house of representatives by full representation. Full representation already has strong support in Washington and fits the state well. We hope to build on interest generated by his campaign, particularly among young people.
  • Fair Elections in the Media: I marvel at how, in the midst of the pressing demands of our efforts to assist reformers, produce reports and plan events, the Center’s staff can generate as much published writing and media coverage as they do – with by-lines and quotes once again in nearly all major newspapers in 2003.  With another round of our groundbreaking Monopoly Politics analysis of congressional elections and the countless hooks of a presidential campaign, look for more commentary in 2004, along with articles by Rob Richie and Steven Hill in the Nation and American Prospect and more radio and television appearances.
  • North Carolina Fair Elections: We know that indepth focus on a state can make a big difference and are excited to have a grant for the first year of a potential multi-year educational and organizing effort about IRV and full representation in North Carolina. Working closely with a range of civic partners, the Center’s Rashad Robinson will hold roundtable discussions to connect fair election methods to debates about redistricting, voting rights, runoffs and campaign finance. Careful follow-up promises to lead to reform opportunities.
  • Innovative Election Systems in Illinois: We have a grant to pursue excellent opportunities to introduce cumulative voting and instant runoff voting to civic leaders and policy-makers in my home state. In the wake of a new law allowing counties to adopt cumulative voting, the Center’s Dan Johnson-Weinberger will reach out to leaders across the state to consider their new power. In the midst of hotly contested primaries with many candidates seeking to fill an open U.S. Senate seat, we will highlight how ranked-choice polls help voters understand big-candidate fields and will show how IRV would provide fairer results.
I mention grants obtained for these projects because our team is doing a great job at finding funds for our goals – both from foundations and a new election services division where we help organizations and businesses run elections. But the impact of the stock market downturn will be felt for years. Even as we reached an all-time high in individual giving this year, we won’t come close to matching the foundation support received earlier in the decade. It is individuals like you that keep our movement strong. Thanks so much for your support, and my best wishes for the holidays and the New Year.

                                                                         Sincerely yours,
                                                                         John B. Anderson

P.S. I encourage a visit to www.fairvote.org, where we regularly update CVD projects and news. There also is information on how Working Assets customers have until Dec. 31 to vote for us and help boost income in 2004. Again, thank you for your support.