E-Newsletter February 5, 2008

Released February 5, 2008

FairVote e-News
   Dear friend of fair elections:

FairVote is having an eventful 2008, with high-profile media, state and local advances for our core reforms and a growing network of volunteers and state groups. Musician Krist Novoselic is our new chair, with John Anderson continuing his irreplaceable service to us as a board member. We have a new team of energetic interns, plans for a June 2008 electoral reform conference in Minneapolis and important new initiatives like our Democracy SoS Project and choice voting initiative in New York.  

Of course the presidential campaign draws huge attention. See www.FixThePrimaries.com for ideas on how to improve the primary process, and see what two of the leading Republican and Democratic presidential candidates have had to say about instant runoff voting by visiting Who Supports IRV,

As always, you can see more at www.fairvote.org  - we hope to be working with you in 2008!


Rob Richie
Executive Director

New Analysis on Fixing the Primaries

A new FairVote analysis "Understanding Super Tuesday: State Rules on February 5 and Lessons for Reform" details key aspects of this week's often confusing and seemingly chaotic presidential primary process through a reform-minded perspective. The report examines everything from delegate allocation methods to how early voting could swing the outcome of the race - and what we can do to in the future to ensure an equal voice for all participants. Reform highlights include:
  • Using ranked voting ballots to determine the majority winner in each state - and make sure supporters to withdrawing candidates cast a vote that counts.
  • Reviewing processes of allocating delegates so that delegate outcomes more closely match popular vote outcomes
  • Providing voters with alternatives to public voting at caucuses

FairVote has drawn wide-spread media attention to its presidential reform ideas.  See our latest at Democracy Now and The Nation.  Also, catch Rob Richie on WNPR at 9:20 am on Febuary 5th.

FairVote Launches Democracy SoS Project

FairVote is launching the Democracy SoS Project. With a number of coalition partners, FairVote will survey Secretary of State (SoS) candidates and act as a watchdog for incumbents. Putting more sunshine on the influential office of SoS will promote transparency in election administration and encourage office-seekers to share their views on issues ranging from photo identification requirements to maintaining complete and accurate voter rolls.
Through research, education and outreach to these officials and their actions, we will spotlight ways to improve elections in the short-term and over the long-term in every state. For more information, visit http://archive.fairvote.org/sos or contact Right to Vote Director Adam Fogel (afogel@fairvote.org). 

NPV Wins in New Jersey and Illinois

The National Popular Vote (NPV) plan had a big win last month, with New Jersey joining Maryland in the NPV compact. The Illinois legislature also approved the plan.  Keep an eye on legislation moving in dozens of states! Since the NPV plan began gaining momentum last year, over 10% of state legislators have either sponsored a bill supporting the plan or have voted "yes" on a bill in support of it.

IRV Express -- Next Stop: Santa Fe

In March, voters in Santa Fe (NM) will decide whether to become the latest jurisdiction to adopt instant runoff voting (IRV). The city council unanimously voted to place IRV (called "ranked choice voting" in Santa Fe) on the ballot, and backers include the mayor, Common Cause and The Santa Fe New Mexican. You can donate to the campaign by supporting Voting Matters at www.votingmatters.net

IRV is moving well in other cities and states too. In Vermont, for example, Rep. Mike Fisher wrote a powerful commentary in the state's largest newspaper.

State Legislators Pay Attention to Young People

After a huge FairVote victory on 17-year-old primary voting in Maryland (read about it here), two more states have introduced bills allowing 17-year-olds who will be 18 by the general election to participate in the preceding primary. New Hampshire and Pennsylvania are the latest states who have introduced bills that will encourage young people to vote in the first election for which they are eligible. Former FairVote board member, Senator Jamie Raskin has introduced a constitutional amendment in Maryland that would establish 17-year-old primary voting in the state permanently. Senator Raskin's amendment also includes a FairVote-inspired reform that sets a uniform voter registration age of 16-years-old.

FairVote's Right to Vote Initiative has recently published "Roadmap for Reform", an online feature highlighting pieces of legislation introduced throughout the country in 2007 that expands access to the polls, improves voter education and increases political participation.  Our Learning Democracy curriculum continues to draw high praise.

FairVote Rhode Island and North Carolina

FairVote is starting to establish state branches - typically independent organizations who will cooperate with our national office. FairVote Rhode Island holds great promise, in large part due to the remarkable efforts of FairVote staffer Ari Savitzky, who has been the sparkplug for advances in every facet of our program in the state. See www.fairvote.org/ri and if you're in the state, contact Ari@fairvote.org to find out about upcoming events and opportunities to win change.

Similarly, FairVote staffers Torrey Dixon and Elena Everett are paving the way for FairVote North Carolina as they pursue their top-notch reform efforts for instant runoff voting, the National Popular Vote plan and more. You can contact them at (919) 413-1276.

Save The Date: FairVote Event at Free Press Conference

On June 5 in Minneapolis (MN), FairVote is joining with Common Cause, Public Campaign and Liberty Tree to host Democracy Day - a gathering in the spirit of last November's Claim Democracy conference and a lead-in to Free Press's huge media reform conference taking place that weekend The event will include high-profile speakers at plenaries and hands-on workshops on ensuring fair elections in 2008, transforming elections in the future and connecting electoral reform to democracy work in your community. Visit ClaimDemocracy.com as details develop.

Welcome Lynne Serpe, So Long Ryan O'Donnell

FairVote welcomes Lynne Serpe for a review of opportunities to advance choice voting in New York.  Prior to joining FairVote, she served as Deputy Director of the Political Reform Program at the New America Foundation and campaigned for proportional voting in New Zealand and Canada. Lynne also is supporting Port Chester's potential move to proportional voting in a federal voting rights case brought by the Department of Justice.

Currently, Lynn is developing a plan to implement a proportional voting system for the New York City Council and enact proportional voting in Port Chester, NY. Follow these links to learn more about the Port Chester case:

FairVote Port Chester Amicus Highlighting Cumulative and Choice Voting

Article Covering Port Chester Case
We also bid a fond “au revoir” to Ryan O'Donnell, who joined us in 2004 as a program associate and rose to run our Presidential Elections Reform program. Among his string of accomplishments was taking the lead in working with policymakers in Maryland as it became the first state to adopt the National Popular Vote plan. Ryan will be the new executive director of Common Cause Maryland.

FairVote is Hiring

FairVote's Democracy Fellowship Program provides an opportunity for those with an interest in election reform to work on a substantive project while building valuable skills and networking with others in the field. Fellows will be paired with a FairVote staff member and assigned a project to manage from beginning to end. They will also be exposed to the broader workings of FairVote, ranging from research, communications and advocacy, to building websites and blogging. Fellows will be given opportunities to build their skills and knowledge base both through on-the-job training, as well as potential opportunities to attend workshops and seminars. Graduates of our Democracy Fellowship Program will be well-positioned to pursue employment with democracy organizations and have valuable experience to tout if seeking to enter graduate school.  The position is salaried and includes full health and dental beneifts.  To apply, please send a resume, cover letter and writing sample, including two references required to be considered. In your cover letter, please explain why you want to be a Democracy Fellow and what skills you hope to gain from the experience. Please feel free to express interest in any particular project or issue within FairVote's mission and work. Please send materials to hr@fairvote.org. Fellows are hired when openings exist, so please feel encouraged  to apply at any time.

FairVote Choice Voting Director will be responsible for building public education, infrastructure and wins for the choice voting method of proportional voting. Choice voting is a form of proportional representation that allows voters to rank candidates in order of preference, allowing like-minded groupings of voters to win legislative seats in better proportion to their share of the population. Whereas winner-take-all elections award 100% of power to a 50.1% majority, choice voting allows voters in a minority to win a fair share of representation. Choice voting is used around the world and was used in major U.S. cities, including New York and Cincinnati, throughout the progressive era and beyond. FairVote hopes to revive and expand this election method today.The primary duties of the Choice Voting Program Director will be to harness and cultivate grassroots, organizational, and institutional support for choice voting, with the goal of gaining new implementations and support this election method. Preliminary areas for work may include Cincinnati (OH) and New York (NY). To apply, please send a resume, cover letter and writing sample, including two references required to be considered. Please send materials to hr@fairvote.org.

FairVote Interns have weighty responsibilities, and are a great contributor to our work. The summer season is very competitive (apply early!), but there are often slots available the rest of the year. A special welcome to our new winter interns Alison Hornstein, David Heyerdahl, John Sciuto, and Steve Risma.

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