E-Newsletter July 7, 2005

Released July 7, 2005
Newsletter July 2005
Greetings! Like many Americans, the FairVote staff enjoyed Independence Day celebrations. We would like to see that American spirit of independence lead us to abolish those antiquated electoral laws inherited from Great Britain that suppress independent thinking and voices in our political process. This July we celebrate the ideals of a democracy derived from the consent of the governed and founded on the proposition of equality.

The Top News

  • Instant runoff voting gathers more local and national support
  • Proportional voting from the United Kingdom to General Motors
  • Democracy SoS: A new 50-state from the Democracy USA Initiative
  • FairVote summer interns generate flurry of activity – join us for the fall!

FairVote Executive Director Rob Richie’s Political Quiz for July 2005

1)    In 1941-1970, the average tenure for Supreme Court justices was 12 years. The average age of a justice leaving office was 68 years old. What have been those averages since 1971? 

A) 14 years of service and 71 years old 
B) 17 years of service and 74 years old 
C) 26 years of service and 79 years old?   

2)    In the 1992 and 1996 elections for president, the 50 states held a total of 100 elections to allocate their electoral votes. In how many states did the electoral votes go to a winner who failed to win a majority of that state’s popular vote?  

A) 37 of 100 state elections won with less than a majority of the vote
B) 75 of 100 state elections won with less than a majority of the vote
C) 16 of 100 state elections won with less than a majority of the vote

See the answers and four more quiz questions at the end of the newsletter.

This Month’s Newsletter

IRV America
  • Howard Dean and Rev. Jesse Jackson highlights instant runoff voting (IRV
  • North Carolina’s state senate considers IRV bill backed by the house
  • IRV proposed in Aspen (CO) and Takoma Park (MD)
  • Gains for IRV activists in Florida and Washington
  • Recent elections in Virginia, New Jersey and Ohio demonstrate value of IRV
  • The Greatest American election showcases our not-so-great plurality voting system – in contrast to how London was picked to host the 2012 Olympics
  • New IRV America resources

Program for Representative Government
  • A gerrymander birthday on July 17: Tanner bill and Dubious Democracy
  • General Motors nearly adopts proportional voting system to elect its board
  • Good reading: Steven Hill in Salon, John Burbank in Tacoma News Tribune
  • International news: Palestinian Authority implements proportional voting system, British analysis suggests proportional voting “inevitable”, new voter turnout study shows big impact of adopting proportional voting

Right to Vote Initiative
  • Right to vote amendment draws support from Howard Dean, more
  • In the states: Iowa restores voting rights to ex-felons, Maryland Governor rejects early-voting bill and Montana allows election day voter registration
  • International commission calls for voting rights for Washington, D.C.
  • Carter-Baker federal election commission meets, draws controversy
Presidential Election Reform Program
  • Louisiana state senate supports abolition of Electoral College
  • California Young Democrats Endorse the American Plan for primaries
  • New Jersey plan to move up presidential primary date draws attention to FairVote’s analysis

FairVote News
  • Upcoming events: FairVote at NAACP and APSA annual conventions
  • Democracy SoS: New 50-state resource from the Democracy USA Initiative
  • Take action!
  • FairVote’s impressive summer intern team – and a call for the fall
  • Please support FairVote
  • Rob Riche’s Political Quiz for July 2005

IRV America

Howard Dean and Rev. Jesse Jackson highlight IRV
At a Take Back America conference held in June in Washington D.C., Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean drew applause with a call for the adoption of instant runoff voting (IRV) as a way to assure majority winners and increase voter turnout. In his syndicated column on June 7th in the Chicago Sun Times, Rev. Jesse Jackson wrote that we should “adopt instant runoff voting to invite more participation and candidates, and encourage the development of a richer democracy.”

[Read FairVote’s press release]

[Learn who else endorses IRV]

North Carolina Senate debates bill supporting pilot IRV program
Passed by the House with strong bipartisan support in May, HB-1024 would establish an IRV pilot program in up to ten counties supervised by the State Board of Elections. The selected county boards would be given the option of adopting IRV in their local elections.  The bill is under review by the Senate. If it becomes law, North Carolina would become the fourth state to pass stand-alone IRV legislation this year.

[Read HB 1024]
[See report on state legislation in 2005]

IRV proposed in Aspen (CO) and Takoma Park (MD)
Aspen, Colorado is reconsidering its runoff system after experiencing poor turnout, high costs and questionable results in a runoff election for city council in June. The city council has announced it will consider IRV for future elections – an idea suggested in the Aspen Times by FairVote summer intern Hannah Garden-Monheit. Meanwhile, in FairVote’s backyard, the city council of Takoma Park appears poised to use paper ballots this November rather than touchscreen voting and to allow voters to consider a ballot measure on instant runoff voting.  Voting on paper ballots would make it easy to use instant runoff voting in future elections.

[Read more about Aspen’s runoffs]
[Read Hannah Garden-Monheit’s letter]

Gains for IRV activists in Florida and Washington
The Coalition for Instant Runoff Voting in Florida has drawn a range of support in its efforts to bring IRV to Florida – including from Florida Common Cause, Florida PIRG, the Florida Libertarian and Green Parties and New College Democrats. Ten newspapers – mostly major dailies – have backed IRV, most recently the Pelican Press in Sarasota.  Local elected officials in Gainesville and Sarasota are working with IRV backers on ways to advance IRV in their communities. Meanwhile, IRV backers in three major Washington cities – Tacoma, Vancouver and Spokane – are moving to take advantage of the state’s new law allowing them to use IRV in 2007. Tacoma activists have launched a ballot measure for this fall to modify the charter to allow for IRV and establish a mandate for 2007.

[See website for the Coalition for Instant Runoff Voting in Florida]
[See website for the Citizens for Instant Runoff Voting in Tacoma]

Recent elections in Virginia, New Jersey and Ohio demonstrate value of IRV
Three significant statewide and congressional elections were won in June with more than 60% of voters supporting candidates other than the winner. On June 14, several key primaries in Virginia were decided by plurality – most prominently, the Democratic nomination for lieutenant governor with just 33% of the vote. In New Jersey, the hotly contested Republican contest for governor in the June 7th primary went to Doug Forrester, who won with 36% -- just 5% ahead of his nearest challenger and 14% short of a majority. Ohio held primaries on June 14th in a special election to fill its second congressional district. The Republican winner in this Republican-leaning district was Jean Schmidt, whose 31% of the vote edged her nearest opponent by barely 700 votes. Schmidt won what may well become a very safe seat for her with just 11,486 votes – less than 3% of the districts 456,795 registered voters. Instant runoff voting would be the best way to assure winners in such elections at least had majority support.

[Read FairVote’s press release on Virginia’s primaries]

Greatest America not so great to 76% of voters / London wins 2012 summer Olympics in a fair vote
On June 26, Ronald Reagan won AOL’s highly-promoted “Greatest American” contest, a month-long event that aired on the Discovery Channel. But with five strong finalists, Reagan won with only 24% of the vote – less than 1% more than Abraham Lincoln. With Martin Luther King Jr. finishing third and founding fathers George Washington and Ben Franklin finishing fourth and fifth, it seems likely that Lincoln was the true majority choice. To make such contests fairer, we call on contest-organizers like AOL to use IRV. Indeed a more significant election – the choice of a city to host the 2012 Summer Olympics was held by an in-person form of instant runoff voting. London ended up with majority support after a very fractured first vote among the five final cities.

[Read more about the “Greatest American” poll results]
[Read results of 2012 Olympics vote]
[Read the London Independent’s explanation of the voting process for the Olympics]

New IRV America resources
Visit our resources page for new fact-sheets: one geared toward jurisdictions considering replacing traditional runoff elections with IRV and one summarizing the successes in San Francisco’s first IRV election in November 2004. Please consider getting active with instant runoff voting by signing up for the moderated national listserv or state listservs.

[Go to the IRV Resources page]
[Sign up for the IRV listserv]

Program for Representative Government

A gerrymander birthday on July 17: Tanner bill and “Dubious Democracy”
In May Congressman John Tanner was joined by FairVote in a news conference to announce the introduction of his Fairness and Independence in Redistricting Act.  Requiring state legislatures to establish independent commissions who would use neutral criteria in drawing district boundaries, the bill has drawn editorial support from the New York Times and Roll Call and the bipartisan support of 31 House Members. To increase attention to the problem of partisanship and corruption in the redistricting process, FairVote plans to “celebrate” the birthday of Elbridge Gerry, author of the famous “Gerrymander” in 1812 with an event spotlighting Rep. Tanner’s legislation and our latest Dubious Democracy review of elections from 1982 to 2004. Stay tuned.

[ Read John Anderson commentary on the current state of redistricting ]
[Read about H.R. 2642 on the Congressional website Thomas]

General Motors nearly adopts cumulative voting system to elect its board
On June 7, the shareholders of General Motors nearly voted to adopt a cumulative voting system for future elections of the Board of Directors. The proposal was supported by almost 49% of shareholders, making it the most popular non-board recommended measure in GM history.  A cumulative voting system would allow a minority of like-minded shareholders to elect at least one board member by concentrating their votes on a single candidate, ensuring a more accurate representation of shareholder interests in board decisions.

[See FairVote’s press release on GM’s shareholder vote]
[Read more on GM’s shareholder meeting]
[More on cumulative voting]

Good reading: Steven Hill in Salon, John Burbank in Tacoma News Tribune
Former FairVote senior analyst Steven Hill – now a fellow with the New America Foundation – has a powerful piece contrasting the impact of different electoral reforms and coming to the conclusion that proportional voting methods are an essential building block for a choice-center democracy. Think tank director John Burbank highlights proportional systems in a commentary in the Tacoma News Tribune.

[Steven Hill’s Salon commentary on “Keep on Reforming”]
[John Burbank’s Tacoma News Tribune commentary on Washington state]

Palestinian Legislative Council enacts proportional voting system
On June 18, the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) voted to use a proportional system of full representation to elect half of its legislative seats. According to the new law, 66 deputies will be elected in local districts and 66 will be elected through a proportional system in which voters will cast their ballots for different parties, and seats will be allocated in proportion to different parties’ share of the vote. This decision follows in the wake of Iraq’s January elections using a nationwide proportional system.

[More on the PLC’s decision]
[More on proportional voting methods]

International Desk: Turnout study boosts value of proportional voting; Britain on path toward proportional voting; Bermuda looks to change; New IDEA resource
Harvard University’s Pippa Norris has released an analysis of 164 nations finding that nations using proportional voting methods have an average voter turnout of 70%, which is 10% higher than those like the United States using winner-take-all elections….Norris’ findings drew particular attention in the United Kingdom, where the Electoral Reform Society has led a long-term campaign for proportional voting that had now been joined by the London Independent’s “Campaign for Democracy.” …Patrick Dunleavy, a leading British scholar at the London School of Economics, this month will release a paper arguing that it is only a matter of time before Britain adopts proportional voting. Dunleavy's analysis of voting patterns found that the establishment of a "multi-party" system - which traditionally precedes the move to proportional voting - "has already happened" in Britain. … Elsewhere, Andrew Clarke wrote a strong commentary in the Bermuda Sun calling for proportional voting methods.  According to Clarke, the Caribbean is dominated by use of plurality voting, but more and more leaders are calling for change.  Finally, the Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance has posted online the latest edition of its invaluable handbook Electoral System Design.

[Article on Pippa Norris’ study on voter turnout and proportional voting]
[Article in London’s Independent on growing strength of British reform efforts]

[Article on political analyst’s conclusion that Britain will move to proportional voting]
[Andrew Clarke’s Bermuda Sun commentary promoting proportional systems]
[New edition of IDEA’s Electoral System Design handbook]

Right to Vote Initiative

Right to vote amendment draws support from Howard Dean, others
On June 5th, the National Rainbow Coalition’s annual convention in Chicago featured a panel focused on establishing a constitutional right to vote. Speakers included Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr., Harvard professor Alex Keyssar, John Bonifaz of the National Rights Institute, Penda Hair of the Advancement Project and Democratic National Committee chairman Howard Dean. All of the panelists embraced the proposal for an amendment, which now has 58 co-sponsors in the United States Congress.

[See information on federal voting legislation]

In the states: Iowa restores voting rights to persons convicted of a past felony, Montana permits Election Day registration, Maryland early voting bill vetoed.
States are taking the lead in advancing voting rights – and, in some cases, taking actions that could hinder voting rights. On the bright side, Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack followed through on his June 17 promise to sign an executive order on July 4th to streamline the process of restoring voting rights to persons convicted of a past felony. This order will enfranchise an estimated 80,000 citizens. Meanwhile, starting in November 2006, residents of Montana will be able to register to vote as late as Election Day -- voting officials hope that this change will facilitate the voting process and increase voter participation.  On a less progressive note, however, in May Maryland Governor Robert Ehrlich vetoed an early voting bill while claiming that early voting would lead to more voting fraud.

[Read more about Montana’s voting reforms]
[Read FairVote’s comment on Gov. Ehrlich’s veto]
[Read more about Gov. Vilsack’s order]

International commission calls for voting rights for Washington, D.C.
One result of a state-based system of protecting voting rights is that American citizens living outside of states – such as overseas, in the territories or in the District of Columbia – can face serious abridgement of basic voting rights. On July 5 the Third Committee of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) Parliamentary Assembly overwhelmingly passed a resolution that calls on the United States Congress to grant the residents of Washington, DC equal voting rights in Congress in accordance with its OSCE human rights commitments. The United States is the only country in the OSCE where residents of the nation's capital are denied full representation in the national legislature.

[See DC Vote’s news release on the vote by the OSCE]

Carter-Baker federal election commission meets, draws controversy
Headed by former president Jimmy Carter and former Secretary of State James Baker, the Commission on Federal Election Reform presents an important opportunity for bold, but necessary proposals to improve democracy in the United States. On June 30th the commission held the second of its two public meetings in Houston. FairVote’s Rob Richie is one of the commissions’ academic advisors, but it remains unclear what kind of recommendations the commission will make in its September 2005 report. Backers of reform are encouraged to post comments to the commission from its website.

[Contact page from the Commission on Federal Election Reform website]
[Commentary calling for the commission to propose bold reforms]
[Statement to commission from leading civil rights organizations]

Presidential Election Reform Program

Louisiana state senate supports abolition of Electoral College
On May 19th the state senate of Louisiana, approved Senate Concurrent Resolution 25, calling for the Federal Congress to abolish the Electoral College and establish direct election of the President of the United States. The Resolution now moves on to Louisiana’s house, where it must also be passed for the resolution to go into effect. If the resolution is passed, it will be transmitted to President Bush, leaders in both houses of Congress, as well as every member of Louisiana’s Congressional delegation.

[Read more about concerns with the Electoral College]
[Senate notes on the passage of LA Senate Concurrent Resolution No. 25]

American Plan for presidential primaries draws support from California Young Democrats and interest in wake of vote in New Jersey
On June 25th, the Californian Young Democrats voted unanimously to endorse the American Plan. California is routinely left out of the important task of nominating presidential candidates on account of its primary date.  By rotating the order in which states hold their primaries and establishing a graduated increase in the size of the states holding primaries, the American Plan would give all states a more equal say in the presidential primary. The Republican Party nearly adopted a similar proposal at its national convention in 2000; the Democratic Party has established a commission to consider reforms to its primary schedule. The need for a coherent national reform process was highlighted by the New Jersey state legislature’s recent vote to shift its presidential primary to February; news analysis featured the comments of FairVote’s Rob Richie.

[Read more on the California Young Democrats’ endorsement]
[Read more about The American Plan]
[FairVote release on the NJ presidential primary date change]
[Read news coverage about the debate in New Jersey]

FairVote News

Upcoming Events:

NAACP 2005 Annual Convention
The NAACP’s 2005 “Conscience of a Nation” convention will take place July 9-14 in Milwaukee, WI.  FairVote will have a booth at the convention
[See a full schedule]

American Political Science Association Annual Convention
The APSA will hold its annual convention from September 1-4 in Washington, D.C. FairVote will have a booth at the convention.
[See more on the APSA and its convention]

Democracy SoS

Do you know who your state’s chief election official is? We do.
The Democracy SoS Project is a state-by-state guide to election administrators and election administration, a project coordinated by the Right to Vote Initiative’s Ryan Griffin. This recently posted resource includes information on the chief election official(s) in every state as well as the electoral responsibilities of their office and how the office is filled. 

[Democracy SoS]

Take Action!

FairVote’s website presents a number of opportunities to get involved in advancing reform. Here are a few examples:

Californians for Electoral Reform is a particularly active reform organization that leads efforts for reforming winner-take-all elections in California, from backing state legislation to supporting local campaigns like the current effort in Davis to adopt choice voting for city council elections. See:
[Californians for Electoral Reform]

The Illinois legislature passed a bill requiring colleges and universities to make voter registration forms available online and include them with course registration materials.
[Learn more about this bill and ask Governor Blagojevich to sign it]

The Louisiana legislature passed a bill making early voting available to all eligible voters.
[Learn more about this bill and ask Governor Blanco to sign it]
Campaign for Democracy
Check out The Independent’s “Campaign for Democracy” online and ask your local newspaper to pursue a similar campaign in your city and state:
[Link to The Independent]


FairVote Internships

This summer FairVote is fortunate to have a remarkable crew of volunteer summer interns from colleges and universities all over the nation. Out of a pool of 50 applicants, FairVote selected 18 students to work with us – including four law students and one high school student. They are helping us make great progress in all of our program areas, and enjoying opportunities to hear regular presentations from civic and political leaders in the area. We still are processing applications for the fall and winter, so please contact us if interested – and if you know of others who would like to be part of FairVote’s campaign for democracy.

[Internships at FairVote]

Please Support FairVote

As with many non-profits, FairVote relies heavily on individual contributions. That in fact is truer than ever this year, as we are establishing new relationships with foundations in the wake of transitions in the funding world that undercut traditional sources of support. We have an ambitious agenda, and a terrific team leading a campaign for free and fair elections in the United States. If you want to support the nation’s leading organization working locally and nationally to advance instant runoff voting, proportional voting systems, direct election of the president and a constitutional right to vote, please consider a donation today. Thank you!

[Donate Here!]

Rob Richie’s Political Quiz for July 2005

1)    Of the 435 races for the U.S. House of Representatives in 2004, how many were won by margins of 6% or less (53% to 47%)? What percent of challengers defeated incumbents in all U.S. House elections in 2002 and 2004
A) 10 wins of 6% or less in 2004  /  1% rate of challenger success in 2002-4   B) 21 wins of 6% or less in 2004  /  2% rate of challenger success in 2002-4  C) 62 wins of 6% or less in 2004  /  4% rate of challenger success in 2002-4

2)    Two states are seen as having the least partisan processes for drawing congressional district lines: Arizona and Iowa. How many of Arizona’s 16 U.S. House races have been won by landslide margins of 20% or more in the two years since it institute its new commission plan in 2001?What has Iowa’s rate of incumbent re-election rate been since the state instituted its nonpartisan redistricting process in 1981?  
A) Landslides in 8 of 16 AZ races  /  75% incumbent re-election rate in IA   
B) Landslides in 15 of 16 AZ races /  97% incumbent re-election rate in IA 
C) Landslides in 6 of 16 AZ races  / 90% incumbent re-election rate in Iowa

3)    Suppose an American-born citizen living in Florida ran for president despite a youthful felony conviction. Could that be person legally be elected president? Could he or she vote in the election?

4)    In the 1992 and 1996 elections for president, the 50 states held a total of 100 elections to allocate their electoral votes. In how many states did the electoral votes go to a winner who failed to win a majority of that state’s popular vote?  
     A)  37 of 100 state elections won with less than a majority of the vote
     B)  75 of 100 state elections won with less than a majority of the vote
     C)  16 of 100 state elections won with less than a majority of the vote

5)    In 1888, voter registration rolls in Louisiana contained about 128,000 African Americans and 127,000 whites. How many African Americans were on Louisiana’s voter rolls in 1910?   
     A) The rolls increased to 131,100 African Americans
     B) The rolls were reduced to 730 African Americans
     C) The rolls were reduced to 16,700 African Americans

6)    In 1941-1970, the average tenure for Supreme Court justices was 12 years. The average age of a justice leaving office was 68 years old. What have been those averages since 1971? 
     A) 14 years of service  /  71 years old 
     B) 17 years of service  / 74 years old 
     C) 26 years of service  / 79 years old?   

Quiz Answers

1.    A. Only 10 House races – one out of every 43 -- were won by margins of 6% or less. Only nine challengers defeated House incumbents in 2002-04 – an average of 4.5 per election. which is fewer than in any other U.S. house election in history.

2.    B. 15 of 16 U.S. House races in Arizona were won by margins of at least 10% in 2002-2004, including four by more than 40%. In Iowa, only 2 out of 59 incumbents (including one facing another incumbent) lost in 1982-2004 – a success rate of 97%. These statistics help explain why FairVote believes the case for redistricting reform should be founded on how it promotes personal and partisan corruption and that those seeking real voter choice in elections must consider proportional voting methods in multi-seat districts.

3.    Even though candidate could be elected to the presidency, he or she would not be permitted to vote in the election.

4.    B.  75 out of 100 states were won with less than a majority of the vote in 1992 and 1996, including just one (Bill Clinton’s home state of Arkansas) out of 50 in 1992. Of all federal offices, the presidency has been by far the most likely to be won with less than 50% of the popular vote -- thus presenting the potential of a different candidate winning if instant runoff voting had been used or if the field had been narrowed to two before the election.

5.    B.  As reported in George Washington University Professor Spencer Overton’s forthcoming book on voting rights and electoral reform, only 730 African Americans were registered to vote in Louisiana in 1910. Louisiana was not alone. As recently as 1965, the voter registration rate of whites was 10 times that of African Americans in Mississippi.

6.    As reported by Bruce Bartlett of the National Center for Policy Analysis, the average tenure for Supreme Court justices since 1971 has been 26 years and the average age of retirement has been 79. Bartlett suggests 18-year overlapping terms for Justices, which would create an opening every two years.

Thank you!

F a i r V o t e
The Center for Voting and Democracy
6930 Carroll Avenue, Suite 610
Takoma Park, MD 20912
www.fairvote.org      info@fairvote.org
(301) 270-4616

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