E-Newsletter November 6, 2003

Released November 6, 2003


We trust that you have received information about the remarkable conference "Claim Democracy: Securing, Enhancing and Exercising the Vote" that will take place in Washington, D.C. on November 21-23. Registrations keep pouring in, with people from every region of the nation to be on hand. See the wide range of speakers and events described at www.democracyusa.org.

In addition to a broad range of substantive sessions on pro-democracy issues, we are having lighter, if engaging fare, including an evening of culture and politics on Friday evening at American University and a Saturday evening event with the Blackout Arts Collective at the D.C. Convention Center.. We also are holding a "Celebrate Democracy" dinner with Common Cause on Saturday evening. 

We you hope those of you planning to attend can register. If you want to take advantage of our $99 block of rooms (with two double-beds) at a nearby hotel, you must act by this Friday, November 7th. Details are at www.democracyusa.org

On the election front, yesterday's elections in some states and many cities were marked by.....

....a national draw in the partisan struggle between the major parties. The Republicans picked up two gubernatorial seats in Kentucky and Mississippi (part of an intriguing "throw the bums out" spirit that has led a shift in partisan control in 21 of the 38 states that have held gubernatorial races in the last year), but Democrats took full control of the New Jersey state legislature (bucking a five-decade trend of the incumbent governor's party losing seats in mid-term elections), gained seats in the Virginia legislature and won key mayoral contests. The results do help underscore the partisan polarization of the country reflected by the red/blue map of the 2000 presidential race -- although those partisan divisions are less hard-wired in state races then in federal ones. Republicans now hold 9 of 11 gubernatorial mansions in the South.

.... mostly moribund races in state legislative elections in Virginia, New Jersey, Mississippi and Kentucky, as further indication of how gerrymandered winner-take-all elections have suppressed most voter choice when we elect legislatures. The decade's record remains intact of no state legislative chamber changing partisan control if the redistricting map was not drawn by a court or commission. In Mississippi and Virginia, more than 98% of incumbents won. In Virginia, fewer than one in ten races were won by less than 10%, and more than half of seats weren't even contested.

... generally low turnout. Some states and cities had upward blips from the last comparable election (such as Mississippi, where turnout rose sharply from the 1999 gubernatorial race,but was lower than 1995 turnout), while others saw declines. But no state or major city apparently had turnout of more than half the adult population --all too typical for us when our turnout hovers at 50% in our presidential elections

.... ongoing snafus involving election equipment and procedures that show we keep stumbling in our necessary effort to modernize elections --adding an element of uncertainty and likely controversy to the 2004 presidential race, particularly with rising protest against electronic equipment that lacks a paper trail

.... a surprising result in San Francisco, where Green Party candidate Matt Gonzalez, a strong advocate of instant runoff voting, made the runoff in a hotly contested mayoral race to succeed Willie Brown. The December runoff that should have been avoided this year by IRV, which voters approved in 2002, but IRV will have to wait until equipment is ready in 2004. On the third party front, Letitia James of the Working Families Party won by a big margin in a New York City council race.

....former Ohio governor Jack Gilligan, now 82, leading the field in his bid to be e-elected to the Cincinnati school board

.... an overwhelming rejection of Mayor Bloomberg's proposal for nonpartisan elections in New York City and an apparent rejection of single-member districts in Seattle

.... a smooth 26th city council election with the choice voting form of full representation in Cambridge (Mass.). Choice voting allows candidates to win one of nine seats with support from about 10% of voters. Once again, the elected council reflected the city's diversity.

Finally, Thursday, Nov. 6, I will appear on Baltimore Public Radio WYPR (88.1 FM) on the Marc Steiner show from noon to 1 pm. It is part of a special series of programs airing on public radio stations across the country on "Whose Democracy It It:" The Public Radio Collaboration is a nationwide coalition of public radio stations and producers, working together to create a national conversation about the health of American democracy. The Collaboration has prepared a week of special coverage on the air and online, Nov. 3-9. Check with your local station for more complete details or go to http://www.npr.org/news/specials/democracy/index.html

Thanks for reading!

Rob Richie, Executive Director
The Center for Voting & Democracy
info@fairvote.org, www.fairvote.org

6930 Carroll Avenue, Suite 610
Takoma Park, MD 20912
(301) 270-4616

"Make Your Vote Count!"