2014 Year End Letter
November 17, 2014
Dear FairVote Supporter,
As dawn broke on Election Day, millions of Americans awoke and made plans to exercise that most fundamental civic duty: the right to vote. Across the nation, campaign volunteers engaged their neighbors. Dedicated poll workers began their long day. By midnight, votes were cast and mostly counted. Results came pouring in, electing leaders to serve their community and country.
The promise of American democracy is so important. But we are falling short.
Americans are losing faith in government mired in gridlock, yet also fear giving power to one party. Only 36% of eligible voters participated, the lowest since 1942. Turnout hit all-time lows in more than half of state primaries. A growing number of cities experience single digit turnout.
In legislative districts, partisan majorities control almost every outcome, making a mockery of voter choice. Of our 368 projected winners in House elections, 367 won - and we’ve already announced the 2016 winners in 373 of 435 seats. More than two in five state legislators won without an opponent. Independents and new parties were smothered under a winner-take-all blanket, women in state legislatures declined, and racial minorities remain under-represented.
But FairVote is not about despair. We are about hope.
Change in America bubbles up from below, and we’re making exciting progress. Powered by new grants and a surge of donors responding to our First Million call, our talented young staff is getting under the hood of our democracy, learning how to fix it and forging partnerships to win our core reforms: fair voting forms of proportional representation for Congress and legislatures; ranked choice voting (RCV, or “instant runoff”); the National Popular Vote plan for president; and a local movement to promote the right to vote and put it in the Constitution.
We have much to be thankful for in 2014.
We are thrilled to see the results of years of engagement in Maine. For the ninth time in 11 elections for governor, “spoiler” talk filled the air. No one won a majority, as was true in 10 elections for governor in 2014. A volunteer-run effort to put ranked choice voting on the ballot covered scores of Maine precincts just days after the state approved the initiative. They collected more than half of the signatures necessary for Mainers to become the first state to enact RCV to elect their state and congressional leaders. A 2016 statewide vote a near-certainty.
Four cities in California held RCV elections. Working with the support of a grant we secured to study RCV’s impact in 2013 and 2014, a team of scholars is showing just how powerful RCV is as a reform. With FairVote helping with media and voter education, nearly nine in ten Oakland voters ranked multiple candidate in electing a new mayor, who won after a campaign widely hailed as civil and substantive. Women won eight of ten open seats and people of color did well, underscoring how RCV opens doors to new voices while expanding voter choices.
The National Popular Vote plan for presidential elections had another big win. With overwhelming support from both major parties, victory in New York brought the plan more than 60 percent of the way to enactment, It also gained elsewhere, including passage in the heavily Republican Oklahoma state senate. FairVote provides ongoing research and educational assistance, including a string of published commentary. Stay tuned for more wins in 2015.
Our call for establishing a constitutional right to vote amendment (see PromoteOurVote.com) through local action won new support. Battles over voting access in states show the value of an amendment, and resolutions to support it and commit to action won in cities like North Miami, Cincinnati and Pittsburgh. Our home county’s resolution led to a voter turnout task that made more than 50 great recommendations for pro-participation changes. Our home city implemented several pro-turnout reforms, including ensuring candidates can talk to residents of apartment buildings and lowering the voting age to enfranchise young adults before they leave home. More newly enfranchised teens (including Rob’s son!) voted than all 18-to-30-year-olds.
We have a terrific new online resource on how to spur participation and provide fair representation in our new Policy Guide 2015, with dozens of policy briefs and model statutes.
To advance minority voting rights, three California jurisdictions have adopted fair representation voting systems as alternatives to winner-take-all. FairVote’s amicus brief, crafted with the pro bono help of Hogan Lovells, created the intellectual foundation for these wins, and our amicus and outreach in Yakima (WA) contributed to city leaders embracing fair representation for future elections. We’re also thrilled with the impact of our Representation 2020 project to elect more women. Its State of Women’s Representation 2014 report was well-received by women’s leaders now looking at structural solutions like fair representation voting.
This bring us to FairVote’s driving principle: fair representation for all. We’re creating a whole new conversation about replacing winner-take-all elections for Congress with fair representation elections. In the expect news of congressional legislation to establish fair representation voting systems in all states. Key thought leaders and groups are backing reform, as it becomes increasingly clear that there is simply no other way forward to a Congress that is representative, accountable and functioning as our founders intended.
We need representative democracy to be, well, representative. When those millions of voters go to the polls, they should have elections with real debate, real engagement, and a true spectrum of choices. Most fundamentally, their vote should count toward a voice in government.
We are so thankful for the generosity and loyalty of you and all of our supporters. This year, we ask you to consider an annual donation that matches or exceeds your previous gifts. The need for our reform vision couldn’t be clearer – and yes, we have reason to hope!
Krist Novoselic Rob Richie
Chair Executive Director