E-Newsletter January 31, 2011

Released November 2, 2010


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The FairVote Reformer: January 31, 2011


January 31, 2011
Newsletter Features

Oscars for best election methods goes to IRV and choice voting

IRV on the ballot in Colorado and UK

National Popular Vote moving in 2011 -- and for Good Reason

Time for a Right to Vote in Constitution

Get ready for redistricting -- and time for proportional voting

Race to the Top -- for Civics



Rob Richie,
Executive Director


Oscar for Best Election Method goes to IRV

For the 83rd Academy Awards, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences will again use instant runoff voting to select the winner of its most prestigtious prize: the Oscar for Best Picture. The Academy has a long history of using innovative voting systems: For more than a half century, nominations have been selected with the choice voting method of proportional voting that FairVote recommends for legislative elections.

Nominations the Academy Awards were announced on Monday, January 24, setting off a brief flurry of press discussion of the choice voting system used to select nominees. Slate.com's Timothy Noah, who covered the nominations process in 2001, published an interesting piece explaining how proportional voting encourages diversity. FairVote spotlighted the issue on OscarVotes123.com, offering an explanation of the system and highlighting the numerous benefits of proportional representation.

Instant runoff voting, which was introduced in the Best Picture category last year, has again attracted significant press attention as Oscar season heats up. Nate Silver, the famed election forecaster who rose to prominence with FiveThirtyEight.com, produced a fascinating analysis in which he explains IRV and shows who would win Best Picture if the nation's critics were the voters.

FairVote has launched OscarVotes123, a blog dedicated to explaining the Oscar voting process and providing timely news and analysis, including commentary from FairVote board chair Krist Novoselic. The blog will be very active this Oscar season, with interactive features including an online Best Picture poll using IRV for users to weigh in on the contest


IRV on the Ballot in Colorado and the UK

IRV continues to move closer to implementation through a national referendum in the United Kingdom and a ballot measure in Fort Collins, CO.

The National Popular Vote plan for president made key advances. It was signed into law by the governor of Massachusetts, approved in Washington, D.C. and won overwhelming bipartisan vote of support in the New York State Senate. States enacting it now have a quarter of the electoral votes necessary to have the agreement govern the next election, with more wins expected in the coming year. FairVote's Rob Richie wrote for Huffington Post on the victory inWashington, D.C. and for Yes Magazine on the win in Massachusetts. The media took note, with extensive coverage from major outlets like CNN, Fox, NPR, MSNBC, Politico and the New York Times. The League of Women Voters backed NPV at its biennial convention in Atlanta, with state Leagues now starting to get active around the country.

Instant Runoff Voting (ranked choice voting) is having a remarkable year. Today it's on the ballot for adoption in Maine's largest city (Portland) and Tennessee's largest county (Shelby) as part of broader charter amendment proposals. Election officials in North Carolina and Alameda County (CA) have done terrific work implementing IRV in major elections-- see their voter education materials for North Carolina and Alameda County. FairVote has updated NC Votes 123.com to provideresources on instant runoff voting in North Carolina as it prepares for the first-ever statewide general election with IRV, and three county-level races.

The New York City Charter Revision Commission’s final report (pp. 69-71) recommends IRV for future consideration, as called for by the city’s former Public Advocate Mark Green, and a broad coalition of Los Angeles political leaders and civic groups seek to put IRV on the March 2011 ballot along with a broader "Voters Bill of Rights." In California, a federal judge dismissed a lawsuit brought against IRV in San Francisco with a well-argued opinion. Overseas, IRV elected candidates initially in second place in first choice rankings in last month's mayoral election in New Zealand's capital city of Wellingtonand in the British Labor Party's leadership election. Australia has used IRV for its House of Representatives elections, including this year, and the United Kingdom likely will have a national referendum on adopting it in May 2011 -- the Yes campaign is already mobilized, and The Guardian and Financial Times have editorialized on its behalf.

In Septembver Delaware govedrnor Jack Markell signed into law a bill establishing another of our signature reform proposals: allowing 16-year-olds to pre-register to vote. Delaware joins Maryland, North Carolina, Rhode Island and Washington, D.C. in adopting it in the past 16 months, with California establishing 17-year-old pre-registration. This law has boosted youth registration in other states  -- and is a baseline change for the goal of ensuring every young citizen is registered and introduced to voting as they reach voting age.  

Redistricting reform is on the ballot today in Florida and California. Stayed tuned for much more on this topic during the coming year at EndGerrymandering.com.

FairVote Research, Resources and Analysis

FairVote bloggers have been exceptionally busy. Browsing through our blog's thumbnail descriptions shows the diversity of thought and subject matter that makes FairVote.org a rich resource for thinking big about elections and democracy. A special thanks to the more than dozen volunteer interns who have worked so hard for us this year, along with our Democracy Fellows Emily Hellman, Jo McKeegan and Toby Rowe and senior staffers Rob Richie and Amy Ngai. Here are highlights of new blogs and reports.

In the wake of hundreds of thousands of Americans coming to Washington for rallies organized by Glenn Beck and Jon Stewart, FairVote Chairman Krist Novoselic wrote about reform and new forms of association in the 21st century.

Jo McKeegan as launched a series of blogs on how we need to establish an affirmative right to vote in the Constitution, including lessons from Election Day 2010. Tom Sanchez also made a compelling case for a constitutional right to vote, while Rebecca Guterman explained how we could  celebrate Constitution Day with more youth education on voting.

Chris Marchsteiner has done a remarkable weekly series from the non-majority rule desk on the numerous races for U.S. Senate and governor likely to be won with less than 50% -- and on the partisan trickery sparked by such outcomes being possible. Earlier in the year, Cathy Le provided similar analyses of non-majority results in primaries.

Patrick Withers and Rob Richie collaborated on a major report on California's Top Two system and ways to improve it. Toby Rowe has been a regular resource to journalists, community leaders and candidates who have questions about ranked choice voting (e.g, IRV) in Alameda County in their hotly contested mayoral and city council elections with IRV in Oakland, Berkeley and San Leandro. Amy Ngai reviews this fall's ranked choice voting media coverage.

Neal Suidan and Elston He released and presented comprehensive data on where presidential candidates raised moneyin 2008 -- and how so often they then spend it on the relatively few voters who live in swing states.

Brian Bennett and Patrick Withers both contributed several blogs and reports on redistricting reform, including a review of state legislation on redistricting in 2009-2010, current federal legislation and this November's ballot measures in Florida and California. Withers also explained how to get outside the single-member box with proportional voting systems.

Wael Abdel Hamid examined the pro's and con's of mandatory voting, while Loqmane Jamil and Emily Hellman explained how to ways to get information about our elections. Andy Andrianantoandro reviewed Brazil's elections this fall and will be tracking international elections in the coming months.

Alec Slatky did a series of excellent posts and articles on instant runoff voting and single winner reform, including explaining why the Condorcet criterion needs to kept in perspective. Jules LeConte's contributions included a fascinating analysis of mayoral elections in Paris, with an Electoral College-type system that, as with American elections for president, leads to distortions in outcomes and how candidates campaign.

And... don't forget. FairVote does rely on individual donations to do our work. Thank you.