Policy Guide 2016
FairVote's Policy Guide 2016 includes one page policy briefs for dozens of key proposals, along with resources for each, including model statutory language, sample letters of support, and more. These proposals represent the cutting edge in reforms for expanding suffrage, enhancing voter access, and protecting the right to a meaningful vote at all levels of government.
Below are three tables, covering three categories of recommended reforms: those that expand suffrage and access, those that promote integrity and transparency in election administration, and those that enhance the democratic process. The columns include links to the single page policy brief, its corresponding statutory language (or link to similar language drafted by others), and the level of policymaking addressed, whether federal, state, local or internal to political party processes.
If you have any questions or comments relating to FairVote's Policy Guide 2016, please contact our senior staff attorney Drew Spencer at dspencer [at] fairvote [dot] org or (301) 270-4616.
Index of FairVote Policy Proposals
Expand Suffrage and Access
These proposals help make more voters able to register to vote, ensuring that the pool of voters does not exclude anyone unfairly.
State and political party policy. If a voter will be eligible to vote in the general election, they should be able to vote in the primary or caucus that will nominate candidates to be on their ballots. An increasing number of states and political parties have therefore extended voting rights in primaries and caucuses to 17-year-olds who will be 18 by the date of the next general election.
State and local policy. It is easy for high schools - that already have their students' information - to ensure that all of their students are preregistered for voting. That way, more prospective voters are registered as soon as they become eligible to vote.
State policy. Automatic voter registration is the norm in many modern democracies. Rather than forbidding eligible voters from voting until they "opt-in" by registering, eligible voters should be able to vote by default, with the ability to opt-out if they choose to.
State and federal policy. Federal and state law should mandate that our most important Election Days be observed as holidays. That way, people would be more able to vote at any time of day, not just before or after work.
State and local policy. Localities can expand voting and enhance civic engagement for all citizens by joining the practice of several nations and other jurisdictions in enfranchising otherwise-eligible voters when they turn 16.
State policy. Otherwise-eligible voters should be able to pre-register to vote before they reach voting age. That way they can will automatically be able to vote as soon as they become eligible.
State policy. It should be easy for people with felony convictions to reintegrate into lawful society once they have completed their sentences. States can facilitate this process by simplifying the process of voting rights restoration and voter registration for people with felony convictions.
Promote Integrity and Transparency in Election Administration
These proposals will ensure that the voting experience is easy for voters, and will inspire confidence in the results.
State policy. Risk-limiting post-election audits allow voters to be confident in the accuracy of election results. When done well, they can be easy to administer, requiring variable levels of auditing depending on how close the election margins are, up to a full recount in the closest elections.
State and local policy. Military and overseas voters can participate in an election and its corresponding runoff at once, preventing them from being disenfranchised when two elections do not allow sufficient time for ballots to be mailed and returned.
State policy. By the time military voters have received, filled out, and mailed back their ballots in presidential nominating contests, one or more candidates may have dropped out of the race. By allowing them to use ranked ballots, they can ensure that their vote will count for their favorite candidate that is still in the running.
State, local and federal policy. Voters can be inadvertently disenfranchised by incorrectly filling out a confusing ballot. Ballot designs should be tested to ensure that they are usable in advance of their implementation.
Enhance the Democratic Process
These proposals promote democratic values by making elections more inclusive, informing and engaging voters, and better electing candidates who will best reflect their constituents.
Federal policy. The right to vote is the foundation of democracy, yet the U.S. Constitution contains no explicit right to vote. The Constitution should be amended to explicitly grant the affirmative right to vote to every citizen of voting age.
State and federal policy. Voters are denied meaningful choices when the candidates they prefer most are kept off of the ballot entirely. States should pass commonsense ballot access requirements for all candidates at every stage of the election.
State and local policy. Students who are given a thorough civics education are more likely to become active participants in the democratic process. Surveys show that students who participate in civics education are more likely to show an interest in politics.
State and local policy. The best way for students to understand how their elected officials pass laws is to participate in a mock legislative session.
State policy. Districts Plus couples the election of state legislators from districts with additional "accountability seats" to ensure that when most voters favor candidates of one political party, that is the party that actually wins the most seats overall.
State and local policy. Voters are more likely to participate in non-partisan races in an informed way when their ballots state not only the candidates' names, but also information about those candidates' views and associations.
State and political party policy. The ability of states to decide their own schedules in presidential nominating contests leads to earlier and earlier primary and caucus dates and a lack of rational structure in the nomination process. States can work with parties to establish a more sensible plan for presidential candidate nominations based on randomized, rotating primary and caucus dates.
Local policy. Cities can have fair and representative elections in at-large contests by using ranked choice voting. Ranked choice voting allows nearly all voters to elect a candidate of choice while empowering them to honestly rank candidates in order of preference.
State policy. States generally regulate how counties and cities conduct elections, and they can test the usability of ranked choice voting in multi-seat contests by enacting pilot programs empowering localities to adopt ranked choice voting if they choose to.
State policy. States can protect minority voting rights and keep cases in state court by passing their own state Voting Rights Acts that allow lawsuits against places that dilute the votes of racial minority populations.
State and local policy. Places that want to open primary elections to all voters can do so without closing off their general elections to meaningful competition. They can do so by using an all-partisan preliminary election that advances four candidates to the general election and conducts that general election by ranked choice voting.