2004: FairVote's Year in Democracy


    FairVote-The Center for Voting and Democracy had an eventful year 2004. Below are some of the highlights, month by month.

  • FairVote's Rob Richie and Steven Hill publish Baltimore Sun op-ed on the right to vote - first of more than 25 FairVote op-eds published in 2004.

  • Five Pacifica radio stations in Berkeley, Houston, Los Angeles, New York City and Washington, D.C. use choice voting to elect listener boards. FairVote staffers and former staffers administer the elections.

  • Sacramento Bee editorializes in favor of full representation. A FairVote release shows few major democracies rely solely on winner-take-all voting.

  • Calif. Democratic Party adopts plank that supports consideration of IRV and full representation. Wash. State Democrats will pass similar plank in June.

  • In the midst of presidential primaries, major media outlets carry Richie-Hill op-eds on reforms for presidential nominations, including the Christian Science Monitor and Baltimore Sun. FairVote staff and Board are guests on many talk radio programs.

  • FairVote's chairman John Anderson writes op-ed on instant runoff voting (IRV) that appears nationally, including the Philadelphia Inquirer.

  • Wash. State House of Representatives passes bill to allow the city of Vancouver to implement IRV. Vancouver Columbian endorses IRV in editorial.

  • FairVote draws media coverage for Illinois project on IRV for primary elections. It conducts a poll that simulates IRV in primary and shows majority support for electing president with IRV.

  • Right to Vote Initiative program associate Andrew Kirshenbaum launches effort that secures the support of 45 US House co-sponsors for HJR 28, legislation for a constitutional right to vote.

  • Berkeley, CA votes 72%-28% to authorize IRV for city elections, with the backing of the mayor, city council and civic groups like the League of Women Voters. FairVote provides resources and advice.

  • Jesse Ventura's Minnesota Independence Party draws national media for using IRV in its caucuses, with a majority supporting John Edwards.

  • New Jersey Law Journal endorses IRV in editorial.

  • In a significant advance for IRV, FairVote's Steven Hill and Caleb Kleppner play central roles in securing certification for ES&S voting equipment for San Francisco's IRV elections. AccuPoll pledges to run IRV elections for free by 2005.

  • FairVote issues reports on non-majority winners, turnout in presidential primaries, and redistricting.

  • U-Minnesota studentsvote by three-to-one to adopt IRV. Dozens of colleges and high schools hold elections with IRV and/or full representation.

  • CSPAN covers Rob Richie's speech at news conference seeking citizen-run presidential debates.?

  • David Moon joins FairVote as program director. He appears on CNN to discuss voter registration.

  • FairVote's Rob Richie and John Anderson argue for full representation in Legal Times analysis after Supreme Court upholds Pennsylvania gerrymander. Other FairVote writings run in newspapers such as Washington Post and San Diego Union Tribune. Washington Post columnist William Raspberry advocates choice voting and features FairVote.

  • Amarillo is the largest of many Texas jurisdictions to use full representation for local school boards. A candidate of color again wins, as true in all three of Amarillo's cumulative voting elections after all-white school boards under winner-take-all. A study shows only 1% of voters cast invalid ballots.

  • More than 3,500 Utah Republicans use IRV at their state convention to nominate congressional candidates and party officers and to narrow the gubernatorial field to two finalists. The Provo Daily Herald recommends using IRV for public elections.

  • Maine's governor signs into law a bill requiring a study of the feasibility of IRV in Maine. FairVote submits detailed analysis to commission directors.

  • FairVote's nine summer interns help conduct IRV and choice voting elections at several events, including League of Women Voters conference.

  • FairVote helps online IRV elections for The Nation and Alternet, handling more than 10,000 ballots.

  • North Dakotans reject constitutional amendment to lift requirement that corporations use cumulative voting.  South Korea and Russia act to require cumulative voting for their corporate boards. FairVote issues report on corporate elections.

  • London elects mayorby IRV and city council by full representation. Scotland decides to elect all city councils with choice voting form of full representation. Papua New Guinea holds a very successful IRV election for national seats.

  • A FairVote analysis based on its Monopoly Politics report predicts where women may gain or lose seats in House elections. It proves highly accurate.

  • Presidential candidates David Cobb (Green), Ralph Nader (independent) and Michael Badnarik (Libertarian) all tout IRV and full representation.


  • FairVote board member and New Yorker writer Hendrik Hertzberg's new book Politics: Observations and Arguments draws strong reviews. It highlights the case for representation and IRV.

  • Washington Post publishes op-ed defending full representation in Iraq. Both Iraq and Afghanistan will use full rep. systems to elect their legislatures.

  • FairVote's Rob Richie speaks on behalf of an initiative drive for IRV in Seattle and Olympia, Washington. The Olympian profiles the kickoff.

  • FairVote's Rob Richie and Steven Hill advocate IRV in the Nation and publish op-eds supporting direct election of president and IRV. Contributors to a Nation collection about the Democratic platform call for full representation, (Lani Guinier), IRV ("Granny D" Haddock) and a constitutional right to vote (FairVote board member Jamin Raskin).

  • FairVote holds well-attended events in Boston and Cambridge on the right to vote and choice voting with Jesse Jackson, Reps. Jesse Jackson Jr. and Dennis Kucinich, scholars Lani Guinier, Pippa Norris, Alex Keyssar and Ben Barber and writers Bob Kuttner, John Nichols and Rick Hertzberg.

  • Portland Oregonian cites FairVote in editorial advocating IRV and full representation.

  • Howard Dean's weekly column calls for IRV in presidential primaries. Dean backed IRV for general elections during his presidential campaign.

  • FairVote's Rob Richie publishes a chapter with Steven Hill on full representation in Steps Toward Making Every Vote Count and writes three journal articles: on IRV for Election Law Journal and on full representation and building a democracy movement in the National Civic Review.

  • FairVote's Rob Richie co-moderates C-SPAN debate among third party presidential candidates.

  • Los Angeles Timesruns news article "SF Takes the Lead in New Voting Method" During the fall news stories about IRV in San Francisco appear in the New York Times ("New Runoff System has Rival Candidates Cooperating"), Washington Post ("For voters, choice is as easy as 1,2,3") and NPR.

  • FairVote's groundbreaking analysis of House elections is cited regularly in articles like Seattle Times' "Races for Congress are more like strolls."

  • The New York Timescalls for direct election of the president and runs editorials calling for stronger and better national voting standards. FairVote is one of the editorial staff's regular sources of information.

  • Hopkins (MN) forms task force to study fair election methods like IRV and choice voting. Earlier, in year, the Minnesota state senate voted to allow Roseville to use IRV in a special election.

  • FairVote's Election Data Project documents rising lack of competitiveness in state legislative elections.

  • Krist Novoselic, founding member of Nirvana and new FairVote board member, writes Of Grunge & Government:  Let's Fix This Broken Democracy.  During his national book tour Novoselic speaks on CSPAN and at ten FairVote house parties

  • The outgoing African-American member of the Shelby County commission (AL) calls for cumulative voting to maintain fair representation.

  • Wilmington Star News backs IRV for NC primaries.

  • After intensive study a British Columbia Citizens' Assembly on Electoral Reform overwhelmingly votes to place choice voting on the 2005 ballot.

  • Congressman Jesse Jackson introduces two new bills to require IRV for all federal officesand to elect the president directly by majority vote.

  • FairVote Board member Malia Lazu is a finalist in Showtime's reality TV show to select a presidential candidate. Fellow FairVote board member Rashad Robinson is her campaign manager.

  • Washington Postcolumnist William Raspberry quotes Rob Richie in advocating IRV for president.

  • FairVote releases analysis of state legislative races showing a rise in the percentage of uncontested races to nearly two out of every five seats.

  • Rob Richie speaks at Princeton and Duke. During year he speaks at other schools like Harvard Law.

  • FairVote staffers appear on dozens of TV and radio programs on elections, including on CNN and twice on national To the Point on NPR.

  • John Anderson's commentary recommending IRV and full representation runs in the Chicago Tribune. Two new commentaries by Rob Richie and Steven Hill run in several dailies and websites.

  • On Election Day the Harvard Crimson comes out in favor of direct election of the president with IRV.

  • San Francisco holds highly successful IRV election for seven city council seats.

  • IRV wins by two-to-one in Burlington (VT) and Ferndale (MI). FairVote assists advocates in both cities, and outlook is bright for IRV adoption. IRV also wins big in advisory vote in Mass. district.

  • Washington Posteditorial cites FairVote's election analysis, and Rob Richie's views on reform are quoted in columns by the Washington Post's David Broder and the New York Times' Nicholas Kristof.

  • FairVote's board adds nine excellent new board members, all bringing great assets to organization.

  • David Moon and Rob Richie write commentary that runs in several publications on how to fix electoral problems in the 2004 presidential elections.

  • Steven Hill publishes timely San Diego op-ed advocating IRV for future mayoral elections.

  • Exit poll on IRVcommissioned by San Francisco finds only 13% want to return runoff elections. A FairVote analysis affirms value of going to IRV.

  • Rob Richie submits written testimony on how electoral problems experienced by voters in Ohio illustrate the case for its Right to Vote Initiative's common sense reforms to secure the right to vote.

  • FairVote is accepted as a new member of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, the nation's oldest Civil Rights coalition.

  • Ryan O'Donnell is hired as FairVote's communications director. FairVote's new website is scheduled for launch in early January 2005.

  • The Political Empowerment Program schedule several workshops in North Carolina that focus on the case for full representation and IRV.

FairVote mourns the passing in January of former Board member Wilma Rule, who pursued groundbreaking research on how full representation elects more women.

FairVote Executive Director Rob Richie's letter to members in December 2004

Dear Friends and Supporters of Fair Elections,

    I am writing today to thank you for your past financial support of our Center and to ask you to make a year-end gift. Let me tell you a few reasons why your ongoing support is so important - and timely.

    2005 brings changes in our organization, which we believe will greatly aid its success. Let me start by explaining our new name. For years our website has been www.fairvote.org. We will shortly unveil a much-improved site, and in the course of its planning, we realized "FairVote" conveys clearly what we believe and seek. We are now FairVote-The Center for Voting and Democracy.

    In the 12 years that I've had the honor to direct FairVote, we've made serious advances, while uncovering the depth and range of shortcomings in our democracy. We've taken our signature proposals of instant runoff voting and full ("proportional") representation and made them enduring parts of the reform landscape. Far more Americans understand, appreciate and directly benefit from them. We've gained allies in the media, legislatures and organizations, translating into Op-Eds, coalitions, and legislation. All the while, we've developed methods to effectively pursue our reforms.

    This year's advances may have been the most important yet. We are on the edge of a new reform era that will propel us into a whole different level of achievement. I trust we can count on your donation as we seize these opportunities. Let me touch on the highlights of 2004 before discussing our plans for 2005.

2004 in Review: The National Elections and San Francisco's Beacon of Hope

    This year was a passionate one in American politics, with the presidential race inspiring the highest rate of participation since 1968. But that welcome rise in turnout still leaves us far behind international norms, and its limited impact points towards what is a far more important goal: the vigorous, trustworthy representative democracy that we deserve, and the times demand.

    First, the good news. The kickoff for instant runoff voting (IRV) in San Francisco was inspiring. Seven city council seats were successfully elected by IRV. In a city as diverse as any in the nation and with a history of troubled elections, the voting surpassed all our expectations. Exit polls show that voters agreed. Huge majorities across racial and ethnic lines understood and appreciated IRV, while only 13% wanted to go back to the old two-round runoff system. Next year's IRV elections will further strengthen the system.

    None of this could have happened without FairVote's San Francisco team. We were there every step of the way. As a result, we now have a working model that shows the nation what an incredibly liberating impact IRV can have on our politics, while it addresses practical problems such as the costs and burdens of using a two-round runoff system instead of one smooth, efficient election.

    More and more people appreciate the politics of hope that IRV inspires. Perhaps just as encouraging as San Francisco's success was the fact that IRV won by huge two-to-one margins in all three cities where it was on the ballot - and by even bigger margins at universities like the University of Minnesota. Voters in Berkeley (CA), Burlington (VT) and Ferndale (MI) all sent messages to their elected leaders that should lead them to implement IRV in the near future.

    The promise of IRV brings us to a discussion of the presidential race. For many, the choice was stark and meaningful, yet still the debate fell far short of what we would like to see. As a former Congressman and presidential candidate, our chairman John Anderson brings particular insight to this issue. In one of his sterling commentaries this year, John wrote "As the world's major superpower we have a special obligation to debate fully our policy choices- whether it be the Middle East, global warming, immigration, or free trade. But we fall far short due to tactical calculations by major candidates striving to be all things to half the people."

    The problem is winner-take-all - and with it the calculation that any issue lacking majority support or at least majority tolerance is not ready for prime time. Most democracies do not have that problem because they have majority requirements for executives and full representation for legislatures. The concept of "spoiler" is not a part of their politics, their debate is far richer, and the potential for ideas to be articulated, considered and either accepted or rejected is far greater. We may glimpse that richness in the early presidential primaries or in occasional CSPAN third party debates, but almost never by the time of general elections when most are watching,

    We certainly don't see it in congressional elections, which I better termed "coronations" in the Los Angeles Times this year. In our 2002 Monopoly Politics report we projected landslide wins in 211 U.S. House seats in the upcoming 2004 elections. Confirming our predications, this November, all but one of those seats was won by at least 20%. Overall, only three incumbents lost outside of Texas. The four Texan incumbent losses tell another story: how brazen power grabs like the Texas "re-gerrymandering" of 2003 can pay off when voters have such limited choice.

    We should not tolerate this deficit of democracy. We have plans that I firmly believe will educate and inspire millions to reclaim democracy, both locally and nationally. With new board members, a dedicated staff, and new program areas that encompass key substantive reforms like IRV, full representation, and a constitutionally protected right to vote along with our plans to facilitate a powerful pro-democracy network, I'm highly optimistic. But we need your support more than ever. On behalf of the FairVote team, all our best to you for the holidays.

Sincerely yours,

Rob Richie's Signature

Rob Richie
Executive Director