It’s that time of the year again… I greatly appreciate the loyalty of so many of our donors and write to ask you to consider a year-end donation to FairVote. I look forward to 2007 with great anticipation and can say without hesitation that 2006 was our most effective year ever in our quest to move the United States toward “the way democracy will be.” Here are a few highlights:
Instant runoff voting: As described in the [online brochure] on this year’s major victories, IRV had a remarkable year. This November, three major jurisdictions with a combined total of nearly 1.6 million people voted to replace two rounds of voting with one efficient IRV election, winning with an average of more than 62%; all three campaigns won the endorsement of the leading local newspaper and active involvement of the League of Women Voters, and our board members and I were able to raise more than $150,000 to help them pass. Meanwhile, North Carolina’s governor in August signed legislation to allow up to 20 cities and counties to use IRV as a pilot project in 2007-2008 and to implement IRV for future vacancy elections for judicial offices, including some that would be statewide elections; I was just down in the state for a presentation to some 200 state and local election officials, and I suspect we will have at least five cities using IRV in 2007 and 10 counties in 2008.
FairVote helped with voter education in the first IRV elections for mayor in Burlington (VT) in March, where the election ran smoothly and well – boosting a bill to implement IRV for statewide elections in 2008. Several more cities are likely to vote on IRV in 2007, and states with viable statewide efforts in the next three years include Vermont, Minnesota, Washington and Maine – with more lurking depending on local victories and effective advocacy. Support is growing among key constituencies. In September, for example, the National Latino Congreso voted to endorse IRV after hearing my plenary session presentation about electoral reform.
Proportional voting: When Minneapolis voted 65% for IRV for major offices, it also adopted the choice voting form of proportional voting for lower-level offices like park board – marking the first ballot measure win for choice voting in the United States in half a century. Meanwhile, voters in Davis (CA) voted 55% for a measure asking the council to adopt choice voting for its elections. This year we also joined with the Arizona League of Women Voters in releasing a CD-Rom [available online] with a comprehensive collection of information and multi-media on proportional voting, filed an amicus brief with California Common Cause in support of proportional voting and produced several timely reports about the role of proportional voting in international elections.
Universal voter registration: Our nation’s 72% rate of voter registration contrasts sharply with international norms of more than 95%. The key reason for this difference is that most nations automatically register citizens to vote when they become eligible. In service of the goal of universal voter registration and more accurate voter rolls, FairVote’ has made several policy proposals. Recently backed with a significant grant from a major foundation that will allow us to hire a project director, our 100% Registration and Education Project researches and promotes state, local and school-based policies designed to ensure that young people are systematically registered to vote and educated about voting in their communities. We suggest enabling “advance registration” of 16-year-olds to facilitate school programs on voter registration and education.
In April, the New York Times published a commentary touting the proposal by our chair John Anderson and then-Election Assistance Commission vice-chairman Ray Martinez, now co-chairs of our project in support of 100% youth registration. The Rhode Island house and senate in June passed a FairVote-drafted bill to lower the age when voters can register to 16 as a first step toward more comprehensive policy; in April John Anderson and I spoke at a news conference in Providence with state backers that received radio, television and print coverage.
A national popular vote for president: FairVote helped launch the National Popular Vote campaign in February – one that has exciting potential to reform an increasingly dysfunctional Electoral College system and that shows how FairVote identifies and advances innovative strategies to support the principle that all of us should be able to cast equally secure and meaningful votes in elections. We also released our report Presidential Election Inequality (FairVote’s highest quality report ever, I would say, and one we can mail you, if interested) and Every Vote Equal, a comprehensive new book about the proposal that I co-authored.
The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, and Chicago Sun Times are among those endorsing the plan. FairVote's role has been profiled in publications like the Seattle Time and the American Prospect, and our writings about it have run in the San Jose Mercury News, Sacramento Bee, Chicago Tribune and Tompaine.com. I led well-attended sessions about the plan at a meeting of the National Conference of State Legislatures and the national convention of the League of Women Voters, while we presented a short course on the plan at the American Political Science Association’s August convention. Looking to 2007, legislators have committed to introducing the proposal in all 50 states in 2007, with at least ten having a real chance of going to the governor’s desk in 2007-08. Our particular advocacy focus will be our home state of Maryland.
Strengthening FairVote: We have a terrific, highly committed staff and a strong and effective Board of Directors. We have to be thrifty – our budget was just over $500,000 this year, including less than $300,000 for all staff, consultants and interns (we have dozens every year) – but we continue to identify new sources of support, including nearly $400,000 in individual contributions in 2006 from across the nation. In 2007 we will be among the groups backed by the Working Assets long distance phone company, for example, and more foundations are taking notice of the power of our ideas and effectiveness of our strategies. I believe our recent annual report [available online] is the best description of who we are and what we do to date.
Please contact me (rr(AT)fairvote.org or 301-270-4616) if you have any questions about national, state or local developments. And yes, we definitely depend on your support. Thank you!
All the best for the New Year,
P.S. Please see our suggestions for state legislative action [online].