FairVote e-News
In times demanding a vibrant, responsive democracy, our elections fall far short of their promise. To transform our elections, FairVote acts to secure elections with full access to participation, meaningful choices and governments grounded in majority rule and fair representation. We are both an innovative idea factory and reform catalyst that sparks and supports change.

Here are the year’s highlights, followed by more detailed program reports. In 2007, we:
  • spearheaded the first state win for the National Popular Vote plan and helped expose competing Electoral College reform proposals as powergrabs;
  • appeared on NPR’s All Things Considered to support the American Plan for presidential primaries;
  • provided key backing for instant runoff voting in ballot measure wins, passage for congressional elections in the Vermont’s senate and effective implementation in new cities;
  • won support for our innovative policies on voting such as advance voter registration, universal voter education and elections for U.S. Senate vacancies;
  • contributed to legal victories for proportional voting based on the federal and state Voting Rights Act;
  • organized the Claim Democracy conference that brought together hundreds of national, state and local reformers in a growing democracy movement;
  • expanded our highly effective staff with new national positions and staff in Vermont, Rhode Island and North Carolina, boosted by 31 volunteer interns.

IRV America

Instant runoff voting (IRV) accommodates increased voter choice. When more than two candidates run., the candidate with the most votes can win despite being opposed by most voters. This discourages candidacies, suppresses new ideas and establishes a zero-sum politics that encourages negative attacks. Traditional runoffs seek to ensure majority winners, but require candidates to raise more money, cost millions and hurt voter turnout.

IRV is a win-win solution that elects candidates with majority support and encourages candidates to reach out to more people – all in one trip to the polls. We’ve helped lead IRV to victory in 12 of its last 13 ballot measures and had a highly successful year in 2007.
  • Vermont’s senate approved using IRV for congressional elections in 2008. We work closely with state allies preparing for a 2008 house vote.
  • After our 2006 sweep in Minneapolis (MN), Pierce County (WA) and Oakland (CA), IRV won this year in Sarasota (FL), Aspen (CO) and in Pierce County with an average of 74%. We worked closely with the campaigns and spent $35,000 on their behalf.
  • North Carolina’s Cary and Hendersonville used IRV for the first time as part of a statewide pilot. Our in-state staff helped with their smooth transition to IRV, and we expect more North Carolina wins in the coming year.
  • Our home city of Takoma Park had its first IRV election. Fully 88% of voters supported IRV – a level of support consistent with surveys in every city implementing IRV.
  • Arkansas passed a law extending use of ranked ballots to all overseas voters in runoffs, a proposal that passed one house in California and Illinois.
  • IRV gained new editorial, including a ringing endorsement from USA Today, an eloquent call for IRV by former Congressman John Porter (R-IL) in the Brookings Institution’s Opportunity ’08 and official support from the Florida League of Women Voters, the sixth state league to endorse IRV.

Presidential Elections Reform Program

Our Presidential Elections Reform Program works to ensure that everyone’s vote is equal when electing our one national office. Our current system shreds the principles of equality and majority rule. Popular vote losers can win and campaigns ignore two-thirds of the Americans. Led by Ryan O’Donnell, our program had a highly successful year in advocacy and public education.

Right to Vote Initiative

Our Right to Vote Initiative is guided by our vision of establishing an affirmative constitutional right to vote and statutory advances in its spirit. Rather than basing policy on not expecting voter participation, we seek a paradigm shift to policies that anticipate and embrace it.
  • Guided by Adam Fogel, our Youth Voter Registration and Civic Education Project made great headway in promoting policies to have all young Americans register to vote and learn about voting rules and reform debates before turning 18. We expect big wins in Rhode Island and Maryland in the coming year, with national change not far behind.
  • Our initiative generates winning policy ideas, ranging from producing state-financed voter guides to states committing to fill U.S. Senate vacancies by election rather than by gubernatorial appointment. We secured start-up funding for our Democracy SoS project to bring transparency and media attention to election officials, particularly the office of the Secretary of State. We did valuable research and coalition-building on projects to secure voting rights for young people, overseas voters and Americans living in Washington, D.C. and U.S. territories.

Program for Representative Government

FairVote’s Program for Representative Government seeks to replace our divisive, unrepresentative elections. Winner-take-all elections divide rather than unite and award 100% of power to slim majorities elected by barely 20% of eligible voters. As used in a growing number of our cities and the world’s democracies, proportional voting allows more voters to win fair representation and gain the power to change government’s direction.

Under the leadership of David Moon, this year we focused on several program goals:

  • Legal victories: The federal Voting Rights Act provides opportunities to challenge winner-take-all elections. In one key example of our legal work, Native American plaintiffs in a voting rights case in Martin (SD) sought our advice before proposing proportional voting for city elections. If the judge’s order imposing the system is upheld, it will mark an historic breakthrough that could be widely replicated.
  • Research: Our Dubious Democracy and Monopoly Politics research continues to ground scholarly and media analysis of the unrepresentative, uncompetitive nature of congressional elections. We issued a series of national and local analyses of elections with proportional voting and provided ongoing analysis of redistricting reform; Our American Political Science Association convention booth hummed with interest.
  • Political advocacy: After 2006 ballot wins for choice voting in Minneapolis (MN) and Davis (CA), we worked with local advocates on moving toward implementation. I testified to a Colorado task force that endorsed proportional voting for pilot elections, and new Rhode Island staffer Ari Savitzky sparked a Providence proposal to adopt proportional voting.
  • Public education: We produced a series of educational products to increase understanding of proportional voting, including guides for charter commissions, students and voting rights advocates.
  • Innovative outreach: We developed on-line software to help colleges use proportional voting. We organized a trip with our British counterpart for 25 academics, election officials and local reformers to observe Scotland’s first elections with its cities using the choice voting method of proportional voting.

Looking forward: Our nation’s antiquated electoral laws leave too many voices out, depress participation and encourage elected leaders to put partisan gain over principle and fairness. But change is within our grasp.

With full funding of our program plans in 2008, I believe by 2012 we will have a national popular vote for president, instant runoff voting and universal voter registration in many states and a widely-discussed roadmap for replacing winner-take-all elections with proportional voting. Joined by a dedicated staff, committed board and countless volunteers, I await with anticipation what promises to be our best year yet.