The Center for Voting and Democracy
IRV Activist Kit -- everything
you need to promote instant runoff voting (IRV) in your community.
for IRV Organizers -- Access a PowerPoint presentation as well as
brochures outlining the instant runoff voting process and its benefits.
for Full Representation Organizers -- Download a PowerPoint
presentation and various brochures dealing with the logistics of full
representation methods and examples of how they are used in different
Guidelines -- View information on laws and
constitutional guidelines regarding the implementation of IRV and full
representation in your state.
This is an exciting time for the movement. The 2000
presidential election exposed the huge flaws in our antiquated voting system,
from the equipment we use to the lack of a majority rule requirement. The 2001
reapportionment and redistricting illuminates how politicians who draw the maps
decide who gets represented -- and who does not get represented -- when we use
winner-take-all elections. Good-government groups like the League of Women
Voters, USPIRG and Common Cause are taking up the issue of electoral reform more
than they ever have before. The political climate for electoral reform is
improving. About a dozen states have already introduced legislation on electoral
reform -- most of them on instant runoff voting but some on proportional
representation as well. There is a lot of action in cities as well.
Now we need your help. You can make a real difference in
this national effort. We've seen many times how one person, with slow and steady
work, can really implement change. Fortunately, you are not alone. The Center
for Voting and Democracy's national network of advocates is ready to assist and
help you build a stronger movement in your area. Let's get to work.
FORM A LOCAL GROUP
Three people in a room is all it takes to start a local
organization. But once you have a group, you can start to do great things. Tap
the skills of the people in the room. Maybe someone can put up a website. Launch
a letters to the editor campaign. Plan out an initiative. Lobby the legislature.
During an election, send out a candidate survey so you can make endorsements.
Put together a conference for regional activists and elected officials to push
for better electoral systems. These local groups help to make electoral reform
happen, and there's no way to start but to start. Don't worry about
incorporating or filing paperwork: an unincorporated association works best
especially when there's very little budget. The important thing is to start
divvying up tasks: one person puts up the site, one person sends out a postal
newsletter, one person sends out an email newsletter, one person is in charge of
state lobbying, one person is in charge of local lobbying, one person is in
charge of outreach to the existing groups, etc. Again, we are here to help.
Coordinate a letter-to-the-editor writing effort, a free
and effective outreach method. Build a coalition by contacting and giving
presentations to other civics groups in your area, including the League of Women
Voters, Sierra Club, Rotary, labor unions, Chamber of Commerce, etc. Remember
instant runoff voting and proportional representation are "good
government" reforms that can appeal to groups across the political
spectrum, and will have to, in order to pass.
We should be ambitious and, at the same time, pragmatic.
There are many victories that lead up to the ultimate shift to a better
electoral system. Here are some of them:
bill introduced in the state legislature or city council
bipartisan bill introduced in the state legislature or city council
hearing held on a bill in the state legislature or city council
letter to the editor published in a paper
local or state commission formed to look into electoral reform
of the bill from local groups, like the League of Women Voters
- 25 dues-paying
members of your local group
news article or op-ed on your bill or on your group
local election authority using voting machines that can handle ranked
city or county using instant runoff voting in special elections
GET INVOLVED WITH ANY GOVERNMENT COMMISSION OR STUDY OF
There are bound to be countless such special studies open
to citizen participation by civics groups like the League of Women Voters, as
well as city councils and state legislatures, as a result of the Florida fiasco.
You can grab a hold of these opportunities to insert a broader and deeper look
at the voting "system" that isn't restricted to a question of hanging
It is also very important to make sure that any new
equipment purchased by your state or county is compatible with ranked ballots.
It is hard to get instant runoff voting or proportional representation with bad
equipment, so if you get involved now and make sure that the new equipment can
handle ranked ballots, we won't be frozen out of the debate for the next ten
BE A SPEAKER
The first thing to do is to read up on electoral reform.
You should be ready to talk about instant runoff voting to anyone, so go through
our website and practice on a friend. No one does a good job explaining how
these systems work the first time they try. Like anything else, practice makes
perfect. Try reading aloud some of the literature on proportional representation
or instant runoff voting to get a feel for the phrases. After a few times,
the pitch will start to come naturally. You don't need to stand before twenty
people in a room to be a speaker on electoral reform: every time you talk with
your friends or neighbors or send an email, you are speaking for electoral
reform. Word-of-mouth is the most powerful political tool ever invented and we
need you to join our army of reformers!
WRITE ALL YOUR REPRESENTATIVES
Everyone in the 50 states has at least eight elected
representatives: president, two senators, one member of congress, governor, one
state senator, one state representative, and a local representative. Including
county governments, mayors and other statewide elected officials (like
treasurers and attorney generals) will bring the total up to a dozen. Each of
your public officials should get a letter from you asking if they will support
instant runoff voting and proportional representation. This is worth an hour of
your time (and it will probably take an hour of your time to write ten letters).
If you get one good response, you've got a real opportunity. Please share any
positive responses with the Center for Voting and Democracy, so we can also stay
in touch with them.
Strategically, it is best to consider the appeal of our
issues separately. Just about everyone is in favor of instant runoff voting,
from Rush Limbaugh and Pat Buchanan to Ralph Nader and Dick Gephardt. It doesn't
really hurt anyone, and after Florida, people are aware that our current
plurality system has real problems. Proportional representation is not as
readily embraced by every legislator. Some people in the major parties see
proportional representation as a threat. If we give the political minority their
fair share of representation, then the majority will have to lose some voice.
Instead of having all the power, the majority will only have the majority of
power. Although we firmly believe that proportional representation is good
for the major parties as well as independents and smaller parties (as the
Democrats are the political minority in Republican areas like Idaho and Kansas,
while the Republicans are the political minority in Democratic areas like
Chicago and Massachusetts), not everyone sees it that way. For the first letter,
it is sometimes to prudent to limit the request to instant runoff voting. The
decision, of course, is up to you.
GET YOUR GROUPS TO USE PR FOR THEIR ELECTIONS
One of the best ways to get people familiar with instant
runoff voting (IRV) and proportional representation is to have them vote in an
election that uses one of these superior systems. We're all working hard to have
people vote in presidential elections and city council elections using our
favorite systems, but until that time, there are hundreds of elections that
happen every day all across the country. Almost every established group elects
their leadership. These elections should use proportional representation or
IRV. What kind of elections are we talking about: ICANN, the global organization
that administers regulations related to Internet domain name registration. They
use IRV, in part because a couple of Australians pushed for it. The
American Political Science Association uses IRV. Many student governments
use PR and/or IRV. Some use cumulative voting. Some corporations, like Avon,
Walgreen's and Toys 'R' Us use cumulative voting to elect their Boards of
Directors. These help introduce people to the idea of a better voting system,
and make it much more likely that when they get a chance to vote for a
referendum on electoral reform, they will vote yes.
One person usually is responsible for changing the way an
association elects its leaders. You can push to make this happen in your group.
Every little bit helps, as we are building momentum with every victory. So take
the lead in your group, and start showing, not just telling, people how much
better our voting system can be.
EMAIL ANY ONLINE VOTING CONTEST AND TELL THEM TO USE A
There are tons of websites out there that ask people to
vote on things: pick your favorite TV show, pick the most deserving Oscar
nominee, vote for the best vacation spot in the world, etc. Usually, these
online contests use plurality voting with a single-winner (the way we elect our
presidents in each state: whoever gets the most votes wins and there is no need
to get a majority). This is bad; of course these websites should use instant
runoff voting instead. Send them an email and ask them to use instant runoff
voting for their next contest. You can refer them to our website if they don't
know what instant runoff voting is. You never know: one quick email might cause
MTV to use instant runoff voting for their next national contest.
BRING PR TO YOUR LOCAL HIGH SCHOOL
High school students are an under-tapped resource. They
might not be old enough to vote, but they are very idealist and are usually very
receptive to new ideas, like proportional representation. It is a great idea to
call up the social studies department of your local high school and try to come
in to a class and speak on proportional representation (PR). You can ask them to
use PR to elect their student governments (so that one clique doesn’t
dominate), or IRV to choose where to hold the prom. Social studies teachers are
often looking for guest speakers from the community, and that can be you.
JOIN OUR ELECTRONIC NETWORK OF ORGANIZERS AND ADVOCATES
One of the best things about the Internet is the ability to work closely with
other people across a city or state (or country) without ever sitting in the
same room together. The Center has been setting up listservs for new organizers
(like yourself) to hook up with other people who have been working to build the
consensus on instant runoff voting and proportional representation. Join the
list for your area (as well as the national lists) to get involved. You can find
a list of electoral reform listservs on our links
CONTACT US WITH IDEAS OR FOR HELP
Email us! Call us! We are here to help you get things rolling. If you'd like
to know what the next step is or hook up with people in your area, email Dan
Johnson-Weinberger at [email protected].
TEN THINGS YOU CAN DO FOR IRV