CVD homepage
What's new?
Online library
Order materials
Get involved!
About CVD



Get Involved!
The Center for Voting and Democracy

IRV Activist Kit -- everything you need to promote instant runoff voting (IRV) in your community.

Tools for IRV Organizers -- Access a PowerPoint presentation as well as brochures outlining the instant runoff voting process and its benefits.

Tools 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 localities.

State 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.


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:

  • A bill introduced in the state legislature or city council
  • A bipartisan bill introduced in the state legislature or city council
  • A hearing held on a bill in the state legislature or city council
  • A letter to the editor published in a paper
  • A local or state commission formed to look into electoral reform
  • Endorsements of the bill from local groups, like the League of Women Voters
  • 25 dues-paying members of your local group
  • A news article or op-ed on your bill or on your group
  • The local election authority using voting machines that can handle ranked ballots
  • Your city or county using instant runoff voting in special elections


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 chads.

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 years.


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!


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.


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.


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.


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.


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 page.


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].



top of page

Copyright 2002     The Center for Voting and Democracy
6930 Carroll Ave. Suite 610, Takoma Park, MD 20912
(301) 270-4616        [email protected]