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

Fair Elections Update

October 28, 2004

To: Friends of Fair Elections

From: Rob Richie, Executive Director,
FairVote-The Center for Voting and Democracy

Re: Fair Elections Flash (please share as you will)

- A frozen House / Disrespected right / Indirect election
- Latest high-profile instant runoff (IRV) media in Washington Post
- IRV news: New federal bill, Ferndale, youth debate, Canada
- FairVote reps on NPR and other high-profile venues
- DC Area: Election night party
- Highlights of recent webpostings: John Anderson
commentary, reform progress here and abroad, more

# # # # # # # # # # # # # # # # # # # # # # # # # # # # # # #

Here's a great way to provide a boost to our work for fair
elections and to show off your political know-how. Be the best
"Couch Pundit" in the country and earn a $100 to come to
Washington, D.C. to enjoy a visit to Capitol Hill with FairVote's
John Anderson and Rob Richie. You just need to donate
at least $5 to play. Go to:
# # # # # # # # # # # # # # # # # # # # # # # # # # # # # # #


It's less than a week until November 2, the last day of voting in our
national elections for the U.S. President and U.S. House and of key
state and local elections -- among them the first use of instant runoff
voting (IRV) in San Francisco and citizen votes on IRV ballot
measures in Ferndale (MI) and Burlington (VT). I'll be at the polls
with my family that day, but about a quarter of voters this year will
voted early in person or by mail.

Busy times here at the Center. Yesterday staffers were on a
Washington, D.C. public radio program as a guest, made a
presentation to visiting journalists from Iraq, talked with numerous
reporters and prepared new analyses of our elections. Steven Hill
in San Francisco is continuing to run our intensive voter education
work on instant runoff voting in next week's San Francisco elections.
Our chairman John Anderson published a strong commentary calling
for reform in the Chicago Tribune, while Steven Hill and I had new
commentary on modernizing elections circulated by Knight Ridder

We have important news to pass on below, but before
getting to that news and as we prepare to settle in for what
promises to be a long evening (and indeed a long month if
the race is tight), keep in mind....

* THE FROZEN HOUSE: The U.S. House of Representatives was
envisioned as the most responsive wing of our federal government.
It hasn't turned out that way. The House has changed partisan control
a grand total of once in the past 50 years -- even as the presidency
regularly changes parties. Since 1996, more than 90% of all
races have been won by comfortable margins of more than 10%, and
more than 98% of incumbents have been re-elected. Only one
incumbent lost in 2002 who was not a victim of redistricting.

Expect more of the same this year for Congress, and state legislative
races generally provide more of the same -- two in five such races
will be walkovers without a major party opponent this year. See our
reports and our call for full representation voting methods at:

* A DISRESPECTED RIGHT: Americans citizens care deeply about
their right to vote. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for how
their government provides and protects that right. The lack of a
right to vote in the U.S. Constitution has a direct impact on our
elections. The news this fall is full of state and local actions that
will disenfranchise voters and result in confusion at the polls.

Florida and Ohio will toss out all "provisional ballots" cast by
registered voters who were not informed they were in the wrong
polling place. A Nevada state judge rejected a lawsuit seeking to
re-open voter registration for citizens whose registrations were
torn up by a partisan voter registration firm rather than submitted.
Most voters in Ohio will use the thoroughly discredited punchcard
system, while many others around the nation will vote on new
"touchscreen" systems developed by private companies with
proprietary software that is poorly tested and regulated and lacks
a voter verifiable paper trail. Against all international norms, states
collectively have stripped voting rights from nearly five million
American citizens due to felony convictions. Tens of thousands
of people are on the voting rolls of more than one states, yet
overall, states have failed to register nearly one out of every
three American adults.

The expected chaos and confusion has inspired swarms of
lawyers ready to pounce on flaws, meaning once again judges
could effectively pick our president. If you see problems in
your county and state, please call a hotline set up to handle
concerns at: 1-866-our-vote

For more on the drive to put a right to vote in the U.S.
Constitution, our new "right to vote wire", Demos' Democracy
Dispatches Daily Roundup and's collection of
state and local news stories updated daily:
<> - right-to-vote page
<> - right-to-vote wire
<> - Demos daily roundup
<> --

* INDIRECT ELECTION: All signs indicate another razor-thin election
in 2004 that easily could hinge on how a few hundred votes are
counted -- or not counted -- in the large ground zero states of Florida,
Ohio and Pennsylvania no matter what the national popular vote.
That's why the odds are you haven't heard from a presidential
campaign this year. More than 14,000 television ads have aired
in Toledo, Ohio. In contrast, most Americans live where not one
presidential ad has aired.

States today are either heavily courted or completely ignored.
President Bush's campaign has not done any polling outside of
the 18 battleground states in more than two years. Indeed most
states are completely ignored under today's system. Contrast
that with direct elections, which are well-tested - it's how we
elect every other significant office in the nation. You can't afford
to ignore potential support in a competitive environment where
every vote counts the same. Even if a presidential candidate
won every single vote in the ten biggest states (a shutout that
will never happen), they still would be far short of a majority of
the vote. Candidates would have to seek votes everywhere,
still having to be sensitive to local concerns just like any
gubernatorial candidate has to listen to different parts of a state.

Having a fair election for president has no impact on federalism
and the U.S. Senate. And it does something about an institution
that amounts to a ticking time bomb. Consider:

- If there is a 269-269 Electoral College tie, then the House
picks the president, with each state's delegation having one vote -
an utter disaster for democracy. The Senate would pick the
vice-president, possibly from another party.

- When regional third party candidates like George Wallace
in 1968 and Strom Thurmond in 1948 win electoral votes, such
candidates' electors could hold the balance of power. Unlike
an instant runoff voting system in direct elections, where outreach
to supporters of third party candidates would be immediately
tested at the polls, negotiations among presidential electors
would be secret and hard to hold accountable.

- If the president-elect were to die before electors cast their
ballots, there is no way to know what would happen. Few know
the electors who would pick our president.

- Some states try to bind electors to the state popular vote
winner, but such laws may not pass constitutional scrutiny. Much
mischief is possible; already one Republican elector in West
Virginia has vowed not to vote for Bush.

- State legislatures have the authority to appoint presidential
electors regardless of that state's vote - as Florida's legislature
was ready to do in 2000.

Finally, even though more than 100 million people voted in the
2000 elections, only a relatively small number of those votes were
decisive. Indeed the winner would have been exactly the same
even if nearly 80 million of those voters had stayed home.

Here's what we mean:

- 105,396,641 is the total number votes cast nationwide in the
2000 Presidential election.

- 48,467112 is the total number of votes cast for candidates in
states that they did not win. If these votes had not been cast, the
Electoral College divide between George Bush and Al Gore
would have been exactly the same.

- 26,353,058 is the total number of votes cast for Bush in the 30 states
that Bush won.

- 21,835,615 is the minimum number of votes Bush needed in order
to win the 30 states that earned him the Presidency

Thus, to win the Electoral College and the presidency, Bush only
needed 21,835,615 votes out of a total of 105,396,641 votes cast --
21% of the total popular vote.

We deserve democratic elections for president. For more on
the Electoral College and House Joint Resolution 109, a
constitutional amendment proposal for direct election, see:
<> - Electoral College homepage
<> - Jackson bil

Before continuing onto news, I wanted to thank those of you who
tried to help elect Malia Lazu as Showtime's "American Candidate."
Malia ended up finishing second, losing in the final round of voting --
but kudos to her and her fellow FairVote Board member Rashad
Robinson for getting as far as they did on the show....

# # # # # # # # # # # # # # # # # # # # # # # # # # # # # # #

The Washington Post ran an excellent news story about instant
runoff voting in San Francisco and a strong commentary from its
syndicated columnist William Raspberry that talked in part about
IRV in San Francisco. Here are links to the stories and excerpts.

* <>

"For Voters, Choice Is as Easy as 1, 2, 3"
By Kimberly Edds
Washington Post, October 12, 2004

When voters here go to the polls in November to select their top
choice for a seat on the city's Board of Supervisors, they also
get to pick their second choice -- and even their third.

Here, a winning candidate has to receive at least 50 percent of
the vote for the Board of Supervisors, which is the local city
council. In the past, if nobody did, there was a runoff election.

But this year, San Francisco has become the largest city in
the nation to adopt a form of voting that proponents say is a
little like walking into an ice cream shop to order a chocolate
cone only to discover the shop is all out -- no problem, just
order your next favorite flavor, and if that's out, your third...
..."With runoffs, you have two different electorates going to the
polls," said Steven Hill, with the Center on Voting and
Democracy, which has been pushing ranked-choice
voting in municipalities across the country. "This way you
elect the strongest candidate who has the majority of the
vote and you're getting it over with in one race. It's just
common sense."...

* <>

"Improve on Red vs. Blue:
Winner-take-all systems leave out too many voters"
By William Raspberry
October 18, 2004; Washington Post

,....One of the more interesting electoral reforms is underway
in San Francisco, where voters next month will select their
top choice for a seat on the city's Board of Supervisors -- but
also have a chance to mark their second and third choices.

If you think this doesn't sound like much, you ought to talk to
Rob Richie, executive director of the Center for Voting and
Democracy and my frequent guide on voting systems.
Three things about the rank-voting system appeal to Richie.

First, it increases the likelihood that any particular voter will
have helped to elect a candidate to office, a fact that Richie
believes might help to reduce voter apathy. Second, it makes
it possible for a voter to support a dark-horse candidate --
say, a third-party hopeful -- without helping his least favorite
candidate in the process. Say John McCain is on the ballot
and he is your first choice. Under the present system, a vote
for McCain would be a vote taken away from your second
favorite, Bush, and in effect a vote for John Kerry. Under a
rank-order system, either your first choice wins or your vote
goes to your second choice.

But what really excites Richie about the system is that it
tends to drive candidates and campaigns toward coalition-
building and civility. "The present system leads candidates
to sharpen, even exaggerate, their differences with their
challengers," he says. "The result is a sort of polarization
that marginalizes moderates of both parties. But the candidate
who thinks he may need your second-choice vote to win
will tend to reach out to -- or at least not antagonize --
voters whose first choice is someone else."

The people simply aren't as polarized as the system paints
them. Florida wound up being a red state, though virtually
half of its voters were blue. The truth is, with a small handful of
exceptions, the states are various shades of purple...

# # # # # # # # # # # # # # # # # # # # # # # # # # # # # # #

* This month Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr. (D -IL) introduced a
pair ol bills aimed at election reform. H.R.5293 would require
states to conduct general elections for Federal office using instant
runoff voting. H.J.R. 109 would amend the Constitution to abolish the
electoral college and provide for direct election of the president by
majority vote. Please urge your Members to support these bills.
To track fair election voting systems legislation that was introduced
in 2003-2004 in Congress and around the nation, see

* Ferndale, Michigan is one of two jurisdictions voting on IRV ballot
measures on November 2. The Detroit Free Press has endorsed
the Ferndale measure. Following the recommendations of a blue
ribbon commission, Burlington, Vermont is voting on an advisory
measure to adopt IRV. The Ballot Initiative Strategies Center has
analyzed a number of ballot measures on reform. For more, see:
<> (Detroit News)
<> (Ferndale campaign advocates)
<> (BISC analysis)

* Steven Hill and Caleb Kleppner have created a good resource
on IRV in San Francisco. See  <>

* British Columbia citizen's assembly on electoral reform -- an
exciting new approach to achieving citizen consensus before
going to the ballot -- voted overwhelmingly to replace winner-take-all
elections with the full representation version of IRV -- what we call
"choice voting" and is also called the "single transferable vote."
More than 90 per cent of the assembly's 153 members voted to
recommend British Columbia residents get an opportunity
to decide between the current system and the assembly's preferred
choice, which supporters argued makes every vote count. For more
on reforme in Canada, see: <>

* The New Voters Project involved thousands of a young people
in a process where they ultimately asked 10 questions of presidential
candidates John Kerry, George Bush and Ralph Nader. A question
about instant runoff voting and full representation was voted as one of
the questions to task. The presidential candidates mostly dodged the
answer (the Green Party candidate David Cobb would have been the
one most likely to take it on, as he frequently advocates for fair election
in interviews), but it was just the latest indicator of how young people
like fair election voting methods. See question #5 at


# # # # # # # # # # # # # # # # # # # # # # # # # # # # # # #

FairVote's executive director Rob Richie, senior analyst Steven
Hill, chairman John Anderson, program director David Moon
and other program staff have been busy this election season,
averaging more than one appearance on talk radio programs
a day in stations around the nation (including the highly rated
New England station WRKO, among many others -- often
through the assistance of the Mainstream Media Project) and
steadily talking to and being quoted by print journalists. In the
past month Richie has also addressed classes at Duke and
Princeton and visiting delegations from nations such as Iraq,
Moldova, Thailand and two different election observer groups
with representatives from nations all over the world.

A few highlights:

* On October 27, Richie was a guest for an hour on
WAMU's Kojo Nnamdi radio show in Washington, DC.
to discuss reform of the Electoral College. You can
hear the show at:

* On October 26, Hill was the featured speaker at a program at
San Francisco's venerable Commonwealth Club to discuss the
upcoming use of instant runoff voting in San Francisco.

* On October 21, Richie was on Warren Olney's "To the Point"
program to talk about gerrymandering and full representation.
The program, which appears on National Public Radio stations
around the nation, can be heard by going to:

* On October 20, Richie was a live guest on the highest-rated
national morning program in Canada, CTV Canada AM. He
also appeared in an interview on Canadian Broadcasting
Corporation the week before.

* On October 18, Richie was featured on Lou Dobbs' show on
CNN to talk about problems with our electoral process. Excerpts
from his interview ran on CNN news throughout the day on October 19

* On October 15, Richie debated Cato Institute's John Samples for
an hour on the Electoral College on KQED public radio in San
Francisco. You can hear the program at:

# # # # # # # # # # # # # # # # # # # # # # # # # # # # # # #

Next Tuesday is Election Day, and FairVote is throwing an election
night party to which you're all invited. Here are the details..

On Election Night, Watch History Unfold and Support Election Reform

What: FairVote's Election Night "Couch Pundit Extravaganza"
Where: The Big Hunt, 1345 Connecticut Avenue NW
(Dupont Circle metro station)
When: Tuesday, Nov 2nd 6:30pm

Watch history unfold at the Couch Pundit Extravaganza, and
help the cause of election reform by supporting FairVote. Big
screen TV, private room  and happy hour drink prices all night.
Come watch the returns and ake predictions on swing state
outcomes -- you may win one of the nght's prizes. Commentary
from a roster of guest speakers.

Cover donation is $10 (proceeds go to support the work of FairVote).
Call 301-270-4616 or go online to for more information

# # # # # # # # # # # # # # # # # # # # # # # # # # # # # # #
(from <> )

* Recent media coverage: Full representation, instant runoff
voting, competitive elections and comments by representatives of
FairVote, the Center for Voting and Democracy continue to be
featured in major media around the nation. Highlights include
new editorial support for IRV from several newspapers (including
in the past few weeks are new published commentaries from
FairVote staffers, examples of the numerous articles quoting
FairVote representatives and the latest newspaper editorials
supporting instant runoff voting in the Bradenton Herald, San
Jose Mercury News, Wichita Eagle, Wilmington Star-News
and Corvallis Gazette Times. (October 27)

* FairVote's chairman and senior staff publish commentaries:
John Anderson calls for reform in the Chicago Tribune
and Rob Richie and Steven Hill publish commentaries on
"loser take all," "time to modernize elections" and Proposition
62 in California (October 26)

* An analysis of state legislative elections shows a rise in the
percentage of uncontested races to nearly two out of every five
seats. (October 8)

* Major news attention to IRV in San Francisco in New York Times,
L.A. Times and San Francisco Chronicle and is featured on
National Public Radio's Morning Edition . (September 30)

* With the passing of all relevant primaries, a completed analysis of
the chances for women in the U.S. House of Representatives is
now available. (September 15)

* Minnesota city to study IRV and fair election methods: The
city council of Hopkins, which was once elected by choice voting,
has established a task force to study fair election voting methods
like instant runoff voting. (August 26)

* New report shows voters understand cumulative voting at work:
Well over 98% of voters used all four of their votes without error in
Amarillo's May 2004 cumulative voting election, according to a
new report by Professor David Rausch. (August 25)

* FairVote's Election Data Project: The record of state legislative
elections in the United States is lacking. Help document out
electoral history. (August 15)

* Australian political scientist publishes new article on
"The Global Spread of Preferential Voting" (August 11)

* Rob Richie in print: FairVote's executive director has written
four articles, including one with Steven Hill, for a book and two
journals. Available as downloads, they are: on the American full
representation campaign from "Steps Toward Making Every
Vote Count: Electoral System Reform in Canada and its Provinces"
(Henry Milner, editor; Broadview Press, 2004); on instant runoff
voting for an "Election Law Journal" symposium on Democracy
and Elections in North America" (Volume 3, Number 3 2004);
on full representation and redistricting reform (from the National
Civic Review); and on building a pro-democracy movement in the
United States (from the National Civic Review). (August 1)

* Howard Dean's July 26 syndicated column calls for IRV in
presidential primaries: The former Democratic Party presidential
frontrunner expands on his IRV advocacy. (July 30)

* FairVote holds successful pro-democracy events in Boston on
July 26and July 28: Speakers included Rev. Jesse Jackson,
Members of Congress Jesse Jackson Jr. and Dennis Kucinich, s
scholars Lani Guinier, Jamin Raskin, Pippa Norris, Alex Keyssar
and Benjamin Barber and journalists Robert Kuttner, John
Nichols and Hendrik Hertzberg. (July 30)

* FairVote Board member and long-time New Yorker writer
Hendrik Hertzberg's new book "Politics: Observations and
Arguments" features commentary about the value of electoral
reform, in particular full representation and instant runoff voting
Read a recent interview with the author. (July 7)

* The Washington Post publishes an op-ed defending full
representation in Iraq: Andrew Reynolds explains why Iraq
will use a party list form of full representation in its January
2005 elections. (July 6)

* FairVote commentaries tout IRV: Rob Richie joins with Steven Hill
to propose direct election of the President and to ask in the
Nation Magazine why more Democrats aren't seeking to implement
IRV. Richie and Jennifer Ambler argue in the Myrtle Beach Sun News
that IRV is a big improvement over traditional delayed runoffs. (June 28)

* Big win for choice voting in United Kingdom: Scotland adopts choice
voting (aka "single transferable vote") for city elections. A new reform
coalition backs choice voting for local elections in Wales. (June 23)

* Washington state Democrats support fair election voting methods:
The Democratic Party State Platform Committee of Washington has
endorsed attention to IRV and full representation. (June 14)

* London mayoral race decided by IRV, council chosen by full
representation: London mayor Ken Livingstone (first elected in 2
000 by IRV as an independent) was re-elected on June 10 by
a limited form of instant runoff voting. IRV was needed as he
won less than 40% of first choices. The mixed member form
of full representation was used to elect the council. Voter turnout
was up from 2000. Read an article in the Guardian and see the
London election webpage. (June 12)

* FairVote conducts demonstration elections with IRV and choice
voting at several events. Read how League of Women Voters
members voted on the most influential women in American history
and how various groups voted on whom John Kerry should select
as his running mate. Read results of a Nation magazine election
with more than 10,000 participants. (June 11) )

* North Dakotans strongly rejected a proposed state constitutional
amendment to lift the requirement that corporations use the full
representation method of cumulative voting. South Korea soon
will require all corporate boards to be elected by cumulative
voting. (June 8)

* Maine adopts legislation to fund study on IRV: This spring
Maine's governor signed LD 212, a resolution requiring the Secretary
of State to study the feasibility of using IRV in Maine elections. (June 3)


We send out newsletters about once a month. If you do not want to
receive them, let us know by replying to this message with the word
"remove" in the subject or your message. If you would like to
subscribe, please send an email to [email protected]

FairVote-The Center for Voting and Democracy is a non-profit
organization based in Washington D.C. It is headed by former
Congressman and presidential candidate John B. Anderson.
We are devoted to increasing public understanding of American
politics and how to reform its rules to provide better choices
and fairer representation. Our website (
has information on voting methods, redistricting and voter turnout.

As we rely heavily on individual donations, please consider a
contribution by mail (6930 Carroll Ave., Suite 610, Takoma Park MD
20910) or on-line at <> -- and right
now any donor of at least $5 can enter our "Couch Pundit" contest.

Finally, a big thanks to program associates Andy Kirshenbaum,
Jill Dannay, Steve Hoeschele and Maggie Vintner, long-time regional
staffers Steven Hill and Dan Johnson-Weinberger, senior analysts
Terry Bouricius and Caleb Kleppner, interns Candace Turitto, Kate
Foster and Katrina Tichinin, and program director David Moon.

Thank you for reading!

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]