F a i r Vo t e
The Center for Voting and Democracy
Fair Elections News, December 10, 2004
Welcome to our new e-newsletter, one that reflects our newly-adopted program divisions. You can still expect revealing election analysis and timely updates on advocacy for instant runoff voting, full representation, redistricting reform, a constitutional right to vote and direct election of the president, but changing how we present this newsletter, we hope you will more easily find the information you need. After completing an overhaul of our information-packed website (www.fairvote.org) later this month, we will incorporate new design features for 2005 in these updates.
Timely information is more important than ever in what must be a persistent, creative and nimble campaign for democracy in the United States. We continue to get prominent media attention – the Washington Post’s David Broder and the New York Times’ Nicholas Kristoff featured us in recent syndicated columns, for example – but want to regularly reach those most interested in reform with organized and useful e-newsletters.
Here’s a summary of today’s content.
● Action Alert for Electoral College Vote on December 13: The modern case for ending an 18th century anachronism and developing strategies to succeed
● Right to Vote Initiative Promotes Eight Reforms: Our eight reforms to secure the right to vote; support for uniform national standards from Tom Brokaw, John Kerry and Jesse Jackson; and growing support for a constitutional right to vote
● IRV America – San Francisco, Maine and More: Analysis of the highly successful instant runoff voting election on November 2 in San Francisco and grassroots interest in several states and cities
● Political Empowerment Demands Full Representation: Upcoming “Reform Roundtables” workshops in North Carolina and Washington, DC; importing and exporting democracy; full representation at work in Alabama
● Election Research Center: State-by-state trends in presidential election 2004; lessons to learn from the Louisiana runoffs
● Meet FairVote’s New Board of Directors on January 21: We are pleased to announce a number of excellent additions to our Board of Directors and will hold a public event with them on Friday, January 21 in Washington D.C.
● It’s That Time of Year – CFC and Donations: We don’t often ask for donations, but as a non-profit charity, we always need them. Please consider a year-end gift directly to us. We hope federal workers will designate our Center as their charity of choice in the Combined Federal Campaign; our CFC listing is #2691. Thank you!
Action Alert for Electoral College Vote on December 13
The Bottom Line:
Although some 120 million Americans cast ballots in the 2004 presidential election, the decisive vote takes place on Monday, December 13th, when 538 members of the Electoral College meet to officially elect our next president.
A relic of the 18th century, the Electoral College is a ticking time bomb that undercuts American democracy. In an era of increasingly narrow presidential elections, the system risks fraud, disenfranchised voters and electoral deadlock. FairVote strongly supports HJR 109, Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr.’s proposal for direct election of the president with a requirement that winners receive a majority of the vote – ideally through instant runoff voting, as called for in Congressman Jackson’s HR 5293.
We need your help to put a spotlight on the Electoral College, and join the growing chorus of voices calling for direct election of the president by majority vote. Take a look at FairVote's Call to Action (http://www.fairvote.org/e_college/dec13.html) for ideas for actions around December 13 and for a proposed resolution for state legislatures. Also included our five of the most urgent arguments for why we must change the system, all tied to the current close partisan balance between the major parties that we see as likely to continue for the foreseeable future:
1. Most Americans are neglected by the campaigns: The Electoral College is supposed to force candidates to reach out to states around the nation, but instead candidates focus only on a few “battleground” states. President Bush’s campaign admitted to only polling in 18 states in 2003-2004, most Americans did not have a single presidential ad air in their local television market and most voter registration drives were focused only on battlegrounds. The number of competitive states is decreasing with each recent election.
2. Candidates easily can win without a majority or even plurality: In 2000 Al Gore lost the electoral vote despite winning the national popular vote, and George Bush would have lost the electoral vote in 2004 if his victory margin had been smaller. In the current era, winners of close elections could as fairly be decided by a coin flip as the Electoral College. Historically, a third of our presidents have been elected without an absolute majority of the vote, in contrast to most presidential democracies that hold a direct election with a majority requirement.
3. Incentives increase for fraud and partisan election administration. Election 2004 was decided in Ohio by just 119,000 votes. In 2000, the election was decided by 537-votes in Florida. Because of the fact that presidential election regularly can be decided by a relatively few votes in a small number of states, incentives increase for electoral fraud and partisan decisions by election officials.
4. Faithless electors can change results through backroom deals: West Virginian Republican elector Richie Robb has suggested he won’t cast his electoral vote for George Bush. Robb’s act of protest would nullify the votes of hundreds of thousands of West Virginians. In an era of tightly contested, highly charged elections, faithless electors create a real potential for throwing the election.
5. Electoral College ties and misfires are becoming more likely: A shift of 21,000 changed votes in Iowa, New Mexico, and Nevada would have thrown the election into a 269-269 electoral tie – a result that is again quite possible in 2008. In such an event, the election would be put to the House of Representatives, with each state’s delegation having one vote regardless of size and with the potential of partisanship and deal-making trumping popular will.
Other similar efforts are being called for December 13. For one example, see
Contact our new Communications Director Ryan O’Donnell at email@example.com for more information on FairVote’s work on the Electoral College.
FairVote’s Right to Vote Initiative Promotes Reforms
The Bottom Line:
Once again far too many voters suffered harassment and intimidation at the polls, were wrongly turned away without casting a ballot and were incorrectly purged from voting lists. Some voters in Ohio had to wait eight hours to cast a ballot, while more than 4,000 voters in North Carolina cast votes on electronic machines that had run out of memory – leaving the state with no record of how they voted an potentially leading to a statewide revote for one narrowly decided office. Barely two-thirds of American adults are registered to vote – and yet hundreds of thousands of people are on the rolls despite having moved to another state or passed away.
In response to these and other fundamental flaws in our electoral system, FairVote’s Right to Vote Initiative has proposed series of commonsense reforms to streamline electoral policy and improve the integrity and security of the electoral process. The umbrella principle – and one that gets at the heart of how we can fail to protect the right to vote – is to establish an affirmative right to vote in the U.S. Constitution. Read about them at www.fairvote.org/righttovote/reforms, and then contact your State and Federal representatives to support electoral reform.
More and more prominent Americans such as retired NBC news anchor Tom Brokaw are calling for national standards. Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry’s post-election letter to supporters highlighted the need for such standards, and backers of a constitutional right to vote include the National Council of Churches and Progressive Democrats of America. Please join them in seeking reform by contacting your representatives to support our eight-point agenda and, specifically, the right to vote amendment to the U.S. Constitution: HJR. 28, which has now been sponsored by 45 members of the U.S. House of Representatives, including all returning members of the Congressional Black Caucus.
Visit http://www.fairvote.org/righttovote to learn more about the amendment and learn what you can do to guarantee our right to vote. New additions to our Right to Vote Initiative pages includes:
Other noteworthy links include:
Contact Andrew Kirshenbaum at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
IRV America – San Francisco, Maine and More
The Bottom Line
This November, San Francisco proved to be a beacon of hope for reformers, pioneering what will be annual elections with instant runoff voting (IRV), an important innovation in democracy that promises to be imitated in cities and states around the country. IRV was used to elect seven seats on the city council (called the Board of Supervisors) and will be used for citywide offices next year. Although hotly contested – one election in fact drew a remarkable 22 candidates --- exit polls showed that city voters overwhelmingly liked it and found it easy to use, including people from across racial and ethnic lines. Winners were all decided either election night or shortly thereafter. Observers lauded how candidates reached out to more voters and engaged in less of the vicious negative attacks that plague our politics.
The Public Research Institute at San Francisco State University today is releasing a preliminary report on “An Assessment of Ranked-Choice Voting in the San Francisco 2004 Election” – the City has taken to calling IRV by that name. The report will be posted at http://www.sfrcv.com as soon as it is available. We already have posted one analysis of how the system worked and one exit poll summary, at:
The exit poll of more than 2,100 San Francisco voters revealed strong support for instant runoff voting across racial and ethnic lines. Highlights include:
In the wake of landslide wins for IRV in city elections in 2004 in Berkeley (CA), Ferndale (MI) and Burlington (VT), city officials in all three of these cities are taking steps that could lead to implementation of IRV in the coming years. Elsewhere around the nation, there are indications that even more states than in 2003-2004 will have IRV election. Among program highlights:
Please contact Steve Hoeschele (email@example.com) for info on IRV activity.
Political Empowerment Demands Full Representation
Led by program director David Moon and program associate Maggie Vintner, the Political Empowerment Program is pursuing several projects, including:
* Regional Reform Roundtables in North Carolina and Washington, D.C.: In the aftermath of the 2004 elections, our nation's elections revealed a democracy deficit caused by structural problems in our voting systems and procedures. While these problems were scattered throughout our nation, North Carolina's elections were particularly acute, showing the extent to which these issues can damage voter confidence. In August, the state witnessed a Democratic primary runoff with less than 3% turnout at a cost of $3.5 million of taxpayer money, only to see the results come into question once again in the November general election, when a voting machine failed to record over 4,000 votes. All the while, representation of communities of color remained stagnant, due to the winner-take-all nature of single-member-districts and at-large elections.
In response to these issues, FairVote, with support from the Z. Smith Reynolds and Ford Foundations, will be convening a series of North Carolina roundtable workshops in January and February. Focusing in particular on full representation voting systems, along with instant runoff voting and other procedural reforms necessary to secure the right to vote, we plan on laying out a state-level series of common sense solutions to these election problems. For more information, visit http://www.fairvote.org/nc
Thanks to the support of the Herb Block Foundation, we will replicate this model in the Washington, D.C. Metropolitan area later in 2005. Stay tuned for more details.
* Exporting Democracy, Lessons Learned: As the Bush administration holds firm to late-January elections for a new Iraqi government, the media and activist community have focused on the feasibility of such a time-table, while generally ignoring discussion of the electoral systems being used. In order to ensure fair representation of all ethnic groups and of women, the United States and the United Nations have set up a party list system of full representation in Iraq; although the system has its critics, any serious debate about alternatives has been about whether to tally the votes in a single national constituency or regionally, not going to U.S.-style winner-take-all elections.
In Afghanistan, the nation's coming April elections are set to use the one-vote system in which voters have one vote in multi-seat districts. Given meaningful consideration of all available electoral systems, both emerging democracies are moving toward full representation methods. Iraq and Afghanistan will be joining the majority of the developed world in opting for inclusive governance and modern, efficient elections even as the United States continues to use antiquated and unfair winner-take-all systems. To learn more about the U.S. role in exporting democracy, while ignoring fundamental flaws with our own system, visit http://fairvote.org/pr/global/iraqafghan.htm
* Importing Democracy, Lessons Learned: In the spirit of lessons learned from the Iraqi and Afghan election planning, FairVote emphasizes the experience of British Columbia as a model for the United States. The government last year established Citizens' Assembly on Electoral Reform of some 160 randomly chosen, everyday citizens to study how to improve the province’s electoral system and then to place their preferred alternative on the May 2005 ballot. The assembly held meetings for nearly a year, and after a transparent, widely-respected process, citizens this fall overwhelmingly endorsed a ballot measure the full representation system of choice voting (also known as STV, the single transferable vote).
Already, other Canadian provinces are beginning to discuss replicating the Citizens' Assembly model for building a consensus around sensible electoral reforms. FairVote believes that the Canadian experience provides important lessons for reforms in the U.S. To learn more about the deliberations of the Citizens' Assembly and the subsequent selection of choice voting, visit http://www.fairvote.org/pr/global/bcgetsstv.htm
With the discussion of global electoral systems becoming more prominent as of late, January will feature a spotlight on international electoral systems reform within the Political Empowerment Program. Visit www.fairvote.org in January for new reports and updates on global full representation developments.
* Voting Rights in Focus – The Cumulative Voting Experience: Low representation of racial minorities in the South has long been a serious problem, one that the Voting Rights Act sought to remedy. While majority-minority single-member-districts have been the traditional remedy to vote dilution, full representation systems like choice voting and cumulative voting continue to present a desirable and successful alternative. By eliminating gerrymandering completely, the system avoids Shaw v. Reno and other legal issues, as it does not use race in districting to ensure minority representation. This also makes full representation especially attractive where communities of color are geographically dispersed and cannot be packed into a single district.
This year a number of Alabama communities all held successful cumulative elections where communities of color earned a fair share of seats. To read more about the success of cumulative voting in Alabama, visit http://fairvote.org/cumulative/alcumulative04.htm
* Full Representation Advocacy: In the flurry of electoral reform discussions currently going on Common Cause has added full representation systems to their slate of reforms (see http://www.commoncause.org/site/pp.asp?c=dkLNK1MQIwG&b=196480) and, in an exciting new development, FairVote has joined the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights. The group is the nation's premier civil rights coalition, and has coordinated the national legislative campaign on behalf of every major civil rights law since 1957. FairVote hopes to build on these developments to expand our outreach to allied groups working to secure fair representation for all. Look for 2005 to be a year of exciting movement and developments for full representation!
Election Research Center – Election 2004
In addition to a great deal of state-specific information, analysis findings include:
· If the presidential election had been tied in the national popular vote, Kerry almost certainly would have won a comfortable win in the Electoral College, picking up Iowa, Nevada, New Mexico and Ohio. This was tied to his relatively strong performance in most key battleground states.
· As the partisan alignment between the major parties grows increasingly firm, the number of battleground states is shrinking: Heading toward 2008, only 11 states appear certain to be truly contested (within a 3% advantage for one major party), down from 15 states after 2000.
· Without winning a greater share of the national popular vote, a Kerry win in Ohio would have required a bigger shift toward Democrats in Ohio than Democrats achieved in all but three states.
One additional tidbit – Louisiana’s oddities: Louisiana held two congressional runoff elections this month due to its unusual system in which all candidates run on the November ballot, followed by a runoff between the top two if no candidate wins a majority. Turnout in these runoff plummeted between November and the December runoff. In the third congressional district, for example, fewer than 115,000 people voted on December 4, down from more than 264,000 in November. The Democrat who won that runoff came within just 2000 votes of missing the runoff altogether; the runoff almost was between two Republicans despite the district’s relatively close partisan division. Clearly instant runoff voting would be a fairer system for Louisiana.
For more on our election analyses, contact FairVote executive director Rob Richie at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Meet FairVote’s New Board of Directors on January 21
Those of you in the Washington, D.C. area have an opportunity to meet members of our new top-notch Board of Directors on Friday, January 21 at a late afternoon reception likely to take place at the Washington College of Law. New FairVote Board members include Antonio Gonzalez, Eddie Hailes, Jesse Jackson Jr., Clay Mulford, Krist Novoselic, Jamin Raskin, Rashad Robinson, Kathy Spillar and David Wilner. FairVote will hold a public event with them on Friday, January 21 in Washington D.C. For bios of FairVote Board and staff members, see http://fairvote.org/about_us/directors.htm
Its That Time of Year – CFC and Donations
Yes, we need your support! FairVote-The Center for Voting and Democracy is a non-profit organization based near Washington D.C. Headed by former Congressman and presidential candidate John B. Anderson, FairVote is devoted to increasing public understanding of American politics and how to reform its rules to provide better choices, fairer representation and a secure right to vote
We have an ambitious reform and election analysis agenda for the coming year. If you haven’t given this year, we urge you to consider a tax-deductible donation by mail (6930 Carroll Ave., Suite 610, Takoma Park MD 20912) or on-line at http://www.fairvote.org/donate.htm
FairVote – The Center for Voting and Democracy is gearing up for a busy 2005! Stay tuned for the lowdown on a new website, a new Board of Directors, and a new year in our upcoming January newsletter.
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Finally, a big thanks to our great autumn intern crew, including Katrina Tichinin, Candace Turitto, Kate Foster and Jill Dannay.