To: Friend of
Fr: Rob Richie, Executive
The Center for Voting and Democracy
- New commentaries on reform by John
- PBS focuses on democracy tonight
/ More media news
key races to watch on Election Day
- Instant runoff voting commentary around the
- Fair Elections Digest:
women legislators, winner- take-all lessons, US Senate election
machinations and a skeptical look at the
It's just a few days until Election Day and only a
few days after the Help America Vote Act became federal law. We
shared many of our thoughts on those developments in our October
16th update. Today we wanted to send you links to examples of
excellent media coverage of voting system reform in the past two
weeks, news about upcoming television and radio shows and our latest
CVD On-Line Fair Elections Digest.
And yes, we hope you are among
the 35%-37% of American adults who make it to the polls this week!
Media Coverage - Upcoming
on PBS (9 pm in most areas), "NOW with Bill Moyers" presents a
roundtable discussion on how America's current system of democracy
hangs in the balance. "Democracy in Danger" grapples with the limits
and potential of the current two-party system through an in-depth
examination of what's at stake for America. Participants include
voting system reform advocates Michael Lind, Kevin Phillips and
- Radio Shows Across America /
NPR'S Diane Rehm Show: The Center's president John Anderson,
executive director Rob Richie and senior analyst Steven Hill have
been particularly busy with radio interviews as the election
approaches, appearing on programs all over the country. On Monday at
10 am, Rob will be a guest on the syndicated National Public Radio
talk show hosted by Diane Rehm in Washington, D.C. with fellow
guests Alex Keyssar and Ron Walters.
Media Coverage -
- Commentaries by the Center's
President John Anderson on the breakdown of winner-take-all
elections: "Time for Real Choices, Not
Echoes," circulated by Knight Ridder and a New York Times letter.
- News coverage that features
comments from the Center about voter turnout and its Monopoly
Politics report in USA
Today and Reuters and a widely-published
commentary on Monopoly
Politics 2002 and lack of voter choice by the Center's Rob Richie
and Steven Hill.
- Commentary in favor of instant
runoff voting in Newsday, Boston Globe and New York Times.
....Center for Voting
.....Fair Elections Digest......
.........Volume 1, Number 2, October 31, 2002.......
Welcome to the Fair Elections
Digest of the Center for Voting Democracy. In these digests we
provide short clips of current news and opinion regarding politics,
representative democracy, and reform. This edition was written
primarily by Steven Hill (firstname.lastname@example.org
analyst and author of "Fixing Elections: The Failure of America's
Winner Take All Politics."
Quote of the Day
"We are in the
business of rigging elections." State Senator Mark McDaniel, North
Carolina, commenting on redistricting
Growth of Women
A new study reveals that the
expansion of women's representation in American legislatures appears
to be losing ground, ten years after the Year of the Woman. The
Redistricting, and Other Aspects of Election 2002" by Beloit
College political scientist Georgia
Duerst-Lahti concludes that "the
most prominent facet of gender and election 2002 is the fact that
when it is over, men will still overwhelmingly rule."
finds that when considering female winners in state legislative
races for each decade, the growth of 1992 washes out, and reveals a
troubling pattern. The rate of growth in the number of female
legislators has decreased, with increases by decade as follows:
1971-81, 564 more women legislators; 1981-91, 460 more women; and
1991-2001, 298 more women.
"In other words," says Duerst-Lahti,
"the rate of growth is slowing dramatically, and with it gains in
the pace of growth of sheer number of elected state legislative
women. The gains of 1992 certainly were not sustained." Moreover,
the total number of female candidates for the U.S. House this cycle
was 186, substantially less than the record of 217 set in 1996
(however, a record number of 124 have won their primary elections,
up from 122 in 2000). So women's representation apparently is
starting to plateau while still at a mere 14% of Congress.
that to Germany, where in their recent national elections women won
32 percent of seats in the Bundestag, their national legislature.
The number of female members has risen in Germany for the seventh
time in a row. Sweden also saw an increase in the number of women
elected to its national legislature, to 44 percent.
Is it because
the U.S. is a less "liberated" or women-positive nation? Hardly.
Even Ireland, no feminist paragon, has more women elected to its
national legislature than we do in the United States. What these
other nations have that we do not is systems of __proportional
representation__ (what we often call full representation in the
United States). Women candidates in the United States are struggling
in our 18th-century "winner take all" political system, which is
notorious all over the world for under-representing the "51 percent
Nancy Pelosi and
One woman who
does get elected year after year is Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi,
Democratic Party House minority whip. The Associated Press reports
that Pelosi has gotten in some hot water with campaign finance
experts who say that she may have illegally raised and distributed
tens of thousands of additional dollars to congressional candidates
using a practice that skirts federal limits. A leading advocate of
campaign finance reform, Pelosi raised and spent the money through
two political action committees, known as leadership PACs. But under
federal law, you only are permitted one bite at the apple -- i.e.
PACs under your control -- not two.
But what is perhaps most
interesting -- and unfortunately most overlooked -- about this
episode is that Pelosi is one of the safest of incumbents who does
not need to spend a dime on reelection next week. Hailing from
liberal San Francisco, Pelosi regularly wins with 80 percent of the
vote because her district is packed during redistricting with so
many Democrats that it is impossible for her to lose. In fact, most
Democratic House incumbents in California paid $20,000 apiece to the
consultant preparing the state's redistricting plan in order to have
"designer districts" drawn in which they could not lose.
begs the question -- why does Congresswoman Pelosi raise all that
money? The answer to that question reveals something important and
often overlooked about our winner- take-all political system.
Because most district races are safe for one political party or the
other, party leaders can strategize over the political map like
military generals, figuring out which will be the close races and
where to sprinkle the most resources. Party leaders
disproportionately pour big money into the handful of close races
that will determine which side will win a majority of House seats.
So Democratic leaders like Pelosi and Republicans like majority
leader Tom DeLay dispense money to colleagues in tight races -- to
help their party gain control, yes, but also to earn recipients'
support when their party's caucus votes for leadership positions.
While both parties regularly engage in such shenanigans, House
Republicans in 1999 raised the bar and further debased politics by
publicly and unapologetically hinging these fund-raising efforts to
the awarding of leadership positions and committee chairs. The
single-seat district terrain of winner-take-all allows safe-seat
politicians to raise money far beyond their own needs, and then dole
it out in such a way as to create their own political machines.
Consequently, donors often are placing their bets with candidates
they know will win, because winner-take- all districts have been
drawn to produce that result. Donors buy access and influence to
legislative leaders, and in some cases a chance to actually author
All of these dynamics are encouraged by the
geographic-based, single-seat district, winner-take-all nature of
our political system. The preponderance of redistricted safe seats
leaves the handful of close races as the small postage stamp of
political real estate where political war is waged. In a nation so
closely divided, whichever side wins more of these skirmishes for
the swing districts will win the big prize -- majority control of
the various Legislatures, control over committees and subcommittees,
and control over redistricting in those states.
Will GOP Control Senate
for 2 Months?
While the tragedy of Sen. Paul Wellstone's
tragic death has dominated media discussion about Senate elections
this past week, Jean Carnahan's run to stay in office in Missouri
has more potential to detonate the balance in the Senate. That race
actually is a special election to fill a vacancy; Sen. Carnahan is
an appointed placeholder for her husband, who died in a plane crash
shortly before defeating John Ashcroft in November 2000.
it's a special election, the winner immediately fills the position
and does not wait until late January when all other Senators are
sworn in. The Carnahan race is extremely close, with momentum
seesawing with her Republican challenger Jim Talent. If Talent wins,
the Republicans will have 50 seats until January no matter what
happens in other Senate races. And a tie goes to the Republicans, as
Vice President Dick Cheney gets to break the tie.
What's not clear
is how much a Republican Senate might do in its two months of
potential control, given the Senate's peculiar rules such as the
filibuster and cloture that allow the minority party to stall major
initiatives. Still, one can't help reflect on the fragility of our
political system. With the sides so evenly divided, eyeball to
eyeball in the foxholes, it doesn't take much to upend the apple
Runoff Controversy in
That's not all. The
battle for control of the U.S. Senate in the next Congress may not
be decided until December. In Louisiana congressional elections, a
runoff is held if no candidate earns a majority of the November
vote. If Sen. Mary Landrieu (D) earns less than 50% of the vote
against three Republican challengers, a runoff will be held. To find
the majority winner in one day instead of two, Louisiana should
extend its current use of instant runoff voting for overseas
absentee ballots to all voters.
US House No "Mirror of
John Adams once wrote about Congress that "This
representative assembly should be in miniature an exact portrait of
the people at large." Adams' sentiments were fairly common among the
Framers and Founders, as expressed at the Constitutional Convention
by James Wilson when stating that "the legislature ought to be the
most exact transcript of the whole society, the faithful echo of the
voices of the people."
This view of "mirror representation" was
pervasive among Members of Congress in the 19th-century as well.
During the 1842 debates over whether Congress should mandate
single-seat districts over winner-take-all, at-large elections,
several Congressmen borrowed Adams' portrait analogy to support
their theories of what Congress should look like.
Reynolds of Illinois thought that the House of Representatives was
meant to be a "kind of facsimile and mirror of the [public]" since
it was "the direct offspring of the people, and nearer the people
than any other assembly of men." [1842 Congressional Globe, pp.
345-346] Sen. Jacob Miller from New Jersey argued that the House
should be "what the Framers of the Constitution intended it should
be, a bright and honest mirror, reflecting all the lights and shades
of the multifarious interests of this mighty people, as they lie
spread out over this broad land."[p. 790]
So let's hold up the
mirror now to our Congress, and what do we see? While the U.S.
population is over 50 percent female, the U.S. House and Senate are
only 14 percent female. The U.S. population is approximately 72
percent white and 28 percent racial minority, but the U.S. House is
only 14 percent minority. The U.S. Senate is only three percent
minority, with not a single Latino or African-American. In the wake
of the controversy over no women being allowed at the club that runs
the Masters golf tournament, one wonders if Tiger Woods will soon be
asked to pressure the U.S Senate to be less exclusive.
and Senate are also disproportionately populated with lawyers, real
estate developers and millionaires. Particularly for young people,
there is hardly anyone sitting in the halls of power who looks,
talks, or thinks like them. Thus, when we hold up the mirror, the
image beaming back is distorted and not particularly flattering.
The appearance of representatives is what political scientists
typically call "descriptive representation." Descriptive
representation is academic jargon for what some would label a kind
of "political correctness," an apparently radical notion that the
People's representatives should mirror the demographics of the
people they seek to represent, at least within some reasonable
Like other matters PC,
descriptive representation is not very popular today. But shouldn't
our "representative government" at least come closer to mirroring
our population by race, age, income bracket, and occupation? Our
nation's racial diversity is increasing at a galloping rate. In two
decades our four largest states (Texas, California, Florida and New York) will likely hold 25 percent
of the nation's population and
no longer be majority-white. Can our "winner take all" political system
deliver descriptive representation in such a way that the
full range of our population feels connected to
our legislatures? Or is there a "demographic crash" in the
- Steven Hill, Senior Analyst
Ten Races to Watch on
The Center's Rob Richie
compiled this list for a national talk radio program. It highlights
some of the most important elections on Tuesday. Among ballot
measures to track, California and Colorado are voting on whether to
allow people to register on Election Day, while Colorado is also
voting on whether to adopt vote-by-mail for its elections.
1. Florida Governor's race -- Can Republican Jeb Bush
overcome tough economic times in his state, win a second term and be
positioned to help his brother in the all-important battle for
Florida in the 2004 presidential race?
2. Missouri US Senate race
-- Can Democrat Jean Carnahan keep the seat her deceased husband won
in 2000 and allow her party to maintain control of the Senate for
the rest of 2002?
3. Minnesota US Senate race -- Can Democrat
Walter Mondale win a one-week campaign in the wake of Paul
Wellstone's death? It is one of a several toss-up U.S. Senate races,
including ones in Arkansas, Colorado, New Hampshire and South
4. Minnesota Governor's race -- Can Independence Party
candidate Tim Penny keep the two major parties from holding all 50
governor's offices for the first time since the 1980s?
Connecticut-5 US House race -- One of four incumbent- on-incumbent
US House battles resulting from redistricting, a win for either
Republican Nancy Johnson or Democrat Jim Maloney could be an early
indicator of which party will control the House in 2003-2004.
Louisiana US Senate race -- Can Democrat Mary Landrieu win 50%
against three Republican challengers and avoid a December runoff
that just might determine which party runs the Senate in 2003-2004?
7. Maryland-8 U.S. House race -- Can Republican Connie Morella hold
onto a district drawn to be heavily Democratic?
8. Utah-2 U.S.
House race -- Can Democrat Jim Matheson hold onto a district drawn
to be heavily Republican?
9. Arizona governor's race -- Running a
campaign with full public financing, can Democrat Janet Napolitano
lead a tide of women winning governor's races?
10. Texas Senate race -- Can
Democrat Ron Kirk pull off a major upset and become the only black
or Latino U.S. Senator?
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