Election Day 2000

November 6, 2000
To: Friends of Fair Elections
From: Rob Richie, Executive Director, CVD
Re:  Election Day Special


  1. Analysis of presidential and congressional races
  2. See/hear CVD on CSPAN, CNN, "Fresh Air, more
  3. Reports on redistricting, competition, plurality wins
  4. Essays from all 50 states on "Why We Don't Vote" contest draws national attention, many reprints
  5. CVD commentary on electoral college in USA Today, Christian Science Monitor, more
  6. Instant runoff voting to qualify for Alaska ballot
  7. Trenton Times endorses IRV, more strong commentary and coverage of IRV in Wash. Post, NY Times, more
  8. IRV support across the spectrum: statements of support from Pat Buchanan, Vermont League of Women Voters and Sierra Club Executive Director
  9. Support for proportional representation
  10. CVD champion of democracy Theodore Berry dies
  11. Voting rights: Cumulative voting editorial, more
  12. Events: future and past

It has been several weeks since a general update from the Center for Voting and Democracy, but we've been busy and productive this election season -- and interest in our analysis of elections and political reform continues to grow. Certainly a remarkable confluence of events in American elections shows the importance of re-thinking our electoral rules. Not only is the election tomorrow a titanic struggle between the major parties for control of the presidency and Congress; but it also raises fundamental questions about:

  • Voter turnout (fewer than half of American adults may vote);
  • Electoral competition (despite the overall competition for control of Congress, most congressional races are walkovers);
  • The perversity of our winner-take-all, plurality voting system (where some supporters of third party candidates like Ralph Nader hold back for fear that voting for them will help elect the candidate they most dislike);
  • Representation of women and racial minorities (women lag far behind counterparts in most well-established democracies and the U.S. Senate again will have no black or Latino members);
  • The usefulness of the Electoral College (which not only this year has led the major candidates to ignore most states in their quest for votes in swing states, but may well lead to an election winner who loses the national popular vote).

We will follow up with you shortly with a post-election analysis, a preview of plans for the upcoming round of redistricting and a discussion of the increasing opportunities for pursuing and winning changes in our voting system to empower more voters. Following is a review of our analysis of today's elections and of notable events, reports and commentary recently posted on our web site.

1. Analysis of Presidential and Congressional Races

Who is going to win today? We can't say with certainty in every race, but we long ago could predict the winner in most U.S. House races and in most states in the presidential race. Today we held a news conference on the key indicators to monitor as the polling places begin to close around the country. On our web site, please see:

The Presidential Race's Electoral Landscape: Using the techniques it has applied so successfully to U.S. House races, the Center analyzes the presidential race -- and finds a tilt toward Democrats if the national vote is dead even. http://www.fairvote.org/map/pres2000.htm

Election Night, as the Polls Close: Track the key benchmarks for the major parties in races for the presidency and U.S. House and Senate. http://www.fairvote.org/2000/pollclose.htm

USA Map Guide to New Reports: See new USA map to peruse state-by-state reports on predictions in congressional elections ("Monopoly Politics 2000"), electoral competition and redistricting at http://www.fairvote.org/map/map.htm

2. See/hear CVD on CSPAN, CNN, "Fresh Air', more

Our news conference on election night benchmarks was covered by CSPAN and other national press. It has aired once on CSPAN 2 and is scheduled to air early today (Tuesday, November 7th) at 1:04 AM (EST) on CSPAN 1 and again at 3:37 am on CSPAN 2. Also on Tuesday, I will appear as a guest on National Public Radio's "Fresh Air" (in a discussion on non-traditional ways of casting ballots such as vote by mail and early voting) and on CNN's "Street Sweep" program at 4 pm. CVD staff and I also will be on radio programs in Texas, Arizona, Connecticut and more.

Other recent CVD radio/television appearances include: CSPAN's airing of our August 29, 2000 news conference on elections six times; deputy director Eric Olson's interviews on NBC and ABC radio; my guest appearances on California Public Radio's Warren Olney show, Wisconsin Public Radio, Pacifica radio and ABCnews.com; CVD president John Anderson's appearance on the History Channel and, with me, an interview the Redband web site, about third parties and proportional representation (www.redband.com/realpolitics ).

3. Reports on Redistricting, Uncontested Races, Plurality Winners, Runoffs

  • Recent major state-by-state reports posted on our web site include
  • "Dubious Democracy 2001" An exhaustive collection of data from each state's congressional elections on competitiveness, voter turnout, partisan shares of the vote and seats, representation of women and minorities and other measures of electoral health from 1982 - 1998 presented in an attractive, easy-to-read format.
  • "Monopoly Politics 2000" A state-by-state, district-by-district list of predictions and projected vote shares, along with information on election results in each congressional district from 1992 to 1998
  • "Mapping our Future: A Public Interest Guide to Redistricting" A state-by-state guide to what governs redistricting in each state, with information on the statutes governing redistricting, litigation in the past decade, any reform efforts and legislation on redistricting and an analysis of the political landscape in each state.
  • Free Rides for More than One in Seven U.S. House Incumbents: Few congressional races are competitive this year, primarily due to the fact that most incumbents have settled into legislative districts that are safe for them and their party. In fact, 64 U.S. House races are not contested by both major parties in 2000 -- see an updated list of these fortunate candidates at http://www.fairvote.org/2000/unopposed.htm
  • The Center's analysis of congressional elections has received prominent attention in articles on the Reuter's Wire, Gannett News Wire, Cleveland Plain Dealer and in Slate magazine. As examples, see: http://slate.msn.com/Assessment/00-11-03/Assessment.asp and http://www.fairvote.org/op_eds/mort1000.htm
  • Rule by the Non-Majority : The Center released an extensive analysis of the frequency of candidates winning state and federal elections with less than 50% of the vote. The Washington Post (see below) discussed this report in detail.
  • Also, see information about the breakdown of majority rule and the "spoiler" problem in the 2000 presidential election.
  • New Commentaries on Lack of Competition: Lee Mortimer, a member of the Center, wrote a commentary that has appeared in the Raleigh News and Observer, Charlotte News and Observer, Houston Chronicle and other publications. CVD policy analyst John Gear wrote a column that appeared in Lansing State Journal and on the nation wire.
  • Don't Forget the State Legislatures : Although it's easy to overlook state legislative races in the midst of the major federal elections, they are critically important in several states (at least those few competitive seats that can swing control of a state legislature). See the Center's recent commentary at http://www.motherjones.com/reality_check/legislatures.html Of course most individual races are not close -- in fact, four in 10 state legislative races were not contested by one of the major parties in 1998. For an example of state study, see the Midwest Democracy Center's analysis of Illinois at http://www.midwestdemocracy.org/2000stats.htm
  • U.S. Runoffs and Racial Minorities and Women : An indepth analysis of the impact of runoff elections on the participation and representation of women and racial minorities.

4. Essays from All 50 States on "Why We Don't Vote"

"Why Don't We Vote?" Nearly 9,000 young people from all 50 states submitted essays for our essay contest. The Center has posted the winning essays along with submissions from every state and a summary of the recommendations that contestants made for boosting youth turnout.


The essays have been discussed and quoted in such publications as USA Today, Christian Science Monitor and Hartford Courant and in a Medill news service wire story. Two essays and quotes from many more were distributed on a national wire and have been used by a variety of newspapers, including the Charlotte News and Observer. Another winning essay was circulated by Alternet's Wiretap magazine.

5. CVD Commentary on Electoral College in USA Today, Christian Science Monitor, More

See new commentary by John Anderson in USA Today and by Steve Hill in Roll Call and the Christian Science Monitor and more, along with a summary of constitutional amendments introduced to reform the Electoral College. See http://www.fairvote.org/op_eds/electoral_college.htm

Note that when a visitor to Yahoo's "full coverage" looks up the Electoral College to see editorial comment, two commentaries from CVD are among the four selected.

6. Instant Runoff Voting to Qualify for Alaska Ballot

In late October, 35,000 signatures were turned into the Alaska Division of Elections by supporters of an initiative to enact instant runoff voting for all federal elections in Alaska and nearly all state elections. Read an Associated Press wire report. http://www.fairvote.org/irv/alaska.htm

7. Trenton Times endorses IRV, more strong commentary and coverage of IRV in Wash. Post, NY Times, more

The Trenton Times (daily paper of New Jersey's capital city) editorializes in favor of instant runoff voting, the Washington Post and New York Times devote columns to instant runoff voting non-majority winners an other writers advocate instant runoff. See http://www.fairvote.org/op_eds/irv_coverage.htm

There have been several other commentaries of note that tout instant runoff voting, including:

  • CVD deputy director Eric Olson in Roll Call
  • CVD's Rob Richie and Steven Hill in The Nation
  • Former NY Times columnist Tom Wicker in TomPaine
  • Michael Lind column in the New York Times
  • Eric Olson letter in the Washington Post
  • John Anderson column that appeared in Cincinnati Enquirer, Miami Herald, Detroit Free Press, more

See http://www.fairvote.org/op_eds/fall_irv_pubs.htm

8. IRV Support Across the Spectrum: Statements of Support from Pat Buchanan, Vermont League of Women Voters and Sierra Club Executive Director

Instant runoff voting has demonstrated the capacity to gain support from across the spectrum.

Earlier this year, the Vermont League of Women Voters, Vermont Common Cause and Vermont Grange all backed state legislation in Vermont to enact instant runoff voting for statewide elections.

The Alaska Republican Party voted to make instant runoff voting its number one legislative priority.

Just in recent weeks, political oddfellows Pat Buchanan, the Reform Party's presidential candidate, and the Sierra Club's executive director Carl Pope expressed support for instant runoff. Buchanan touted instant runoff voting on a radio program on October 29 called "Beyond the Beltway." Pope wrote in a recent letter to the magazine In These Times that: "[Instant runoff voting] probably should be tested, and could eliminate the spoiler problem that has dogged third parties in this country since the 1840s. So let's support preference voting, not spoil an election." Both Buchanan and Pope have struggled with the "spoiler problem" in our current plurality voting system -- Buchanan as a third party candidate and Pope as a supporter of Al Gore concerned about the Ralph Nader candidacy.

The Gore-Nader controversy has raged in progressive circles (as debated in the Richie-Hill commentary in the Nation mentioned above) and caused great energy devoted to tactical approaches to avoid the spoiler problem. One recent example is http://www.votepact.com , in which supporters of third party candidates who have decided to instead vote for a major party candidate would find a supporter of the other major party candidate making a similar calculation and agree to both "cancel" each other's support out by both voting for their minor party candidate of choice. (Note that a recent poll showed that 5% of Al Gore and George Bush would vote for Ralph Nader if they believed their vote for him would not be wasted. If true, that would make his percentage close to 10% of the national vote.) Rather than accept these tortuous calculations and tactics, we urge people to join the growing coalition behind instant runoff voting and bury the "spoiler" charge once and for all.

9. Support for Proportional Representation

Proportional representation remains the essential gateway to lasting full representation of the electorate. Recent commentaries in USA Today and Asia Week and by CVD advisory board member Manning Marable tout proportional representation:  http://www.fairvote.org/op_eds/pr_coverage.htm

10. CVD Champion of Democracy Theodore Berry Dies

Theodore Berry died on October 15 at the age of 94. Mr. Berry was a winner of one of our "Champion of Democracy" awards in 1994. As discussed in a New York Times obituary, he was a strong and effective advocate of proportional representation for five decades. http://www.fairvote.org/pr/berry.htm

Another loss to the CVD community was the death of Bruce Baechler, who had been an active member of CVD since our founding in 1992. He pushed hard for the Libertarian Party to put proportional representation in its platform and to make it a part of LP activists' agenda. He died in an auto accident in Ohio while working on a congressional campaign.

11. Voting Rights Update: September 15, 2000

Read excellent editorial in the Birmingham News (AL) that endorses cumulative voting and information on a mixed ruling for cumulative voting in Chicago Heights and a Florida columnist's praises cumulative voting http://www.fairvote.org/vra/20000915.htm

12. Events: future and past

Looking ahead, New Yorkers should take note of the "4th Annual Irwin Mann Memorial Lecture on Voting and Democracy" to be held on December 5 at New York University Libraries' Irwin Mann Memorial Collection on Voting and Democracy. CVD president John Anderson will address: "Beyond Spoilers and the Evil of Two Lessers: The Real Lessons from the 2000 Elections."

Looking back, John Anderson was a plenary speaker at an October 2000 conference on "Independent Politics in a Global World," held in New York City. I also was a panelist. John and I were among several speakers touting proportional representation and instant runoff voting. When John first mentioned PR at the opening plenary Friday night, there was a spontaneous ripple of applause -- the first of the evening. (That same burst of applause greeted Lani Guinier's touting of proportional representation at a Nation Magazine forum during the Democratic party convention in Los Angeles.) As an individual, John also was among several speakers at "super rallies" for Green Party presidential candidate Ralph Nader to promote proportional representation and instant runoff voting. I was a panelist at the Louisiana state convention of the NAACP in September and had the good fortune to attend Queens College professor Gerald Meyer's Brecht Forum lecture on proportional representation in New York City Council elections in the 1930's and 1940's on November 1st.

Happy Election Day!