Dear fellow supporter of FairVote,
I trust your year has been as good for you as our 2005 has been for promoting reform – and that the coming year promises to bring as many exciting, positive developments as we expect here. I write today to ask for your renewed financial support for our work and to share the reasons for the optimism I feel in the face of admittedly daunting obstacles.
I wish all of you could have joined me in attending this month’s meeting of our Board of Directors to hear from a staff bursting with energy and innovative ideas and to talk about the future with a wonderful group of reformers – people like law professor and author Jamin Raskin, Dallas attorney Clay Mulford, who managed Ross Perot’s presidential campaign in 1992, Kathy Spillar, who leads efforts to elect more women, Rev. Eddie Hailes, an experienced attorney working for racial equality and democratic justice, highly successful entrepreneur David Wilner, experienced board member Cindy Terrell, Libertarian Party gubernatorial candidate Bill Redpath and Malia Lazu and Rashad Robinson, two experienced, insightful non-profit leaders still in their 20s. Indeed our entire board and its newly elected members like Washington Post columnist William Raspberry care passionately about the success of our efforts to revamp American democracy.
We certainly were impressed with the dedication, skills and innovative spirit of FairVote’s staff. Rob Richie of course is our mainstay, directing FairVote since its founding in 1992, but he has remarkable support in program director David Moon, communications director Ryan O’Donnell and presidential elections reform program director Chris Pearson and in the impressive young people who volunteer at FairVote or work for a relative pittance. This summer, 25 people worked in the FairVote headquarters, filling every nook and cranny and bursting with productivity as they tackled the electoral barriers to a free and fair vote for all Americans – indeed twice that number sought to volunteer, and we have volunteer support throughout the year here and around the nation.
Rob’s enclosed report provides details on our campaign to modernize American elections to achieve full participation, a range of meaningful choices and majority rule with fair representation for all. You’ll read about our progress made in efforts to achieve a constitutionally protected right to vote, direct presidential elections, instant runoff voting for executive offices and proportional voting for legislative offices – reforms that combine to provide an equally powerful and meaningful vote to all Americans. You’ll see how we are such an effective reform catalyst, developing and promoting innovative proposals to transform elections for local, state and national leaders.
I want to convey a simple reality: our organization is the essential organization for achieving these urgently needed reforms and we depend on your support. The 2000 presidential elections exposed flaws in our voting to the world, but have not yet led to the fundamental reforms I believe the times demand. On an area of particular importance to me, we have not acted to release the chokehold of a two-choice electoral system that for more than a century has produced not stability but stasis, an entrenchment of corrupting power rather than the energy of new ideas needed to address the problems of war and peace that cast lengthening shadows here and abroad.
The “bane of party spirit” of which George Washington warned in his farewell address in 1796 has indeed produced the factions and increasingly bitter recriminations feared by our constitutional framers. Our stagnant electoral process lies at the root of the monopoly of political power that constrains a search for the common good. Our polarized, winner-take-all elections have given us five consecutive national congressional elections where more than 98% of all incumbents have won, most by huge margins. Believe or not, most state legislators are even more entrenched, resulting in leaders who quash all dissent and run roughshod over the minority.
Rather than accommodate more choices in our elections, we maintain systems of voting that suppress choice. Instead of electing executive leaders by plurality systems that put independents in the “spoiler” role, we should use instant runoff voting, as showcased so well now in San Francisco. Instead of electing legislators through winner-take-all single member districts, we should use proportional systems in multi-seat districts, just as my home state of Illinois so effectively did for state legislative elections for more than a century. We should ensure all of us have an equal vote through direct election of the president and a constitutionally protected right to vote.
I am not suggesting that more choices on the general election ballot is a magic cure, but it is an essential element of a vibrant political system. Even strong defenders of two-party representation must recognize that the major parties can only be accountable if able to defeat challenges by independents and third parties. These same two-party defenders must come to see that the one-party domination of most districts and of most legislatures that they so accurately bemoan is a product of limiting choices and denying representation to so many Americans.
James Madison, the father of our Constitution, cogently argued in the Federalist Papers that our Constitution was written not to prohibit or to abolish factions, but to control them and thereby mitigate the ill effects they might otherwise have upon our noble experiment in self-government. Today our elections and legislatures exclude far too many of our people’s views and interests, thus allowing narrow factions to run rampant in our halls of power. By bringing more people in, we will have a better government for all of us.
My concerns about our democracy may be as great as they ever have been, but I am firmly convinced that we will achieve the reforms we seek. However, we cannot succeed without your support. If you have not made a donation this year – or if you’re willing to give us an additional boost going into 2006 – please give as generously as you can. My sincere thanks, and my best to you at this time of reflection, family togetherness and hope for the future.
John B. Anderson
P.S. All contributions are tax-deductible. We now can process gifts made by credit card, either as a one-time gift or as a monthly donations. Please return your reply form and envelope today, if you can, and don’t hesitate to contact our director Rob Richie at firstname.lastname@example.org, (301) 270-4616.