FairVote Newsletters
This is the archive for FairVote's periodic newsletters highlighting some of the latest developments in the world of electoral reform and news about FairVote's own research and analysis. For FairVote's Innovative Analysis series, which offers a fresh, accessible perspective on our core issues, click here.


Re: - Democracy Index: No-Choice Elections; Distorted Representation; Runoffs a Turnoff

- CVD's Democracy USA Initiative and Major "Claim Democracy" Conference in November / Job Opening

- TX Redistricting Highlights Broken System & Case for Full Representation / CVD Op-Ed in Wash. Post

- Full Representation Advances in Illinois, Seattle and Cincinnati / CVD Events in Florida

- Instant Runoff : New Support from SF Ethics Commission, Mark Green, LWV-Calif., FL Papers And New Use by Utah Republicans, Dem. Prez Poll

- Help America Vote Act : Committees Boost Fair Elections Systems Amidst Advances and Setbacks

- Fair Elections Rundown : Spanning the Globe - Newsweek: Winner-take-all a loser in Iraq - Canada: Advances for full representation - Full rep. elections in Wales, Scotland - New adoptions for choice voting - Argentina's prez needs runoff to win - Tracking elections around the world - Democratic Presidential Primaries

- A Request: Help Fund CVD with Your Vote!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(For more information about issues discussed here or to support our Center, visit www.fairvote.org or email us at info@fairvote.org . To subscribe/unsubscribe from these occasional newsletters, please see the end of this edition. Finally, we encourage sharing this message with friends.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

DEMOCRACY INDEX: NO-CHOICE ELECTIONS; DISTORTED REPRESENTATION; RUNOFFS A TURNOFF

Our Center periodically issues reports, such as our Monopoly Politics analysis that allowed us immediately after the November 2002 elections to pick winners and victory margins in more than 350 U.S. House races in the November 2004. We recently have issued three new reports:

An updated edition of "Dubious Democracy" that highlights the record lack of competition in 2002 congressional races, comparing states on several measures of electoral health since 1982: http://www.fairvote.org/dubdem  

 

A short review and analysis of uncontested state legislative races, in which well over one-third of all state legislative races again were won without any opposition. See our report and state reports from Texans for Public Justice and Massachusetts Common Cause and Mass Vote: http://fairvote.org/reports/uncontestedraces.htm http://www.tpj.org/Lobby_Watch/uncontestedraces.html   http://www.commoncause.org/states/massachusetts

A report on the dramatic voter turnout decline in federal primary runoffs, with 82 of the last 84 federal primary runoffs experiencing voter turnout decline. http://www.fairvote.org/turnout/federaldecline.htm  

We've created a Democracy Index to highlight some of our findings:

 

Voter Turnout

- International rank of United States in voter turnout in national elections since 1945: 139.

- Percentage of adults in California who voted in U.S. House races in 2002: 28%.

Effective Votes and Choices

- Percentage of adult Americans who voted for a winning candidate in all U.S. House races in 2002: 23.5%.

- Percentage of those voters choosing among at least three viable House candidates: 0%.

- Percentage of Danish adults who voted for a winning candidate in their 2001 national elections: 80%.

- Percent of Danish voters choosing among at least three viable candidates: 100%.

Lack of Competion in US House Races

- Average winning percentage in 2002 House races: 69%.

- Percentage of U.S. House races won by landslide margins of at least 20%: 82%.

- Number of states where fewer than half of races were landslide wins: 6.
- Number of these states with 4 or more races: 1 (Iowa).

Lack of Competition in State Legislative Races

- Number of state legislative races with uncontested winners in 2002: 37%.

- Number of states with uncontested winners in more than half of state assembly seats: 15.

- Number with two-thirds of seats uncontested: 5 (Arkansas, Florida, Mass., South Carolina, Wyoming).

- From 1980-2002, number of incumbent state legislators in New York seeking re-election: 2,321.

- Number defeated: 30 (1%).

- Average victory margin for NY incumbents, 1970: 20%.

- Average victory margin in 2002: More than 50%.

Distortions in Seats and Votes

- Percentage of growth in share of national vote won by Republican U.S. House candidates from 1992 to 2000: 3%.

- Percentage of growth in share of national seats won by Republican House candidates from 1992 to 2000: 10%.

U.S. Senate and Majority Rule

- Number of adults who are represented by at least one Democrat or independent in the U.S. Senate: 141 million.

- Number of adults represented by at least one Republican in the U.S. Senate: 117 million.

- Party that won the most votes in U.S. Senate races in 1998-2002: Democrats.

Representation of Women and Racial Minorities

- Direction of number of women in state legislatures and Congress since 1998: Down.

- Direction of number of African Americans and Asian Americans in Congress since 1994: Down.

- Percentage of Americans who are African American or Latino: 26%.

- Percentage of U.S. Senators in these two groups: 0%.

Runoff Elections:Voter Turnout and Campaign Finance

- Of 84 federal primaries going to runoffs in 1994- 2002, number where voter turnout declined in runoff: 82.

- Average turnout change in these runoffs: 35% decline - Number of these runoffs won by a candidate who finished second in first round: 24 (29%)

- Independent expenditures made to support or oppose candidates for the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in the November 2002 general election: $59,357.

- Amount of such expenditures in the December 2002 runoff elections in one-on-one races: $202,548

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DEMOCRACY USA AND NOV. CONFERENCE / JOB OPENING In light of such evidence of our growing "democracy deficit," the Center for Voting and Democracy's Board of Directors -- headed by former independent presidential candidate John B. Anderson -- has launched the Democracy USA initiative. Democracy USA is designed to build support for the right to vote and strengthen the pro-democracy movement in the United States. The Center seeks to play a catalytic role in fostering national coordination of pro-democracy groups to provide support for a full range of pro-democracy reforms in the states. Democracy USA is taking the lead in organizing a "Claim Democracy" conference, to be held November 21-23 in Washington, DC, to celebrate, secure and expand the power of the right to vote. The conference will bring together a diverse range of national and state reformers, scholars and elected officials to ensure the demand for a stronger democracy is heard and acted upon. The conference will include both high-profile plenary sessions and hands-on workshops and trainings on the full range of needed reforms to our elections. Please save the date!

Our Center is not abandoning our work for fair election methods. Quite the contrary: rather, we are establishing the initiative with an understanding that "a rising tide lifts all boats." Like most reformers, we believe there is no magic bullet solution to problems with our democracy, and that all pro-democracy work will be enhanced with a stronger infrastructure of support in states to pursue a full range of reform opportunities when opportunities emerge. The initiative initially will promote only principles of strong democracy rather than a specific set of reforms. These principles will be grounded on the need to protect, expand and exercise the right to vote.

Components of Democracy USA include: a media campaign to draw attention to advances and setbacks in states and efforts by pro-democracy advocates; creation of the John Anderson Fund for Independent Politics; establishment of a "Citizen's Declaration" in support of the Democracy USA initiative; and a website with news and "blogs." Noteworthy writings relating to the initiative include:

The Center's Board resolution establishing Democracy USA at http://www.fairvote.org/democracyusa/resolution.htm  

 

"Action Potential: We may be building democracy in Iraq, but could use election-reform measures of our own" -- Commentary by CVD's Steven Hill and Rob Richie in The American Prospect On-Line http://www.fairvote.org/op_eds/americanproaction.htm  

"Democracy Unbalanced," by Richie and Hill in Balt. Sun, http://www.fairvote.org/op_eds/baltsun050203.htm  

"A Right to Vote" -- Commentary by Washington College of Law's Jamin Raskin making the case for establishing an affirmative constitutional right to vote in the U.S. Constitution. http://www.fairvote.org/democracyusa/raskin.htm  

To help organize "Claim Democracy," the Center is seeking to hire a short-term staffer. Details are posted on our website. http://www.fairvote.org/about_us/job_listings.htm

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TEXAS REDISTRICTING HIGHLIGHTS BROKEN SYSTEM AND THE CASE FOR REFORM / CVD OP-ED IN WASH. POST

"Gerrymandering has become a "Friday the 13th" horror movie. Just when we thought it was over, it returns, like the implacable, hockey-masked villain, refusing to die. Its latest resurrection is in Texas, where the state legislature is meeting in special session as part of a brazen bid to protect the Republican majority in the U.S. House of Representatives..."

Thus starts a new commentary by CVD's Rob Richie and Steven Hill in the July 1, 2003 Washington Post. Note incumbent abuse of redistricting is a bi-partisan activity -- and one that neither major party seems willing to address. The only congressional legislation in 2003 with the word "redistricting" was introduced in May by Congresswoman Maxine Waters to stop mid-decennial redistricting - as if the anti-democratic nature of the process isn't glaring at the start of a decade. Our full commentary: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A55791-2003Jul1.html  

 

The Texas controversy has sparked a range of strong commentary and media coverage. For example:

More Richie/Hill commentary in a piece that appeared in major newspapers in Houston and Forth Worth, Texas. http://www.fairvote.org/commentary/chronicle062903.htm  

See recently posted national and state coverage in our 50-state "Mapping our Future" guide to redistricting: http://www.fairvote.org/redistricting  

Excellent C.S. Monitor commentary about why Texas should direct us to full representation voting methods: http://www.fairvote.org/op_eds/mattersofprop.htm  

Note that the courts continue to be active on the issues of redistricting, and the U.S. Supreme Court has taken up a challenge to Pennsylvania congressional districts as a potential unconstitutional gerrymander. See http://www.votelaw.com/blog/archives/001070.html  

For examples of key rulings, see our redistricting home page: http://www.fairvote.org/redistricting/index.html  Postings include: 1) an opinion by the Indiana Supreme Court in March 2003 ruling that established a criteria-driven process for Indianapolis city council districts because redistricting had been excessively partisan and established a criteria-driven commission; 2) information on the Veith v. Jubelirer case on alleged partisan gerrymandering in Pennsylvania; and 3) the Supreme Court's important ruling (analysis in forthcoming update) that will likely result in fewer legislative districts in which racial minorities have enough votes to control the outcome of elections.

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FULL REPRESENTATION ADVANCES IN ILLINOIS AND CITIES / UPCOMING CVD EVENTS IN FLORIDA

The Illinois legislature has passed HB 138 to allow counties the option to use full representation. The bill awaits the governor's signature. See http://www.fairvote.org/op_eds/djw0503.htm  

 

Backed effectively by CVD's general counsel Dan Johnson- Weinberger, the legislation allows counties to grant cumulative voting rights in multi-member districts and authorizes citizen initiatives on the structure of county boards. Illinois has a proud history of cumulative voting in which it has generated fairer elections and a more positive climate for bi-partisan approaches to problems. In April, Peoria (IL) held its fourth city council election with cumulative voting since adopting it to settle a voting rights challenge. It once again produced fair representation. For information on its history for state legislative elections from 1870 to 1980 and the drive to restore it, see: http://www.fairvote.org/vra/illinois.htm  http://www.fairvote.org/op_eds/illinoisreport.htm  http://www.midwestdemocracy.org  

Meanwhile, in Seattle an electoral laws task force has recommended that three variations of the choice voting method of full representation be among options debated at citizen hearings. The city currently has winner-take-all, at-large elections that under-represent people of color, and a reform movement led by Washington Citizens for Proportional Representation and the Washington League of Women Voters has pressed hard for choice voting. Two commentaries in the April 13 Seattle Post-Intelligencer back full representation: one by the Center's Rob Richie and Steven Hill making a general case and one by the League of Women Voters' Janet Anderson on choice voting: http://www.fairvote.org/op_eds/seattle041303.htm http://www.fairvote.org/op_eds/seattle041303a.htm  

Cincinnati, Ohio also elects all members of its city council in at-large, winner-take-all elections. African Americans make up 40% of the city's population, but have consistently been under-represented since voters in 1957 repealed choice voting. This under-representation has sparked a major voting rights case and ballot measures to adopt choice voting, cumulative voting or single-member districts. The choice voting measures in 1988 and 1991 earned more than 70% of the African American vote, but fell short with some 45% of votes overall. Now Cincinnati's mayor's and city council have established an electoral reform commission to study whether the city should resort to choice voting or districts. The commission is expected to make its recommendations by February 2004.

The Center and its field director Rashad Robinson are joining with local partners in Florida for two events this month: an evening event on July 11 in Miami, co-sponsored by the Southwest Voter Registration Education Project and Miami-Dade League of Women Voters and a July 26 training in Tallahassee with Florida A & M and the UIA-Mexico project. Details at: htttp://www.fairvote.org/vra      

Other new links on full representation include:

- CVD's Steven Hill testified to California's commission on the Help America Vote Act about the case for full representation http://www.fairvote.org/op_eds/hillhava.htm  

- Excerpts on full representation and instant runoff voting from Jamin Raskin's book, "Overruling Democracy." http://www.fairvote.org/pr/raskinexcerpt.htm  

- Quotes on fair election methods from commentaries in the New Yorker by CVD Board member Hendrik Hertzberg http://www.fairvote.org/commentary/hertzberg.htm

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INSTANT RUNOFF -- NEW SUPPORT FROM SF ETHICS COMMISSION, MARK GREEN, LWV-CALIF AND FLORIDA NEWSPAPERS / NEW USE BY UTAH REPUBLICANS AND IN DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL STRAW POLL

In March 2002 more than 55% of San Francisco voters supported a charter amendment to replace traditional two-round runoff elections with a single round instant runoff voting (IRV) election. Turnover within San Francisco's Department of Elections has slowed plans to implement the new system, however, leaving the City in the uncertain position of not yet having a certified voting method for this November's elections for mayor and city attorney.

But IRV implementation plans are coming together. The City's election vendor has applied for certification to adapt current election equipment that would allow counting ballots at the precinct and notifying voters of any errors, and the City is appropriating hundreds of thousands of dollars for grassroots voter education to be carried out by community- based groups. The San Francisco Ethics Commission endorsed a resolution in favor of implementing IRV this November, pointing out that independent campaign expenditures skyrocket in runoffs.

There have been strong expressions of support for IRV in San Francisco, including a recent Asian Week commentary by five elected officials of color and a San Francisco Chronicle op-ed. The Center also produces a regular update on the status of implementing IRV. See: http://www.fairvote.org/sf/ethicsresolution.htm http://www.fairvote.org/op_eds/irvbest.htm http://www.fairvote.org/op_eds/fulfillthewill.htm http://www.fairvote.org/sf/index.html  

 

Success in San Francisco could spur growing support for IRV. Here are a series of advances for IRV from the past three months:

In May, the California State League of Women Voters adopted a position favoring IRV over both plurality elections and traditional runoffs for executive offices. The League of Women Voters in Phoenix endorsed IRV and full representation, and the Arizona League has begun a study: http://www.fairvote.org/irv/lwvpositions.htm  

New York City's former Public Advocate Mark Green has come out for IRV for New York elections: http://www.fairvote.org/articles/gothamgazette.htm  

Authors of the Metropolitan College of New York's new report "People and Politics in America's Big Cities" advocate IRV to better accommodate diverse electorates: http://www.fairvote.org/vra/irvreport03.htm  

Utah Republicans and several of their county arms have enacted bylaws to allow for the use of IRV to nominate candidates at their conventions. Last year it nominated congressional candidates by IRV. In June a state senate candidate was nominated by IRV. http://www.fairvote.org/articles/saltlaketribune.htm  

The Center strongly advocates allowing voters to rank choices in polls and straw polls of all sorts as more revealing. MoveOn.org allowed voters to rank their top three choices in the first round of its recent preference poll of members. NYS Instant Runoff Voting has established an online IRV preference poll for the 2004 election cycle -- see http://www.POTUSpoll.com . The Center has written an instructive commentary about rankings in a straw poll taken at a recent conference: http://www.fairvote.org/irv/tbainfo.htm  

The Massachusetts Democratic Party on June 7 adopted an Action Agenda with a direct reference to how instant runoff voting could engage more youth in politics. http://www.fairvote.org/irv/ma.htm  

The Humboldt County (CA) Democratic Central Committee unanimously adopted a resolution in support of AB 1039, legislation to allow general law cities and counties in California to use IRV and full representation.

In May the Utne Reader ran a strong article by Leif Utne about the benefits of instant runoff voting: http://www.fairvote.org/commentary/utne0503.htm  

In June commentators at three Florida papers supported IRV for primary elections, including an editorial in the Palm Beach Post (adopting IRV would be "a cause for celebration") and columns in the St. Petersburg Times and Daytona Beach News-Journal: http://www.fairvote.org/editorials/pbppreserve.htm http://www.fairvote.org/articles/understandingirv.htm http://www.fairvote.org/articles/rewritingfllaws.htm  

Arkansas nearly adopted instant runoffs for some ballots cast by overseas voters. The bill passed the house, but lost in the senate: http://www.fairvote.org/action/arpress042403.htm  

Interest continues to rise on campus. See an article from the Utah Statesman on the growing movement to adopt IRV on campuses and a widely published commentary by the Center's associate John Russell. http://www.fairvote.org/op_eds/usu42303.htm http://www.fairvote.org/commentary/russell041403.htm  

A possible November election that will draw widespread attention is the potential recall of California governor Gray Davis. If petitioners collect enough signatures, Davis would face an up-or- down vote on staying in office, while voters would cast one vote among those seeking to replace him. Polls currently indicate Davis could lose the recall. Given that plurality elections will be used instead o fIRV, his replacement may take office with less under a third of votes cast. You can track the recall effort at http://www.davisrecall.com/news/rel_details.cfm?prid=PR030528B  

To keep up with the latest IRV news and to read archived messages, join the well-moderated national IRV listserv. http://www.fairvote.org/irv/subscribe.htm

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HELP AMERICA VOTE: STATE COMMITEES BOOST FAIR ELECTION SYSTEMS AMIDST ADVANCES, SETBACKS

Adopted in 2002, the federal Help America Vote Act (HAVA) was designed to address some of the worst election administration problems exposed by the controversial 2000 presidential elections. HAVA's impact will be felt by many voters by 2004 and by all voters by 2006, when several changes are required.

Most states have established committees to develop state plans to set new standards for equipment, voter registration and other aspects of running elections. These committees are making critically important decisions, but many have allowed little real public involvement, while the federal government is moving slowly to allocate funds. Some states also are rushing toward purchasing new touchscreen voting equipment. Such equipment is much better for voters, particularly language minorities and people with disabilities, but most current models do not support fair election voting methods nor have such important features as establishing a voter-verifiable paper trail.

To track the issue, we suggest: visiting the websites of electionline.org and of Demos, which also includes a ground-breaking new study on voter fraud, at http://www.demos-usa.org and reading an article by Demos' president Miles Rapoport. http://www.fairvote.org/op_eds/prospect050103.htm  

and reading an article by Demos' president Miles Rapoport.  

We have a particular interest in having states take the cost-free step of requiring new voting equipment to be ready to run instant runoff and cumulative voting elections. We are encouraged by preliminary recommendations of support for versions of this standard in three state plans -- California, New Jersey and Vermont - and progress in other states like New York. To find out what you can do in your state and to read a sample commentary in favor of this standard, see http://www.fairvote.org/administration http://www.fairvote.org/op_eds/detroitcomment.htm

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FAIR ELECTION RUNDOWN: SPANNING THE GLOBE

We will address recent international developments more fully in the future, but below are a series of informative links:

Author and Newsweek editor Fareed Zakaria has advocated that full representation be used in Iraq, not winner-take-all. A Century Foundation group of experts also recommends no winner-take-all: http://www.fairvote.org/op_eds/zakaria042103.htm http://www.tcf.org/Publications/iraq_report.pdf  

 

Advances for full representation in Canada: Fair Vote Canada tracks and supports moves by current governments in provinces like British Columbia, Quebec and New Brunswick toward adopting full representation. British Columbia will convene a citizens' assembly on voting system reform in anticipation of placing a measure on the ballot, while all three major parties in Quebec support moving to full representation. http://www.fairvotecanada.org  

Choice voting to be widely used in New Zealand in 2004: In 2004, all voters in New Zealand can participate in elections to their Health Board using choice voting. Voters in three cities have adopted choice voting for city council races, including the capital of Wellington. Ten local councils will use choice voting next year.

Advances for full representation in the United Kingdom: In May, Scotland and Wales for the second time elected their regional governments through the mixed member form of full representation. The Wales elections resulted in women winning half of the seats -- the first state or federal government to ever to be at least half women. The Scottish elections resulted in the new government pledging to adopt choice voting for all city elections in 2007 -- a major change in cities now often dominated by only one party. The government may require parties to field gender-balanced candidate slates. Also, former Labour Party leader Roy Hattersley has reversed past opposition to full representation and former Foreign Secretary Robin Cook has stepped up his calls for full representation. See: http://www.electoral-reform.org.uk    http://www.fairvote.org/op_eds/guardianjune2.htm  www.fairvote.org/op_eds/hillscotwales.htm  

Papua New Guinea to use IRV: Papua New Guinea several decades ago abandoned the instant runoff voting method of neighboring Australia in favor of U.S.-style plurality. Now it has decided to return to IRV, starting with its next elections.

Argentina's president needs runoff to win: Former Argentinian president Carlos Menem eked out a plurality win in the first round of voting in Argentina's presidential race, but decided to withdraw rather than face a certain defeat in a runoff round of voting against Nestor Kirchner. Kirchner, who has started his presidency with great vigor, led Menem by a two-to-one margin in the runoff election polls, but would have been defeated under U.S.-style plurality election rules.

Tracking elections around the world: Three good websites on voter turnout, election administration and election results are: http://www.idea.int
http://www.globalelections.org
http://www.ifes.org  

Democrats' primary schedule takes shape: The Center has posted the current schedule for Democratic presidential primaries: http://www.fairvote.org/turnout/dem_sched04.htm  

For a wide-ranging set of links on elections and reform groups, see http://www.fairvote.org/links