The Center for Voting and Democracy
September 30, 2004
Re: Newsflash (please share as you will)
- NY Times features instant runoff voting today
- Help Malia Lazu be the "American Candidate" on Sunday
- Nirvana's Krist Novoselic on tour for book and FairVote
- Highlights of recent webpostings
It's less than five weeks until an election that many call the most important in their lifetime. Tonight's debate between the major party presidential party candidates only seemed to underscore the likely closeness of the presidential race.
...Close in the national Electoral College tally, that is. Most states are walkovers where neither major party candidate devotes any time or resources, just as four out of every five US House races will again be quietly won by landslide margins. In American winner-take-all elections, most of us indeed are spectators in this year's elections -- a condition that we hope to change with a agenda of reforms to allow Americans to claim democracy: reforms like full representation systems for Congress and state legislatures, instant runoff voting for elections with a single winner, a guaranteed individual right to vote in the U.S. Constitution and a direct election for president where every vote counts the same. For more on our agenda, see our website: www.fairvote.org
We hope you are getting good information about this year's elections and the work of those seeking to improve elections now and in the future. One excellent resource is the regular e-newsletter of Demos -- see www.demos-usa.org/page60.cfm
posts timely news articles on a daily basis. And don't forget to
register to vote -- the deadline to register to vote in some states is
upon us (others are better organized and allow voters to register on
Today I wanted to highlight three time-sensitive developments and provide links to recent postings on our website.
HELP FAIRVOTE'S MALIA LAZU & RASHAD ROBINSON
Malia Lazu and Rashad Robinson, two young, talented board members of our Center have been stars in the Showtime reality series "The American Candidate." Malia is one of the final three candidates eligible to win in this mock presidential election; Rashad is her campaign manager and former field director of FairVote. This Sunday we need your help to make sure they win the show. IF MALIA WINS she gets 15 minutes of unedited airtime to give her national address. This will be a wonderful chance to talk about electoral reform: instant runoff voting, full representation and the Right to Vote constitutional amendment, all of which are all among her core issues.
Please forward this message to your various listservs and follow the instructions below for Sunday night's episode:
The "Nuts + Bolts" of Voting for Malia and her vice-presidential candidate KeithBoykin this Sunday
1. Watch American Candidate at 9:00 pm this Sunday, Oct. 3rd, on Showtime to get Malia's and Keith's 1-800 number.
2. If you don't have Showtime, at 9:50 pm you can visit the site www.keithboykin.com or call 646-234-4604 to get the 1-800 number and pass it along.
3. Call the 1-800 number to vote for the Malia and Keith.
4. Text message and email friends and ask them to call.
5. Polls are open from 9:45pm-11:45pm EST (east cost time). Polls open again at 9:45pm-11:45pm PST (west coast time), which is 3 hours behind EST, so this means everyone who lives on the east coast can get more people to call then.
6. Read more about the show and get information about their platforms at www.americancandidate.com
The American Candidate is a political series that has been airing on Showtime since August 1, 2004. The purpose of the show was to give people who would not normally have the opportunity to run for office a chance to do so and to raise political awareness for the upcoming election. The ten contestants competed in a simulated presidential campaign across the country. Each week, a different candidate was voted off of the ballot. The show is down to the final three teams. Malia and Keith are one of those teams.
INSTANT RUNOFF VOTING: DRAWS NATIONAL INTEREST
The use of instant runoff voting in San Francisco is creating a growing buzz of attention. In August there was a strong article in the Los Angeles Times and a profile on National Public Radio's "Morning Edition." (see
Today's half-page New York Times article leaves some critiques unanswered, but all in all provides powerful testimony to the impact of IRV. Here is the article: http://www.nytimes.com/2004/09/30/national/30runoff.html?
"New Runoff System in San Francisco Has the Rival Candidates Cooperating"
By Dean E. Murphy
Published: September 30, 2004, New York Times
SAN FRANCISCO, Sept. 29 - Eugene C. Wong is running for an office that typically does not draw the national spotlight. Yet Mr. Wong and the 64 others seeking seats on the County Board of Supervisors here are being closely watched by advocates for election reform around the country.
In Mr. Wong's case, the reason was evident on Wednesday, at one of his first big fund-raisers in the third district, an ethnically mixed area that straddles North Beach and Chinatown. The evening was unconventional, to say the least, with Mr. Wong sharing top billing with two principal rivals in the race, Sal Busalacchi and Brian Murphy O'Flynn.
"We are going to have more joint fund-raisers," Mr. Wong said. "I am not opposed to saying that if I don't win, then I hope one of these other guys wins."
The cooperation is in response to a new election system, instant-runoff voting. The system, which voters approved in 2002 and is having its first run, is viewed by critics of winner-take-all elections as the start of a
long-overdue overhaul of the way Americans choose elected officials.
Under this system, voters can choose three candidates for each office, ranking them in order of preference. If no candidate wins more than 50 percent of the first-choice votes, the lowest-placing finishers are
eliminated, and the second and, if necessary, third choices on those ballots are counted until someone garners a majority.
The system removes the need for a separate runoff election, saving money and, if the recent past is a guide, increasing the number of voters who have a say in choosing the winner. Under the old system, turnout usually dropped significantly in runoffs.
"People are hungry for change," said Lani Guinier, a professor of law at Harvard who has written about alternative election systems and is among those closely watching the San Francisco example.
"There is a simmering dissatisfaction with not only what happened in Florida in 2000,'' Professor Guinier said, "but with some of the responses that the election officials, Congress and others have implemented, and a sense that if the voters and citizens want to participate in our democracy, the voters and citizens have to take the initiative."
Critics of instant runoffs fear it is too difficult to pull off, for voters and election officials, and that it could reduce turnout among some minorities, especially those who speak English poorly and are new to voting. Some critics have also questioned whether it might violate the principle of "one man, one vote" that the Supreme Court established in 1964.
Even some supporters of the system acknowledge that its logistics can be daunting. It took San Francisco more than two years to use the system, a process that included making changes to its optical-scan voting machines that required the approval of the secretary of state. The changes were too late for the elections last year for mayor and district attorney.
of the complicated counting, experts expect that just first-choice
results will be available on election night, leading some critics to
complain that the "instant" is being taken out of instant-runoff voting.
"It will be a negative," said Lillian Sing, a former judge who is among six candidates challenging Supervisor Jake McGoldrick in District 1, in the Richmond area. "We are just beginning to get language minorities to vote more, and now all of a sudden we have this complicated process. It is a distraction to talk about how people should vote."
San Francisco is the first major city in the country to try instant-runoff voting since the 1970's, when Ann Arbor, Mich., abandoned it after one election. Variations of the system exist in a few places, including
Cambridge, Mass., where the City Council and school board are elected by proportional representation, which includes ranked-choice voting.
Until they were abolished by Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, the community school boards in New York allowed voters to rank candidates. Student governments at dozens of colleges and universities also use versions of the system.
But San Francisco is the sole major jurisdiction to incorporate what advocates of instant-runoff voting consider three essential components for its success, ranked-choice ballots, a single election and the requirement that each winner receive a majority of the votes cast.
"San Francisco is being seen as a very good test," said Robert Richie, executive director of the Center for Voting and Democracy, an organization in Takoma Park, Md., that advocates changes in election laws.
The center, founded by a former independent presidential candidate, John B. Anderson, was a leading force behind the 2002 ballot measure here.
Richie and other supporters of a broader push for instant runoffs see
past San Francisco to places like Florida. If Florida had the system
for the 2000 election, proponents say, there is little doubt that Al
Gore would have won the state instead of George W. Bush. Most of the
people who voted for Ralph Nader, the logic goes, would have listed a
Democrat as their second choice.
"I am not going to hide the fact that if you look at it, there is analysis to show it could help the Democrats," said Thomas D. Bull, a Democratic state representative in Maine who sponsored a measure there in the spring to instruct the secretary of state to study instant runoffs.
A tally kept by the Center for Voting and Democracy shows that Maine is among 22 states that have explored the idea in recent years.
"There are also examples of where it might have helped the Republicans,'' Mr. Bull added. "If you look at the Libertarians and along that line, there are conservative third-party candidates siphoning off Republican votes."
Professor Guinier said the voting system favored outsiders, no matter their politics or party registration. That is also the belief of Jim Stearns, a Democratic consultant here who opposed the ballot measure because, he said, he feared that instant runoffs would hurt so-called progressive politicians who have become the insiders on the officially nonpartisan Board of Supervisors.
"The irony of a lot of progressive reforms is that the system becomes legally more complicated and electorally more complicated, meaning those candidates who can afford high-quality help are going to be benefited," said Mr. Stearns, who is now running the re-election campaigns of three incumbent supervisors.
An early effect has been to introduce a new civility among the candidates, something many San Franciscans have wholeheartedly embraced. Because the winner in each district might be determined by voters' second and third choices, candidates have quickly learned that it is best to be on friendly terms so as not to alienate their opponents' supporters.
"Even if you come in second among the first-choice votes, you still have a shot at winning, so long as you can reach out to be the No. 2 choice to the rest of the people," said Mr. Wong, an immigration lawyer.
In District 5, Supervisor Matt Gonzalez, a big backer of instant runoffs in 2002, is not seeking re-election, creating the biggest free-for-all of the season. Many of the 22 candidates vying for his post participate in a
so-called Candidates Collaborative, meeting publicly every few weeks to discuss district problems. The setting is decidedly congenial.
One candidate, Michael O'Connor, a nightclub owner, said the consensus among most candidates was that opting out of the collaborative would be political suicide in the new get-along environment. Last month, Mr.
O'Connor also held a joint fund-raiser with a rival, Robert Haaland.
"The way I see how it works," Mr. O'Connor said, "win or lose, you may as well get along with people."
KRIST NOVOSELIC TOURS THE NATION
Krist Novoselic, bass player for the band Nirvana and an effective political activist in Washington state, has written a new book called "Of Grunge & Government: Let's Fix This Broken Democracy." In the book Novoselic discusses how Nirvana emerged as the world's biggest band of the early 1990s and his relationship to Kurt Cobain to how he got involved in politics and why we need electoral reform- in particular full representation and instant runoff voting.
Krist has been touring the nation on behalf of the book. For more information on his excellent book and the tour, see www.fairvote.org/novoselic. In the coming week he will speak in New York City, Washington DC, Boston and Chicago. If you live in one of those cities, I urge you to consult the schedule to see if you can hear him speak.
For those in the Washington, DC area and New York City, there are two additional events to highlight- - one is a fundraiser for our organization.
* Sunday, October 3 - Washington, DC.
PLEASE JOIN Krist Novoselic, Rob Richie, and Jamin Raskin at a house party this Sunday for drinks, music, treats from Cakelove, and spirited discussions about our voting system, the need and possibilities for reform, as well as efforts to promote a constitutional right to vote.
WHERE: 1119 Euclid Street, NW Washington DC 20009
WHEN: THIS Sunday, October 3rd, 2004 at 6:30 p.m.
COST: $15 door fee and (suggested) contribution to the
Center for Voting and Democracy $25 or more.
* Wednesday, October 6 - New York City
Join Krist and Rob at an event sponsored with Demos at 220 Fifth Avenue, Fifth Floor -- at corner of Fifth Avenue and 26th Street -- in New York City at 5 pm.
(from http://fairvote.org/whatsnew.htm )
Recent media coverage:Full representation, instant runoff voting, competitive elections and comments by representatives of FairVote, the Center for Voting and Democracy continue to be featured in major media around the nation. Highlights include new editorial support for IRV from several newspapers and several new commentaries by FairVote staffers.
Major news attention to IRV in San Francisco in New York Times, L.A. Times and San Francisco Chronicle and is featured on National Public Radio's Morning Edition . (September 30
With the passing of all relevant primaries, a completed analysis of the chances for women in the U.S. House of Representatives is now available. (September 15)
The citizen assembly in British Columbia has released reform recommendations that suggest it will recommend full representation. See our page on electoral reform in Canada for more information.
New York Times editorializes against Electoral College (August 29)
Minnesota city to study IRV and fair election methods: The city council of Hopkins, which was once elected by choice voting, has established a task force to study fair election voting methods like instant runoff voting. (August 26)
New report shows voters understand cumulative voting at work:
Well over 98% of voters used all four of their votes without error in Amarillo's May 2004 cumulative voting election, according to a new report by Professor David Rausch. (August 25)
FairVote one of the 11 pro-democracy groups to issue report on presidential debates: Led by Open Debates, eleven civic groups released a report entitled "Deterring Democracy: How the Commission on Presidential Debates Undermines Democracy." (August 23)
CVD's Election Data Project: The record of state legislative elections in the United States is lacking. Help document out electoral history. (August 15)
Australian political scientist publishes new article on "The Global Spread of Preferential Voting" (pdf) (August 11)
Rob Richie in print:FairVote's executive director has written four articles, including one with Steven Hill, for a book and two journals. Available as downloads, they are: on the American full representation campaign from "Steps Toward Making Every Vote Count: Electoral System Reform in Canada and its Provinces" (Henry Milner, editor; Broadview Press, 2004); on instant runoff voting for an "Election Law Journal" symposium on Democracy and Elections in North America" (Volume 3, Number 3 2004); on full representation and redistricting reform (from the National Civic Review); and on building a pro-democracy movement in the United States (from the National Civic Review). (August 1)
Howard Dean's July 26 syndicated column calls for IRV in presidential primaries: The former Democratic Party presidential frontunner expands on his IRV advocacy. (July 30)
CVD holds successful pro-democracy eventsin Boston on July 26and July 28: Speakers included Rev. Jesse Jackson, Members of Congress Jesse Jackson Jr. and Dennis Kucinich, scholars Lani Guinier, Jamin Raskin, Pippa Norris, Alex Keyssar and Benjamin Barber and journalists Robert Kuttner, John Nichols and Hendrik Hertzberg. (July 30)
FairVote Board member and long-time New Yorker writer Hendrik Hertzberg's new book"Politics: Observations and Arguments" features commentary about the value of electoral reform, in particular full representation and instant runoff voting. Read a recent interview with the author. (July 7)
The Washington Postpublishes an op-ed defending full representation in Iraq: Andrew Reynolds explains why Iraq will use a party list form of full representation in its January 2005 elections. (July 6)
FairVote urges elected officialsto push for more democratic forms of election systems, especially on the local level. We can provide election systems consulting, as well as resources and assistance with the following methods of advocating for reform. (July 1)
2004 presidential candidates call for IRV and full representation: The leading non-major party candidates for president all back instant runoff voting and full representation. See statements from Green Party presidential nominee David Cobb, Libertarian Party nominee Michael Badnarik and independent candidate Ralph Nader. (June 29)
Big month for full representation in Canada: Canadians went to the polls on June 28 with prime minister candidates from major parties expressing interest or support in a national referendum on full representation. Read our page on electoral reform in Canada, articles on the debate in Canada and on how a citizen assembly in British Columbia will select a full representation method for the ballot. Also, look at a pre-election and post-election update from Fair Vote Canada. (June 29)
FairVote commentaries tout IRV: Rob Richie joins with Steven Hill to propose direct election of the President and to ask in the Nation Magazine why more Democrats aren't seeking to implement IRV. Richie and Jennifer Ambler argue in the Myrtle Beach Sun News that IRV is a big improvement over traditional delayed runoffs. (June 28)
Papua New Guinea has successful IRV election: Papua New Guinea adopted IRV for parliamentary elections in 2003. Election officials hailed its use in a recent special election as a success, particularly in
voters using the system effectively and the system promoting more positive campaigns. (June 26)
Big win for choice voting in United Kingdom: Scotlandadopts choice voting (aka "single transferable vote") for city elections. A new reform coalition backs choice voting for local elections in Wales. (June 23)
IRV ballot drives in Florida, Washington state and Ferndale, Michigan:
Reformers have launched ballot drives to put IRV on the ballot in Florida and in Washington state. The city council in Ferndale has voted unanimously to draft potential IRV ballot language for November
2004. (June 20)
Ballot measures seeks proportional allocation of electoral votes in Colorado: A well-financed ballot measure would change Colorado's winner-take-all allocation of electoral votes to one allocated by proportional representation. (June 15)
Washington state Democrats support fair election voting methods:
The Democratic Party State Platform Committee of Washington has endorsed attention to instant runoff voting and full representation. (June 14)
London mayoral race decided by IRV, council chosen by full representation: London mayor Ken Livingstone (first elected in 2000 by IRV as an independent) was re-elected on June 10 by a limited form of instant runoff voting. IRV was needed as he won less than 40% of first choices. The mixed member form
of full representation was used to elect the council. Voter turnout was up from 2000. Read an article in the Guardian and see the London election webpage. (June 12)
CVD conducts demonstration electionswith IRV and choice voting at several events. Read how League of Women Voters members voted on the most influential women in American history and how various groups voted on who John Kerry should select as his running mate. Read results of a Nation magazine election with more than 10,000 participants. (June 11) )
North Dakotans strongly rejected a proposed state constitutional amendment to lift the requirement that corporations use the full representation method of cumulative voting. South Korea soon will require all corporate boards to be elected by cumulative voting. (June 8)
Maine adopts legislation to fund study on IRV:
This spring Maine's governor signed LD 212, a resolution requiring the Secretary of State to study the feasibility of using IRV in Maine elections. (June 3)
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FairVote, the Center for Voting and Democracy is a non-profit organization based in Washington D.C. It is headed by former Congressman and presidential candidate John B. Anderson. We are devoted to increasing public understanding of American politics and how to reform its rules to provide better choices and fairer representation. Our website (www.fairvote.org) has information on voting methods, redistricting and voter turnout.
As we rely heavily on individual donations, please consider a contribution by mail (6930 Carroll Ave., Suite 610, Takoma Park MD 20910) or on-line at http://www.fairvote.org/donate.htm
Finally, a big thanks to our great summer intern crew of eight college students, our current intern group, program associates Andy Kirshenbaum, Jill Dannay, Steve Hoeschele and Maggie Vintner, long-time regional staffers Steven Hill, Dan Johnson-Weinberger and program director David Moon.