FairVote NewslettersThis 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.
The Center for Voting and Democracy
April 30, 2004 Newsletter
The Center for Voting and Democracy
April 30, 2004 Newsletter
In this issue:
- Supreme Court okays political gerrymandering
- Utah Republicans gear up for IRV election on May 8
- Highlights of recent webpage postings
- Right-to-vote amendment gathers support
- More universities adopt instant runoff voting
- New/updated CVD reports on non-majority winners,
Monopoly Politics projections, voter turnout
- Key gains for full representation in Canada and UK
- South Africa's third full representation election
- Featured commentary: Richie/Hill on presidential battlegrounds
- News shorts from all over
- Stay tuned: Looking ahead
The 2004 elections already are controversial. Witness the bitterness and accusations of unfair voting in.....the voting to narrow the field in the American Idol television program. We trust Fox TV soon will take a look at full representation, instant runoff voting and fair procedures to head off future controversies.
Turning to the real world, certainly the case for reforming how we elect our representatives is only getting stronger. Onto a review of recent developments:
SUPREME COURT OKAYS POLITICAL GERRYMANDERING
On April 28, the Supreme Court upheld Pennsylvania's congressional redistricting map -- one that all observers acknowledge was a partisan gerrymander in favor of Republicans as well as a plan that shields most incumbents from competition. In a 5-4 ruling with a whopping five separate opinions, four justices say they will dismiss all political gerrymandering claims, one joined them in upholding the map but is open to the potential of an as-yet-unarticulated political gerrymandering claim and four detailed standards they would support for evaluating political gerrymanders. All nine justices indicated that gerrymandering is a problem; where they differ is on whether the federal courts can do something about it without new legislation from Congress.
The justices' difficulty with redistricting and the majority's opinion in this case suggest that we must pursue political solutions to gerrymandering -- a problem that, in concert with winner-take-all elections, denies most Americans with any realistic opportunity to change their representation in the U.S. House and consistently under-represents political and racial minorities in a given state.
What should be done? Of course the process for drawing lines must change. It's simply wrong to let elected officials help their friends and hurt their enemies in redistricting -- just as it would be wrong and foolish to allow elected officials to do their own ballot-counting behind closed doors. But reforming the way line are drawn itself is only a partial answer. Most of the lack of electoral competition and distortions in fair representation in our current politics does not come from redistricting: it comes from winner-take-all elections and how voters in most areas tilt toward one party (the idea of "red America" and "blue America) or race no matter how you draw the district lines. To truly meet all the goals of those seeking fair redistricting, there is only real solution: full representation in multi-seat districts.
Many active supporters of our Center would like to see a full-scale proportional representation system like one of those used in most well-established democracies -- a system where 51% of voters win a majority of seats, but not all, and 10% of like-minded voters can win one out of ten seats. We'd like to see debate and action on proportional representation, but in the short-term, we believe a consensus could develop around what we call the Illinois model based on its history in state legislative elections there: three-seat legislative districts with a candidate-based full representation system that allows about a quarter of like-minded voters to win one of those three seats.
Such a system is legal (it could be done by mere statute for any state's congressional delegation with has at least three members and could be done in many state legislatures by statute) and consistent with American political traditions (it would be candidate-based, and the two major parties like would dominate representation even while broadening their appeal and facing more third party competition). It also would be directly responsive to the most important problems with our current system. Namely:
* Choice: More than 98% of incumbents have won reelection in U.S. House elections since 1996, and primary defeats are even rarer. Two in five state legislators races are typically not even contested by both major parties. Third party candidates almost never come close to winning and typically are dismissed as "spoilers." A full representation system like choice voting typically would present seven or eight credible choices among candidates appealing to all parts of the political spectrum.
* Accountability: Without more electoral competition -- both from the other major party and from smaller parties that might compete directly for a major party's base of support -- it is hard for voters to hold their representatives accountable. Full representation would ensure representatives are not just coasting to reelection.
* Representation: A basic demand of representative democracy is that citizens have a reasonable chance to elect someone to represent their interests. In our current system of depressed voter turnout and high numbers of wasted votes, only one in four American adults elected __anyone__ to the House of Representatives in 2002. Substantial numbers of "orphaned" voters have no chance to elect a candidate of their choice where they live. Full representation would result in far more people electing a representative -- one byproduct would almost certainly see more representative results for women and racial minorities.
* Polarization: Winner-take-all elections have left most of the country solidly safe for one major party or the other. This has consequences for fair policy-making. With full representation, nearly every American would have at least one representative with the majority party and with the opposition party. The major parties would have more incentives to address problems throughout a state, not just in "their" areas, and to reach across the aisle to develop policy.
For more on the Pennsylvania redistricting case, including links to the opinions and briefs, see: http://www.fairvote.org/redistricting/vieth.htm
UTAH REPUBLICANS GEAR UP FOR MAY 8 IRV ELECTION
Instant runoff voting keeps building momentum, with the controversy over Ralph Nader's independent candidacy only adding to the understanding of how capricious election results can be with our current plurality voting system.
One important example of IRV in action is in Utah. Starting in 2002, Utah Republicans have used instant runoff voting at their state party conventions to elect officers and nominate candidates for federal and statewide offices. As in several other states (including Colorado, Massachusetts, Minnesota and Virginia), party conventions can play a significant role in deciding party nominations.
The traditional process in such conventions is to hold a series of votes to nominate candidates, with the voting dragging on for hours and the number of attendees dwindling before the decisive vote. Utah Republicans saw IRV as a means to accomplish the goal of selecting a candidate more quickly and efficiently. Once the field at the convention is narrowed by IRV to two candidates, any candidate winning at least 60% becomes the nominee without a primary election; if no candidate wins 60%, the top two advance to a primary.
Republicans dominate the state, making their nominations critically important. On May 8, some 3,500 Republicans will gather. The greatest attention this year is on the gubernatorial race. Former governor Mike Leavitt was named to run the Environmental Protection Agency, and eight Republican candidates are aggressively seeking votes in what is tantamount to an open seat election.
In addition to ensuring a higher rate of participation in the decisive round of voting, IRV is having a positive impact on party unity and the tenor of the campaign. Here are comments from one long-time political reporter in his column in the Deseret News:
<< In any case, preferential balloting is changing how candidates in big races, with a lot of challengers, campaign, several campaign managers tell me. "It leads to a kindlier, gentler campaigning," said one manager. "That's because it's important that you are No. 2 on a ballot, because the guy listed as No. 1 could be eliminated before you and you then pick up his vote" in subsequent rounds of balloting, he said.
" ...So, in a preferential voting convention you talk about yourself, how you can thump that Democrat in the final election, and so on. You stay positive. You save any negative campaigning for the primary. There it's one-vote takes all. And you can bloody a fellow Republican as much as you think the public can take it.">>
To read more about developments in Utah and an illuminating analysis of the 12-person race for one of the congressional nominations in 2002, visit our webpage on IRV in Utah at: http://fairvote.org/irv/utahindex.html
HIGHLIGHTS FROM RECENT WEB POSTINGS
Following are highlights from our recent postings at http://fairvote.org/whatsnew.htm.
* Right To Vote Amendment. The Center has collected information about the powerful case for an affirmative right to vote in the Constitution, including new commentaries from Jamin Raskin and Rev. Jesse Jackson Congressman Jesse Jackson, Jr. (IL) has introduced H.J. Res. 28 to put a right to vote in the Constitution. The 29 co-sponsors include John Lewis (GA) , John Conyers (MI), James Clyburn (SC), Eddie Bernice Johnson (TX) and Dennis Kucinich (OH). For more on voting problems in the United States, see the website of the Right to Vote Campaign that focuses on the nearly five million American citizens disenfranchised due to felony convictions (http://www.righttovote.org), a recent report by the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights that helps explain how we once again may have four to six million fewer valid votes cast in this year's presidential election than we would with better election administration (http://www.usccr.gov/pubs/vote2004/ready/ready04.pdf) and the website of D.C. Vote that focuses on voting rights for the people of the District of Columbia (http://www.dcvote.org).
* South Africaheld its third national election with full representation -- a critically important example of the value of representing the full array of views and interests in a multi-racial, complex nation. The number of women in parliament is set to increase from 120 to 131, to 33% of the parliament overall. The United States Congress is 14% women. Britain's Electoral Reform Society and Canada's Fair Vote Canadahad good news to report about full representation in their countries -- including near-certain adoption of choice voting for all city elections in Scotland and a recommendation by a high-profile commission in Canada that calls for full representation. Russia corporationsin March were required to adopt the cumulative voting method of full representation for better shareholder representation.
* On the instant runoff voting front, 75% of University of Minnesota students voted for IRV for future student elections -- the most recent among adoptions this year at schools like the University of Virginia, University of Massachusetts, and Sonoma State University. The Venice neighborhood council in Los Angeles adopted IRV in April, and Instant Runoff Washington has formed to collect signatures for a statewide ballot measure. San Francisco is preparing for its November elections with IRV, with modifications to its voting equipment finally gaining certification. AccuPoll, a major new voting equipment company with a touchscreen system with a voter verified paper trail, has announced that it will be able to run ranked-choice voting elections like IRV at no extra cost in 2005. The Minneapolis Star Tribune and New Jersey Law Journal recently editorialized in favor of IRV.
* A Burlington, Vermont blue ribbon committeehad several backers of adopting the choice voting method of full representation. Task forces in other cities like Cincinnati and Seattle also vigorously debated choice voting. Good sites with information on choice voting elections in Cambridge, Massachusetts include
* The Center has collected a range of data on non-majority winners in American elections, including new numbers on non-majority governors. Since 1948, 80 governors have been elected with less than 50% of the vote, including 20 with less than 45% of the vote. Most plurality winners were from the non-incumbent party, showing that voters with the "out" party are more disciplined and cohesive than more restless supporters of the "in" party.
*We also have new data on voter turnoutfor the 2004 presidential primary season -- turnout which plunged to historic lows in most states after John Kerry's opening wins in Iowa and New Hampshire. We also have a new, user-friendly edition of our Monopoly Politics 2004 report showing how our near-perfect projection model has projected more winners than ever before in 2004.
* The Center's Rob Richie spoke on April 12 at a news conference covered by CSPAN about running debates in the public interest organized by Open Debates. Richie's other recent speaking engagements included lectures at Georgetown Law School, Washington College of Law, Harvard Law School, George Mason University, Washington and Lee University and presentations to a National Asian Pacific Legal Consortium conference, Washington, D.C.-area judges and delegations from Moldova and Latin America.
Our website also provides ongoing coverage of:
- pending legislation on voting system reform at http://fairvote.org/action/index.html
- international developments on full representation at http://www.fairvote.org/pr/global/country.htm
- redistricting news in the United States at: http://fairvote.org/redistricting/reports/remanual/frames.htm
- media coverage of voting system reform at: http://fairvote.org/media/index.htm
FEATURED COMMENTARY: RICHIE/HILL ON PRESIDENTIAL BATTLEGROUNDS
Ensuring a Fair Presidential Election
By Steven Hill and Rob Richie
Versions of this commentary have appeared in several publications, including TomPaine.com, OpEdNews.com and Alternet.
Many pundits and activists have finally figured out what political insiders always knew: our presidential election is not a national election at all. The battle for chief executive will be fought in 15 battleground states, none either solidly Republican red or Democratic blue, each fought as individual contests that will be too close to call. This political geography presents important lessons for partisans and reformers alike.
In a likely replay of the 2000 election, the battleground states are Florida (of course), Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, Missouri, Arkansas, West Virginia, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Oregon, Washington and Arizona. Some add Louisiana, Tennessee and Nevada, making 18 states.
These states' concerns will drive much of the campaign debate. Those in the Midwest's rust belt have been hit hard by job losses, particularly in well-paying manufacturing jobs, making states like Ohio competitive. More Latino voters in New Mexico, Arizona and Nevada create dilemmas for Republicans on issues like immigration. With the prominence of Florida and its senior citizens, we'll hear a lot about Medicare and Social Security. And don't expect John Kerry to highlight gun control or other pet liberal issues when the almighty swing voters in battleground states mostly oppose them.
Key issues of concern to those in other states -- even large states like Texas, New York, Illinois and California -- will get short shrift because they are not in play. Just as in our largely non-competitive congressional races, most Americans effectively will be on the political sidelines.
But that doesn't mean those voters can't be involved. They can make sure friends and relatives in the battleground states are registered to vote. They can hold house parties to raise campaign cash for the close states. Some might even be able to travel to a nearby battleground state and volunteer.
Most immediately, voters everywhere can highlight the need for fair elections. With the two sides so close, we could be looking at another "Florida" happening in any number of battleground states, perhaps in several of them. The political geography of battleground states allows the presidential candidates to target not only their resources and campaigning - but also their attempts to steal the election. Changing the results in one battleground state, particularly a large state like Ohio or Pennsylvania, will make a difference in the outcome.
So advocates of fair elections similarly must target our efforts to lessen the chance of another Florida happening. That means working in the 15 battleground states with civic groups like People for the American Way, the League of Women Voters and Advancement Project to:
* Establish high-profile 1-800 numbers where voters can report incidents of fraud or disenfranchisement, with "hot spot" legal teams ready to be dispatched to problem areas.
* Ensure voter registration lists are handled fairly, unlike in Florida where tens of thousands of likely Democratic voters were wrongly tagged as ex-felons and removed.
* Educate voters and pollworkers that voters now have a federal right to cast a "provisional ballot" if they barred from voting because aren't on the voter list in their precinct. Election officials must research each provisional ballot and either validate or deny it before certifying any winners. This new right won't be much use if barred voters don't know to ask for a provisional ballot, or precinct poll workers aren't trained to handle them.
* Demand greater public scrutiny of both old and new voting equipment, ensuring that antiquated punchcards and more modern optical scan machines and "touchscreens" count voters' ballots as intended.
* Protect the rights of overseas voters, both civilians and those in the military, by sending them ballots in a timely manner.
Longer term, we need to challenge how the Electoral College marginalizes most voters because they live in noncompetitive states. We should push states to require majority winners through instant runoff voting, and debate ideas like an Election Day holiday and universal voter registration. But this year it all comes down to the battleground states. The Florida debacle pretty much revealed the template for the types of goof ups, manipulations and fraud that must be avoided in 2004. We must organize in the 15 battleground states to ensure that, this time, all votes are counted and all votes count. The stakes for our country couldn't be higher.
NEWS SHORTS FROM ALL OVER
* European Parliament / Choice voting on electronic voting
The European Parliament will be elected this year, with every nation using a form of full representation. The Republic of Ireland will hold its European and Local Elections on June 11, using the choice voting method of full representation -- a voting method in multi-seat districts in which voters ranks candidates as they do with instant runoff voting. Electronic voting will be used throughout the entire country for the first time, with the voter experience demonstrated in a Flash animation at: http://www.electronicvoting.ie
* Representation of Women:
The National Democratic Institute for International Affairs (NDI) has launched the Win With Women Initiative, which advocates for increased women's representation in political leadership and decision-making positions around the world. For more information, see www.winwithwomen.ndi.org
* Presidential candidates promote IRV and full representation
The two frontrunners for the Green Party nomination, David Cobb and Peter Camejo, both regularly promote instant runoff voting and full representation on the campaign trail. The 2000 Green Party nominee Ralph Nader, this year running as an independent, also has been advocating these reforms, as does Democratic Party candidate Dennis Kucinich. Before bowing out of the Democratic race, Vermont governor Howard Dean frequently proposed IRV.
* Citizen deliberation on voting systems in British Columbia:
CVD senior analyst Terry Bouricius writes: "I spent a few hours watching a sample from two months of meetings of the British Columbia Citizens' Assembly (BCCA) on the Internet. It was heart-warming. It appears to be an absolute certainty that they will recommend some form of full representation. In reports back from 12 small group discussions, nearly every single group strongly favored both proportionality and having local members of parliament (some geographic element). This could lead to either some Mixed system or choice voting recommendation - but not a province-wide list system. People can
go to their web site and view or download large amounts of presentation material (including lots of presentations, powerpoints, videos and audios of presentations by experts, etc.) at: http://www.citizensassembly.bc.ca/public/learning_resources
* Summer Institute on Democracy and Elections
The Center for Democracy and Election Management at American University is holding a Summer Institute on Democracy and Elections in Washington, D.C. from June 1-11, 2004. The Summer Institute will prepare election professionals to seize new opportunities and meet new challenges in conducting free and fair elections, and it will provide a roadmap for journalists and election monitors to be able to focus on the impediments to free and fair elections. For further details and registration information, see http://www.american.edu/ia/cdem/summer04/
* Hendrix College student leader writes about adopting IRV
We received a note from Brad Howard, vice-president of the Hendrix College student senate in Arkansas. He wrote: "In 2003, my election, we were bogged down with four different runoffs (divided by our Spring Break). It was burdensome on the candidates and annoyed the student body. With a campus of 1,000 students, we were lucky to get 300 students out to vote.
"One of my first initiatives as a new Senator was to change our voting processes in hopes of increasing voter turnout and eliminating student apathy with elections. We passed the "IRV Bill of 2003" unanimously. We recently had our annual campus-wide elections and had a turnout of over 500 students. Also, we had the results of the election two hours after the polls closed (we had to have broken a record). Instead of waiting a couple weeks to know who was President or your Senator, we knew for certain in just two hours
"I highly recommend this process to any school, especially small schools. Thank you for your website and supplemental materials. It made my presentation much more easy and convincing!"
* Pukelsheim's Proportional Representation Literature List is an extensive bibliography of scholarly writings about full representation. See http://www.math.uni-augsburg.de/stochastik/bazi/pprll.html
* Colon Cancer Awareness Month
This spring my father David Richie, the man who introduced me to fair election methods and was a steadfast ally from the Center's founding, would have turned 72. Full of vigor and reform energy, he died of colorectal cancer in 2002. Like all too many of us, his doctors had not suggested been screened for colon cancer. Caught early, colon cancer has a very cure rate, but many doctors will not suggest it to their patients. For more on what you can do to prevent colon cancer and to make sure you get tested if over 50 years old, see http://www.colorectal-cancer.net/prevention.htm
STAY TUNED: LOOKING AHEAD
* At the Center for Voting and Democracy (CVD), look for releases in the coming weeks on: the IRV elections at the Utah Republican Party state convention on May 8; another round of cumulative voting elections in Texas on May 15, including the school board in Amarillo; new insights from our Monopoly Politics report on congressional elections; and important changes in CVD's program division, board of directors and (naturally!) the value of your financial support.
* The Center's staff and board should have commentaries in upcoming editions of Legal Times, New York Times, Christian Science Monitor and Nation magazine. Senior analyst Steven Hill will be on a speaking tour of Europe this month. Director Rob Richie will be addressing conferences and groups in New Jersey, Pennsylvania and the D.C. area.
* We expect to take a lead role in organizing a mini-conference on the importance of the right to vote in Boston on July 26 -- more details soon.
* There is a range of important pro-democracy activity taking place in the United States. This summer we plan to establish a comprehensive set of links to pro-democracy groups. In the meantime, keep updated on daily news at election sites like electionline.org and therestofus.org and visit the webpages of such organizations as Demos (www.demos-usa.org), Common Cause (www.commoncause.org), Initiative and Referendum Institute (http://www.iandrinstitute.org) and Leadership Conference on Civil Rights (www.civilrights.org).
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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