State and Local Reforms for Elected Officials

FairVote - The Center for Voting and Democracy urges elected officials to push for more democratic forms of election systems, especially on the local level. FairVote is happy to provide election systems consulting, resources and assistance with the following methods of advocating for reform. Several key resources are available for state and city officials:

  • City Council Election Methods Manual for Charter Review Commissions [.pdf - 348 KB]
  • Mayoral Election Methods Manual for Charter Review Commissions [.pdf - 189 KB]
  • Ten Proposals for Electoral Reform State Legislation [.pdf - 176 KB]
  • Proportional Voting to Bring Fair Representation to Your City [.pdf - 89 KB]

Ways to Advance Reforms Through Elected Officials

1.  Solicitor's Review. Direct your solicitor to review the legality of Instant Runoff Voting & Full Representation systems for your local government -- city council, school board, vacancies and any single-winner offices. If there are partisan elections, consider looking at the legality of systems for just the primary as well as for the general.  Start by drafting a questionnaire that will help the solicitor assist you in honing in on the potential obstacles to achieving election reform.  FairVote can assist you in pinpointing common legal, statutory, and technical obstacles to explore more in-depth in your jurisdiction.

2.  Study Bill or Resolution.  Introduce a bill or resolution that would create a commission to study the implementation of IRV or Full-Representation systems. FairVote can help you draft the language for such a document, provided you with samples from other jurisdictions, as well as assist you in figuring out what considerations should go into such a bill. The results of such a study can be used to bolster your arguments for reform, as well as attract media and public attention to IRV and Full-Rep. systems.

3.  Charter Review.  Push to have IRV & Full-Rep. studies as part of the agenda of the next periodic Charter Review Commission. If there is an opportunity to do this earlier, or the next review is too far away, push for an intermediate review through a council or citizen-initiated review. Full representation can be used in different variations -- in at-large elections jurisdiction-wide, for example, and for multi-seat districts. FairVote can provide assistance and resources in planning a presentation for a charter review commission, as well as samples of past testimony.

4.  Ballot Initiative.  Start a council-generated or citizen-generated ballot initiative to adopt IRV & Full-Rep in your community. FairVote has worked with a number of such ballot question movements and can provide you with resources, information, and lessons from our work.

5.  Council Bill or Resolution.  Introduce a resolution or bill endorsing IRV & Full-Rep systems. If a prior study has not already been conducted, you can use this as an opportunity to hold hearings to investigate these voting systems, as well as highlight the deficiencies of your current system.

6.  Voting Machine Compliance.  Make sure that your jurisdiction's voting machines are compliant with IRV & Full Rep. systems, such as by supporting rank-ballot designs. Lobby your local board of elections, or pass a resolution or ordinance to investigate or push this matter. FairVote can provide you with recommendations for voting machine vendors, as well as ballot designs and technical consulting. This step can be very important.

7.  Study on Fair Representation.  Do you have racial diversity in your jurisdiction? How is it represented on locally elected bodies? If there is under-representation, is there the potential of a voting rights lawsuit? Aside from avoiding litigation, is there interest in providing fairer representation? Such questions could lead to doing a study on means to provide fair representation. Studies could also be provided if there are
other big divides in the jurisdiction -- over issues of growth, for example, with winner-take-all politics leading to shifts in support for different views on the issue.

8.  Replacing Runoff Elections.  If you have contingent runoffs for any office where someone can win in the first round, but there is a second round with fewer candidates if no one reaches some minimum level of support (often 50%), then instant runoff voting can be particularly attractive, especially if it saves the cost of a second election.

9.  Vacancy Elections. Some vacancies are filled by special election, some by appointment. Filling them by election can be popular with voters, and a good time to use instant runoff voting in a single-round election. If vacancies are currently filled by two rounds of voting, instant runoff voting also can make sense.

10.  Narrow Uses.  If you have runoff elections, instant runoff voting can be a sensible system to use for any overseas voters who are voting by absentee -- such as people in the military reserves who have been called up for Iraq. IRV and full representation also can make sense for some votes of the council -- for instance, when trying to narrow the field for picking someone to head a commission. FairVote can be a source of advice on such voting matters.