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Voting and Democracy Review

The Newsletter of the Center for Voting and Democracy

Number 15    June 2002

Celebrating 10 Years of Seeking Fair Elections!

A Special Anniversary Edition

The Center for Voting and Democracy is dedicated to fair elections where every vote counts and all voters are represented. As a catalyst for reform, we conduct research, analysis, education and advocacy to build understanding of and support for more democratic voting systems, in particular proportional representation (PR) and instant runoff voting (IRV). This newsletter recounts our decade of success. We believe the coming years hold even greater promise.

Before the beginning: In the 1860s, American reformers, inspired by John Stuart Mill, push for proportional representation (PR) within Congress and in states. In 1870 Illinois adopts cumulative voting for state legislative elections, where it is used until 1980. The Proportional Representation League forms, gains the support of luminaries such as Walter Lippman, A. Philip Randolph, Carrie Chapman Catt, Jane Addams and Paul Douglas. It has major successes: adoption of the choice voting method of PR in two dozen cities, including Cincinnati, Cleveland, New York and Sacramento, and inclusion of choice voting in the National Municipal League's Model City Charter . Franklin Roosevelt and Fiorello La Guardia back PR in New York's successful campaign.

Relentless opposition from political machines, frustration with counting ballots by hand and wariness of racial and political minorities reverse these gains. By 1985, Cambridge (MA) and New York are the only jurisdictions with PR. The PR League is long gone.

The spark: In the early 1990's, conditions are ripe for voting system reform. The term limits movement gathers steam in reaction to lopsided legislative races. Voting rights attorneys settle cases with cumulative voting and limited voting in nearly 30 jurisdictions, including Alamogordo (NM), Chilton County (AL) and Peoria (IL). A 1988 referendum to restore choice voting in Cincinnati earns 45%, and California reformers promote a statewide PR measure. Hendrik Hertzberg memorably touts PR in the New Republic .  Michael Lind advocates PR in the Atlantic Monthly. Douglas Amy writes Real Choices, New Voices .

The ignition: Four separate pro-PR organizations form in 1991-1992 with the name Citizens for Proportional Representation (CPR). Former congressional aide Matthew Cossolotto starts a national group in Washington, D.C., writes a Christian Science Monitor commentary and appears on C-SPAN.  Rob Richie and Cynthia Terrell start a regional group in Olympia, Washington and Steven Hill a third in Seattle. A new campaign in Cincinnati is called CPR. Richie and Terrell go to Cincinnati to assist the campaign, which falls just short. Richie, Cossolotto and Cincinnati's Bill Collins join together to organize a founding conference.

1992: In June 1992 reformers from 17 states come to Cincinnati for the founding conference of Citizens for Proportional Representation. Ted Berry, Cincinnati's first black mayor, welcomes reformers with an inspirational speech, and a sterling mix of activists and scholars make the case for change and launch the organization. Richie is named director, Cossolotto the president and former Congressman John Anderson soon becomes the head of the national advisory board that includes Jack Gargan, Manning Marable, Arend Lijphart, Eleanor Smeal and Sam Smith. CPR opens operations in Alexandria, Virginia.

Anderson writes a New York Times commentary advocating instant runoff voting and Cossolotto is featured in profiles in the Los Angeles Times and New Age Journal . Richie starts a regular column on PR in the National Civic Review. Local reformers such as Howie Fain in Massachusetts, Lee Mortimer in North Carolina, Casey Peters and Jim Lindsay in California, Carolyn Campbell in Arizona and Steven Hill in Washington start making waves. By year's end the Center has some 200 members, but a very small budget.

1993: CPR changes its name to the Center for Voting and Democracy and moves into Washington, D.C. After Bill Clinton nominates law professor Lani Guinier to head the civil rights division of the Justice Department, critics attack her suggestion that cumulative voting be used to resolve more voting rights cases. The Center aggressively defends Guinier and cumulative voting on radio and in print, but Clinton withdraws her nomination before a hearing. Guinier powerfully defends her ideas on national television. When the Supreme Court issues a ruling that limits the use of race in redistricting, focus on PR increases.

In the summer, the Center holds its second national conference, drawing a second appearance on C-SPAN. It publishes its Voting and Democracy Report 1993 , a well-received collection of writings about voting system reform. Cossolotto presents the Center's Champion of Democracy Award to Paddy Ashdown, pro-PR advocate and Liberal Democratic Party leader in the United Kingdom.  Richie and board member Cynthia Terrell are invited to New Zealand for a two-week tour of speaking and media engagements during a historic campaign that leads to a national win for PR despite a 10-to-1 spending edge for opponents. The Center's budget remains very small, although the Seasongood Foundation supports its legal effort on behalf of PR in a Cincinnati case.

1994: The Center makes particular headway with advocating PR in voting rights cases. In Worcester County (MD), a federal judge imposes cumulative voting to settle a voting rights case. Rob Richie is quoted in the Washington Post and appears on national radio programs explaining the ruling. A challenge against black-majority congressional districts in North Carolina leads NPR and the New York Times to profile Lee Mortimer's proposal to use PR.

Richie is invited to address national conferences of the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund and the National Rainbow Coalition, the voting section of the Department of Justice and charter commissions in Nassau County (NY), Miami Beach and Detroit. In Seattle, activists led by the Center's new west coast director Steven Hill gather nearly 20,000 signatures for a choice voting ballot measure for city council. The Center's report for Cambridge on computerizing the ballot count for its choice voting elections leads to use of modern voting equipment in 1997.

The Center issues its first Dubious Democracy report on competitiveness in congressional elections at a well-attended event at which Douglas Amy, the New Yorker 's Hendrik Hertzberg, analyst Kevin Phillips and civic leader Curtis Gans discuss PR. The Center receives its first gift of more than $10,000, from the HKH Foundation. The Stewart Mott Charitable Trust makes the first of what become annual gifts.

1995: The Center advances on several fronts. Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney introduces the first bill about PR in decades -- the Voters' Choice Act to give states the option to elect House members by PR. USA Today and columnists William Raspberry and Clarence Page support PR in editorials, citing the Center. John Anderson's talk about a Center report on the defects of plurality elections in presidential elections earns C-SPAN coverage.

Relying on the great volunteer energy of the Fair Ballot Alliance of Massachusetts, the Center holds a national conference in Boston that draws more than 300 people to Faneuil Hall and an exciting mix of plenary speakers and breakout workshops. The Center publishes a second Voting and Democracy Report with more than 70 articles (now on-line) and increases its advisory board to include nearly 100 scholars, legislators and civic leaders.

In Cincinnati, Lani Guinier and Ted Berry are presented with Champion of Democracy awards. Karen Taggart and Tory Mast are the first of a remarkable series of interns. The Rockefeller Brothers Fund provides the Center's largest grant yet, $20,000 for educational outreach about choice voting in New York City's local school board elections, while the Stern Family Fund provides the first of ultimately three grants.

1996: Tireless outreach by Steven Hill leads to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors placing choice voting on the ballot. The resulting campaign falls short 56%-44%, but earns endorsements from an impressive range of constituency groups and political leaders. Maria Teresa Rojas produces a video for the Center about choice voting that airs on New York cable stations and adapts it for the San Francisco campaign. Congressman Pat Williams introduces a bill to create a commission to study PR and House size, triggered in part by the Center's op-eds advocating commissions.

Rob Richie appears on C-SPAN and MSNBC. Richie meets with the editorial boards of the Dallas Morning News, Boston Globe and Chicago Tribune. Steven Hill, Matthew Cossolotto, John Anderson and Richie write commentary in The Christian Science Monitor, In These Times, Los Angeles Times, Nation, New York Times, Vital Speeches, Washington Post and Roll Call .

The Center's largest individual contributor over the decade, the late Dr. Huntington Terrell, makes a timely challenge donation of $10,000. John Anderson is the Center's new president.

1997: The Center releases Monopoly Politics, a ground-breaking report on the consequences of winner-take-all elections on voter choice. C-SPAN airs the Center's news conference, and the report generates front-page coverage in the Christian Science Monitor and pieces in Roll Call, National Journal and Congressional Quarterly. John Anderson's commentary is published in the New York Times, and Rob Richie and Steven Hill together publish ten op-eds and lengthy pieces for Social Policy, Boston Review and National Civic Review . U.S. PIRG, one of many groups the Center steadily informs, adopts an official position in support of PR. The Center's budget tops $100,000, as it receives major grants from the Open Society Institute and Joyce Foundation.

1998: Santa Clara County (CA) votes to make instant runoff voting (IRV) an option in county elections, thanks to the efforts of Steven Chessin. Endorsers include the Chamber of Commerce, San Jose Mercury News and key unions. Charter commissions in Pasadena (CA) and Kalamazoo (MI) recommend choice voting after receiving information from the Center. The Center holds two major conferences in San Francisco and Minneapolis, boosted by local activists like Tony and Karen Solgard. The conferences draw hundreds, ranging from young reformers to veteran civil rights lawyers to respected scholars. The national chairs of the Reform Party and US PIRG are among many leaders who talk with grassroots activists about how best to pursue voting system reform.

Rob Richie addresses classes at Duke, American University, NYU Law School, Georgetown Law School and Georgia State. Board members Ed Still and Wilma Rule present at the American Political Science Association's annual conference. Board member Hendrik Hertzberg joins Richie for presentations to the New York Times editorial board and the Funders' Committee on Citizen Participation. The Center again publishes numerous commentaries, and its Electing the People's House: 1998 report receives excellent media coverage.

The Ford Foundation gives the Center the first of two multi-year grants, the Open Society Institute increases its giving to $100,000 and the Arca Foundation provides the Center with its first grant focused solely on IRV.

1999: Legislation to enact IRV for statewide and federal offices gains strong support in Vermont and passes the New Mexico state senate. John Gear sparks a successful charter amendment in Vancouver (WA) to permit IRV.

Interest in adopting PR to comply with the Voting Rights Act increases. The Center assists Congressman Mel Watt with his States' Choice of Voting Systems Act to allow states to use PR in multi-seat House districts. Supporters of the bill at a congressional hearing range from the Department of Justice (DOJ) to Rep. Tom Campbell. Rob Richie and voting rights leaders meet with leaders of the DOJ's civil rights division. They present information that contributes to a DOJ decision to block an attempt to eliminate choice voting in New York's local school board elections. Amarillo (TX) becomes the nation's largest jurisdiction with cumulative voting.

The Center works closely with several organizations. With the Southern Center for Studies in Public Policy it focuses on outreach to black elected officials and community leaders in the South. It advises several state League of Women Voters groups that launch studies of voting systems and helps spur the National Organization for Women to endorse PR. Richie meets with the leadership of the ACLU, and in 2001 its board votes to support PR.

Steven Hill and Richie are the lead authors in Reflecting All of Us , the first of eight books in which their writings on reform appear. Deputy director Eric Olson becomes the third staffer, joined soon by four more, including majority rule project director Caleb Kleppner and full representation project director Fred McBride. The Open Society Institute and the Arca Foundation continue their major support, the Solidago Foundation is a new supporter and Lenin Pellegrino provides funds a new arm of the Center, the Midwest Democracy Center that is headed by Dan Johnson-Weinberger.

2000: The controversial presidential election helps spark the Center's biggest media year. Richie appears on CNN, Fox, Canadian radio and NPR's Talk of the Nation. Eric Olson and Richie provide comment to ABC radio, BBC, Voice of America, Democracy Now and countless local radio outlets and print journalists -- they are quoted in the Wall Street Journal, Congressional Quarterly, National Journal, US News and World Report, Los Angeles Times and Chicago Tribune . John Anderson's Irwin Mann Voting and Democracy lecture on "Beyond Spoilers and the Evil of Two Lessers" draws 300 guests in New York.

Before the election, two of the Center news conferences are aired 10 times on C-SPAN, Richie is a guest on NPR's Fresh Air and articles on the Center's reports on non-competitive elections are featured in Slate and on Reuters and Gannett wire services. Board members and staffers write commentaries on voting system reform for such publications as USA Today, New Yorker, Nation, New York Times, Washington Post, Progressive, In These Times, Roll Call and the leading dailies in Amarillo, Austin, Baltimore, Boston, Charlotte, Cincinnati, Detroit, Houston, Juneau, Miami, Minneapolis, Providence, Raleigh, San Francisco and Seattle.

Articles by Center staff are featured in Social Policy and in periodicals produced by the Southern Regional Council and Poverty and Race Research Action Council. The Trenton Times (NJ) and St. Petersburg Times ( FL) write powerful editorials in support of IRV. Clarence Page, Lani Guinier and William Raspberry highlight PR in nationally syndicated columns.

In Congress, Democrat Peter DeFazio and Republican Jim Leach introduce legislation (HR 5631) to study electoral reform, including PR and IRV. California voters in Oakland and San Leandro adopt IRV charter amendments to make it an option. The Alaska Republican Party makes IRV its top legislative priority and invites Richie to address its Lincoln Day dinners n Juneau and Anchorage. An initiative to adopt IRV for most state and federal elections qualifies for the 2002 ballot.

Eric Olson leads a workshop at the National League of Cities' annual conference, helps arrange Lani Guinier's keynote speech in which she touts PR and testifies before legislators in Washington, D.C. and Maryland. The Center's essay contest for young people on voter turnout generates more than 8,000 applicants. Judges include California's Secretary of State Bill Jones, columnists Jane Bryant Quinn and Arianna Huffington and filmmaker Richard Linklater. Winners come to Washington, D.C. for their awards, and the essays and their writers draw strong regional and national press.

The Center ends the year with six staff members. Starting full-time work in 2000 are retiring Vermont state legislator Terry Bouricius and Chicago lawyer Dan Johnson-Weinberger. Terry's outreach has led to support for IRV for statewide elections from Vermont's Governor Howard Dean, Secretary of State Deb Markowitz and state arms of Common Cause, League of Women Voters and the Grange. Due largely to Johnson-Weinberger's efforts, restoring cumulative voting for Illinois state elections gains public support from a broad range of state leaders, including Governor George Ryan, former Republican governor Jim Edgar and former Democratic Congressman Abner Mikva. The Center's budget tops $300,000. The William Trout Charitable Trust provides its first grant.

2001: It's the biggest year yet for IRV. Legislation is introduced in a dozen states and Congress. Vermont's bill is endorsed by nearly half the state senate, while a California bill is introduced by the assembly speaker. IRV is the subject of comment and analysis in nearly all major newspapers in the nation. New endorsers include the Sierra Club, Center for Constitutional Rights and USA Today . IRV is touted at length in new books by Ted Halstead and Mike Lind and by Congressman Jesse Jackson, Jr.

The Center assists Members of Congress on three new bills focusing in part on PR. A University of Illinois taskforce headed by Abner Mikva and Jim Edgar issues a high-profile report calling for the return of cumulative voting in state House elections. Their arguments resonate deeply: lessening regional polarization, encouraging coalitions, increasing access for new candidates, providing better representation for racial minorities and increasing competition.

Hendrik Hertzberg delivers testimony on behalf of John Anderson to a reform commission chaired by former presidents Ford and Carter. Scott Harshbarger, president of Common Cause, also advocates IRV to the commission. New writings by the Center includes several op-eds and longer articles in the Asian American Policy Review, Boston Review and Extra . The latest in a series of election research reports is an on-line, 50-state guide to redistricting with updated profiles of every state.

The Center assists several pro-democracy efforts, including Democracy Summer and Philadelphia's democracy convention. It hires consultants Blair Bobier and David Cobb and holds regional workshops that draw hundreds. The Center promotes a campaign to require new voting equipment to support use of IRV and PR. Endorsers include AALDEF, Brennan Center, Demos, Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights, NAPALC, PRLDEF and US PIRG. In partial response, the Federal Elections Commission in 2002 requires election company vendors to indicate whether and how their equipment supports IRV and cumulative voting.

Speaking engagements are plentiful. Examples include lectures at Duke, Princeton and four law schools and at conferences of Public Campaign, NOW, Unitarian Universalists, NAACP, League of Women Voters, National Black Caucus of State Legislators, Council of Midwest State Governments and National Conference of State Legislators. The Center sustains its level of support, boosted by new grants from the Joyce and Deer Creek foundations.

2002: In March, San Francisco overcomes well-financed opposition to vote 55%-45% to become the first major American city to adopt IRV to elect its leaders. Of 56 Vermont town meetings considering an advisory question to use IRV for statewide elections, 52 voted yes. The Center's Steven Hill and Caleb Kleppner run the San Francisco effort, joined by Calpirg's Elena Nunez. Terry Bouricius and the state League of Women Voters organize the near-sweep of town meeting votes. The Center also assists in adoption of IRV at the Universities of Maryland and Illinois. These IRV wins draw major media coverage, with pieces in Time Magazine, Washington Post,, Nation and a wire story in major papers like the New York Times . They also spark Los Angeles to begin a formal study of IRV.

Joleen Garcia joins the Center to run education efforts in the 57 Texas jurisdictions with cumulative voting. She focuses on Amarillo, where May elections with cumulative voting complete the change from an all-white school board in the last winner-take-all election in 1998 to a more representative board with four whites, two Latinas and an African American. Rashad Robinson is hired to coordinate the Center's outreach about PR and voting rights, particularly in the South and among young people. He makes presentations in Connecticut, New York, Georgia, Maryland and Washington, DC.

The Year Ahead: Alaska will vote in August on adoption of IRV for major elections, including the president in 2004. Santa Rosa this fall may vote to adopt cumulative voting. The Center finds more allies ready to address the devastating impact of redistricting on fair and competitive elections. With an increasingly urgent need to challenge winner-take-all rules, we expect the title of Steve Hill's new book to be prophetic for our reform prospects: Fixing Elections . Our best is yet to come.

Thank you to our 10-year, every-year members! We have many loyal and generous supporters, but a special thanks to Kathleen Barber, Ken Bresler, Bill Collins, Matthew Cossolotto, Paul Etxeberri, Phil Goldstein, Charles Johnson, Thomas Jones, Eli Kaminsky, Mark Lewis, Arend Lijphart, Jim Lindsay, Phil Macklin, Frieda McMullan, John Moot, Lee Mortimer, Deborah Richie Oberbillig, Alison Oldham, Kenneth Pulliam, David and Catherine Richie, Wilma Rule, David Schall, Don Shaffer, Sam Smith, Steven Snoey, Tony Solgard, Ed Still, Carolyn Terrell, Harris Weston, Terry Woodnorth, Dan Zavon and Joseph Zimmerman.

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