Posted by Michelle C. Whittaker on December 31, 2015
It’s been a very busy year for FairVote — in large part because of the numerous activities of our dedicated staff and board throughout 2015. As we work to strengthen the voice of everyday voters, 2016 is also shaping up to be an exciting year for electoral reform. Our reform proposals are guided by evidence-based research and implemented through partnerships with grassroots reformers working at the local, state, and national level.
What does it take to make democracy fair, functional, and fully representative? Let’s take a look at our 2015 progress and get a preview into 2016.
Showcasing Reform Solutions
FairVote co-hosted the Voting and Elections Summit 2015, introducing the Reform 2020 agenda that includes core proposals for a right to vote amendment, the National Popular Vote plan for president, and ranked choice voting and fair representation for Congress.
We partnered with American University’s Washington College of Law and the American Constitution Society to host the Democracy Slam 2015 conference where reformers, journalists, elected officials, and scholars explored 17 bold ideas for breaking partisan gridlock, ending gerrymandering, and improving America's elections and politics. Participants favored reform proposals like ranked choice voting (also known as instant runoff voting) and independent redistricting.
Unique Research on Democracy Issues
Even before 2015 began, FairVote released the Monopoly Politics report which once again highlighted the increasingly uncompetitive nature of congressional elections. Since 1997, FairVote has released projections for U.S. House elections using a model that relies only on previous election results. The 2016 projects show that 373 U.S. House districts seats are safe — that’s 85% of all seats! The report has been cited in numerous articles and commentaries highlighting how our democracy is broken.
We produced reports highlighting the need for reform in state legislative bodies. The Government of the Few in the “Decided Dozen" report zeros in on 12 states across the country where legislative control and general election outcomes are in effect guaranteed for a dominant party. In addition, FairVote and the Bipartisan Policy Center released the Best Practices for Collaborative Policymaking report that examines ways to increase bipartisanship in state legislative chambers through power-sharing agreements and extending personal relationships across party lines.
A critical, yet often overlooked aspect of our democracy is women’s representation in government. The State of Women’s Representation report from Representation2020, a project of FairVote, highlights the overrepresentation of men at the local, state, and national level and offers a path forward for structural reforms.
Growing Support for Ranked Choice Voting
We’ve been championing reforms that work for over 20 years. One key reform that makes democracy more fair and functional is ranked choice voting.
This past November ranked choice voting (RCV) was used in 6 different cities across the country and for overseas voters in Louisiana.
Grassroots reformers in Maine gathered and delivered over 70,000 signatures to put RCV on the ballot for 2016. Maine will vote on whether to extend the use of RCV to the entire of the state for state and congressional elections.
Since early August, FairVote has showcased how ranked choice voting can work for presidential primary elections with the RCV app we developed with Civinomics. We’ve shown how ranked choice voting gives a fuller picture into voter preferences and we’re starting to see polling firms, like Public Policy Polling, reporting on second choices in their voter polls.
Building Up Capacity
All of our exciting reform work has been led by the dedicated and talented staff at FairVote. We hired a new outreach director, Doug Clopp, and communications director, Michelle Whittaker. We gave ourselves a makeover with a new logo and interactive website. "FairVote is the only advocacy group in the United States," noted FairVote chair Krist Novoselic, "calling for an update to the operating system of democracy." We’d love to get your feedback on our recent updates.
While the presidential election will certainly dominate attention in 2016, there are several key local and national reforms that we want you to know about. If you want to know more about local reform efforts or want to get involved, let us know.
Ranked choice voting in MD, DC, and NY. Legislation on ranked choice voting for municipal elections will be considered in city and state legislative bodies. In addition to this legislation, voters in Maine will consider RCV for all statewide offices.
The Ranked Choice Voting Act for Congress. It’s time to put an end to gerrymandering and make Congress truly of, by and for the people. Find out how the RCV Act can transform congressional elections.
2016 presidential election. As the candidate fields continue to narrow and the November elections approaches, FairVote will be there for all the ups and downs to offer critical analysis on how our democracy works and what we can do now to make it better. Our current winner-take-all elections combined with the Electoral College creates a situation where candidates only focus on a few key "swing states" to win. We will continue to support state legislative initiatives for the National Popular Vote plan to make sure every vote counts when electing the president.
Women’s representation is gaining support. Growing interest in Representation2020 is fueling new opportunities to highlight the report and advocate for structural changes at the state and national level. Find out how your state ranks.
We want you to be part of electoral reform in 2016! There are many ways to get involved at a local, state, and national level. Grassroots reformers are working in communities across the country. If you're looking to upgrade democracy, download our toolkit and other advocacy material.