It's been an eventful summer for electoral reform across the country, with FairVote's work grounded in our 2020 reform vision.
Fair presidential elections: As reported today by Hendrik Hertzberg of The New Yorker, Rhode Island Governor Lincoln Chafee this month signed the National Popular Vote plan.This bipartisan win (it was backed by more than three-quarters of both Democratic and Republican state senators) puts reformers more than halfway toward the number of electoral votes needed to ensure the 2016 election is one where the candidate with the most votes wins and that every vote is equally important in all 50 states and DC. The bill also passed New York's state assembly for the first time this year. (Join Hertzberg at our Democracy Next forum tomorrow.)
Fair choices on the ballot: Minneapolis and the terrific state group FairVote Minnesota are gearing up for a wide-open mayoral race with ranked choice voting (RCV) this November. RCV (also known as instant runoff voting) will also be used this fall for important elections in St. Paul, San Francisco and our home city of Takoma Park. In an important development, the biggest voting equipment companies are now putting RCV into their systems, making it easier state and city use.
Fair access to voting: In Colorado, sweet 16 got a little sweeter with the passage of HB 1135 allowing 16-year olds to preregister to vote. On the downside, however, the Supreme Court struck down Section 4 of the Voter Rights Act and put Section 5's "preclearance" provisions on ice, fueling a movement for a right to vote in the Constitution. See our Promote Our Vote campaign on how to "think globally, act locally", along with an important new book Dollarocracy featuring the idea and the new Free to Vote project. Please urge your Member to cosponsor HJ Resolution 44 today, a bill proposing a right to vote amendment to the Constitution.
Fair representation voting: We've had prominent media appearances in the past few months. One highlight was FairVote Board Chair Krist Novoselic and staff attorney Drew Spencer appearing on RT America, explaining our proposals for fair representation voting for Congress. Krist also published two strong pieces here and here about fair representation for Salon.
Democracy Next Highlights: Here in DC, I've had the pleasure of seeing many of you at our summer panel series, Democracy Next: Voices, Votes and Vision, co-hosted with NYU-DC - with four forums this summer and forums continuing every month starting in September. Each of the forums can be viewed online. I wanted to flag a few highlights from our first two forums that you can reach by clicking on the relevant link:
Democracy Next: Beyond Gerrymandering & Polarization, June 27: Congressman James Clyburn (SC), a long-time backer of changing winner-take-all elections, called for a serious dialogue on change, grounded in his state's historical use of cumulative voting. Congressman Keith Ellison (MN) focused on how campaigns are characterized by negative campaigning and highlighted ranked choice voting. Political scientist Norm Ornstein explained his support of FairVote's proposed top-four system with ranked choice voting, concluding that it could have big wins in the next three years. Former Congressman John Porter (IL) shared his experiences winning in cumulative voting elections in his home state.
Marie Wilson, founder of the White House project, shared her insight on the state of women's representation, impressing upon the audience that it's truly our structures that need fixing if we want to see real change. And while many people immediately conflate structure with redistricting, Maryland state senator Jamie Raskin cogently explained that redistricting is gerrymandering; for real solutions, we need to go to the root problem of winner-take-all elections. You can also see our Champion of Democracy presentations to Congressmen Ellison and Clyburn.
Is it Time for a Right to Vote in the Constitution?, July 9: This timely forum explored the consequences of the Supreme Court's ruling on the Voting Rights Act and the case for a broad movement on voting rights and voter turnout. See highlights from Judith Browne Dianis of the Advancement project, Takoma Park City Council Member Tim Male, Rashad Robinson of Color of Change and John Nichols of The Nation. Congressman Mark Pocan gave the keynote address, saying that the right to vote "is not a Republican right, not a Democratic right, but an American right."
We hope you can join in person and online for future forums. Be on the lookout at FairVote.org for the release of several major reports in the coming weeks, and look for chances to get involved and receive regular updates at FairVote Action. As always, we accept your donations with gratitude. Our work truly depends on you!
Rob Richie, Executive Director
Our Forum Series at NYU's D.C. Campus
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