Posted on March 30, 2010
The FairVote Reformer: March 2010
Who Counts in America?
Every household in the United States was due to receive a form from the U.S. Census this month as part of our constitutional mandate to count every United States resident. Conducting the count is a daunting enterprise with major ramifications for the fairness of allocation of federal tax dollars in the coming decade--and allocation of political power. Population figures are used to allocate U.S. House seats among states and draw district within states, with a state's number of House seats directly affecting its share of the House and the Electoral College. Because there's no serious talk of increasing House size in 2012 (despite a tripling of our population since 1910, the last year the House grew in number) several states will lose seats despite growing in population in the 2000's - and all states are scrambling to boost participation in the Census.
Next year, the release of detailed population numbers will trigger the ignominious process of our representatives choosing their constituents in a new round of redistricting. Even in the few instances where district lines are drawn in the public interest, redistricting will effectively determine most peoples' representation for the next decade without a vote being cast. Under winner-take-all rules, who counts in elections depends on whether you have a chance to be part of the majority. If you and like-minded voters are in the minority, forget it - you will be "represented" by someone who may oppose everything you deem important. Let's make ourselves count in the Census, to be sure, but let's also make ourselves count by working to reform winner-take-all elections with proportional voting rules that make our participation meaningful in every election.
Onto the news of March. It was a busy one at FairVote. Be sure to stay updated by following FairVote on Twitter.
FairVote reform ideas earned the support of one of our most influential columnists amidst another impactful month of growing support for FairVote reforms.
New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman supports "alternative voting," better known to our readers as instant runoff voting (IRV) or ranked choice voting (RCV). Friedman neatly describes IRV in arguing that it and redistricting reform are lynchpins for increasing the influence of independent voters. The New York Times also ran several letters to the editor about electoral reform, including one from FairVote's Rob Richie on the value of IRV and proportional voting. Among influential thinkers agreeing with Thomas Friedman are Think Progress blogger Matthew Yglesias, New Yorker senior writer Hendrik Hertzberg and the Brookings Institute's Isabel Sawhill.
USA Today editorial writers throw their support behind IRV, triggered by its use to elect Hurt Locker in the Academy Awards. The Oscar vote with IRV also led to strongly supportive commentary by the likes of: New York Times Freakonomics blogger Justin Wolfers; an Australian who knows IRV from personal experience; commentators at Minnesota Public Radio; Economist business writer "Schumpeter"; and Vanity Fair
Instant runoff voting also earned support: from two Minnesota Republicans making the case that IRV benefits all Minnesota voters; a Maine blogger who likes Portland charter commission's recommendation to adopt IRV; a Minneapolis Star Tribune oped writer; and a Texas columnist exploring alternatives to low turnout runoffs.
Frances Moore Lappe, author of Diet for a Small Planet, makes a strong case for FairVote-backed reforms like instant runoff voting and the National Popular Vote plan in her updated Getting a Grip 2 -- see her take on the history of tea parties in a new video. FairVote's Rob Richie is the subject of a one-hour interview on Electric Politics covering a full gamut of issues involving our democracy and reform.
The New York Times editorializes in favor of the Democracy Restoration Act. The ACLU's Deborah J. Vagins and the Brennan Center's Erika Woods write this brief on the subject.
A Cambridge election commissioner candidate explains the value of her city's use of the choice voting form of proportional representation.
We've seen action on a number of FairVote's top priorities. From accelerated implementation of youth voter pre-registration in Rhode Island to our lead role in an historic voter education campaign in the Village of Port Chester (NY), we are expanding opportunities for democratic participation.
The National Popular Vote Plan for president has been on the move in several states, including passage in an Alaska senate committee this month and a strong commentary by former Vermont state senator Jim Condos in his state. New backers of NPV include the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and Demos - see a full list of NPV supporters here.
FairVote Rhode Island's Toby Shepherd applauded his state for moving quickly on implementing the recent win for youth voter pre-registration of 16-year-olds. We applaud similar rapid progress in North Carolina this year, as backed by Democracy North Carolina and North Carolina Civic Education Consortium and were pleased to partner with Common Cause Maryland in helping spark the Maryland House of Delegates to pass pre-registration for the third consecutive year - see Maryland testimony this year from Adam Fogel, and we hope to see a win, which would mean every state where we've had on-ground staff in recent years (including California, North Carolina and Rhode Island) would have passed pre-registration. In related progress, after FairVote testified to the Pennsylvania House State Government Committee in 2008, the bill to allow eligible 17-year-olds to vote in primaries advanced this month to the House floor.
FairVote released new materials on cumulative voting and early voting for the voter education project we are coordinating on behalf of the Village of Port Chester (NY). LoHud.com (the local newspaper) has a nice write-up of the voter education project's most recent forums led by FairVote's Amy Ngai, the Village's clerk Joan Mancuso and Port Chester Votes' Martha Lopez and Elias Baez. Meanwhile, Illinois backers of cumulative voting and the Putback Amendment are in the final stages of a ballot drive to restore cumulative voting for state legislative elections - a goal shared by Republican gubernatorial nominee Bill Brady.
Congressman John Tanner introduced congressional redistricting reform legislation touted by FairVote that would promote transparency -- see the Campaign Legal Center's explanation and a review of redistricting reform efforts . Gerrymandering documentary director Jeff Reichert highlighted the value of reform in the Christian Science Monitor, and CNN's Broken Government series included a feature on gerrymandering in California.
Brandeis students voted by a 70% to 30% margin to adopt instant runoff voting for their student elections. With Cornell and Arizona State University also among schools recently adopting IRV, some 57 colleges and universities now use it for student elections. In California, at least three new cities will use IRV for the first time this November, including Oakland, where Oakland Rising, Californians for Electoral Reform, the New America Foundation and the Oakland League of Women Voters are assisting implementation and public awareness. This month, the Los Angeles County League of Women Voters voted to endorsed IRV for all local elections, the California state legislature took up a bill to allow IRV for state vacancy elections, as embraced by California scholar Mona Field and the New America Foundation filed an amicus brief in litigation defending IRV in San. See other pro-IRV state legislation at NCSL's electoral reform database.
FairVote signed onto a letter urging Congress to fully fund the Help America Vote Act (HAVA). FairVote Action joined leading North Carolina reform groups in an amicus brief in a case seeking better ballot access laws.
FairVote bloggers this month showcased our analysis of how the current Electoral College system impacted presidential stumping for health care, the state of our nation's voting machine industry, a look at the Oscar's use of IRV and our serial on Iraq's recent parliamentary election.
FairVote's Adam Fogel blogs on the impact of the current Electoral College system on presidential travels - well aware of our current system's perverse incentives, White House schedulers repeatedly have sent the president to expected 2012 battleground states and ignored many non-battlegrounds.
FairVote intern Geoffrey Porter blogs on the Department of Justice's Antitrust division acting to seek to preserve at least some competition in the voting equipment industry. FairVote's Rob Richie was among a delegation of voting reformers who met with the DOJ after it took action.
FairVote's executive director Rob Richie writes for Yes Magazine about Hurt Locker winning the Best Picture Oscar with IRV and analyzes lessons from this month's vote on IRV in Burlington (VT). FairVote chair Krist Novoselic sums up the Oscar voting at Oscar Votes 1 2 3.
Board member Hendrik Hertzberg of the New Yorker blogs this month on instant runoff voting and filibuster reform
FairVote's Pauline Lejeune continues her blog series on Iraq's March 7th parliamentary elections. Read Part 4: Iraqi Women's Political Reality and Part 5: Familiar Politicians, Redefined Alliances. She also had an op-ed published this week in The National.
FairVote has released a new 50-state map on voter registration deadlines in 2010 (scroll down to bottom of page).
We say goodbye to a longtime election reformer and friend, Doris Haddock, better known as "Granny D" after walking across the nation at age 88 to promote campaign finance reform. FairVote's Rob Richie wrote a commentary about her life and political legacy for Yes Magazine.