Posted by Austin Plier, Drew Penrose on November 07, 2016
FairVote’s mission is to improve our democracy through research, advocacy, and support of electoral reforms at all levels of government. However, we also play an important role as a trusted source of information. Our resources on elections, including voter turnout, open and closed primaries, and election methods is frequently cited by the media. We also take time to make presentations to all sorts of groups on elections now and how they can be improved.
Recently, FairVote has had the opportunity to make such presentations to two international groups: The Youth Initiative for Advocacy, Growth & Advancement (YIAGA), and representatives from the United States electoral observation mission of the Organization of American States (OAS).
The Youth Initiative for Advocacy, Growth & Advancement (YIAGA)
YIAGA is a youth-based, non-governmental organization that promotes democratic governance, human rights, and youth political participation, based in Abuja, Nigeria. They focus on research, providing analysis of democratic and governance issues, crafting solutions, and training youth leaders in their communities.
Four YIAGA staff visited the FairVote office to discuss the 2016 election, and better understand the challenges facing American democracy. They were intrigued by the dynamics of this year’s presidential election, as well as the polarizing trends in American politics. Austin engaged in a wide-ranging conversation with them about the challenges that are rooted in America’s winner-take-all election system, and the value that various forms of proportional representation can have in achieving more representative democracy. YIAGA Executive Director Samson Itodo and his colleagues explained similar challenges facing Nigeria’s elections, also rooted in a winner-take-all system.
Organization of American States (OAS)
OAS promotes democracy, human rights, security, and development throughout North and South America in a variety of ways, and one is by helping ensure the right to universal suffrage by secret ballot by observing elections and making recommendations for change. They have historically observed elections in a variety of countries in the Americas, but until this year have never observed elections in the United States.
2016 will be the first year the United States opens its doors to election observation organizations. As part of their mission, OAS sought information on United States elections from a variety of non-profit organizations, including FairVote. Legal director Drew Penrose met with two members of OAS to help answer their questions. Drew presented them with a wealth of information on U.S. election systems, and how we think they could be improved.
Compared to other countries, elections in the United States are extremely decentralized. Issues including election systems, ballot access, and political party organizing vary tremendously state by state. Election administration practices vary even more, as they often are decentralized to counties or municipalities.