E-Newsletter February 14, 2007

Released February 14, 2007
FairVote E-News :: Winter 2007

Dear friend of fair elections:

It's an exciting time for FairVote. Our innovative proposals designed to provide every American with an equally meaningful vote are gaining traction in cities and states around the nation. Our research and communication continues in high-profile settings, but we also are seeing more and more cities and states take action on our ideas. Presidential candidates like John McCain, Barack Obama and Dennis Kucinich boost instant runoff voting, while both Republican and Democratic Secretaries of State have embraced our proposal for a uniform voter registration age of 16. Indeed, there is energy and movement in every part of our program. We've also been tapped by Working Assets for support from its customers in 2007, are growing rapidly in individual support and volunteer energy and are reaching out to democracy partners to help make Claim Democracy 2007 a successful conference this November. If you can help us with your time or donation, we'd greatly appreciate it.

This is the first of our quarterly e-newsletters for 2007. Keep your eyes out for much shorter updates as well.

Best,

Rob Richie
Executive Director

IRV America

FairVote welcomes Ryan Griffin back from the winning Pierce County (WA) campaign. He heads up the IRV America program, which helped Takoma Park (MD) run its first instant runoff election on January 30. FairVote's exit poll found 88% supporting IRV for higher offices after an election where public education successfully reached 80%. 99.5% of voters cast valid ballots. Respondents and candidates alike reported a more positive campaign. The poll featured in several newspapers: the Washington Post, the Gazette and the Baltimore Chronicle.

Griffin last week gave expert testimony on Colorado's voting systems study bill, which passed out of committee 8-3 on February 8. State legislation has been or will be shortly introduced around the nation, including bills sponsored by Republicans (New York and Arkansas) and Democrats (Hawaii and Washington). Vermont's bill to implement IRV for all statewide elections was launched with the backing of 49 of the state's 150 house members.

Against the backdrop of upcoming ballot measures in Sarasota (FL), Springfield (IL) and elsewhere, an article by New America Fellow Steven Hill on IRV's growing popularity ran in numerous papers including the Miami Herald and Sacramento Bee. New America also featured Hill and IRV at a high-profile event in Washington, D.C. introducing "10 big ideas" to Senators Hillary Clinton (D-NY) and Lindsay Graham (R-SC) -- read Hill's chapter on IRV in New America's new book. Meanwhile FairVote board member and Nirvana co-founder Krist Novoselic keeps campaigning for IRV in his home state of Washington.

Air America's Al Franken, an endorser of instant runoff voting, has announced his candidacy for U.S. Senator from Minnesota. In the presidential race, IRV has won active support from Barack Obama, John McCain and Dennis Kucinich.

Universal Voter Registration

FairVote welcomes Right to Vote Program Director Adam Fogel, who will focus on developing our educational programs on 100% youth registration and education. On February 9, Adam gave expert testimony to Maryland legislators considering a uniform voter registration age of 16 years.

The bill is one of three sponsored by Maryland State Senator and former FairVote board member Jamie Raskin. His reform package includes more on expanding voter registration, deeper civics education on Constitution Day and provisions for non-partisan voter guides on candidates and referenda -- see coverage in the Washington Post. Secretaries of State in Minnesota (Democrat Mark Ritchie) and Michigan (Republican Terri Lynn Land) are backing uniform advance voter registration; Ritchie also supports a means to initiate automatic voter registration, which would bring us far closer to international norms. Lastly, a new report by the Nonprofit Voter Engagement Network, America Goes to the Polls, chronicles voter turnout over the last 30 years and ranks the states in participation. Despite changes in participation over time, the case remains clear that universal voter registration policies are needed to help boost turnout.

National Popular Vote & the Presidential Elections Reform Program

With bills introduced or promised in 47 states, the state-based National Popular Vote (NPV) plan to revamp presidential elections keeps building steam with a new website. Track the state-by-state progress of bills with an interactive map. FairVote remains a key player in research and outreach about the plan, and its partner group FairVote Action is leading the campaign to win NPV in Maryland.

We welcome Moni Talukdar to the program as a Research Fellow. Testimony on NPV abounds, including FairVote Action's Ryan O'Donnell to Maryland legislators in February and Director Rob Richie's prepared for Hawaii.

Influential Maryland state delegate Sheila Hixson explains why she has sponsored the plan in Maryland. Groups endorsing NPV include the National Black Caucus of State Legislators, the National Latino Congreso and the Asian American Action Fund.

It's less than a year until voting happens in primaries and caucuses to determine major party presidential nominations. States are rushing to hold their primaries earlier and earlier, and the resulting chaos is sure to trigger welcome new interest in reform. FairVote continues to back the American Plan.

Proportional Voting

Ontario's Citizens Assembly continues its work in Canada with input from students and voters alike; it's expected the Assembly will recommend a proportional voting system to replace winner-take-all elections. The Academy of Motion Pictures again used choice voting to pick Oscar nominees in January.

Vashon-Maury Island (WA) used choice voting to elect its local council, and city leaders in Elk Grove (CA) are studying choice voting in the wake of Davis (CA) voters backing the reform last November. At the state level, Californians for Electoral Reform is advancing legislation to let communities implement ranked choice voting systems.

Colorado's advanced voting systems study bill includes proportional voting, while New America's Steven Hill makes a strong case for its adoption in California in a new commentary. FairVote analysis of the 2006 Congressional elections was central to a Columbus Dispatch piece on Ohio's wrong-winner delegation.

Right to Vote Initiative

The push for D.C. voting rights continues. FairVote's newest report, Democracy Denied: Washington, D.C.'s lack of U.S. Senators Hurts Urban America Too makes a compelling case for full District representation.

If you're in the Washington metro area, help move the D.C. Fair and Equal House Voting Rights Act through Congress. D.C. Vote leads a contingent to Capitol Hill on Thursday, February 15 at 8:00 a.m. Get involved!

FairVote on the Road

FairVote Director Rob Richie on February 11 addressed the annual meeting of the National Association of Secretaries of State. His speech covered state-based reforms from uniform registration to instant runoff voting (download PPT). On January 17, he gave a keynote luncheon address (download PDF) to the "2008 and Beyond" symposium at Kent State University. Rob speaks at North Carolina State on April 16 to give the annual Abe Holzman lecture.

On February 9, FairVote Program Director David Moon spoke on Austin (TX) radio about choice voting in that community.

Claim Democracy this November

Stay tuned for details on the upcoming Claim Democracy 2007 Conference, FairVote's second national convening of America's pro-democracy community. Planned for the weekend of November 16-18, the Washington, D.C. event will coincide with FairVote's 15th anniversary celebration.

Tributes

FairVote joins America in paying respect to former President Gerald Ford, who backed a national popular vote for president and making Election Day a holiday. A farewell also to Molly Ivins, a champion of FairVote reform priorities like the National Popular Vote plan.

A special welcome to our new Board Member Cynthia Gibson and top-notch interns Adam Bartolanzo and Verenice Paucar. Adam took a leading role with FairVote's exit poll in Takoma Park, and Verenice is working on redistricting issues. Thanks to our outgoing interns: Thomaz Almeida, Emma Schwartz, Miranda Payton, Jie Min and Maggie Littlewood. Applications for summer and fall internships are being accepted now.

New Support in 2007

Working Assets has chosen FairVote as one of 48 groups its customers will support in 2007. FairVote also hopes to continue to be in the Combined Federal Campaign. We are also pleased to have recently secured new support from the Carnegie Corporation and Z. Smith Reynolds foundation.

We still depend on you for successes. Individual donors provide the bulk of our lean but effective budget, and it was those individuals like you who stepped up to boost our last year's big wins for IRV and choice voting. We hope to have earned your support in 2007.

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