FairVote was founded in 1992 as the Center for Proportional Representation (CPR) in Cincinnati, Ohio by a diverse group of grassroots advocates and national organizers committed to reviving and improving Democracy. Led by Executive Director Rob Richie and then-President Matthew Cossolotto, CPR became the Center for Voting Rights and Democracy in 1993, reflecting our commitment to a broader platform of research and advocacy around American elections. In 2004, we embraced the title FairVote to capture our central mission of making elections fair through a diverse platform of electoral innovations and reforms, including ranked choice voting, a national popular vote for president and universal voter registration.Through our support of other organizations, our national research and our direct advocacy, FairVote works to make every vote and every voice count in every election.
As Americans, we elect representatives at all levels of government, from local school boards and state assemblies to Congress and the presidency. With government depending on the consent of the governed, we have the right to expect our voices to be heard, our views to be respected, and our votes to truly count.
But American democracy today is not working. Our national government is trapped in gridlock, leading to historic levels of dissatisfaction and lower turnout every year, with turnout in 2014 the lowest since 1942. And turnout in primaries and local elections is even lower than the historically low turnout for national, general elections.
Our diverse political views are shoehorned into one of two fiercely partisan camps, too often silencing needed debate and making it hard for elected officials to work across party lines. With new voices constantly shunned as spoilers and noncompetitive districts locking down most elections for one party, too many of us lack meaningful choice between two candidates, let alone three. Because of these and other flaws, government fails to fully reflect many in the American electorate – from women and racial minorities to urban conservatives and rural liberals.
It’s easy to see that something is broken in American politics. It’s harder to figure out why – or how to move forward.
At FairVote, we think structurally. We look beyond the short-term actions of parties and power-seekers and into the systems that shape their behavior – the rules that govern our government. When it comes to how our elected leaders behave, the way we elect them is the most important system of all. To fix American politics, we need to fix how we choose our politicians.
We believe there are simple, common sense ways to strengthen our democracy and ensure all voices are heard, all views are respected, and every vote really counts. That's why we work to study these problems, develop practical solutions, and work with national, state and local partners to advance reforms that result in fairer elections.
These reform ideas have come out of our focusing our research, outreach, advocacy and reform work on structural solutions to three core principles of a fair vote:
Fair Representation: Respect for the principle of representation for all;
Fair Elections: Elections with real choices in which every vote counts;
Fair Access: The right to go to the polls and have a voice that will be heard.
We believe that a healthy and long-lasting democracy relies on every citizen having a right to a vote that can truly contribute to meaningful representation. Working together to address barriers to truly democratic elections, we can bring power back to our vote and make our democracy work better for everyone.
Ranked Choice Voting: More choices and more power for voters in a single election.
Over two million people use ranked choice voting (RCV, or “instant runoff voting”) to elect their local officials, up from less than 100,000 in 2003. With FairVote's help, RCV as passed as a ballot measure in at least one city in eight of the past 12 years, including Memphis (TN), Oakland (CA) and Minneapolis (MN). RCV is heading to statewide consideration in Maine in 2016.
Acting on a FairVote proposal, Alabama, Arkansas, Mississippi and South Carolina used RCV for overseas voters in congressional primary elections in 2014. Overseas voters in Louisiana cast RCV ballots in all of their November elections for U.S. Senate and U.S. House that had more than two candidates.
More than 55 colleges and universities with a combined enrollment of over 700,000 students use RCV for student elections, a huge increase from the year 2000 due in large part to outreach and support from FairVote.
National Popular Vote: Every vote equal in the election of the United States president.
FairVote staff coauthored Every Vote Equal, the book detailing the National Popular Vote plan to reform the Electoral College. FairVote has been the research arm of the movement since its origin in 2005.
The National Popular Vote plan has been enacted by 11 jurisdictions possessing 165 electoral votes - 61% of the 270 necessary for the legislation to take effect. The legislation has passed 32 legislative chambers in 22 jurisdictions. More than 2,110 state legislators have voted for or sponsored NPV legislation. FairVote has provided intellectual and research support to advocates throughout this process.
A Constitutional Right to Vote: Universal voter registration and a local movement to inspire participation and secure access to the polls for all qualified voters.
FairVote helped draft two amendments for an explicit right to vote in the United States Constitution, including one introduced in Congress in 2001-2003 and one in 2013-2014; such legislation has earned the sponsorship of more than 70 Members of Congress.
Over two million people are impacted by Promote Our Vote Resolutions in support of a constitutional right to vote and local reforms to boost participation.
Since 2004, when we first advanced voter pre-registration for 16-year-olds, seven states and the District of Columbia have enacted it; two more states have adopted 17-year-old pre-registration.
National organizations responded to our leadership in calling for systematic changes to achieving the goal of 100% voter registration with an "opt-out" instead of an "opt-in" approach. Such legislation passed in Louisiana in June 2015.
Fair Representation Voting: American, candidate-based forms of proportional representation.
In the United States, more than three and a half million people use fair representation voting to elect their local officials in nearly one hundred local governments. Through legal and voter education work, FairVote has played an important role in this progress in dozens of jurisdictions, including new wins in 2014.
For nearly two decades we have published Monopoly Politics and Dubious Democracy reports every two years, changing the national conversation about noncompetitive elections to focus on structural reform. On November 6, 2014, we called the winners in nearly nine out of ten House elections set to take place more than two years later in 2016 – as we simultaneously build support for an Act of Congress to allow every voter to participate in meaningful elections.
Our Representation 2020 project distributed more than 2,000 State of Women's Representation 2014 reports that feature the positive impact fair representation voting can have on women's representation.