It is widely believed that “the right of voting for representatives is the primary right by which other rights are protected.” Many are surprised to learn, then, that the right to vote is not explicitly protected in the U.S. Constitution. Amending the Constitution to include an explicit right to vote would make it clear that this right is in fact fundamental. It would ensure that voter challenges to election rules would force governments to justify practices that curtail access to the ballot.
In 2010, California adopted the "Top Two" primary system. In this Policy Perspective, we outline some of the issues with how Top Two operated in California in 2012. We then describe how the system would operate under a simple modification: a "Top Four" system in which four candidates advance to the general election instead of two, and in which the general election is conducted by ranked choice voting.
Update: This report has now been updated to include additional analysis from the results of the 2012 general election, more details on FairVote's proposed solution: Top Four with ranked choice voting, and analysis based on comparison to California's use of Top Two in 2012.The Top Two primary system has drawn increasing attention as a way to reform our elections. Rather than have parties nominate candidates who then face off in a general election, it establishes two rounds of voting: the first a "preliminary" to reduce the field to two candidates and the second a final runoff between the top two finishers. Candidates pick their own party label, and that label has no impact on which candidates advance.Louisiana for years was the only state using a form of the system for both state and federal elections. Washington State started using the system in 2008. California implemented it in 2012, and Arizona voters may adopt it in a November 2012 ballot measure. This report looks at the impact of the Top Two primary in Washington State in the two and a half election cycles in which it has been used. The report focuses on state legislative elections, but also summarizes results to date in congressional and statewide elections.
The partisan makeup of the Vermont legislature is not in line with the partisan vote for state officers. Democrats are under-represented in both the House and Senate.An analysis of withheld votes in the State Senate races in 2000, 1998, and 1996 reveals that the primary cause of this disproportionality is the tendency of Democratic voters to bullet vote, giving up some of their votes, and possibly splitting their ticket, at a far higher rate than Republican voters. We calculate that partial franchise bullet voting on average results in Vermont voters withholding over 14% of the votes they are entitled to cast in State Senate races.
There are many alternatives to the plurality voting system currently employed in most elections in the United States. Some of those alternative voting methods have the potential to elect a candidate with the most widespread support, as opposed to plurality voting which may elect a candidate whom the majority of the electorate voted against. Given their potential for a positive impact on voter choice, it is important to analyze the legal and practical viability of those alternatives.
Lawmakers in Missouri have recently passed a congressional redistricting plan that distorts the state’s political representation in favor of Republicans and institutionalizes a decade of uncompetitive, meaningless elections. To address the structural impediments of winner-take-all, FairVote has created an alternative— what we call fair voting — for Missouri’s congressional elections. Every voter in a fair voting system would experience a meaningful election and the great majority of voters would help elect a representative.
This report traces the history of the Voting Rights Act, from its origins in 1965 through its opposition and its continued renewal. Specifically, the report details how Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act requires those states covered under Section 5 to preclear all proposed voting changes, including redistricting efforts, with the Department of Justice before their enactment. The advent of the Voting Rights Act, specifically Section 5, has been instrumental in preventing states from making changes which could potentially discriminate against racial and ethnic minorities. Throughout the history of Section 5 cases before the Supreme Court, the Court has yet to rule Section 5 is invalid.
Ranked choice absentee ballots provide a legal and practical solution to the disenfranchisement of military and overseas voters in runoff elections. These ballots enable U.S. citizens covered by the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act of 1986 (UOCAVA) to cast votes when the ballot turnaround time between first and second elections is short.