Reports

Top Two in Washington State

Posted on October 25, 2012

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.   

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Lost Votes in Vermont State Senate Elections

Posted on September 10, 2012

This study was prompted by unusual results of a standard analysis of the ratio of party votes received compared to legislative seats won. Typically, in winner take all voting systems such as Vermont’s, there is a deviation from a one to one ratio, which overrepresents the largest party, and may be exaggerated further as the result of gerrymandering. Vermont’s Senatorial Districts are less prone to gerrymandering, being based largely on preexisting county boundaries. A superficial look at the Vermont 2000 election for governor raises a question.

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Legal Analysis of Alternative Single Winner Election Methods

Posted on July 25, 2012

 There are inherent flaws in the plurality voting systems employed in most American elections with a single winner. Namely, plurality voting “can elect a candidate who receives the most first place votes but is strongly disfavored by a majority of the electorate” Dudum v. Arntz, 640 F.3d 1098, 1100 (9th Cir. 2011), a result that does not comport with democratic ideals. It seems patently wrong that a candidate whom the majority voted against should nonetheless represent that majority – even to the point that a majority of voters would see this candidate as their last choice.

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Legality of the Use of Ranked Choice Absentee Ballots for Military and Overseas Voters

Posted on July 07, 2011

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.

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Understanding the RCV Election Results in District 10

Posted on November 23, 2010

Understanding the RCV election results in District 10

A FairVote Analysis

The Board of Supervisors race in District 10 was an unprecedented race in San Francisco’s seven-year history of using ranked choice voting (the first RCV elections took place in 2004). It featured 21 candidates, no incumbent and no obvious front runners.  That resulted in an election in which the winning candidate, Malia Cohen, barely edged out the competition in an exceptionally close race. How close was it?

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Spotlighting a Best Practice

Posted on August 11, 2010

FairVote Summer intern Rebecca Guterman interviewed Tim Hwang, Student Member of the Board of Education in Montgomery County, MD, to highlight a practice that helps both the student representative and the rest of the student population gain experience in voting and representative government.

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California's Proposition 14: Weaknesses and Remedies

Posted on August 05, 2010

On June 8, 2010, the voters of California approved Proposition 14, “The Top Two Primaries Act,” (“the Act”) with 53.7% of the vote. In its own words, the Act’s intention is “to protect and preserve the right of every Californian to vote for the candidate of his or her choice.”  All general elections will be won with a majority of the vote, and voters in the primary are generally free to vote for their true first choice with little fear that doing so will help elect their least favored candidate. Many of its backers argued that by giving independent voters more influence in determining which candidates advance to the general election, the Act would result in more moderate politicians and less gridlock in the legislature.

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Majority and Plurality in U.S. Gubernatorial Elections

Posted on April 09, 2010

From 1948 to 2009, 90.4 percent of all gubernatorial general elections nationwide were won with greater than 50 percent of the popular vote. None were won with less than 35 percent of all votes cast. Fifteen states elected all of their governors with a majority of votes cast. Among the other states, Maine had the most plurality-elected governors, with 7 of their 19 races in this span.

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International Snapshot: Australia 2007

Posted on February 16, 2010

On November 24th 2007, Australia elected its House of Representatives with instant runoff voting (IRV), as it has for more than eight decades. After four straight election defeats, the Labor Party won a landslide majority of seats. Under IRV, Labor's initial 44% of first choices turned into a clear majority after considering the choices of supporters of third party candidates with too little support to win seats. The Green Party's 7.79% share of the national vote largely went to Labor in House races; that share earned several senate seats elected by proportional voting. Due in large part to compulsory voting, turnout was 94.77%; Australians rank near the top of national comparisons of voter satisfaction with their government. 

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International Snapshot: Japan 2009

Posted on November 24, 2009

The Japanese parliamentary elections in August 30, 2009 marked a turning point in Japan’s political history. Since 1955, Japan has been dominated by one party, with the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) as the governing party for all but 11 months. But in these elections the opposition Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) defeated the LDP, winning 308 seats to 109 for the LDP in the 480-seat House of Representatives.

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