30 years ago, in the summer of 1992, a group of advocates, legislators, and scholars convened in Cincinnati for a national conference on proportional representation, where local leaders like Ted Berry and Bobbie Sterne had led a 1991 campaign for proportional representation. Bringing together leaders from 4 proportional representation groups and activists from some 17 states from across the country (including current RepresentWomen CEO Cynthia Terrell and her husband FairVote president Rob Richie) the conference launched the new national Citizens for Proportional Representation organization - FairVote in its earliest form. Its founding goal was to educate voters on the relationship between voting systems and democratic representation. Soon renamed the Center for Voting and Democracy, the organization quickly established itself as a leader in the fields of proportional representation and ranked choice voting (RCV) - indeed, within a few weeks of its founding, the group’s founding national advisory board chair John Anderson had a New York Times oped calling for RCV for presidential elections.
In its first 5 years, the Center for Voting and Democracy released its first of many Dubious Democracy reports (ranking the competitiveness of, participation in, and consensus of each state’s congressional elections) and Monopoly Politics reports (where we use prior voting patterns to predict election outcomes and invented the analytic tool now known as the partisan voting index”). These set the tone for the Center as a leading advocacy and research organization. Advocacy highlights included our partnership with state and local allies on RCV- leading efforts to win ranked choice voting in San Francisco in 2002 and create real opportunities to win RCV statewide in Alaska, New Mexico and Vermont.
In 2004, the Center for Voting and Democracy changed its name to FairVote, to reflect its core mission of bringing fairer elections to American voters. In this era it embraced a broader reform agenda that led to helping catalyze reform drives for automatic voter registration, voter registration for teenages, the National Popular Vote plan and redistricting reform. That same year, FairVote saw RCV in action for the first time since its founding; San Francisco became the first major city in the modern era to start using RCV in its city elections. Since San Francisco, the number of jurisdictions using RCV has skyrocketed. As of today, 11 million voters across 2 states, 1 county, and 52 cities will use RCV in their next elections. So far, in 2022, 6 states have passed legislation to advance RCV and another 18 have introduced such legislation. Pro-RCV ballot measures are scheduled for this November in at least 7 more jurisdictions.
As we step into the coming decade of promise, FairVote’s founding mission will continue to guide us towards concrete goals. We are currently working together with our national, state and local partners to win ranked choice voting in more presidential primaries in 2024 and 500 cities by 2025. FairVote will offer support to state and local groups as they navigate local reforms, and we will continue to advocate for the Voter Choice Act, which would provide federal funding for state and local governments to implement RCV and last year passed the US House as part of the Protect Our Democracy Act.
FairVote will also continue to champion the Fair Representation Act (FRA), as backed by the likes of the New York Times editorial board and columnist David Brooks. FairVote and our allies have made great strides in the advancement of fair representation through ranked choice voting, but gerrymandering and hyper-polarization have created a climate of uncompetitive single-member districts. We support the FRA because both ranked choice voting and proportional multi-member districts are essential to ensuring every voter has the opportunity to see their values and ideas represented at all levels of government.
FairVote’s strength is the dedication of our supporters, and that is why we are excited to invite you to the FairVote 30th Anniversary reception. The reception will be held on July 25 at the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library in Washington, DC. We will be joined by special guests Dr. Danielle Allan, Rep. Don Beyer, Rep. Teresa Leger Fernandez, and Rep. Jamie Raskin. More information can be found on the sign up page. We hope to see you there!