Champions of Democracy Awardees 2018

Thank you for everyone who attended our Champions of Democracy Awards on Sunday, December 9th. You can watch our Facebook LIVE here and our photos

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FairVote is pleased to present awards to a remarkable group of deserving champions. Those on hand to help kick off our event and introduce awardees include board chair Krist Novoselic and Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf.

Posthumous award for Public Service: Congressman Ron Dellums

The late Congressman Ron Dellums (CA-9) was unrelenting in his quest for justice; whether protesting the Vietnam War on Capitol Hill or challenging racial inequalities and violence on the streets of Oakland, his commitment to standing up for what he believed never wavered. The Oakland native’s commitment to serving the people also extended into the realm of electoral reform; it was Dellums’ tie breaking vote as mayor that made ranked choice voting possible in Oakland beginning in 2010.

Accepting the award on Dellums’ behalf will be his congressional successor, Congresswoman Barbara Lee. Picking up the charge left by her predecessor, Lee has championed equality, justice and electoral reform, including ranked choice voting.

Lifetime Achievement Award: John Koza

Dr. John R. Koza has been the indispensable leader of National Popular Vote, which seeks to ensure that the candidate with the most popular votes in all 50 states and the District of Columbia is always elected president. After developing the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact in 2003, Dr. Koza joined with attorney Barry Fadem to develop the intellectual materials and political and educational team necessary to advance the proposal in states, including as lead author of Every Vote Equal. FairVote was the first group to endorse the plan and has worked closely with Dr. Koza and the National Popular Vote team. The Interstate Compact was passed into law in 11 states and the District of Columbia, including Connecticut in 2018, and has been introduced into every state legislature in the nation. Dr. Koza received his Ph.D. in computer science from the University of Michigan in 1972. He published a board game involving Electoral College strategy in 1966. He was co-founder, chairman, and CEO of Scientific Games Inc. where he co-invented the rub-off instant lottery ticket used by state lotteries. He also taught a course on genetic algorithms and genetic programming between 1988 and 2003 at Stanford University.


Legislators of the Year: Rebecca Chavez-Houck and Marc Roberts 

Utah Representatives Marc Roberts and Rebecca Chavez-Houck have been a dynamic bipartisan team in championing groundbreaking legislation to advance ranked choice voting (RCV) in Utah -- including a 2017 bill that passed in the House and sought to establish RCV for all major elections in the state. In 2018, a more targeted bill was passed (nearly unanimously) to allow cities in Utah to adopt RCV. They continue to volunteer their time in working with in-state advocates and co-authoring commentaries.  

Utah Representatives Roberts and Chavez-Houck serve as an inspiring example of how members of both major parties can come together to make elections more fair and representative. We salute their commitment to voters of Utah and their tireless work to build a strong bipartisan coalition in support of bringing ranked choice voting to Utah.


Breakthrough Success: Jill Ward and the League of Women Voters of Maine

The League of Women Voters of Maine (LWVME) has been a crucial partner in advancing ranked choice voting (RCV) throughout the state of Maine over the last 8 years. Its support of RCV was integral to the movement that led Portland to adopt RCV for mayoral elections which in turn increased interest and support in the reform across the state. 

After RCV failed to pass in the state legislature's 2011-2012 session, the League brought together a group of lawyers, activists, legislators, and RCV experts to address the obstacles to passage of RCV in Maine. That working group eventually spawned the effort to pass RCV by citizen initiative. Throughout the long journey of RCV in Maine, the League and its members have been constant supporters supporting the cause -- during the 2016 ballot measure campaign lead by the Committee for Ranked Choice Voting, and just this year working with election officials on administration and a creative and impact voter education campaign. Its efforts helped Maine voters embrace RCV and led to successful use in the state's primary and general elections this year.  

League of Women Voters of Maine President Jill Ward's whose leadership was crucial to keeping the movement on course. Accepting the award in-person will be the League’s staff colleagues John Brautigam (senior counsel) and Anna Kellar (executive director) who led the League's efforts on this year’s statewide RCV education program.

Anna Kellar

Anna Kellar is the first joint executive director for the League of Women Voters of Maine and Maine Citizens for Clean Elections. She grew up in Maine and earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in political science from Yale University and a Master's in conflict studies from the London School of Economics. Her experience with democracy and anti-corruption campaigns in eastern Europe and central Asia strengthened her commitmentto preserving and strengthening civil society and grassroots democracy in Maine. She ran for the state legislature as a Clean Elections candidate in 2016.

John Brautigam

John Brautigam is an attorney and consultant with over 20 years of experience in public policy, advocacy and legal representation. He  serves as counsel and senior policy advisor to the League of Women Voters of Maine.  From 2004 to 2008, he served in the Maine legislature and chaired the House Insurance and Financial Services Committee.  Prior to that, Mr. Brautigam served as assistant attorney general of Maine, litigating issues relating to state prescription drug benefit programs and prescription drug pricing.  He was co-counsel for the state in the successful defense of the Maine Rx program before the United States Supreme Court.  He also served as legal counsel in successful defense of the constitutionality of the 1996 reforms to Maine campaign finance laws, including the Maine Clean Election Act.  Mr. Brautigam holds a law degree from Stanford Law School, where he was appointed executive editor of the Stanford Law Review. 

Mr. Brautigam’s other policy interests include energy and environmental law.  He previously served as director of Efficiency Maine and director of the Sustainability Center at Southern Maine Community College.  He has consulted on several energy policy matters including work on the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative for the Public Utilities Commission.


Election Administrator of the Year: Maggie Toulouse Oliver

Newly re-elected New Mexico Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver  has been a forward-thinking leader and champion for election reform in her state since she took office in 2016. She has ensured that New Mexico's elections are secure, made registering to vote easier, and improved ballot accessibility for voters. As Santa Fe approached its first implementation of ranked choice voting in 2018, Toulouse-Oliver was instrumental in ensuring the city was equipped with state of the art voting equipment and technical assistance. She successfully made the case that the city was ready to run RCV when a lawsuit proved necessary to its implementation and collaborated with Santa Fe leaders on ahighly successful first implementation in March. That election resulted in a civil and issue-focused campaign season with five mayoral candidates, and dramatically increased turnout compared to past municipal elections.

Secretary Toulouse Oliver also championed House Bill 98, a local election consolidation bill signed into law following the 2018 legislative session. The bill aimed to make it easier for voters to participate, and it included RCV as an option for home rule municipalities that currently have a top-two runoff system. Already, the city council of state’s second largest city, Las Cruces, has voted unanimously to join Santa Fe to use RCV in 2019, and other cities may follow. The state of New Mexico is lucky to have this formidable champion for democracy as its Secretary of State.


Local Champion of the Year: David Campos

David Campos is Chair of the San Francisco Democratic County Central Committee, and currently serves as Deputy County Executive for Santa Clara County. He was twice elected to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors.

In 2012, when ranked choice voting in San Francisco faced a threat of repeal, he advocated to add more ranking to improve the system and successfully defended it. Campos also sponsored two ballot measures to expand the franchise to non-citizen residents of San Francisco who have children living in the San Francisco Unified School District, and to 16- and 17-year old youth in San Francisco.

During the 2018 mayoral election, Campos authored several pieces elevating the virtues of the ranked choice voting, and most recently, Campos co-sponsored a resolution that reaffirmed the local party's support of the system.

Campos is a member of the California Bar Association, the District of Columbia Bar Association, the Ninth Circuit, and the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. He holds a Juris Doctor from Harvard Law School, and a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science from Stanford University.  He is a native of Guatemala and grew up in South Central Los Angeles.


Lifetime Achievement in Local Reform: Steve Chessin and Paula Lee, Californians for Electoral Reform

Californians for Electoral Reform was founded in May 1993, less than a year after the founding of FairVote. Entirely volunteer-run throughout its history, CFER represents the longest sustained state organization with the primary purpose of promoting the implementation of election methods such as instant runoff voting and forms of proportional representation. It is no accident that California has been at the forefront of reform efforts: a 1996 ballot measure in San Francisco for proportional representation, Santa Clara's first-in-the-nation ballot measure for making RCV a local option, and a string of bigger victories that have included helping pass two RCV bills through the state legislature and four cities adopting and using RCV today. While other groups have been key to those efforts as well, CFER president Steve Chessin, long-time CFER board member Paula Lee and other volunteers played hugely important roles. Today, CFER has hundreds of dues-paying members and several local chapters.

Steve Chessin and Paula Lee embody the remarkable volunteer spirit of CFER and the growing number of like-minded voters around the nation. Chessin has been president of CFER for nearly its entire history and was directly involved in a string of change opportunities in cities and counties, as well as state reform conversations. Lee has been deeply involved with CFER since the 1990s, and a leader in local chapter of the League of Women Voters. During that time, she also has consistently tabled for ranked choice voting, proportional representation and other structural electoral reforms at the national conferences of the League of Women Voters of the United States, contributing to national awareness. We salute them for their decades of volunteer leadership for making elections fair for all Americans.

Steve Chessin

Steve Chessin is President of Californians for Electoral Reform (CfER), an organization that since 1993 has been educating and advocating on behalf of alternative electoral systems, including instant runoff voting (IRV) and various forms of proportional representation.

Steve joined CfER when it was founded in 1993. He was elected to the Board in 1995 and has served as President or Co-President since 1999. He is also active with the California Democratic Party, serving on the State Central Committee since 1986, the Santa Clara County Central Committee since 1990, and the State Executive Board from 1993 through 2016. He was the prime mover behind Santa Clara County's successful 1998 charter amendment that allows the county to use IRV in county elections, once the voting equipment is acquired that can handle ranked ballots. He is also active with the League of Women Voters, and was partially responsible for the California League's adoption of a position in favor of IRV.

Steve has been interested in electoral systems ever since he went to college in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where they use Choice Voting and the billboards read "Vote Jane Smith #1 for City Council."

Steve lives in Mountain View with his wife and daughter. In his day job he is a software engineer. His hobby is politics.

Paula Lee

Paula Lee became an “independent voter”  and active member and leader in the League of Women Voters in 1995 and in 1996 joined Californians for Electoral Reform after realizing she was living in a district so solidly gerrymandered that her votes were wasted at all levels of government. She is CfER’s V.P. and Legislative Director.

Over many years, Paula has introduced Proportional Representation, Instant Runoff Voting and the National Popular Vote Compact to Leagues all over the country and played a leading role in the studies and campaigns that achieved the LWVUS support for the National Popular Vote Compact and California LWV’s support of Ranked Choice Voting. She currently serves as V.P. LWV Sacramento County.  As President, in collaboration with Common Cause, the Sacramento LWV successfully passed a City charter amendment creating an independent redistricting commission, an independent ethics commission and a transparency ordinance in one "good government" package.

Paula lives in Sacramento near the Capitol where she works as a legislative consultant/advocate for the California Association for Alcohol and Drug Educators. With a new Governor, CfER’s  upcoming legislative agenda includes sponsoring the “local option bill” again with FairVote CA, legislation to enable CA general law jurisdictions to adopt alternatives to plurality voting.


Rising Star Reform Group: Adam Friedman, Voter Choice Massachusetts

Voter Choice Massachusetts burst upon the electoral reform scene - and indeed the entire nation -- in the mere two years since volunteers came together in 2016. The tradition of support for ranked choice voting and fair representation in Massachusetts dates back to FairVote's founding in 1992, but had fallen largely quiet by 2016.

Adam Friedman’s remarkable drive, vision and talents has inspired hundreds of active volunteers across the state and tens of thousands of active signups. It is a rare week over the past 18 months where a Voter Choice Massachusetts staffer or volunteer hasn’t led a local talk and signed up listeners to stay involved or published a letter to the editor in a local publication. Its strong foundation has led to significant financial support, which in turn expanded its reach and impact as it educates the people of Massachusetts and prepares for a potential statewide ballot measure in 2020. With the town of Amherst among the new communities to commit to using ranked choice voting, and with a growing number of impressive endorsements, this ballot measure drive is increasingly within reach.







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