Champions of Democracy Awardees 2019

FairVote is pleased to present awards to a remarkable group of deserving champions. This year's champions include brilliant activists, academics, our rock star board chairman, and a burgeoning rock star in the Congress. 

U.S. Rep. Jamie Raskin earns a 2019 Democracy Champion Award for national impact. Jamie is our first-ever repeat winner, having earned an award a decade ago for his leadership on democracy issues in the Maryland state legislature. Now in just his second term in the U.S. House, Raskin has become one of the nation’s most prominent voices on electoral reform and democracy issues, working tirelessly to make our elections fairer, stronger, and more positive.

This year, Jamie introduced the Ranked Choice Voting Act, which would require states to use RCV in primary and general elections for Congress beginning in 2022. He’s also a co-sponsor of the Fair Representation Act, which would combine RCV with multi-member House districts to ensure all citizens are heard in the electoral process and that every district has a meaningful, competitive race for the people’s House. 

In addition, Jamie was the architect of an amendment to two pieces of pro-democracy legislation that passed the U.S. House that would establish that all new voting equipment purchased with federal dollars would need to come ready to run RCV electionsa sensible requirement for a reform moving so quickly. He also has been outspoken in the media, including making an early call in the Hill for a change that is now will happen in several states: using RCV in presidential primaries in 2020. It’s a tremendous thrill to watch this former FairVote board member rise into the Democratic leadership.

 

Dr. Danielle Allen earns a 2019 Democracy Champion Award for achievement in national communications. Dr. Allen is the James Bryant Conant University Professor at Harvard, and director of Harvard’s Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics. She is co-chair of the Commission on the Practice of Democratic Citizenship, which is a product of the American Academy of  Arts and Sciences.

The Harvard University political theorist is a brilliant writer and storyteller, steeped in history, and willing to embrace bold ideas to better perfect our democracy. In a Washington Post column last year, for example, she embraced the key provisions of the Fair Representation Act in a piece that moved seamlessly between James Madison, Donald Trump, and social media. “How do we build institutions that can ward off the threat of faction?” she asked. “We actually need to rethink our system of representation, perhaps adopting measures such as multi-member districts and ranked-choice voting to broaden representation.”

This year, she argued compellingly in the Post that “We are in our Articles of Confederation Moment,” featuring a recommendation to: “...introduce ranked-choice voting in presidential, House and Senate elections. This system would force politicians to campaign and spend money so as to be not only some voters’ first choice but also other voters’ second or third choices, forcing candidates to cease demonizing other candidates whose supporters they hope to win over as a second choice. Ranked-choice voting, as recently adopted in Maine, can be done state by state and would yield a less polarized, more functional Congress. Our world is very different from the one the founding generation lived in. We can and should adopt the founders’ principles — the need to balance republican safety and energy. But we will need to think for ourselves, in our new circumstances, about how to design our institutions to achieve that balance. Let the thinking begin.

 

State Reform Achievement Award: OneVirginia2021

OneVirginia2021 earns a 2019 Democracy Champion Award for its tireless and creative coalition building in Virginia that created a giant step forward for redistricting reform. Earlier this year, a bipartisan array of lawmakers passed the first read of a state constitutional amendment that would end partisan gerrymandering in Virginia. Now comes the even harder part: Winning a second vote in 2020, even if the legislature changes hands this fall. Executive director Brian Cannon and his dedicated team have energetically advanced reform in every imaginable way, building a grass-roots operation that's visible everywhere Virginians go, working with lawmakers across the aisle, making films to explain complicated concepts, supporting litigation, and sponsoring hundreds of events across the state to educate voters. They're a real model of how to approach nonpartisan reform. 

City Reform Achievement: Jumaane Williams, Gale Brewer, and Brad Lander

New York City won a tremendous victory for ranked choice voting in 2019, when voters resoundingly approved amending the city charter to allow RCV in primaries and special elections for every major city-wide office. In recognition of this triumph, Public Advocate Jumaane Williams, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, and NYC council member Brad Lander receive our Champions of Democracy award for city reform achievement. This win, however, has national implications. It will triple the number of Americans who cast ballots using RCV, a major step forward toward mainstreaming this electoral reform for everyone. 

This win required years of commitment and hard work, and the vision of Williams, Brewer and Lander made it all possible. Gale Brewer and Brad Lander have been vocal champions of RCV for more than a decade and spent years doing the demanding work of advancing bills and tilling the ground for change. Williams backed RCV throughout his winning bid for public advocate and became an even more powerful spokesperson after winning that office through a plurality vote. Victory in the nation’s biggest city is a true team sport, and Common Cause New York, the Citizens Union and Represent Us deserve our sustained applause. This entire campaign provides a model of how to make progress. But none of it happens without courageous leadership by future-looking and reform-minded public officials who stand up for real change from the inside.

New Organization Achievement: FairVote WA 

Wine. Beer. Cider. Desserts. Thanksgiving sides. Those are just some of the things that the creative reformers at FairVote Washington will be ranking this month at events all the way from Bellingham to Spokane. This independent  ally of the national FairVote earns a Champion of Democracy award for Achievement by a New organization as they’ve become a shining example of what Americans can do when they are, yes, hungry for reform. 

FairVote Washington only launched in the summer of 2018, but already includes eight different county chapters doing all the right things to build a movement from the ground-up. As a result, they’ve advanced the conversation and made real change possible in a state that’s often at the forefront of new ideas. FairVote Washington has done this at the grass-roots. Almost every night, all month long, volunteers are leading ranking events or speaking at community events. They’re tabling at community gatherings, filling the local papers with letters to the editor, screening films, hosting debate watch-parties, and heading door-to-door to talk to their neighbors about RCV. This is how we build a movement. FairVote Washington has already made a real difference in Washington state. There are bigger victories still ahead. And when we have organizations like this fighting for RCV in all 50 states, look out -- this is the passion and the effort that will make democracy better and more inclusive for us all.

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