FairVote -- The Center for Voting and Democracy
October 10, 2004 Newsletter
October 10, 2004 Newsletter
In this issue:
- A frozen House / Disrespected right / Indirect election
- Latest high-profile instant runoff (IRV) media in Washington Post
- IRV news: New federal bill, Ferndale, youth debate, Canada
- FairVote reps on NPR and other high-profile venues
- DC Area: Election night party
- Highlights of recent webpostings: John Anderson
commentary, reform progress here and abroad, more
CALL FOR COUCH PUNDITS: WIN FAIRVOTE'S ELECTION GAME
Here's a great way to provide a boost to our work for fair elections and to show off your political know-how. Be the best "Couch Pundit" in the country and earn a $100 to come to Washington, D.C. to enjoy a visit to Capitol Hill with FairVote's John Anderson and Rob Richie. You just need to donate
at least $5 to play. Go to:">"> http://archive.fairvote.org/couchpundit/index.php
It's less than a week until November 2, the last day of voting in our national elections for the U.S. President and U.S. House and of key state and local elections -- among them the first use of instant runoff voting (IRV) in San Francisco and citizen votes on IRV ballot measures in Ferndale (MI) and Burlington (VT). I'll be at the polls with my family that day, but about a quarter of voters this year will voted early in person or by mail.
Busy times here at the Center. Yesterday staffers were on a Washington, D.C. public radio program as a guest, made a presentation to visiting journalists from Iraq, talked with numerous reporters and prepared new analyses of our elections. Steven Hill in San Francisco is continuing to run our intensive voter education
work on instant runoff voting in next week's San Francisco elections. Our chairman John Anderson published a strong commentary calling for reform in the Chicago Tribune, while Steven Hill and I had new
commentary on modernizing elections circulated by Knight Ridder
We have important news to pass on below, but before getting to that news and as we prepare to settle in for what promises to be a long evening (and indeed a long month if the race is tight), keep in mind....
* THE FROZEN HOUSE: The U.S. House of Representatives was envisioned as the most responsive wing of our federal government. It hasn't turned out that way. The House has changed partisan control
a grand total of once in the past 50 years -- even as the presidency regularly changes parties. Since 1996, more than 90% of all races have been won by comfortable margins of more than 10%, and
more than 98% of incumbents have been re-elected. Only one incumbent lost in 2002 who was not a victim of redistricting.
Expect more of the same this year for Congress, and state legislative races generally provide more of the same -- two in five such races will be walkovers without a major party opponent this year. See our
reports and our call for full representation voting methods at: ">">http://archive.fairvote.org/library/geog/congress/index.html
* A DISRESPECTED RIGHT: Americans citizens care deeply about their right to vote. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for how their government provides and protects that right. The lack of a right to vote in the U.S. Constitution has a direct impact on our elections. The news this fall is full of state and local actions that will disenfranchise voters and result in confusion at the polls.
Florida and Ohio will toss out all "provisional ballots" cast by registered voters who were not informed they were in the wrong polling place. A Nevada state judge rejected a lawsuit seeking to re-open voter registration for citizens whose registrations were torn up by a partisan voter registration firm rather than submitted. Most voters in Ohio will use the thoroughly discredited punchcard system, while many others around the nation will vote on new "touchscreen" systems developed by private companies with
proprietary software that is poorly tested and regulated and lacks a voter verifiable paper trail. Against all international norms, states collectively have stripped voting rights from nearly five million
American citizens due to felony convictions. Tens of thousands of people are on the voting rolls of more than one states, yet overall, states have failed to register nearly one out of every three American adults.
The expected chaos and confusion has inspired swarms of lawyers ready to pounce on flaws, meaning once again judges could effectively pick our president. If you see problems in your county and state, please call a hotline set up to handle concerns at: 1-866-our-vote
For more on the drive to put a right to vote in the U.S. Constitution, our new "right to vote wire", Demos' Democracy Dispatches Daily Roundup and electionline.org's collection of state and local news stories updated daily: ">">http://archive.fairvote.org/righttovote/index.htm - right-to-vote page
">">http://archive.fairvote.org/righttovote/righttovotewire.htm - right-to-vote wire
">">http://www.demos-usa.org/DailyRoundup - Demos daily roundup
">">http://www.electionline.org -- electionline.org
* INDIRECT ELECTION: All signs indicate another razor-thin election in 2004 that easily could hinge on how a few hundred votes are counted -- or not counted -- in the large ground zero states of Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania no matter what the national popular vote. That's why the odds are you haven't heard from a presidential campaign this year. More than 14,000 television ads have aired in Toledo, Ohio. In contrast, most Americans live where not one presidential ad has aired.
States today are either heavily courted or completely ignored. President Bush's campaign has not done any polling outside of the 18 battleground states in more than two years. Indeed most states are completely ignored under today's system. Contrast that with direct elections, which are well-tested - it's how we elect every other significant office in the nation. You can't afford to ignore potential support in a competitive environment where every vote counts the same. Even if a presidential candidate won every single vote in the ten biggest states (a shutout that will never happen), they still would be far short of a majority of the vote. Candidates would have to seek votes everywhere, still having to be sensitive to local concerns just like any
gubernatorial candidate has to listen to different parts of a state.
Having a fair election for president has no impact on federalism and the U.S. Senate. And it does something about an institution that amounts to a ticking time bomb. Consider:
- If there is a 269-269 Electoral College tie, then the House picks the president, with each state's delegation having one vote - an utter disaster for democracy. The Senate would pick the vice-president, possibly from another party.
- When regional third party candidates like George Wallace in 1968 and Strom Thurmond in 1948 win electoral votes, such candidates' electors could hold the balance of power. Unlike an instant runoff voting system in direct elections, where outreach to supporters of third party candidates would be immediately
tested at the polls, negotiations among presidential electors would be secret and hard to hold accountable.
- If the president-elect were to die before electors cast their ballots, there is no way to know what would happen. Few know the electors who would pick our president.
- Some states try to bind electors to the state popular vote winner, but such laws may not pass constitutional scrutiny. Much mischief is possible; already one Republican elector in West Virginia has vowed not to vote for Bush.
- State legislatures have the authority to appoint presidential electors regardless of that state's vote - as Florida's legislature was ready to do in 2000.
-Finally, even though more than 100 million people voted in the 2000 elections, only a relatively small number of those votes were decisive. Indeed the winner would have been exactly the same
even if nearly 80 million of those voters had stayed home.
Here's what we mean:
- 105,396,641 is the total number votes cast nationwide in the 2000 Presidential election.
- 48,467112 is the total number of votes cast for candidates in states that they did not win. If these votes had not been cast, the Electoral College divide between George Bush and Al Gore
would have been exactly the same.
- 26,353,058 is the total number of votes cast for Bush in the 30 states that Bush won.
- 21,835,615 is the minimum number of votes Bush needed in order to win the 30 states that earned him the Presidency
Thus, to win the Electoral College and the presidency, Bush only needed 21,835,615 votes out of a total of 105,396,641 votes cast -- 21% of the total popular vote.
We deserve democratic elections for president. For more on the Electoral College and House Joint Resolution 109, a constitutional amendment proposal for direct election, see:
" />">http://archive.fairvote.org/e_college/ - Electoral College homepage
">">http://archive.fairvote.org/irv/jacksonelectoralcollegebill.htm - Jackson bill
Before continuing onto news, I wanted to thank those of you who tried to help elect Malia Lazu as Showtime's "American Candidate." Malia ended up finishing second, losing in the final round of voting -- but kudos to her and her fellow FairVote Board member Rashad Robinson for getting as far as they did on the show....
HIGH-PROFILE COVERAGE OF INSTANT RUNOFF VOTING
The Washington Post ran an excellent news story about instant runoff voting in San Francisco and a strong commentary from its syndicated columnist William Raspberry that talked in part about IRV in San Francisco. Here are links to the stories and excerpts.
"For Voters, Choice Is as Easy as 1, 2, 3"
By Kimberly Edds
Washington Post, October 12, 2004
When voters here go to the polls in November to select their top choice for a seat on the city's Board of Supervisors, they also get to pick their second choice -- and even their third.
Here, a winning candidate has to receive at least 50 percent of the vote for the Board of Supervisors, which is the local city council. In the past, if nobody did, there was a runoff election.
But this year, San Francisco has become the largest city in the nation to adopt a form of voting that proponents say is a little like walking into an ice cream shop to order a chocolate cone only to discover the shop is all out -- no problem, just order your next favorite flavor, and if that's out, your third...
..."With runoffs, you have two different electorates going to the polls," said Steven Hill, with the Center on Voting and Democracy, which has been pushing ranked-choice voting in municipalities across the country. "This way you elect the strongest candidate who has the majority of the vote and you're getting it over with in one race. It's just common sense."...
"Improve on Red vs. Blue: Winner-take-all systems leave out too many voters"
By William Raspberry
October 18, 2004; Washington Post
...One of the more interesting electoral reforms is underway in San Francisco, where voters next month will select their top choice for a seat on the city's Board of Supervisors -- but also have a chance to mark their second and third choices.
If you think this doesn't sound like much, you ought to talk to Rob Richie, executive director of the Center for Voting and Democracy and my frequent guide on voting systems. Three things about the rank-voting system appeal to Richie.
First, it increases the likelihood that any particular voter will have helped to elect a candidate to office, a fact that Richie believes might help to reduce voter apathy. Second, it makes it possible for a voter to support a dark-horse candidate --say, a third-party hopeful -- without helping his least favorite candidate in the process. Say John McCain is on the ballot and he is your first choice. Under the present system, a vote
for McCain would be a vote taken away from your second favorite, Bush, and in effect a vote for John Kerry. Under a rank-order system, either your first choice wins or your vote goes to your second choice.
But what really excites Richie about the system is that it tends to drive candidates and campaigns toward coalition-building and civility. "The present system leads candidates to sharpen, even exaggerate, their differences with their challengers," he says. "The result is a sort of polarization that marginalizes moderates of both parties. But the candidate who thinks he may need your second-choice vote to win
will tend to reach out to -- or at least not antagonize -- voters whose first choice is someone else."
The people simply aren't as polarized as the system paints them. Florida wound up being a red state, though virtually half of its voters were blue. The truth is, with a small handful of exceptions, the states are various shades of purple...
INSTANT RUNOFF VOTING NEWS
* This month Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr. (D -IL) introduced a pair of bills aimed at election reform. H.R.5293 would require states to conduct general elections for Federal office using instant runoff voting. H.J.R. 109 would amend the Constitution to abolish the electoral college and provide for direct election of the president by majority vote. Please urge your Members to support these bills. To track fair election voting systems legislation that was introduced in 2003-2004 in Congress and around the nation, see
* Ferndale, Michigan is one of two jurisdictions voting on IRV ballot measures on November 2. The Detroit Free Press has endorsed the Ferndale measure. Following the recommendations of a blue
ribbon commission, Burlington, Vermont is voting on an advisory measure to adopt IRV. The Ballot Initiative Strategies Center has analyzed a number of ballot measures on reform. For more, see:
">">http://archive.fairvote.org/op_eds/detroitfp102104.htm (Detroit News)
" />">http://www.firv.org/ (Ferndale campaign advocates)
">">http://ballot.org/spotlight/campaignspotlight.html (BISC analysis)
* Steven Hill and Caleb Kleppner have created a good resource on IRV in San Francisco. See " />">http://www.sf-rcv.com/
* British Columbia citizen's assembly on electoral reform -- an exciting new approach to achieving citizen consensus before going to the ballot -- voted overwhelmingly to replace winner-take-all elections with the full representation version of IRV -- what we call "choice voting" and is also called the "single transferable vote." More than 90 per cent of the assembly's 153 members voted to recommend British Columbia residents get an opportunity to decide between the current system and the assembly's preferred choice, which supporters argued makes every vote count. For more on reforms in Canada, see: ">">http://archive.fairvote.org/pr/global/canadaer.htm
* The New Voters Project involved thousands of a young people in a process where they ultimately asked 10 questions of presidential candidates John Kerry, George Bush and Ralph Nader. A question about instant runoff voting and full representation was voted as one of the questions to task. The presidential candidates mostly dodged the answer (the Green Party candidate David Cobb would have been the one most likely to take it on, as he frequently advocates for fair election in interviews), but it was just the latest indicator of how young people like fair election voting methods. See question #5 at
FAIRVOTE REPS ON NPR, CNN ND HIGH-PROFILE VENUES
FairVote's executive director Rob Richie, senior analyst Steven Hill, chairman John Anderson, program director David Moon and other program staff have been busy this election season, averaging more than one appearance on talk radio programs a day in stations around the nation (including the highly rated New England station WRKO, among many others -- often through the assistance of the Mainstream Media Project) and steadily talking to and being quoted by print journalists. In the past month Richie has also addressed classes at Duke and Princeton and visiting delegations from nations such as Iraq, Moldova, Thailand and two different election observer groups with representatives from nations all over the world.
A few highlights:
* On October 27, Richie was a guest for an hour on WAMU's Kojo Nnamdi radio show in Washington, DC. To discuss reform of the Electoral College. You can hear the show at:
* On October 26, Hill was the featured speaker at a program at San Francisco's venerable Commonwealth Club to discuss the upcoming use of instant runoff voting in San Francisco.
* On October 21, Richie was on Warren Olney's "To the Point" program to talk about gerrymandering and full representation. The program, which appears on National Public Radio stations around the nation, can be heard by going to: ">">http://www.kcrw.com/show/tp
* On October 20, Richie was a live guest on the highest-rated national morning program in Canada, CTV Canada AM. He also appeared in an interview on Canadian Broadcasting Corporation the week before.
* On October 18, Richie was featured on Lou Dobbs' show on CNN to talk about problems with our electoral process. Excerpts from his interview ran on CNN news throughout the day on October 19
* On October 15, Richie debated Cato Institute's John Samples for an hour on the Electoral College on KQED public radio in San Francisco. You can hear the program at:
DC AREA: ELECTION NIGHT PARTY
Next Tuesday is Election Day, and FairVote is throwing an election night party to which you're all invited. Here are the details.
On Election Night, Watch History Unfold and Support Election Reform
What: FairVote's Election Night "Couch Pundit Extravaganza"
Where: The Big Hunt, 1345 Connecticut Avenue NW
(Dupont Circle metro station)
When: Tuesday, Nov 2nd 6:30pm
Watch history unfold at the Couch Pundit Extravaganza, and help the cause of election reform by supporting FairVote. Big screen TV, private room and happy hour drink prices all night. Come watch the returns and ake predictions on swing state outcomes -- you may win one of the nght's prizes. Commentary from a roster of guest speakers.
Cover donation is $10 (proceeds go to support the work of FairVote). Call 301-270-4616 or go online to fairvote.org for more information
* Recent media coverage: Full representation, instant runoff voting, competitive elections and comments by representatives of FairVote, the Center for Voting and Democracy continue to be featured in major media around the nation. Highlights include new editorial support for IRV from several newspapers (including in the past few weeks are new published commentaries from FairVote staffers, examples of the numerous articles quoting FairVote representatives and the latest newspaper editorials supporting instant runoff voting in the Bradenton Herald, San Jose Mercury News, Wichita Eagle, Wilmington Star-News and Corvallis Gazette Times. (October 27)
* FairVote's chairman and senior staff publish commentaries:
John Anderson calls for reform in the Chicago Tribune and Rob Richie and Steven Hill publish commentaries on "loser take all," "time to modernize elections" and Proposition 62 in California (October 26)
* An analysis of state legislative elections shows a rise in the percentage of uncontested races to nearly two out of every five seats. (October 8)
* Major news attention to IRV in San Francisco in New York Times, L.A. Times and San Francisco Chronicle and is featured on National Public Radio's Morning Edition . (September 30)
* With the passing of all relevant primaries, a completed analysis of the chances for women in the U.S. House of Representatives is now available. (September 15)
* Minnesota city to study IRV and fair election methods: The city council of Hopkins, which was once elected by choice voting, has established a task force to study fair election voting methods
like instant runoff voting. (August 26)
* New report shows voters understand cumulative voting at work:
Well over 98% of voters used all four of their votes without error in Amarillo's May 2004 cumulative voting election, according to a new report by Professor David Rausch. (August 25)
* FairVote's Election Data Project:
The record of state legislative elections in the United States is lacking. Help document out electoral history. (August 15)
* Australian political scientist publishes new article on "The Global Spread of Preferential Voting" (August 11)
* Rob Richie in print: FairVote's executive director has written four articles, including one with Steven Hill, for a book and two journals. Available as downloads, they are: on the American full representation campaign from "Steps Toward Making Every Vote Count: Electoral System Reform in Canada and its Provinces" (Henry Milner, editor; Broadview Press, 2004); on instant runoff voting for an "Election Law Journal" symposium on Democracy and Elections in North America" (Volume 3, Number 3 2004); on full representation and redistricting reform (from the National Civic Review); and on building a pro-democracy movement in the United States (from the National Civic Review). (August 1)
* Howard Dean's July 26 syndicated column calls for IRV in presidential primaries: The former Democratic Party presidential frontrunner expands on his IRV advocacy. (July 30)
* FairVote holds successful pro-democracy events in Boston on July 26and July 28: Speakers included Rev. Jesse Jackson, Members of Congress Jesse Jackson Jr. and Dennis Kucinich, scholars Lani Guinier, Jamin Raskin, Pippa Norris, Alex Keyssarand Benjamin Barber and journalists Robert Kuttner, John Nichols and Hendrik Hertzberg. (July 30)
* FairVote Board member and long-time New Yorker writer Hendrik Hertzberg's new book "Politics: Observations and Arguments" features commentary about the value of electoral reform, in particular full representation and instant runoff voting Read a recent interview with the author. (July 7)
* The Washington Post publishes an op-ed defending full representation in Iraq: Andrew Reynolds explains why Iraq will use a party list form of full representation in its January 2005 elections. (July 6)
* FairVote commentaries tout IRV: Rob Richie joins with Steven Hill to propose direct election of the President and to ask in the Nation Magazine why more Democrats aren't seeking to implement IRV. Richie and Jennifer Ambler argue in the Myrtle Beach Sun News that IRV is a big improvement over traditional delayed runoffs. (June 28)
* Big win for choice voting in United Kingdom: Scotland adopts choice voting (aka "single transferable vote") for city elections. A new reform coalition backs choice voting for local elections in Wales. (June 23)
* Washington state Democrats support fair election voting methods:
The Democratic Party State Platform Committee of Washington has endorsed attention to IRV and full representation. (June 14)
* London mayoral race decided by IRV, council chosen by full representation: London mayor Ken Livingstone (first elected in 2000 by IRV as an independent) was re-elected on June 10 by a limited form of instant runoff voting. IRV was needed as he won less than 40% of first choices. The mixed member form
of full representation was used to elect the council. Voter turnout was up from 2000. Read an article in the Guardian and see the London election webpage. (June 12)
* FairVote conducts demonstration elections with IRV and choice voting at several events. Read how League of Women Voters members voted on the most influential women in American history and how various groups voted on whom John Kerry should select as his running mate. Read results of a Nation magazine election with more than 10,000 participants. (June 11) )
* North Dakotans strongly rejected a proposed state constitutional amendment to lift the requirement that corporations use the full representation method of cumulative voting. South Korea soon will require all corporate boards to be elected by cumulative voting. (June 8)
* Maine adopts legislation to fund study on IRV: This spring Maine's governor signed LD 212, a resolution requiring the Secretary of State to study the feasibility of using IRV in Maine elections. (June 3)
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FairVote-The Center for Voting and Democracy is a non-profit organization based in Washington D.C. It is headed by former Congressman and presidential candidate John B. Anderson. We are devoted to increasing public understanding of American politics and how to reform its rules to provide better choices
and fairer representation. Our website (www.fairvote.org) has information on voting methods, redistricting and voter turnout.
As we rely heavily on individual donations, please consider a contribution by mail (6930 Carroll Ave., Suite 610, Takoma Park MD 20910) or on-line at ">">http://archive.fairvote.org/donate.htm -- and right now any donor of at least $5 can enter our "Couch Pundit" contest.
Finally, a big thanks to program associates Andy Kirshenbaum, Jill Dannay, Steve Hoeschele and Maggie Vintner, long-time regional staffers Steven Hill and Dan Johnson-Weinberger, senior analysts Terry Bouricius and Caleb Kleppner, interns Candace Turitto, Kate Foster and Katrina Tichinin, and program director David Moon.
Thank you for reading!