On Monday, February 28, 2022, FairVote hosted a webinar entitled ‘How We Will Win in 2022’. It was moderated by David Daley, who is a FairVote senior fellow, and joining him were Angela Kouters, the Director of Government Affairs; Brian Cannon, the Director of Advocacy; Deb Otis, the Senior Research Analyst; and Rob Richie, the CEO and President of FairVote. You can watch a recording or read on for highlights.
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David Daley began by introducing the panel and describing the mixed emotions heading into 2022: “ranked choice voting (RCV) has more momentum than any other democracy reform.” Additionally, big events like the FairVote Awards will be held live and in-person this coming April in New York. He then turned to each of the speakers to discuss their respective responsibilities and vision for organization and our movement in the year ahead.
“There is a lot of concern about the state of our democracy. We are not here today to ring our hands or describe the problems. We know the problems. We also have a vision of what our democracy can be and a demonstrable plan for how we get there.” - David Daley
The conversation started with the Government Affairs team, which is relatively new to FairVote. Angela Kouters began, “We need to develop relationships because we know that if we develop relationships on the Hill we can educate, we can build a program, we can develop a coalition towards ranked choice voting.” According to Kouters, voting can be seen as a very polarizing issue, so it is important to capitalize on opportunities for building bipartisan coalitions. Late last year, for the first time, the Governmental Affairs team was able to get a piece of legislation passed at the national level. The Voter Choice Act sponsored by Dean Phillips passed in the House and is now waiting for Senate action.
“When you’re trying, at the end of the day, to get something that’s not controversial passed but advances the reform, you’re educating members on the system itself. One of the easiest ways to do that is say, ‘let’s upgrade equipment and make it compatible.’ That moves us down the field. And so this bill literally moves money to the states to modernize their voting systems to be ranked-choice voting compatible.” - Angela Kouters
Despite the difficulties of passing legislation during times when events like the Supreme Court nomination and the crisis in Ukraine are dominating national thought, “We are going to continue what we have been doing.” According to Kouters, “In politics, in particular Capitol Hill, you are responding to the environment.” In order to pass large, sweeping reform, FairVote is dedicated to educating and familiarizing officials on the perks of ranked choice voting, and introducing small items that will eventually make a large difference.
Next, we heard from Brian Cannon in the Advocacy Department. Prior to joining FairVote, Cannon ran One Virginia and achieved a redistricting victory that pushed the commonwealth to voluntarily relinquish control of redistricting in a way no state legislature in the country had before. Now, Cannon has pivoted his focus to RCV and believes that, “we need to make this decade the ‘voting equals ranking’ decade in our mind.”
Cannon emphasized the importance of maintaining our non-partisan footing. “We work really hard at FV and one of my big jobs is to make sure we have Republican and Democratic allies to step forward.” He also spoke about the necessity of grassroots organizing. “You gotta have the grassroots support, the energy, the momentum, but you also have to have a policy that’s viable.”
The 2022 midterms will see a historically large number of cities and states using RCV, and FairVote expects to see that number grow in the 2024 presidential election cycle. Presidential primaries, as well as local option bills, are amazing opportunities for states and municipalities to try RCV without it having a huge impact on high-profile races. In terms of the 2024 presidential primaries, RCV is playing an important role. Daley pointed out the harrowing statistic that, “over 3 million voters at one point in 2020 effectively lost their voice by casting a ballot for a candidate that had dropped out (for a phantom candidate) in 2020.”
“We’re working with a base of probably 5 states right now that are gonna do it going forward for the Democratic primary in ‘24, and the other possible states are Virginia is gonna have it up in the legislature again next year for a state-run primary, Washington State will have it there… I would also keep your eyes peeled: Vermont and Colorado have bills.” - Brian Cannon
The webinar next featured Deb Otis, to hear what the Research Team has in store for 2022. She began by celebrating the 25th anniversary of the Monopoly Politics Report, which uses a methodology pioneered by FairVote decades ago.
“Monopoly Politics looks at things like how it hardly matters who’s running, which candidates are on the ballot, whether it’s an incumbent running or an open seat. The only thing that has come to matter over the last decades is how red or how blue is that district? We can predict the winners of 80% of districts, usually two years out…. And so the Monopoly Politics project digs into why that is.” - Deb Otis
Some of the problems Otis mentioned included gerrymandering and political polarization, both of which relate to the Research Team’s next big project: The Primary Problem, which will examine the problem that occurs during primaries, in which a candidate is able to advance with just a small percent of the vote. The 2022 midterms will allow the team to watch these elections, and see this upsetting phenomenon play out in real time. Additionally, a large number of RCV elections will be held this year, including Alaska which will use RCV for the first time. This research on how the status quo continues to fail Americans, and how the success of RCV helps solve these problems, will help FairVote build its argument for future reforms.
“These facts together build understanding of what is the problem and let us start making progress on the solution: The Fair Representation Act, our key voting reform so we will be working on implementing multi-member districts with proportional ranked choice voting to elect our congress people.” - Deb Otis
The conversation concluded with CEO and President Rob Richie. This year, FairVote is celebrating its 30th anniversary and Richie spoke about how the political environment has changed greatly since its founding, and how, ultimately,
“We have to get to the root of how our votes translate into power, how our votes translate into seats and representation, how they create incentives for both voters to participate in a meaningful way and for our elected officials to act in a responsible way and I think it’s really created a lot of allies.” - Rob Richie
He highlighted key wins for FairVote over the last 30 years, and some of the exciting news ahead. This year, the city of San Francisco is celebrating 20 years of using RCV; Maine served as an inspirational win to show that RCV can be used statewide in an effective way; and Alaska has joined the movement as another state to see the benefits of RCV. States like Nevada and Missouri have similar ballot measures to Alaska, and serve as exciting examples of the growing recognition of RCV as a viable choice for electoral reform. Here at FairVote, we want to see RCV used in 500 cities by 2025, as well as the passage of the Fair Representation Act and the adoption of more proportional representation.
“Ultimately we need to reach a national consensus that we can’t maintain these rules and maintain what we want our representative democracy to be. We have to make a choice and if we want our representative democracy to be all that it can be, we actually have to look at statutory changes.” - Rob Richie
Join us, as we look forward to a momentous year here at FairVote. Watch the webinar recording on our YouTube channel here, to catch every minute of this exciting look into the future.