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The Way Democracy Will Be: The Next Generation of State Electoral Reform Rob Richie Executive Director, FairVote

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Presentation on theme: "The Way Democracy Will Be: The Next Generation of State Electoral Reform Rob Richie Executive Director, FairVote"— Presentation transcript:


2 The Way Democracy Will Be: The Next Generation of State Electoral Reform Rob Richie Executive Director, FairVote

3 FairVote  Researches and develops innovative reform policies  Board chairman is John B. Anderson  Coalition member in Leadership Conference on Civil Rights and Network on State Election Reform  Participant in National Popular Vote coalition

4 Focus of Today’s Presentation  Voter registration and voter education Uniform advance voter registration Automatic voter registration Voting mechanics modules in schools  Instant runoff voting ballots Military voters in SC, AS, LA NC model for replacing runoffs VT legislation to replace plurality

5 Voter Registration Problems  Low voter registration rates  Roughly 7 in 10 eligible voters  Barely half of eligible voters under 25  Impact of Low Voter Registration Rates  Lowers voter turnout in some elections  Undercuts administration of elections

6 Uniform Voter Registration Age Establish age of 16 for advance voter registration No effect on voting age and no fiscal impact Registration becomes active when citizen reaches voting age and receive “welcome” packet Hawaii’s model / Advances in RI, MD

7 Complementary Proposals  Voter education / mechanics programs in schools  Hiring youth as pollworkers / technical aides  Automatic voter registration in schools & at DMV  State-financed voter guides

8 State-Financed Voter Guides  Tested in some form in 14 states  Provide information on down-ballot candidate choices, ballot measures and voting information  Very helpful to voters with mail ballots  Booklet can include sample ballots that then are brought to the polls

9 Universal/Automatic Registration  International norm, but U.S. lacks obvious pre- existing list of eligible voters  Full and accurate rolls increase access, reduce opportunity of fraud and help administrators  Ideas states could explore: Automatic registration of citizens when obtaining driver’s license (opt-out allowed) Requirement to register as with auto insurance or new health care model in Massachusetts

10 Instant Runoff Voting Ballots  What is an instant runoff ballot  Its use for overseas/military voters  Comparison with runoff elections  Comparison with plurality voting

11 What Is Instant Runoff Voting  A ranked choice ballot: Voters rank 1, 2, 3  Requires a majority to elect a candidate (typically)  Eliminate weak candidates. Allocate those voters’ ballots to next choices until a majority winner  Has earned support of John McCain, Barack Obama, several state League of Women Voters

12 Success on the Ballot and In City Councils and Legislatures Record on City Ballots, 2004-2006: 8 wins, 0 losses Average Victory Share : 68% Used in San Francisco (CA), Burlington (VT) and Takoma Park (MD). Soon in Minneapolis (MN), Pierce County (WA), Berkeley & Oakland (CA) North Carolina’s Model: Pilots in up to 10 cities in 2007, 10 counties in 2008, possibly statewide in 2010 Overseas Voters: Arkansas, So. Carolina, Louisiana

13 How IRV Works Declare a winner No majority Eliminate lowest candidate Retally Ballots Is there a majority winner? Yes No Tally All Ballots Voters Vote Their Preferences

14 IRV Ballots  The voter is presented with a list of all candidates and has option to rank them  The voter may choose to give just a first preference instead of ranking choices.

15 IRV in Practice: San Francisco  2004 Election: Seven city council races Majority winners identified despite big fields Studies show all racial and ethnic groups handle IRV effectively – very low error rates Exit polls show only 14% want old runoffs  2005 Election: Three citywide offices Valid ballots in most contested race: 99.6% Turnout 3 times higher than in old runoffs

16 IRV in Practice: Burlington 2006 Mayoral Election Five candidates in open seat election First place finisher wins 39% of first choices, then wins in instant runoff count Valid ballots: 99.9%. Lowest-income ward: - Of 1200 ballots, only 2 invalid. - 93% ranked one of final 2 candidates IRV preferred to runoffs by 4 to 1 in exit poll

17 IRV Ballots and Military Voters  Tested solution to protect overseas voters in runoffs in Louisiana, Arkansas, South Carolina  Addresses problem of short turnaround time between first round and second round.  Voter receives an IRV ballot or a regular ballot with an IRV ballot.  IRV ballot is counted in the runoff toward the runoff candidate ranked highest

18 IRV Ballots and Runoffs  Instant runoff voting can determine a majority winner in one election. IRV saves money eliminates hassle for voters and administrators maximizes voter turnout in decisive election Reduces campaign finance demands Increases chances of a compromise candidate

19 IRV Ballots and Plurality Voting  Protects majority rule when more than two candidates seek a one-winner office Vacancies Primary elections for a safe seat  Reduces the problem of “spoilers” drawing support from one major candidate  May reduce mud-slinging campaigns

20 Other Research Priorities  Citizens assemblies: Canadian model  Multi-seat districts and advanced voting methods to include in redistricting reform debates: Illinois model  Presidential primary reform: American Plan

21 Democracy SOS Proposal  Proposal for web resource to give public information about Secretary of States / State election directors  What they do and their policy views  What information resources are available  Connection to FairVote belief that quality election administration tied to transparency and accountability

22 FairVote (301) 270-4616

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