August 2, 2017

Voting reform update

Rob Richie, IVN - FairVote reached its 25th anniversary in June. I’ve directed the organization since its inception.

It’s been quite a ride, with highs and lows, but with overall progress toward building support and earning advocacy success for big structural reform ideas in the service of our mission: greater choice, a stronger voice and a representation democracy that works for all Americans.

Highlights from the last year include a trailblazing win for ranked choice voting  in Maine that is slated to be used for all its major elections in 2018. Reformers are advancing consideration of RCV across the country.

Nineteen states had RCV legislation this year — including bills that would affect elections to Congress — that passed legislative chambers in heavily Democratic Hawaii and heavily Republican Utah.

Cities using and committed to implementing RCV could triple in the coming two years. I

Nationally, the recent introduction of the Fair Representation Act [is] the first congressional legislation in the modern era to establish an American form of proportional representation for U.S. House elections.

The bill would combine ranked choice voting with multi-winner districts (also known as “single transferable vote”). It has been sponsored by leading reformers in Congress and endorsed by major publications and organizations.

The Fair Representation Act challenges the winner-take-all principle – that is, 51% of voters should elect a representative for everyone.

Winner-take-all elections can never be representative of voters in the way that systems of proportional representation inherently are.

PR means seats are won in proportion to the voting strength of like-minded voters: 51% of the vote wins a majority of seats, but 20% wins a significant share (one in five seats).

I believe that forms of PR should be a core reform goal, but advancing the most viable single-winner system is critically important given how often we elect powerful single-winner offices – like governor, U.S. senator, and mayor.

Note: The Fair Voter movement began with a meeting led by Rob Richie at your editor's home in DC in 1992.

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