Californians for Electoral Reform (CfER) is a statewide citizens’ group promoting critical election reforms that ensure government fairly represents the voters. To that end, the primary focus of CfER is to promote the implementation of election methods such as Ranked Choice Voting and forms of Proportional Representation.
Our two very strong focus issues are Proportional Representation (PR) and Ranked Choice Voting (RCV). We occasionally endorse related issues, but do not work for them or donate to them.
We promote and recommend RCV for single-winner elections and PR for multiple-winner elections. We strongly oppose plurality voting for multiple winner elections. We strongly oppose both plurality and traditional runoff elections in single-winner elections.
There are three main types of PR — Choice Voting, Party List, and Mixed-Member Proportional PR. We are neutral as to which particular system is used in partisan elections. For non-partisan elections, Choice Voting is the only option for achieving true proportional representation.
There are also semi-proportional systems such as Cumulative Voting and Limited Voting. These are superior to non-proportional systems, but inferior to fully proportional systems. As such, we typically support such efforts, but do not promote them.
Ranked Choice/Instant Runoff Voting
CfER endorses RCV for single-winner elections. However, we do not support changing an at-large system to districts in order to use RCV. Where there are at-large elections, we recommend using PR.
CfER is strictly non-partisan. Our focus issues (PR and RCV) are politically neutral on a long-term basis, and as a result, we have people involved across the political spectrum. We never endorse candidates. We do not consider whether a particular reform benefits Republicans, Democrats, alternative parties, etc. We only care if it benefits Californians as a whole.
We are also very careful to avoid the appearance of partisanship. Thus, e.g., we do not share tables with any political party at conferences. We try to avoid CfER meetings at the offices of political parties. We also seek to make people of all political persuasions comfortable at our meetings, by focussing on our core issues, and strongly discouraging any partisan or unwelcome side comments from any partisan perspective.
Strategy for Winning Statewide RCV and PR
We expect to win RCV and PR elections locally first, then as these systems are shown to work at a local level, expand them to counties and then to statewide elections. We also need to gain the support of larger and more powerful organizations, and of “opinion-makers”, those who others look to for guidance.
Finally, we make sure that we stay positioned to take advantage of any statewide legislative opportunities, and we do take the initiative for statewide legislation when we feel the timing and chances of success are good.
CfER has taken positions on the following legislation:
SB 113 from 2013-14 by Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson (enacted 2014).
CfER believes that by allowing 15-year-olds (Californians in 9th and 10th grade) to pre-register so they will be automatically registered to vote when they turn 18, more young people will actually become registered to vote, will thus vote, and will thus be more represented in the political process.
Support if amended:
AB 668, Voting Modernization Bond Act of 2018: Issues bonds to provide matching funds to counties to purchase, lease, or develop new voting equipment. CfER supports if amended to encourage development of systems that support ranked choice voting and cumulative voting by providing higher levels of reimbursement for open-source systems.
CfER Endorsements Policy
A 2/3 vote is required to endorse a bill that is not directly an RCV or PR bill. The President is authorized to make obvious, “no-brainer” endorsements of RCV and PR campaigns or events on behalf of CfER, and just needs to report this action to the Board, which could reverse the action. We never endorse any bills that are not electoral reform bills, and we never endorse candidates.
Endorsements of Local non-RCV/PR Campaigns
Local chapters may endorse local non-RCV and PR campaigns, if, in their judgement, the endorsement will further the cause of PR or RCV in their area. The endorsement must clearly state the chapter is endorsing, not statewide CfER. No endorsement is allowed that is directly contrary to a CfER position. No endorsements of candidates is allowed, as that would violate our policy of strict non-partisanship.
The elected Board members can, by unanimous consent, appoint one or more additional members as long as each such member represents a ballot-qualified political party that is otherwise unrepresented on the Board (at most one such member per unrepresented party). Appointed Board members have all the rights and duties of elected Board members, except they do not vote on the appointment of additional Board members.
The Board meets monthly. Most meetings are via conference calls. Every quarter there is an all day in-person meeting. Annually, there is an general membership meeting and a leadership retreat. All CfER members are welcome, and upon attending, are treated on an equal participatory level with board members. (Official Board motions and votes, however, obviously only include Board members.)
Much of the very important work of the movement is done by local chapters. The statewide CfER leadership is determined to assist local chapters, and minimize interference with their work.
Reimbursements to Activists
The President is authorized to make expenditures of less than $100, and just needs to report this action to the Board. Activists who want to spend less than $100 must (a) get the approval of the President, (b) keep receipts, and (c) send those receipts to the Treasurer for reimbursement. Activists who want to be reimbursed for more than $100 must get the approval of the Board. If a receipt for a pre-approved expense has been lost, the expense may still be reimbursed at the Treasurer’s discretion.
For in-person meetings, CfER has a policy of limited partial reimbursement for travel expenses where the activist is traveling from another part of the state and needs reimbursement.
CfER Board members, Officers, and members advise, assist, and provide guidance to our membership, and to other interested parties, who are working to improve voter representation and electoral systems for organizations they belong to or in jurisdictions in which they live. We regularly recommend RCV, PR, or one of their variations.
All general literature (flyers, handouts, white papers, videos, etc.) bearing the unqualified CfER name must be approved by the President or the Publications Director and ratified by the Board. Literature prepared for a particular purpose (such as lobbying, or tabling at a political party convention) may be delegated by the President to the person in charge of that purpose, as long as it is submitted to the Board for review no later than the first Board meeting after the need for such literature.
Literature prepared by a CfER chapter for chapter purposes must bear the name of that chapter, and must be submitted to the Board for review no later than the first Board meeting after the need for such literature.
Local Chapter Coordinators may give one year complimentary memberships at their discretion. Presidents and VP’s can award complimentary memberships of any length at their discretion.
We strongly prefer at-large elections that use Proportional Representation (PR). Thus, district elections are an impediment to PR, a step backwards for PR, because PR requires multi-seat elections. However, we will generally not take a position against such a proposal because we recognize that district elections can be a significant improvement over at-large elections that use plurality voting. Where distict elections are used, we definitely recommend that RCV be used.
Single Winner Election Systems
There are a great number of lesser known single-winner systems, including “Condorcet” and “Borda”. We have not ever opposed these systems when groups plan to use them, as we consider them valid in certain circumstances and they are vastly superior to plurality voting systems. However, we believe that RCV is the overall superior system, and that is the one that we promote.
Publicizing CfER Members Running for Election
Steve Chessin is drafting a policy based on a Board discussion.