Author: Tom Charron

Voice for Democracy | July/August 2019

Voice For Democracy Newsletter

July / August 2019 Newsletter

HOME RULE BILL ADVANCES

The FairVote / CfER Home Rule Bill continues to advance through the California Legislature. It has already passed the Senate and moved to the Assembly.  In the Assembly, It passed the Committee on Elections and Reapportionment with no opposition and has been referred to Assembly Appropriations Committee.  We expect it to be passed on the floor of the Assembly, and to be sent to Governor Newsom for his signature.

What does the Home Rule Bill do? It will allow general law cities, counties, school districts, and special districts — that is, the overwhelming number of jurisdictions in California, to use Ranked Choice Voting with voter approval.  Currently, a jurisdiction would have to create a charter to use RCV, which most jurisdictions are not interested in doing.  Bottom line,  a very large number of jurisdictions would suddenly have the option to use RCV.
How can you help? It would be great if you could contact your state assembly member (using findyourrep.legislature.ca.gov) and the governor, and ask for their support for SB 212.Of course, donations to FairVote and CfER are always welcome and useful.

NATIONAL NEWS HIGHLIGHTS

FairVote reports that:

  • 2018 had big wins and new RCV implementations in Maine, New Mexico, Massachusetts, Minnesota and Utah.
  • Across the USA, more and more editorials and articles in support of RCV are being published. 
  • Democratic Party convention delegate selection rules include full use of RCV for party-run primaries in Alaska, Hawaii and Kansas, while early voters in Iowa and Nevada will also cast RCV ballots to determine delegates. Other states may still act as well – and expect many more from both major parties by 2024.
  • On the local front, RCV continues to earn support in cities and states coast-to-coast. The Utah cities Payson and Vineyard are working with Utah RCV to prepare for their debut RCV elections this fall. New York City is buzzing with potential for RCV after a positive recommendation in the Charter Revision Commission staff report. While falling just shy of a green light, Nashville’s city council also considered putting RCV on ballot before deciding to wait until next year, and Albuquerque may decide to enact RCV for use this fall.
  • Meanwhile, state legislators keep backing and debating pro-RCV bills, with bills in 16 states still standing as of May. Besides California’s Home Rule bill, legislation still in the mix in other states includes expanding RCV to presidential and gubernatorial races in Maine, and comprehensive RCV legislation in Massachusetts – with Voter Choice Massachusetts ready to lead a ballot measure campaign in 2020 if need be.

NATIONAL POPULAR VOTE COMPACT — PROGRESS AND THREATS

The National Popular Vote Interstate Compact (NPVIC), if supported by enough states, will mean that the President of the United States will be elected by the national popular vote — without changing the electoral college.  CfER has officially supported the NPVIC for years, and the state of California has joined the NPVIC a few years ago.  For more detailed information on how it works, you can go to their web site: https://www.nationalpopularvote.com/.  
With recent progress in a number of states, it is getting closer and closer to being a reality.  The result is that opponents are now taking the NPVIC seriously, and are working to reverse it in Colorado.  With some deep pockets, a group that is opposed to a national popular vote for president has successfully submitted a petition to force a vote of the people.  While 68% of Coloradans support the concept of a national popular vote for president, we have to take this campaign very seriously.  
You can help by talking to anyone you know in Colorado about this, and by donating to the NPVIC organizing group (using the link above).

2019 WILMA RULE AWARD RECIPIENTS

The 2019 Wilma Rule Awards have gone to:

  1. California Senator Ben Allen, who submitted SB 212 and has been working hard to make it successful.  CfER is very appreciative of this important contribution and has selected Senator Allen for this award as a result.
  2. McGeorge Law Students Nick Barnett, Sunny Gill, and Henry Mantel, who worked hard and effectively to get SB 212 successfully submitted and endorsed by the state senate.
  3. Dominion Voting Systems for producing voting equipment certified for use in California elections that can process elections that use the single transferable vote form of proportional representation.
  4. Tom Charron for extensively redesigning the CfER web site, giving it a much more modern and attractive look.

DID YOU KNOW …?

The main idea behind RCV and Proportional Representation is to more accurately represent the voters, and to make every voter’s vote more powerful.  This means that historically poorly represented groups, such as women and people of color, will finally be represented in much larger numbers when we use RCV and other PR systems.  But it isn’t just them — with RCV, we can expect better representation for young people, for people in less wealthy parts of cities, and for whomever is in the political minority in a given city.  Democracy and better policies work best when all the important constituencies are at the table, and no one is shut out of representation.

LOCAL NEWS

  • San Francisco, Oakland, Berkeley, and San Leandro continue to successfully use RCV.  There are no realistic threats to RCV in any of those cities at this time.
  • Fort Bragg — the city of Fort Bragg is interested in RCV.  The discussion on this is moving slowly, but it is happening.  CfER, of course, is involved.  One of our members, Don Rowe, is spearheading the effort, and we are providing support for this process as needed.
  • Albany — as a result of many years of pushing RCV in Albany, and a potential violation of the CVRA in Albany, there is growing pressure on the city council to realize that its current winner take all system will have to be scrapped.  They could go to district elections, but few people want districts in Albany, as the city is very small, and in addition, there aren’t a lot of natural neighborhoods.   Therefore, using multi-member RCV is a real possibility in Albany.
  • BART — a BART director has some interest in RCV, and we are working with her determine how to proceed.

Voice for Democracy | May/June 2019

Voice For Democracy Newsletter

City of Eastpoint [Image]

IMPORTANT VOTING RIGHTS SETTLEMENT IN MICHIGAN

RCV TO BE USED STARTING THIS NOVEMBER
Eastpointe, Michigan, had been using traditional at-large voting, which discriminates against minorities — both ethnic minorities and political minorities.   In order to solve this problem, the city and the U.S. Department of Justice agreed to use Ranked Choice Voting city-wide as the best solution.  Rank Choice Voting, when done city-wide, is a Proportional Representation system, so everyone expects there will proportionate representation for African-Americans in Eastpointe starting this November.

This impacts California, because this will show that RCV is the best solution when there are voting rights issues in a city or any other jurisdiction.    In many cities, districts elections are used, and while they often do a decent job of solving the voting rights problem, they create other problems, such as dividing the city into mini-jurisdictions that often fight each other, and huge fights over how to draw the districts every ten years.

For more, see this article from FairVote.

Image: California Senate

LOCAL CHOICE ACT PASSED IN THE SENATE

SB 212, the Local Choice Act, passed the California Senate 28-8 this April.  SB 212 is CfER’s top legislative priority and would allow each of the 377 general law cities in California to use Ranked Choice Voting upon approval of their voters.  Currently, general law cities are prohibited from using RCV — they first have to become charter cities.  SB 212 also covers school boards and other jurisdictions.   Finally, it puts RCV into the state elections code, which will help calm nervous election staff.

This is a really big deal.  Next we have to get it through the Assembly.  You can help by contacting your assembly member by phone, email, or even in person,  and asking them for their support of SB 212.Go Local Choice Act!  

Image: LWV

LEAGUE OF WOMEN VOTERS ADOPTS GREAT ELECTORAL PROCESS POSITION

The LWV is one the most highly respected and trusted groups by the American public, and the California LWV now has a position on how we elect our representatives.  The California LWV has recently adopted a position that allows any local branch of the LWV in California to support RCV for multiple winner elections.  The California LWV has supported RCV for single-winner elections since 2001.  While this position does not support any one particular system, it does support alternatives to plurality voting for single and multiple winner elections.  The position is based on electoral system studies and developed positions from 15 State Leagues and can be used to evaluate or propose an electoral system change that would increase voter representation, especially for political and ethnic minority voices.  It will also be considered at the LWVUS convention in 2020 as a national position.  

This is a huge win for our movement because now the LWV is aligned with our goals to increase voter representation via electoral system reform.  This new position, which has also been adopted by the Tennessee State League, includes support for voter education when proposing changes to electoral systems.  It will allow local RCV campaigns to gain momentum and support in California and Tennessee communities.  Local Leagues can now support single-winner and multiple-winner RCV campaigns without having to do their own study.  

Please contact Paula Lee to get a copy of the actual policy, and to get help with how to get your local chapter to officially endorse your RCV campaigns, support your RCV work, etc.  You can reach Paula at paula.lee@comcast.net.  Paula encourages CfER members to join the League of Women Voters in your community or county.

(Personal Thinking Hard)

ELECTORAL REFORM QUIZ


Can  you describe Ranked Choice Voting in 1 minute or less? How about 30 seconds or less? Stand in front of a mirror, and start your timer, can you do it?
(See the bottom of this newsletter for one possible 30-second “elevator pitch” for RCV.)

(CfER Logo)

ABOUT CfER
Californians for Electoral Reform has been working for Proportional Representation and Ranked Choice Voting for over 20 years, and we continue to work on these issues actively.  We are an action-oriented group, with chapters and contacts around the state, working in the State Legislature, and working in many local communities, promoting and educating about PR and RCV.

We have led successful campaigns for RCV in San Leandro, Oakland, San Francisco, and Berkeley, and spoken to thousands of people.  RCV is now much more well known than it was 20 years ago, and is being seriously considered in several jurisdictions around the state.  We have twice got legislation through both houses of the legislature and to the governor’s desk.  We are well known in Sacramento and in electoral reform circles, and have a lot of respect in Sacramento and statewide.

JOIN US! You can join for free.  You can also send in a little (or a lot of) money to help the movement if you can.  If you have time and energy you can get involved in a campaign or education work.  If a friend sent you this newsletter, and you want to get our quarterly newsletter and monthly updates, you can do that too, at no cost.  Click here to join the movement for PR and IRV!

NEXT MONTH

Voice For Democracy Newsletter

In July, we’ll be bringing you a brief update on electoral reform.  

THE ELECTORAL REFORM QUIZ ANSWER — ONE POSSIBLE 30 SECOND ELEVATOR PITCH FOR RCV
“Ranked Choice Voting gives voters more power because they don’t have to worry about vote spitting or spoiler candidates.  It is very easy to vote using RCV.
You just put down your 1st, 2nd, and 3rd choices, and if your 1st choice doesn’t win, your vote goes to your 2nd choice.  If your 2nd choice doesn’t win, your vote goes to your 3rd choice.  
RCV is used in San Francisco, Oakland, San Leandro, and Berkeley, in many other cities in the USA, the state of Maine, and a number of countries including Australia and Ireland, and has worked very well in all of these cities and countries.”

— CfER Staff

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