Voice for Democracy | March/April 2019

Voice For Democracy Newsletter

March/April 2019 Update

California Senate Bill #212 has been introduced, and was passed by the Senate Elections Committee April 23rd.  This bill would allow ALL cities in California to use Ranked Choice Voting or two-round runoff if their citizens vote to use it.  Currently, only charter cities are allowed to use RCV, but most cities don’t have their own charters, so they are not allowed to use RCV.

With your help, we can get this bill to Governor Newsom’s desk.   Please help! First, click this link to Find Your Senator.
After you put in your name and address, it will show you who your senator and assembly representatives are. Click on the senator’s link.  This will send you to their web page.  On that page, there should be a Contact link, probably on the top of the screen. Click that link, which should open up a form for you to send a message to them. 

What can you say?  It doesn’t have to be long.  It could just be a request for them to support and co-sponsor SB 212.  If you want to say more, here are one or more points you can raise:* SB 212 does not impose anything on any jurisdictions — it just expands their rights.* The citizens of that city would have to vote to use RCV or two-round runoff elections.* Currently, most cities are forced to use a horrible election system: “plurality-at-large”, unless they become a charter city.  Most cities do not want to become charter cities.* Plurality voting is oppressive to minorities, making it very hard for them to win seats because whichever groups have the most votes can win all the seats.* Plurality voting also results in under-representation of women on city councils.

* RCV is currently used in more than ten cities in the USA, including four cities in California.

When this bill becomes law, it will be a great day for California!

Voice for Democracy | February 2019

Voice For Democracy Newsletter



What is the National Popular Vote Compact (“NPV”)?  

It is basically a way to work around the Electoral College.  When it becomes law in enough states in the USA, then it means our presidents will be elected by the national popular vote.  This will happen without having to change the constitution.  
How the NPV Works (Officially, it is the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact or NPVIC. But just calling it the “NPV” for short.)

What does CfER have to do with it?  

CfER endorsed the NPV many years ago.  It was adopted in California in 2011.  Because it is already law here, that is, California is a member of the NPV Compact, CfER doesn’t talk about it much.

So what’s the great news?

The Colorado House of Representatives and Senate passed the National Popular Vote on Wednesday February 20th.  The bill now goes to Governor Polis, who has publicly stated that he supports the bill.
After the bill is signed, Colorado will be the 13th jurisdiction to enact the National Popular Vote bill.  The enacting states will then have 181 electoral votes – 89 away from the 270 needed to bring the bill into effect. 

How can you help?

If you have any friends or relatives in other states, perhaps you can tell them about the National Popular Vote movement.  The web site is here: The National Popular Vote.  They also accept donations.


Soon, we will be able to tell you about a new Home Rule bill in the California Senate, introduced by Senator Ben Allen of Redondo Beach.  It will allow all jurisdictions to use RCV if they want to.  Right now, only cities that have their own charters can use RCV.  We expect this to get to the governor’s desk.  More news coming up in March!

Voice for Democracy | December 2018 & January 2019

Voice For Democracy Newsletter


Happy New Year, everyone!  And what better way to celebrate the new year than a newsletter from Californians for Electoral Reform?


(Celebration picture)

2018 was a great year for the movement for RCV and PR.

The huge win in Maine — where RCV was used statewide with great success — is historical and is reverberating around the country.  U.S. congressional seats were decided for the first time in U.S. history using RCV elections.  See this article for more: USA Today Article on Maine’s Success.  (Fun facts on Maine’s election: opponents of RCV and parts of the media said that less than 50% of the voters would rank their ballots, and it would cost the state $1,500,000.  In fact, 87% of the voters ranked their ballots, and the additional cost was $100,000.)
* Santa Fe used RCV for the first time, very successfully.  See Sante Fe’s RCV Election.* Memphis voters reaffirmed RCV.  It will now likely be used in 2019 for the first time in Tennessee.  See Memphis Voters Defend Election Reform.
* Nationally, five cities acted to use RCV in their next elections, and six Utah cities committed to using it in 2019 (although they could change their mind before April). If all 6 were to use RCV, that would double the number of cities using RCV from the current number of 11.* The four Bay Area cities using ranked choice voting had very smooth and successful elections,  and their next ones will be with a ballot allowing up to 10 rankings instead of a limit of 3 rankings. More San Francisco voters cast ballots for mayor with RCV then for governor or senate without RCV in the June elections.
* Fairvote held a hugely successful RCV Activist Summit in Oakland (see below), and many other regional summits were held around the country.* The Fair Representation Act was introduced in the House of Representatives, got some great press, spurred education efforts, and began to gain some momentum.  It will be reintroduced in the next session of congress.
* The PR/IRV movement got more and more good press and endorsements, including the New York Times, conservative columnist David Brooks, and many others.   The New York Times editorials on RCV in June and backing the Fair Representation Act in November each was a full page.  Other papers editorially backing RCV this year included the Boston Globe, Washington Post, Baltimore Sun, and the Economist.
All told, it was a fantastic year!  


(Personal Thinking Hard)

How many countries use a form of Proportional Representation for their national legislatures?A. 136B. 120C. 103D.   94E.   74Highlight the white space after the colon for the answer:  The answer is D.
Source: Wikipedia article on Proportional Representation


Summit Image
(To be filled with a photo Steve C

Fairvote California and the national Fairvote held a West Coast RCV Activist Summit December 8th and 9th in Oakland.  It was a tremendous success, with over 100 activists showing up to learn how to organize, how to educate about RCV and PR, how to have an effective digital strategy, etc.  In addition, there were speakers and guests at the summit and reception like congresswoman Barbara Lee, Oakland mayor Libby Shaaf, council-members, school board members, and governmental election staff people.   People came from all over California, and about 20 people came from out of state.  Almost half the attendees were women, and there were lots of Latino and Asian participants.  

Very special for CfER was the love shown for our group, and new activists who joined at the Summit.  Our own Steve Chessin and Paula Lee were recognized with Champions of Democracy awards for lifetime achievement for their many years of hard and effective work for PR and IRV.
Overall it was a tremendous boost for the movement in California.  Thanks Fairvote, and thanks to everyone that was able to attend.


NY Times

The New York Times had previously endorsed Rank Choice Voting.  This time, they endorsed proportional representation (although they didn’t call it that).


Steve Chessin Photo

First, my apologies for the lateness of this newsletter; I was the bottleneck. There’s a lot of good content in it.

Second, Happy New Year! We hope to see a bill introduced this year that would allow general law cities the same right to use ranked choice voting that charter cities have, similar to the one that we had in 2016. (If at first you don’t succeed, ….)

Finally, if you are also a member of the League of Women Voters, you have an opportunity to support a concurrence statement that will be considered by all local Leagues in California in the next few months.

Please watch for your local League’s program planning meeting date and attend to support the proposal to “Support election methods at each level of government that encourage participation, are verifiable and auditable, and enhance representation for all voters.”

If you aren’t a member of the League, but know someone who is, you can tell them about the proposal and ask them to attend their local League’s program planning meeting to support it.

If you have any questions, or would like more information on the concurrence statement, contact Paula Lee, LWV Sacramento County, at


— Steve Chessin, President


(CfER Logo)

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!


Voice For Democracy Newsletter

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

— CfER Staff

Voice for Democracy | October 2018


The California Voting Rights Act (CVRA) is meant to provide a way for under-represented minority communities to get representation on council and school boards. The problem is that district elections don’t always create more representative outcomes, especially when housing segregation patterns do not place communities in the same area of a city. Multi-Winner Ranked Choice Voting, on the other hand, has a great record of electing minority candidates, and does not require dividing the city into districts.

Fort Bragg, Sunnyvale, Monterey, Redwood City, and the Palo Alto Unified School District are under pressure to divide into districts to comply with the CVRA. Do you live in or near any of these cities? Do you know anyone that lives in those cities?

If so, here are two things you and your friends can do to help:

(1) Contact your City Council (or, for Palo Alto, the school district) and ask them to:

(a) negotiate more time with the potential CVRA plaintiff so that they can…
(b) set up a citizens advisory committee to study electoral methods and make a recommendation as to what would be best for the jurisdiction. Both CfER and FairVote will be happy to provide people to help educate the committee, any council members or staff, or any school board member.
(2) If you don’t know how to do the above, or are not comfortable doing it, but would like to help, please contact Pedro Hernandez at and tell him what city you live in, and that you’d like to help.

As we write this, it is Veteran’s Day, Monday, November 12th. The 2018 Elections were excellent for Electoral Reform, particularly for the movement for Proportional Representation and Ranked Choice Voting. Here is some quick info for you.
* RCV Elections in San Francisco, Oakland, Berkeley, and San Leandro went extremely well: San Francisco , East Bay Cities

* Voters in two Massachusetts cities voted overwhelmingly in favor of Ranked Choice Voting. See Strong Vote in MA for RCV

* In Maine, RCV was used to elect a Senator and members of the House of Representatives for the first time ever! Maine RCV Review

* More to come later — RCV is used in even more places in the USA, including Cambridge, Minneapolis, and other jurisdictions.
Voice For Democracy Newsletter
In December, we’ll be bringing you a full issue of Voice for Democracy. 
— CfER Staff
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