Voice for Democracy

 

Newsletter of the Northern California Citizens for Proportional Representation

January-March 1998

 

McKinney introduces new, improved Voters' Choice Act

 

On November 13, Rep. Cynthia McKinney (D-GA) introduced the Voters' Choice Act, HR 3068. Original co-sponsors to the bill are: Eva Clayton, James Clyburn, Chaka Fattah, Jesse Jackson, Jr., and Eddie Bernice Johnson.

††††††††††† This year's version of the Act is more broadly defined than the 1995 version. It restores the opportunity for states to use multi-seat districts for House elections if: (1) the system is constitutional and (2) at least one third of voters will win a "proportional" share of seats. (This high threshold is themaximum threshold; the bill leaves it up to states to set a minimum threshold.)

††††††† Cheers to Rep. McKinney and her staff for putting PR before Members of Congress.

††††††††††† It is vitally important to get as many legislators as possible signed up for the bill, because without them it will be by-passed once again! That is why much of this newsletter is devoted to this Bill ... Nat Lerner, Editor.

 

Time to Lobby!

††††††††††† With the re-introduction of the Voters' Choice Act (H.R. 3068),we need to get as many co-sponsors of her bill as possible.

††††††††††† Below is a step-by-step guide (You don't have to do all the steps, but the more you do the more weight your voice will carry) on how to lobby your Representative.Most are in their districts until near the end of January, so NOW is a good time to send them a letter and make a phone call!

 

-- Steve Chessin,V.P., State and National Campaigns

 

How to lobby your Representative

 

1. FIND OUT WHERE TO SEND A LETTER.

Call your Congressional Representative's district office. (Check the government section of the phone book and if the district boundary isnít clear, call your county's Registrar of Voters office)Ask if letters concerning legislationshould be sent to the local office or to Washington, and who the legislative aide in that office is.

††††††††††† Or, if you prefer, just send it to your representative c/o U.S. House of Representatives, Washington, DC, 20515.

 

2. SEND THE LETTER.

††††††††††† Write a letter to your Representative, asking him or her to become a cosponsor of H.R. 3068 the Voters' Choice Act.Send it to the district or Washington office, as determined in step 1. Make sure you keep a copy.The letter should be short, no more than a page, with just a few lines as to what you like about the bill.Include a copy of the bill if you'd like. See Sample letter to Representative on page three.

 

3. FOLLOW UP WITH A PHONE CALL.

††††††††††† 3a. After a week, if you haven't gotten a response (you probably wouldn't have so quickly), phone the office that you sent the letter to.Ask to speak to the aide whose name you got in step 1.(You'll probably be told that the person is in a meeting.Leave a message, with your name and daytime phone number, and tell them you are calling concerning the Voters' Choice Act and the letter you sent.)Tell them you are following up on your letter (have your copy in front of you), and that you'd really like your Representative to co-sponsor it.

††††††††††† 3b. If you did get a response, skip step 4 for now and go to step 5.

 

4. SCHEDULE A MEETING.

Call the local office, and say you'd like to meet with your Representative the next time he/she is in town, to discuss the Voters' Choice Act, and make an appointment.At the appointment, explain why you want him/her to cosponsor it.Bring the Act with you, if possible, and explain what it does and does not do.

 

5. RESPOND TO THE RESPONSE.

At some point you should receive a written response.This response will state one of three things:

(a) That your representative has agreed to cosponsor it.

Call the Representative and the aide to thank them, and also write a letter of thanks. (b) That your representative has decided not to cosponsor it.

Write a letter saying that you are disappointed, and hope they will reconsider. Remind them that this is an election year.

(c) Nothing of substance.

The letter will explain what the legislation is, where it is in the legislative process, that the Representative will keep your views in mind should the bill come to the floor, and will thank you for communicating.

Call the aide, and politely but firmly express your disappointment in being shined on, and ask for an explanation why the legislator hasn't signed on. If you haven't yet done step 4, make that appointment now. Remember to be polite yet assertive at all times.Don't threaten or yell.After all, they are people too.

††††††††††† You will probably encounter a lot of ignorance of PR.If you can afford it, give your Representative a copy of Doug Amy's book when you meet (step 4).If you can't afford it to give them one, but you have a copy, give them a copy of the Appendices (A, B, C), as they contain very succinct explanations of the various voting systems.

††††††††††† Good luck, and keep NCCPR posted as to your progress.Let us know what works and what doesn't work for you, so we can fine-tune this guide.

 

Sample letter to Representative

 

For example:

Hon. Member O'Congress

U.S. House of Representatives

Washington, DC20515

 

Dear Hon. O'Congress:

 

I am writing to you to ask you to become a co-sponsor of the Voters' Choice Act (H.R. 3068).As you know, recent Supreme Court decisions have outlawed race-based districting, putting representation of minorities in Congress at risk.The Voters' Choice Act would allow (but not require) states to use proportional representation to elect their representatives to Congress, thus preserving minority representation without the use of race-based districting.

 

I hope you will co-sponsor this creative method of preserving minority representation.Feel free to call me if you have any questions about proportional representation.

††††††††††† Sincerely,

††††††††††† Your name here.

 

Whatís happening in your neck of the woods

San Francisco CPR meets regularly, just before Electoral Reform Coalition meetings.Its main project is working with the Electoral Reform Coalition to push instant runoff voting (IRV) in SF, at least for mayorial elections. For more information about SF CPR -- call coordinator Wayne Shepard at 415/681-2580, or email him at pauldebits@aol.com.

 

Sonoma County CPR is getting going again, after a quiescent period.For more information, call Cathy Allio at 707/523-0440 (callio7750@aol.com).

 

An Alameda County CPR will soon be here!The Founding meeting of the Alameda County CPR will be held on Jan. 21st., at 7pm, in the Golden Gate Library,5606 San Pablo Ave., Oakland.All Alameda County members will be called, unless we don't have your phone number.Contact Jim Lindsay at 510/527-8025 or jimlindsay@earthlink.net, for more information.

 

A new Sacramento County CPR will probably be started around February. Coordinator Pete Martineau (916/967-0300, petemartno@aol.com) is working on lining up buddies and a location to hold their founding meeting. We have almost enough members in Santa Clara and Contra Costa counties to form new chapters there.We need coordinators, though.

 

Interested in forming a CPR chapter in your county?Call me or email me, and I'll help you make it happen.

-- Jim Lindsay, V.P. Local Chapters

 

The Presidentsí Report

Greetings CPRers!Happy New Year and happy "new" newsletter!Since this is our first message to you we want to begin with our special thanks to Margaret Garcia for her leadership as president last year.And our appreciation goes to past editor Michael Monnet for his hard work in publishing last year's newletter. Nat Lerner is taking on the editor's responsibilities in 1998.

 

Jim Lindsay is now our VP of local chapters and is working with Alameda County folks to get this high membership area re-activated.San Francisco and Sanoma counties are doing well but we need to form new chapters.If you can, contact Jim for the Local Chapter Handbook on how to get going--only a few CPR members are needed to start up. The various reports of our Vice Presidents are included in this newletter and will inform you of our ongoing work. Let's work to make 1998 a great year for PR!

 

Internationally, the United Kingdom's Labor Party is seriously looking at PR as part of their electoral reform. How will this affect the U.S. reform?

 

Nationally, Representative Cynthia McKinney has introduced the new Voters' Choice Act (HR 3068) which allows a state to use a proportional voting system for multiseat congressional districts.This is the breakthrough legislation we need to introduce PR in House elections.

 

Locally, San Francisco's Electoral Reform Coalition, the people who got Prop. H (Preference/Choice Voting) on the ballot in 1996, is working to introduce Instant Run-off Voting (IRV) to S.F. voters.Northern California CPR chapters are starting study groups on PR and making presentations to other groups in their local area.These activities can lead to organizing for IRV and Choice Voting locally. Please get in touch with Jim Lindsay (510/527-8025) to get things started in your area. Let's work together to make this the best year for NCCPR!

Barbara Blong and Betty Traynor, Co-Presidents

 

 

Charter commissionsinterested in Proportional Representation

The Center for Voting and Democracy arranged for Gwenn Craig to fly down from San Francisco to make a presentation to the L.A. charter review commission. Ms. Craig chaired the San Francisco task force that recommended that preference voting method be put before voters.

††††† The presentation was well-received, as were PR presentations to charter commissions in Santa Clara County and Kalamazoo (MI).

Voice for Democracy is published by Northern Californians for Proportional Representation. Please submit articles/letters for publication to: c/o Nat Lerner, 146D Casentini Street, Salinas, CA. 93907 or e-mail to NL0916@sprynet.com.

 

Cambridge's PR election and automated ballot-count:

 

 

Cambridge (MA) had its 29th PR (preference voting) election since 1941. Reflecting the general status quo year, all nine incumbents were returned to city council, maintaining its current diversity as measured by politics, geography, race and sexual orientation. In the school committee election, there were seat changes, with women winning four of six seats, and black candidates winning two of six (in a city that is less than 20% black).

For those hoping to see PR spread to other communities in the United States, the big news was that the computerized ballot-count went very well. Although write-in candidates caused some delays in starting the ballot-count, results were released the day after the election rather than the five days it had taken with hand-counts.

 

Activism on the rise: Utah, Rhode Island

More and more activists are getting involved in promoting PR. Rob Latham in Utah has been a great sparkplug in his state -- just in the last month he has had commentary on PR in local newspapers, recorded commentary on PR on his local NPR affiliate and productive conversations with city and state elected officials.

Meanwhile, Rob Richie, director of CV&Dwas invited to speak earlier this month at a conference in Rhode Island organized by Bryant College students,CV&D advisory committee member Marsha Pripstein and several of the state's minor parties. The five-hour event was well-attended and generated strong interest for working for PR and instant runoff voting in the state.

 

Questions for Candidates

Since 1998 is an election year, we have the opportunity to educate candidates on Proportional Representation. Next issue will include questions for congressional and state candidates.

 

 

†† Voice for Democracy

Northern California CPR

P.O. Box 128

Sacramento, California 95812