Voice for Democracy
Newsletter of the Northern California Citizens for Proportional Representation
Santa Clara’s Measure F - a California First
As reported in the previous newsletter, the Santa Clara County Charter Review Committee (CRC) recommended to the Board of Supervisors that the Charter be amended to allow (but not require) the use of Instant Runoff Voting (IRV), once the technology to handle it was available. (The county currently conducts elections using a two-round systen, and uses the punch card PollStar system which is not amenable to IRV, but does plan to eventually upgrade to a system that could accomodate IRV.)
The Board of Supervisors held a public hearing on August 4th on this and other proposed charter amendments. Jim Stauffer of NCCPR spoke in favor of the IRV proposal; Dwight Beattie, the Registrar of Voters, spoke against (he was concerned that it would confuse the voters). After some discussion, the Board voted three to two to place the proposal on the November ballot, where it is known as Measure F. (This is the first time IRV has been offered to California voters - Ed.)
The Yes on F committee has been busy conducting a no-budget campaign by soliciting endorsements from individuals, organizations, and the media. A list of endorsements as of this writing (October 4th) follows. It is expected that, should the major newspapers endorse Measure F, it is likely to pass. The only organization to oppose Measure F is the Santa Clara County Taxpayers Association, not because they do not like IRV, but because they do not want to allow the Board of Supervisors to make the decision as to when IRV should be implemented.
A partial list of endorsements for Measure F include the following organisations: San Jose Silicon Valley Chamber of Commerce, South Bay AFL-CIO Central Labor Council Committee on Political Education, Service Employees International Union Local 715, United Food and Commercial Workers Local 428, Santa Clara County Democratic Party, Santa Clara County Green Party - and several individuals.
Steve Chessin, VP of State and National Campaigns and Resident of Santa Clara County
from THE PRESIDENTS
The Center for Voting and Democracy's mission is founded on the belief that our voting system can be reformed at all levels of government in order to increase vitality in our democracy, ensure fairer representation of our society's diversity in elected bodies and assist local, state and national governments in their efforts toward solving the complex and contentious issues facing our nation.
That mission was developed and expanded, made stronger and bolder by September's Empowering the Voter Conference. CV&D's President, John Anderson, gave a "heads-up" keynote address! It's scope moved through our beginnings to our present and beyond; his advise wove discussion of today's general political terrain with minute PR organizing specifics each of us deals with in our work. What a talk! We hope we will be able to publish it here in the newsletter.
Our fine and feminist CV&D Board Director emeritus, Professor Wilma Rule, received a Lifetime Achievement Champion of Democracy Award for her important work for women and other minorities in voting system reform. She received this award from co-Director and long-time friend, Matthew Cossolotto.
The Opening Plenary: A Discussion on Race, Reapportionment and Representation included all the HOT topics of the conference! They were discussed, skirted, debated, and avoided throughout both days of panels and workshops. Everyone learned of the strengths and limitations of our knowledge and organizing skills in some important arenas.
The Voting Rights Act and its significance in minority participation discussions were eyeopeners for many attendees and participants. Key to these discussions were Angel Torres of the Independent Progressive Political Network and Glen Magpantay of the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund, to name but two of the people who shared their knowledge and expertise.
The logistics of the conference went on perfectly, thanks to those of us who did the work. People did leave empowered to return to the next struggle. CV&D: this mission accomplished!
A big THANK YOU to all our NCCPR members who participated and worked on this conference, particularly, Steve Hill, the prime organizer. Our local was called upon to volunteer before and during the conference and we came through magnificently.
The other big news is that through the efforts of NCCPR Vice President Steve Chessin, Instant Run-off Voting (IRV) is on the ballot in Santa Clara county and has a good chance of winning. See the article in this issue of the newsletter about the details. IRV is not PR, but it is a first step to educating the public about transferable ballots as well as a good government reform. Contact Steve as soon as possible if you can help in this campaign.
Barbara Blong and Betty Traynor, Co-Presidents
What’s happening in your neck of the woods by Jim Lindsay, V.P. Local Chapters
Things have been a little slow in the local chapters, in general, with some bright spots, and some cause for cautious optimism.
San Francisco CPR continues to work on IRV at the citywide level. They are finding the going a little slow, however, and are doing some evaluation and planning -- trying to decide what the best way to go is. Participation has been dropping a little recently -- if you live in SF, we want YOU to get involved! Call Wayne at 681-2580 for info on when the next meeting is, and how you can help.
Alameda County CPR proudly reports that one of their two Congressional representatives, Barbara Lee, is now a co-sponsor of the Voters' Choice Act. Chapter members had been lobbying, and it paid off. The chapter continues to meet every two months. The next meeting will be November 5th. Call Jim at 527-8025 for info. The Chapter's #1 project is outreach to colleges and high schools; tentatively, one high school has asked the chapter to talk to all eight of its government classes, in a period of three days in late October! The Chapter is holding a high school speakers training session on October 17th to prepare for this.
Sonoma County CPR is having some difficulty getting reorganized, as peoples lives and needs keep preventing them from being quite as active as they'd like. However, the good news is that one person, Ray Yahr (707/833-6996), just agreed to co-coordinate the Sonoma County Chapter, along with Al Liner (707/579-5885). Ray and Al are experienced organizers and activists, so perhaps the Chapter will be restarting soon.
Our first student chapter may be starting soon. Diego Sanchez, a student at UC Santa Cruz, is eager to try it. You can reach Diego at 408/224-8348.
Though we don't even have a Chapter in Santa Clara County, some of our active members there have got IRV on the ballot, as you know. Kudos to Steve Chessin, James Stauffer, James Salsman, and Russ Paielli! (Hope I didn't leave anyone out!)
We have enough members in three counties to form chapters, if we could find the coordinators. If you have the commitment and the time, and you understand how important local chapters are, you can co-coordinate a chapter, even if you have no experience! We will provide all the training and advice you need. The areas we need coordinators for are: Santa Clara County, Sacramento County, and Contra Costa County. Contact me at 510/527-8025 or firstname.lastname@example.org, if you'd like to co-coordinate or you have ideas on how to get a chapter started in your area.
Jim Lindsay, VP, Local Chapters
News from CV&D
Following the Conference, there has been a flood of e-mail discussing different strategies, slogans and tactics for promoting PR. To be included on the PR discussion list, contact Rob Richie at FairVote@compuserve.com
And here is a quote from the start of the latest CVD update:
· Four times as many US House members have died in office since the 1996 elections as have lost in political primaries!
Of 36 states with statewide primaries in 1998, 16 had all-time lows in primary election turnout
More than 20% of U.S. House seats will be uncontested in general elections in 1998
Some 9 in 10 U.S. voters will receive a ballot containing a minor party or independent candiate for partisan office in 1998. Yet as of 1998, only 3 legislators elected on third party lines are found among the 8000 state legislative and congressional seats in the United States.
EMPOWERING THE VOTER
THE San Francisco Conference
It really was a great conference. About 200 people attended from all over US and Canada. The quality of speakers was top-notch, with national experts participating, and there was a high level of enthusiasm among conference participants who seemed to appreciate the quality of the presentations. We garnered a fair amount of local media on the NPR and Pacifica affiliates, and they generally did a great job of covering the issue.
There has definitely been a bump in PR activism resulting from the conference, as activists went back to their local communities and started agitating. CVD is busy with post-conference follow-up. The conference provided great networking opportunities which is leading to some important meetings in L.A., Boston and San Francisco between organizations interested in furthering PR activity in their localities.
The Saturday morning plenary featured what is being called the "Anderson hearings" on "Race, Reapportionment and Representation." These hearings will occur in other cities around the country (the next is in Minneapolis, Nov.13-15). The purpose of the Anderson hearings is to initiate a public process that examines the re- districting process and takes it out of the hands of the politicians and moves it towards the public domain, where it belongs.
We heard expert testimony about what happens in the redistricting process: incumbent protection, creation of safe-seats in 80 percent of legislative races, voters essentially losing their right to a meaningful vote in the process. Legal advocates from communities of color (MALDEF, Asian Pacific American Legal Services, Advancement Project in Los Angeles) testified about the likely negative impact on racial representation resulting from recent U.S. Supreme Court rulings that have said that you can't draw legislative district lines solely for the purpose of electing racial representatives. How proportional representation voting systems provide a solution to the current difficulties with American democracy.
The Anderson hearings were a real eye-opener for many who never fully appreciated how much the redistricting process determines who wins elections in the United States, and how voters are negatively impacted by the process. The hearings were videotaped and a 15 to 20 minute educational video about the redistricting process is expected to be produced - a valuable educational tool in the next two years as we get closer to the next line-drawing following the 2000 census.
Saturday afternoon was devoted to educational panels and workshops about proportional representation, PR and campaign finance reform (and how they can work together), Women and representation, the media and democracy reform.
Sunday was the "activist" day, with workshops and panels featuring PR activists from all over the U.S. and Canada.
We are now doing it again in Minneapolis, Nov.13-15. We are expecting a great turnout for the Minneapolis conference, though it seems to be shaping up a bit differently. In Minneapolis, the ideological tilt of the conference is shaping up to be more mainstream, with more attendance by leaders and members of the Reform Party (like Russ Verney), Libertarian Party, League of Women Voters, etc. Which is all to the good, since we believe that to bring proportional representation to the United States it will require a broad-based coalition.
Voice for Democracy is published by Northern Californians for Proportional Representation.
Our web site at http://worldview-bbs.com/~cpr/ has more up-to-date information. Please submit articles/letters for publication to: c/o Nat Lerner, Voice for Democracy, 1106 Pajaro Street, #4, Salinas, CA. 93901 or e-mail to NL0916@sprynet.com.
Voice for Democracy
Northern California CPR
P.O. Box 128
Sacramento, California 95812