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FairVote

FairVote
FormationJune 1992; 31 years ago (1992-06) (as Citizens for Proportional Representation)
Cincinnati, Ohio, U.S.
Type501(c)(3) nonprofit organization
PurposePromoting electoral reform in the United States
HeadquartersSilver Spring, Maryland, U.S.
Founder
Robert Richie[1]
Revenue
$4.3 million (2019)[2]
Staff
32[2]
Websitefairvote.org
Formerly called
The Center for Voting and Democracy, Citizens for Proportional Representation
This article may have been created or edited in return for undisclosed payments, a violation of Wikipedia's terms of use. It may require cleanup to comply with Wikipedia's content policies, particularly neutral point of view. (May 2024)

FairVote is a 501(c)(3) organization that researches and advocates for electoral reform in the United States.[3]

It was founded in 1992 as Citizens for Proportional Representation to support the implementation of proportional representation in American elections. Its focus expanded over time to include other election reform proposals, such as instant-runoff voting (IRV), a national popular vote for president, a right-to-vote amendment to the Constitution, and universal voter registration.[4][5] It changed its name to the Center for Voting and Democracy in 1993 and to FairVote in 2004 to reflect those changing focuses.

Chairs of FairVote's board of directors have included former Nirvana bassist Krist Novoselic, former congressman and 1980 independent presidential candidate John Anderson, and Harvard political philosopher Danielle Allen.[3]

About

Founding

FairVote was founded as Citizens for Proportional Representation (CPR) in 1992 in Cincinnati, Ohio, as the result of a merger of several smaller groups promoting proportional representation into a single, national advocacy group. Early leaders included Robert Richie as executive director, Matthew Cossolotto as president, and Steven Hill as western regional director. John Anderson was head of its national advisory board and in 1992 published a New York Times commentary advocating for IRV in presidential elections.[6]

Board of Directors, 2023[7][needs update]
Dr. Danielle Allen, Chair
Donald Marron, Vice Chair
Mark de la Iglesia, Secretary
Dr. Purnima Chawla
Tim Hayes
David Wilner
Jake Sandler
Chi Kim

History and timeline

Logo used from 2016 to 2022

Since its founding, FairVote has advocated for reform at all levels of government. Notable events in its history include:

  • 1992: Citizens for Proportional Representation holds its opening convention with a welcoming speech by Ted Berry, Cincinnati's first African-American mayor.[8]
  • 1993: Citizens for Proportional Representation changes its name to the Center for Voting and Democracy to reflect support of other reforms, such as IRV and universal voter registration. The Center for Voting and Democracy relocates to Washington, D.C.[9]
  • 1994: The Center for Voting and Democracy releases the first Dubious Democracy, its biannual report on the state of democracy in congressional elections.[10]
  • 1996: Steven Hill runs the first campaign for electoral system reform in the US for several decades, a voter initiative to pass preference voting (proportional representation) in San Francisco. The campaign loses, 54-46%, but sets the stage for future victories.[11]
  • 1997: The Center releases the first Monopoly Politics, a report on the undemocratic elements of the single winner plurality system.[12]
  • 2002: Led by western regional director Steven Hill, San Francisco becomes the first major city to pass a voter initiative, 54-46%, to adopt IRV for certain citywide elections.[13]
  • 2004: San Francisco implements IRV.
  • 2005: Arkansas institutes IRV for overseas military voters.[14]
  • 2006: South Carolina institutes IRV for military and overseas voters and Oakland and Minneapolis pass it for city elections.[15]
  • 2007: Maryland becomes the first state to pass the National Popular Vote plan for president[16]
  • 2010: Oakland, Berkeley and San Leandro, California, all use IRV for the first time to elect local offices.[17]
  • 2015: FairVote and the Washington College of Law co-host a "Democracy Slam" with NBC's Chuck Todd and other journalists and professors.[18]
  • 2016: Maine becomes the first state to adopt IRV statewide, with FairVote and FairVote's Maine arm involved in the campaign.[19]
  • 2017: Congressman Don Beyer introduces the Fair Representation Act at an event organized by FairVote.[20]
  • 2018: Maine voters uphold IRV for congressional and primary elections, and Utah passes a law enabling cities to use IRV, with two cities opting to do so in 2019.[21]
  • 2019: New York City adopts IRV, and the Democratic National Committee approves use of IRV ballots in five party-run presidential primaries and caucuses in 2020.[22]
  • 2020: The state of Alaska and six cities pass ballot measures on IRV.[23]
  • 2022: Nevada voters approve a ballot measure to adopt IRV statewide. As a citizen-initiated constitutional amendment, it must pass again in 2024 to take effect.[24]
  • 2023: Oregon's legislature refers a statewide IRV measure to the 2024 ballot.[25]

FairVote is headquartered in Silver Spring, Maryland.

Public perception

General coverage

FairVote has been covered by outlets including The Washington Post, The New York Times, and NPR, which tend to call it a nonpartisan voting rights advocacy group.[26][27][28] Other commonly used terms include: "voting rights organization",[29] "election reform advocacy group",[30][31] "national reform organization",[32] and "election participation and reform group".[33] The Denver Post referred to the group as "election-protection campaigners".[34]

Alleged liberal bias

In his New York Times profile of FairVote co-founder Steven Hill, Scott James called FairVote a "left-wing group".[35] Other writers have claimed that many FairVote policies, such as IRV, are popular in "liberal enclaves"[36] and supported by "populist groups" such as Common Cause, an advocacy organization,[37] and thus give the group a liberal tilt.[38] Louis Jacobson, a writer for Roll Call, argues that any group supporting the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact will be perceived as liberal-leaning because of Democratic frustration with the Electoral College after the 2000 US presidential election.[39]

FairVote co-founder Rob Richie has said FairVote "is definitely not a Democratic stalking horse."[40] In addition, FairVote points to John Anderson, who was president of the organization's first advisory board. Anderson ran for president as an independent in 1980, and before that was a Republican congressman from Illinois.[41]

Proposed reforms

Ranked choice voting

FairVote advocates for the use of ranked choice voting (IRV) in American elections. Specifically, it advocates for the instant-runoff form of IRV in single-winner elections and the single transferable vote form of IRV for multi-winner elections.[42] Under all forms of IRV, voters rank candidates in order of preference, in contrast to the more widely used plurality voting system. FairVote supports the Fair Representation Act, which would enact a single transferable vote system for U.S. House elections and an instant runoff voting system for U.S. Senate elections.[43]

In 2002, FairVote backed a San Francisco ballot initiative amending Section 13.102 of the city charter to allow IRV in local elections.[44][45][46] The city began using IRV to elect local officials on November 2, 2004.[44] Subsequent ballot initiatives supported by FairVote have allowed the use of IRV in cities including Takoma Park, Maryland;[47] Minneapolis, Minnesota;[48][49] Oakland, California;[50] Portland, Maine;[51][52] Portland, Oregon;[53] Seattle, Washington;[54] New York, New York;[55] San Leandro, California;[56] St. Paul, Minnesota;[57] Springfield, Illinois;[58] Telluride, Colorado;[59] and Santa Fe, New Mexico.[60]

National popular vote

FairVote has advocated for the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact,[61] an agreement among states and the District of Columbia to award their electoral votes to the candidate with the highest popular vote total in all 50 states and D.C.[62] New York Assemblyman Fred Thiele said he first proposed New York's entrance into the compact after FairVote approached him.[63]

Voting rights

FairVote has backed the proposed Right to Vote Amendment (House Joint Resolution 44), sponsored by Representatives Mark Pocan and Keith Ellison, under which citizens would be guaranteed a constitutional right to vote.[64] FairVote filed a policy brief in support of the legislation, writing, "We believe that the right to vote is a cornerstone of representative democracy that depends upon broadly defined voter eligibility, universal voter access to the polls, and election integrity."[65] FairVote has also advocated universal voter registration, a system in which all citizens of legal voting age would be registered to vote automatically.[66]

Research and reports

Election research

FairVote has conducted research on both presidential and Congressional elections. Most of its presidential election research focuses on the electoral college's effects on campaigning. In its 2012 Presidential Election analysis, FairVote documented the large disparity in both time and money spent in swing states (e.g., Florida) versus safe states (e.g., Maryland).[67] In addition, FairVote has begun publishing data on how much time sitting presidents spend in swing states.[68]

FairVote releases two main documents of Congressional research every election cycle. The first is "Monopoly Politics", which contains predictions and analysis for each race.[69] The second is "Dubious Democracy", an assessment of how competitive elections are by state and how much power votes have in each state.[70]

In addition to Monopoly Politics and Dubious Democracy, after the 2010 midterm elections FairVote released data on the effect of third-party and spoiler candidates. The report found that there were many districts in which the winning candidate did not receive a majority of the vote.[71]

Finally, FairVote created Representation 2020, a project that hopes to achieve parity in the numbers of men and women serving in elected office.[72] Representation2020 has since become a separate nonprofit called RepresentWomen; it is still closely aligned with FairVote.[73]

Involvement in court cases

FairVote has participated in a number of court cases as amici curiae to advance IRV and proportional voting methods, particularly under the California and federal Voting Rights Act.[74] Cases in which it has been involved include:

Sanchez v. City of Modesto (2007)

Sanchez v. City of Modesto (2007) dealt with the constitutionality of the California Voting Rights Act of 2001 (CVRA).[75]

After the California Superior Court of Stanislaus County declared the CVRA unconstitutional in favor of the City of Modesto, plaintiffs Enrique Sanchez, Emma Pinedo and Salvador Vera appealed to the Fifth Appellate District of the Court of Appeal of California.[75]

Along with Kathay Feng from the organization California Common Cause, FairVote submitted an amicus curiae brief in favor of the plaintiffs.[76]

FairVote argued that winner-take-all at-large voting systems caused "vote dilutions in jurisdictions affected by racially polarized voting, even where minority voters cannot form a majority in a single member district."[77]

Supporting the CVRA, FairVote viewed the law requiring courts to "fashion effective remedies to cure vote dilution affecting smaller and dispersed minority populations."[78]

Asserting that the CVRA allows California to become more representative of the people, FairVote concluded that the CVRA was an important and constitutional piece of government reform.[79] The Court of Appeal applied rational basis review to CVRA and declared the law constitutional, reversing the lower court's decision.[75]

United States v. Village of Port Chester (2008)

In December 2006, the United States Department of Justice alleged that Port Chester's at-large system of electing its board of trustees violated Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The US government claimed that the at-large electoral system denied the Hispanic population "an equal opportunity to participate in the political process and to elect representatives of their choice."[80]

In United States v. Village of Port Chester (2008), US District Judge Stephen Robinson of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York issued a decision that the Village's election system violated the Voting Rights Act and ordered remedial plans from all parties.[80]

The Defendants of the case, the Village of Port Chester, proposed cumulative voting as a remedy, which "allows citizens to cast multiple votes for a given candidate for a given seat."[81]

In 2007, the Brennan Center, representing FairVote as amicus curiae, submitted a brief supporting cumulative voting as a remedy, but also proposing another system known as "choice voting", a process of ranking candidates.[81] FairVote argued that "cumulative and choice voting avoid the necessity for deliberately drawing districts along racial lines" and that a winner-take-all system would not allow the Hispanic minority population to gain representation.[82]

FairVote also argued that cumulative voting is appropriate under the Voting Rights Act, as it "ensures the equal principle of "one-person, one vote"", is race-neutral, and that it is supported by case law and history.[83] On November 6, 2009, the Court did not accept choice voting but accepted Port Chester's remedy of cumulative voting. On June 16, 2010, Port Chester elected its first Latino to the Board of Trustees.[81]

Minnesota Voters Alliance v. City of Minneapolis (2009)

FairVote Minnesota is an independent ally of FairVote.[84][85]

FairVote Minnesota, siding with the City of Minneapolis, served as intervenor-respondent in Minnesota Voters Alliance v. City of Minneapolis, a case that was attested at the Minnesota Supreme Court.[86]

Minnesota Voters Alliance v. City of Minneapolis dealt with the constitutionality of IRV, which was adopted by the City of Minneapolis for its municipal elections.[87]

Minnesota Voters Alliance, a nonprofit organization that served as the appellants, argued that the "method violates their right to vote, to associate for political purposes, and to equal protection under both the United States and the Minnesota Constitutions".

Siding with the city, FairVote Minnesota stated that instant-runoff voting (IRV) is a form of IRV that allows voters to rank multiple candidates on a single ballot.[88] They argued that this form of voting has legitimate policy reasons, such as simplifying the election process, saving money, increasing voter turnout, ensuring more diverse representation, and promoting civil election campaigns.[89]

In its defense of the City of Minneapolis, FairVote argued that the appellants bore a "heavy burden of persuasion" because they brought a facial challenge to IRV's constitutionality[90] and that "Minneapolis IRV is constitutional because it is supported by legitimate interests, imposes no burden on the right to vote, and applies to all voters".[91]

The Court affirmed the lower district court's ruling that IRV does not infringe on the appellants' constitutional rights, thus rejecting the Minnesota Voters Alliance's challenge to IRV.[87] After the result, Jeanne Massey, executive director of FairVote Minnesota, applauded the decision and said that the Court "blazed a path that every community in our state can follow toward better elections and a stronger democracy" and that the decision was "a resounding endorsement of ranked choice voting".[92]

Jauregi v. City of Palmdale (2014)

Juan Jauregui, the plaintiff, filed a complaint in April 2012 alleging that Palmdale's at-large method of electing members to its City Council resulted in vote dilution for Latino and African American residents.[93]

The lawsuit claimed that Palmdale's at-large method denied minority residents effective political participation and thus violated the California Voting Rights Act (CVRA).[93] The case was brought up to Judge Mooney of the Superior Court of the State of California in the County of Los Angeles. In July 2013, Mooney declared that the CVRA vested the court in implementing appropriate remedies in favor of the plaintiffs.[94]

The City of Palmdale immediately appealed the decision, reasoning that in 2001 Palmdale residents voted for an at-large election system.[95] The case reached the California Court of Appeal in the Second Appellate District.

In January 2014, FairVote submitted an amicus curiae brief in support of the plaintiffs.[96]

FairVote argued that fair representation voting, unlike at-large systems, enhanced minority groups to elect at least one candidate of their choice.[97] FairVote advocated for a number of alternative methods, such as ranked choice voting, single voting, and cumulative voting.[98] The City of Palmdale opposed FairVote's participation, arguing that the amicus brief "threatens significant prejudice to the City", as it would continue to delay the certification of the city's November 2013 election.[99] The California Court of Appeal denied FairVote's application to file as amicus curiae.[74]

See also

References

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  2. ^ a b "IRS Form 990". FairVote. Retrieved 16 December 2020.
  3. ^ a b "Who We Are". FairVote. Archived from the original on 7 December 2015. Retrieved 3 April 2014.
  4. ^ "PR Web Sites". Mount Holyoke College. Retrieved 3 April 2014.
  5. ^ "Reforms". FairVote. Retrieved 3 April 2014.
  6. ^ "Celebrating 10 Years of Seeking Fair Elections! A Special Anniversary Edition". FairVote. Retrieved 25 March 2014.
  7. ^ "OUR TEAM". FairVote. Retrieved 22 September 2023.
  8. ^ Laugle, Laura. "Proportional Representation in Cincinnati". University of Cincinnati. Retrieved 25 March 2014.
  9. ^ "Celebrating 10 Years of Seeking Fair Elections!". FairVote. Retrieved 25 March 2014.
  10. ^ "Dubious Democracy". FairVote. Retrieved 25 March 2014.
  11. ^ "What's Your Preference? - October 23, 1996". SF Weekly. 1996-10-23. Retrieved 2019-01-15.
  12. ^ Cook, Charles. "New Study Identifies 75 Seats That Should Be In Play for '98 Election". Roll Call. Retrieved 25 March 2014.
  13. ^ "Where Instant Runoff Voting Is Used". FairVote. Retrieved 25 March 2014.
  14. ^ "IRV Bills Move Ahead". Ballot Access. Retrieved 5 April 2014.
  15. ^ "BIG GAINS FOR INSTANT-RUNOFF VOTING IN VERMONT, SOUTH CAROLINA AND ALABAMA". Ballot Access. Retrieved 5 April 2014.
  16. ^ "Maryland Legislature Passes Historic National Popular Vote Plan". FairVote. Archived from the original on 2 April 2015. Retrieved 5 March 2015.
  17. ^ "Oakland IRV: Yes on Measure O!". archive.fairvote.org. Retrieved 2019-01-15.
  18. ^ "Democracy Slam 2015". Event Mobi. Retrieved 9 April 2017.
  19. ^ "Maine Ranked Choice Voting Initiative, Question 5 (2016)". Ballotpedia. Retrieved 12 May 2019.
  20. ^ "Beyer Introduces Fair Representation Act To Reform Congressional Elections". Beyer.House.Gov. 26 June 2017. Retrieved 18 April 2021.
  21. ^ "2018 Program Highlights". FairVote. Retrieved 18 April 2021.
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  25. ^ "Oregon becomes the latest state to put ranked choice voting on the ballot". NBC News. 2023-06-27. Retrieved 2023-09-13.
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  28. ^ Anderson, John (September 28, 2007). "Let The Most Popular Candidate Win". Christian Science Monitor. Retrieved 25 March 2014.
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  31. ^ Levien, Andrea (November 29, 2013). "In Va. Politics, The Glass Ceiling Has Few Cracks". The Washington Post. Retrieved 25 March 2014.
  32. ^ Shin, Annys (November 3, 2013). "Takoma Park 16-year-old Savors His History Making Moment at the Polls". The Washington Post. Retrieved 25 March 2014.
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  34. ^ Fender, Jessica (October 14, 2008). "Cracking the CoDA: Liberal Web Effective". The Denver Post. Retrieved 25 March 2014.
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