Voice for Democracy


Newsletter of the Northern California Citizens for Proportional Representation

April- June1998


Rep. Sanchez is California’s first co-sponsor of H.R. 3068



            Rep. Loretta Sanchez is California’s first co-sponsor of H.R.3068, the Voter’s Choice Act* introduced on November 13, 1997 by Rep Cynthia McKinney. Original co-sponsors of the bill are: Eva Clayton, James Clyburn, Chaka Fattah, Jesse Jackson, Jr., and Eddie Bernice Johnson.        Other new sponsors are Alcee Hastings (Florida), Bernie Sanders, Melvin Watt, Barney Frank and Carrie Meek.  Congratulations to all twelve!

            It is still vitally important to get as many legislators as possible signed up for the bill. Now it is time for some co-sponsors from Northern California! We are including a preprinted postcard with this newsletter to help you with your lobbying efforts.

             ... Nat Lerner, Editor.

* The Act 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 the maximum threshold; the bill leaves it up to states to set a minimum threshold.)



            The 1998 Annual General Meeting will be held in San Francisco between 3pm and 6pm on May 23rd at a venue to be announced.

            The deadline for NCCPR Board candidates is April 15th (after the newsletter is  printed) so a list of candidates and their statements will be accompanying this newsletter. A long discussed by-law change (see page 2) will be put to the vote as well as firming plans for election year promotion of PR throughout Northern California.


PR - a diverse experience in Britain

            If anyone thought that Proportional Representation was a single voting system, then the British experiences of the last year were an eye-opener!

            First the elections for seats at the Peace Process in Northern Ireland were held using a list vote system, while the Irish General Election was held with its traditional Single Transferable Vote (“Choice Voting” ) system.

            Then it was announced that the elections for the European Parliament in 1999 will be held with a closed party list.

            The elections for the new Scottish and Welsh assemblies will use the “additional member” system (also called the Mixed Member Proportional (MMP) system).

            And a few weeks ago this system was also proposed for a new London Council while the next Mayor of London will be elected using the “supplementary vote” system (called the Instant Runoff Voting (IRV) system here).

            Despite the different labels, these dramatic events show us that even a bastion of “winner take all” voting systems such as the U.K. can change to fairer, more representative voting systems.

            Secondly, it shows that reform at local, regional and national level can occur at the the same time.


What’s happening in your neck of the woods

by Jim Lindsay, V.P. Local Chapters


            San Francisco CPR's main focus continues to be the campaign for IRV for mayor and other offices.  They meet monthly, and do regular outreach work in the City. They are looking towards possibly adopting another (smaller) project.  Contact Coordinator Wayne Shepard at 415/681-2580, pauldebits@juno.com, for more info.  The last meeting occured as we were going to press - on April 8th., 1998.

            Alameda County CPR's first project was to send out a questionairre to over 100 candidates for public office.  Members Joan Strasser, Dave Kadlecek and Jim Lindsay had the mailing party on Monday evening, March 30th.  Dave coordinated the effort.  The purpose is to educate and begin to lobby elected officials.  They've just started to get responses, they'll write an article for the next newsletter about how it went.  Besides followup on the questionairres, and associated lobbying, the chapter's next project is to do education in high schools and colleges and get student governments to use PR and IRV.  The chapter's next meeting will be Wednesday, May 20th, from 7 to 9pm.  For more information, contact coordinator Jim Lindsay at 510/527-8025, or at jimlindsay@earthlink.net.  Many thanks to CPR Buddies Preston Jordan, Joan Strasser, John Reynolds, Curt Gray, Ricardo Ochoa, and Dave Kadlecek!

            Sonoma County CPR is reorganizing.  They have a meeting scheduled for Monday, April 27th, at 7:30pm.  An ex-Mayor of Santa Rosa, Jim Pedgriff (hopefully spelled correctly!), is very supportive of PR and will be at the meeting.  Contact Coordinator Cathy Allio at 707/523-0440, callio7750@aol.com, for the location.  Cathy reports that members Al Liner and Mike Sandler will be the initial CPR Buddies for Sonoma County.  Thanks Al and Mike!

            A Sacramento County CPR is now very close to officially forming.  Their first meeting is scheduled for May 6th, at 7:30pm.  You can reach Coordinator Pete Martineau at 916/967-0300 or petemrtno@aol.com.

            Interested in forming a CPR chapter in your county?  Call me at 510/527-8025 or email me, and I'll help you make it happen.


By-Law Change on Board elections - To be voted on at the A.G.M.

At the January 10th., 1998 NCCPR Board meeting a discussion of the proposed change from the by-law committee resulted in the following text that was agreed by the Board. It was agreed to publish this proposed change in the newsletter and put it to a vote of the membership at the next  Annual General Meeting.




Instant runoff voting legislation update

            Legislation on instant runoff voting (also called the "alternative vote" -- it opens winner-take-all elections to more participation and majority winners, but is not a PR system) has now been introduced in three states -- Texas, Vermont and New Mexico. -- and it definitely has "tested" well in 1998.

            In New Mexico, a constitutional amendment was proposed to create an option for localities to use instant runoff voting (IRV) and to enact IRV for statewide offices such as governor. It died on a 4-4 vote in another committee, however,  -- but prospects look good for 1999.

            The Vermont bill not only calls for enacting IRV for statewide offices, but for federal elections, including that of president. A house committee held several hearings on the bill, and legislative leaders held serious discussions about it. The bill still may move in 1998; if not, creation of a commission to make a report on the bill is likely.

            The Texas bill would have allowed localities to replace traditional runoffs with IRV. It was introduced in 1997, but there was no session in 1998. The bill likely will be re-introduced in 1999, and supporters are optimistic. Legislators in at least three other states are considering IRV legislation.


One step backwards? ... Berkeley news

Former Board member, Eric Lund, wrote to us recently with the following story.

            I read in today's (Thursday, March 26) Valley Times that the Berkeley City council voted to have a proposition on the ballot that would end run-off elections for city offices, such as Mayor, city auditor, city council and require only a plurality to win.

            The proposal is by council member Donna Spring.  The stated motive is to save money, but others question if it is not to increase the election chances of a certain political faction, namely progressives.

            One of the city council members who voted for it said that this proposal would broaden, not restrict, democracy within Berkely.


Out of Africa

Following the President’s visit to Africa, Time magazine had an extensive number of articles on life in different parts of the continent. Pete Martineau replied to a particular piece as follows:

            In Africa Rising, Mar 30, you said, p. 46, 3rd paragraph, "Many African leaders... believe that real multiparty elections are a luxury these fragile states cannot afford...."   We must not yet be able to afford that luxury yet, either, as the U.S. is still stuck with a voting system that guarantees only the RepubliDems seats, while almost all the other developed democracies have several parties with seats and shared power.

            Both the blacks and whites in South Africa wanted and got a multi-party model of governance, which is working well. Time to look carefully at multi-party government for the U.S.

            Check out The Center for Voting and Democracy site at: www.ipc.apc.org/cvd/


US elections: the vanishing voter, one party government, more

            All indications point to a record-low voter turnout in 1998. Turnout in primaries has been extremely low -- only 11% of registered voters in Texas turned out for its recent primary for statewide and federal offices. Only 5% of registered voters turned out for a special state legislative election in New York.

            This year's turnout in House races will be barely a third of eligible voters -- far lower than national elections in other established democracies. Those not troubled by such apathy are students of wishful thinking, not history.

            Utah may take one-party elections a whole step farther. In a state where Bill Clinton won a third of the vote in 1996. From a March 28 article in the Desert News, entitled “Will Utah Demos run no legislative candidates at all in 2000?” By Bob Bernick Jr., Desert News political editor.

            Utah Senate Minority Leader Scott Howell says not to be too quick to condemn the state Democratic Party for not finding a candidate this year in the 3rd Congressional District.... If Democrats don't make "significant" gains in the Utah House and Senate this election, Howell predicts some startling actions. ...And in the 2000 elections Democrats might not encourage any legislative candidates to run, Howell says. .....the "No Democrats" alternative is viable. "The reality is we live in a one-party state. Maybe it's time to have no Democrats in the Legislature. Then let citizens see how they like that."


New Books and articles

Lani Guinier has a new book out called "Lift Every Voice" (Simon and Schuster).

 - Michael Lind's article in the March/April "Mother Jones"

 - A symposium on reforming U.S. House elections in the 3/98 "Political Science,"journal of the American Political Science Association, (with articles discussing PR at length by Wilma Rule, Joseph Zimmerman and Arend Lijphart)

 - A symposium on PR in the "Boston Review," with a lead article by Steven Hill, Rob Richie and eight responses.

 - A chapter on PR in "The Universe and the Teacup" by LA Times science writer K. C. Cole.

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.


Clinton in South Africa: praise for a constitution with PR


            When in South Africa last week, Bill Clinton praised the South African constitution, saying "Now the courage and the imagination that created the new South Africa and the principles that guide your constitution inspire all of us...."

            Note that South Africa enshrined the principle of PR in its constitution in December 1996, after the widely acknowledged role of PR in the 1994 elections in providing fair representation both among and within parties.


Oscars and PR

            "Titanic" was the big winner at the Oscars,but at least the nominations reflected a diversity of films and actors. That latter diversity was due in large part to the use of proportional representation in the nomination process -- the choice voting system of PR (e.g., "preference voting" / "single transferable vote") has been used for Oscar nominations for decades.

            Recent best film nominations for "The Full Monty" and "Il Postino" are likely examples of PR at work. Oscar winners are determined by a plurality count, however; likely that is due in part as a means to provide those surprise winners that keep some viewers tuned in to follow the proceedings. Methinks surprises in winning Oscars is more tolerable than unpleasant, plurality surprises in winning elections.


From Steve Chessin ... Composition of California and US legislative bodies ... The Facts

As of Thursday 9 April 1998, as compared to the 1990 Census figures. On April 7, The State Senate lost 1 black female,  CA (and US) Congress gained 1 white female, 1 black female.


                     State Assembly

       White  Black  AmerInd Asian Hisp.  Total  %     Census%

Male   47      4      0      2      7    60    75.0  50.1

Female 13      0      0      0      7    20    25.0  49.9

---    ---    ---    ---    ---    ---    ---    -----  -----

Total  60      4      0      2    14    80    100.0  100.0

 %     75.0    5.0    0.0    2.5  17.5  100.0

Census% 57.2    7.2    0.7    9.4  25.3  99.8 (0.2% "other")


                     State Senate

       White  Black  AmerInd Asian Hisp.  Total  %     Census%

Male   30      0      0      0      3    33    84.6  50.1

Female   3      2      0      0      1      6    15.4  49.9

---    ---    ---    ---    ---    ---    ---    -----  -----

Total  33     2      0      0      4    39(*1) 100.0  100.0

 %     84.6    5.1    0.0    0.0  10.3  100.0

Census% 57.2    7.2    0.7    9.4  25.3  99.8 (0.2% "other")

(*1) 1 vacancy; % computed based on 39, not 40.



              California Congressional Delegation

       White  Black  AmerInd Asian Hisp.  Total  %     Census%

Male   33      1      0      2      3    39    75.0  50.1

Female   8      3      0      0      2    13    25.0  49.9

---    ---    ---    ---    ---    ---    ---    -----  -----

Total  41      4      0      2      5    52    100.0  100.0

 %     78.8    7.7    0.0    3.8    9.6  100.0

Census% 57.2    7.2    0.7    9.4  25.3  99.8 (0.2% "other")



                     US Congress

       White  Black  AmerInd Asian Hisp.  Total  %     Census%

Male   336    26      0      4    14    380    87.8  48.7

Female 37    11      0      1      4    53    12.2  51.3

---    ---    ---    ---    ---    ---    ---    -----  -----

Total  373    37      0      5    18    433(*2)       100.0  100.0

 %     86.1    8.5    0.0    1.2    4.2  100.0

Census% 75.6  12.0    0.8    2.8    8.7  99.9 (0.1% "other")

(*2) 2 vacancies; % computed based on 433, not 435.