Voice for Democracy


Newsletter of Californians for Proportional Representation

May-June 2001

US/Statewide Election System Studies by the League of Women Voters

by Paula Lee

    At it's 2001 President's Council in Washington D.C. the LWVUS  (League of Women Voters, US) appointed a task force to pursue the funding for a national study of election systems.  The shortage of staff resources at the LWV national office still exists however; the appointment of the volunteer task force is a positive step.  The task force, chaired by LWVUS Board member, Joan Paik has 4 members and two are LWV members from California... Doris Fine and Paula Lee.  The task is to obtain outside funding for the national study by December 2001.

    The state study has been completed with Local Leagues in the state sending in final results from 5 key questions they answered using the League's consensus process.  The results are being analyzed and I should be able to give you a detailed report in the next newsletter. This information on election systems was new to members of the League and generated lots of god discussion about what we really want to achieve in an election system.  The actual mechanics of how votes are counted using Choice Voting, Mixed Member Proportional were often confusing for members but this initial exposure to elections systems was a great start.  Many LWV members commented on how much they learned about our current winner take all system and there was general consensus statewide that ours is a system that has many problems for the voter. 

    Minds were opened and exposed to the more fair alternatives that advanced election systems offer the electorate.  If California Leagues take another look at election systems through the national study, we will have a large statewide civic organization well educated about election systems.  As a result of the state study, many members already have a new interest and learning more about PR and IRV.  And some will work to see IRV and PR adopted in their communities.


A note from the President

      Just a short President's note this issue.  As most of you know, in May 2000 you voted to drop the "Northern" from our name and become simply Californians for Proportional Representation.  We subsequently increased our membership in Southern California, and at the May 2001 Annual General Meeting you elected Casey Peters of Los Angeles to our Board.  This past Saturday (as I write this) we held our first teleconferenced Board meeting.  We are learning how to truly function as a statewide organization, and I find that very exciting.

     In any volunteer membership organization, one can classify the members into three groups.  By far the largest group consists of the "paper" members; you support CPR's goals and pay your dues, and perhaps find time to read the newsletter, but you rarely go to meetings or respond to action alerts. Despite your apparent lack of activity, you are the lifeblood of the organization, as you provide the financial resources that allow CPR to function.
      The next group consists of the volunteers. You may or may not go to meetings, but you will call or write your elected officials, or help staff a table at an event, or maybe even speak to a group.  If we have something for you to do, you will do it.  You are the muscle of the CPR, as you provide the human resources that allow CPR to accomplish its goals.
      The third group, the activists, is also the smallest.  Not only do you go to meetings, you even help run them.  You participate in the discussions that set the direction of your chapter, or of CPR as a whole.  You are the brains of CPR, as you provide the ideas and determine the strategy and tactics we need to accomplish our goals.
      What I really like is that no one is locked into any particular category.  Volunteers can become activists, paper members can become volunteers, and everyone can recruit new members.  I started out as a paper member, became a volunteer, and then an activist, and if I can do it, so can you.
      Consider increasing your level of activity, and let us know what kinds of things you'd like to do.
--Steve Chessin


New Board elects new officers

The newly elected Board of CPR met by teleconference on June 23rd and elected their principal officers as follows: President – Steve Chessin, Executive Vice-President – Rob Latham, Secretary – Matt Grossman, Treasurer – Dave Kadlecek and Chief Financial Officer – Marda Stothers.  The Vice- Presidents with Portfolios were mostly confirmed as well. Co-VPs for Outreach are Casey Peters and Jim Lindsay. VP of Membership is Rob Latham. Co-VPs for Legislation are Paula Lee and Pete Martineau. VP of Finance is Marda Stothers. VP of Local Chapters is to be determined   – The Editor


A Summary of the May 12th and 13th AGM and Retreat by Rob Latham

    The May 12 Annual General Meeting: Alameda County Supervisor Keith Carson delivered the keynote address, detailing the gross disparity between the percentages of racial groups in the general population, and representation on city and county councils.

     Although unfamiliar with proportional representation as an electoral system, Supervisor Carson expressed support for the concept of proportional representation in government - actually endorsing the concept in response to a question from Ed Teyssier during the subsequent Q&A.
    Following the keynote address, candidates for CPR's Board fielded questions from the audience about their goals and views.  While Steve Willett tallied the ballots, Caleb Kleppner reported that the Center for Voting and Democracy (CVD) has seen a dramatic increase in both interest in electoral reform and funding for its projects since the 2000 elections.
    The Retreat on May 13: Thirteen CPR members attended the Annual Retreat at the Center for Third World Organizing, which rents out its spacious Victorian home in Oakland's San Antonio district for affordable rates.
    The purpose of the retreat is to set the course for CPR for the coming year. To that end, the participants brainstormed issues to discuss. Alas, the group's imagination exceeded the constraints of the time available.
    Still, a lot of time was spent discussing the various activities of CPR, referring to as "portfolios." For example, CPR's bylaws authorize its president to appoint, and the Board to ratify, several portfolio Vice Presidents. The retreat group discussed whether certain portfolios were rightly sized, and sought support from those in attendance to work on those activities.
    For Outreach, the retreat group identified upcoming redistricting hearings at the city, county and state level as an excellent opportunity to promote multi-member districts as an alternative to line-drawing battles. Actors, scriptwriters, and other members of the entertainment industry, as well as lawyers challenging redistricting plans were identified as potential publics to reach out to.

    The group also explored following CalIRV's model of coalition-building that has seemed to work so effectively.
    In the Legislative portfolio, the group felt it important to continue to identify relevant legislation and recommend strategy. Raising CPR's visibility with the media and developing electoral reform vocabulary and concepts were the two goals proposed for the Information portfolio. A consensus supported the development and more widespread distribution of informational brochures, as well as a California version of the CVD's "Dubious Democracy" report.
    Building CPR's membership among groups currently not represented in the organization was the goal set for the Membership portfolio.

    Tabling at relevant events was identified as an activity belonging in the Membership portfolio. The retreat group recommended that the Board take a position on voting equipment, and establish relationship with the Secretary of State's office, as well as future candidates for that office.
    Following the brainstorming session, the group reviewed the progress made on the action items established at the prior year's retreat. CPR followed through on making sure that San Francisco's RFP for new voting equipment required compatibility with IRV/PR. Efforts to create a presence in Southern California were also successful, although formal chapters still need to be established. Action items that weren't completed included and audit of CPR's books, and obtaining mailing lists from like-minded publications and organizations. Partial success was achieved on publicizing CPR's role in the KPFA election, as well as publicizing the election (which used a modified form of PR), updating CPR's website, the preparation of a budget and mailing of the newsletter.
    The retreat group reviewed the relationship between CPR and CalIRV, the sharing of mailing lists, legislative strategy, and discussed a possible umbrella organization that could include both CPR and CalIRV. The group felt that the addition of Dave Robinson to CPR's Board should enhance the cooperation between the two organizations.
    I led a workshop summarizing 36 actions one can take to build media awareness for electoral reform. I encouraged the group (and readers of this newsletter) to contact reporters covering redistricting stories and encourage them to include the PR angle. I want to encourage local chapters and members to keep their eyes open for stories that mention CPR, and inform the Information VP of those articles, or better yet clip the article and mail it to CPR for archiving and fundraising purposes.
    The retreat group next made recommendations for the composition of the incoming Board and
portfolio VPs. (See page one for the later Board

   Steve Chessin and I then demonstrated our slideshow presentation on PR & IRV to the group and generally discussed ways to talk about PR.
Caleb Kleppner showed the group how to use the process of selecting toppings for a pizza among several competing tastes as a way to pitch
the fairness of PR.
    After creating a Board and Coordinating Committee meeting schedule for the coming year, and established a list of action items arising from decisions made at the meeting.


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Local Chapters and Contacts


San Diego County Contact is Edward Teyssier, 858-546-1774/email at  edward@k-online.com 


Southern California Contact is Casey Peters (213)-385-2786/email at proprep@hotmail.com


Monterey County Contact is Nat Lerner (831)-442-1238/email at natscottl@yahoo.com


South Bay Chapter Contact is Jim Stauffer (408)-432-9148 /email at jstauffer@igc.org


San Francisco Chapter Contact is Betty Traynor (415)-558-8133/email at btraynor@energy-net.org


East Bay Chapter Contact is David Greene (510)-658-3085/email at dmgreene@igc.org (new email)


Sacramento County Contact is Pete Martineau (916)-967-0300/email at petemrtno@aol.com


El Dorado County contact is Paula Lee (530)-644-8760/email at paulalee@jps.net


North Bay Contact is Wayne Shepard (707)-5520-5317/email at paldebits@juno.com


Vice-President of Local Chapters (acting) is Rob Latham  (510) 632-1366 x116/email at freeca@msn.com



Voice for Democracy is published by Californians for Proportional Representation (prior to May 2000 Northern California Citizens for Proportional Representation). Our web site at http://fairvoteca.org may have more current information. Please submit articles or letters for publication to: c/o Nat Lerner, Voice for Democracy, 68 Penzance Street, Salinas, CA. 93906-1339 or e-mail to natscottl@yahoo.com



How the Swiss do it! (List PR)

This is the first of three brief articles on the three main types of Proportional Representation showcasing the historical/cultural environment where they occurred as well as the technical background of the specific type of PR.


      Switzerland was one of the first countries to use the List form of Proportional Representation. With a population divided into German, French and Italian speakers, a unified nation required recognition and respect for all major groups. PR satisfies that requirement.

      List PR requires each party to provide an ordered list of candidates. Voters vote for the party of their choice and the votes for each party are counted. Depending on the percentage of votes they receive, each party is awarded their proportional number of seats filled by the top listed candidates. For example, if a party has 8% of the vote for a 50-seat assembly they would expect 4 seats. The first four candidates on their list would fill these seats.

       List PR is the simplest form of PR for the voter and is used in most European democracies.  The United Kingdom used this form for their European Union elections in 1999 for the first time.

      Variations within List PR include different ways of allocating seats, allowing the voters to change the order of the party’s candidates and using a threshold (such as 4%) to limit those parties that qualify for consideration.

       For more information go directly to the CVD information page at http://www.fairvote.org/pr/intro.htm










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