Voice for Democracy


Newsletter of Californians for Proportional Representation

September-October 2000

On to November!


September is here.  Elections are coming.  We are each back in a groove if we have one.  After a summer hiatus let's get back to work on PR!  I'm excited about the progress with the League of Women Voters study (see article). 

Paula Lee of our Board did a fabulous job of getting voting systems onto the League study agenda.  We have new brochures from CVD.  The orange one on PR and the blue one on IRV.  They are available for anyone to use.  Contact Caleb Kleppner or Steve Hill.  We held our second annual planning and strategy retreat and considered it a success.  Rachel Richmond (from the staff of the Alameda County Board of Supervisors) volunteered her time and facilitated training for us and help us focus on strategic actions.


Our push this year in addition to the League study is to expand to Southern California.  If any of our members know of activists in the Los Angeles or the San Diego area please talk to them.  Several of our members attended and worked the conventions in Los Angeles to promote PR.  David continues to work with the KPFA elections educating that constituency on PR.  I'm very exciting and energized to hear the good things everyone is doing.  Please keep it up and keep the word going.


Pass your successes and ideas to the Board and to the website.  Visit the website and use it to share information.  The Board and VPs meet regularly.  If there are others who need our help or want to hear more from us speak up.  This organization exists to promote PR and our success comes from good strategy and as the membership is equipped.

Marda Quon Stothers, co-President.


League of Women Voters of the United States Adopts Study of Elections Systems

The League of Women Voters adopted a study of election systems at its national convention held in Washington D.C. this summer.  The League has organizations at the local, state and national level and only takes positions on issues that have been thoroughly studied by the membership and consensus on the position has been reached.  The organization can then advocate for League positions.

This study is the first step in this process and when funded, every local League in the country will have an opportunity to study our winner take all system as well as advanced election systems.  Currently there are four states that have adopted similar studies at the state level.  They are California, Washington, Georgia and Illinois.

The study will focus on election systems used to elect legislative bodies and executive officers at all levels of government.  The League of Women Voters at the national level has not adopted a national study in 10 years. Advocates of the study say this is a major step toward the League's mission to encourage citizen participation in government and the 80 year old League of Women Voters is the ideal organization to conduct a national study of election systems. Paula Lee, Board member.

Letter to the Editor


Dear Editor,
In response to Dr. Wilma Rule's latest first - the first Letter to the Editor of "Voice of Democracy:"

First, AB 172 passed the assembly last year but died in Senator Dede Alpert's education committee.  It was subsequently gutted at Governor Davis' behest.  The bill did not include list PR; it only mentioned cumulative voting and choice voting (STV).  We do not know if Assembly member Firebaugh will reintroduce his bill.  Folks interested in reviving and expanding this bill should contact Firebaugh, Alpert and Governor Davis.

Second, the League of Women Voters is doing exactly what Dr. Rule suggests.  The study committee developed an extensive list of criteria, and the first step for locals is to select criteria for evaluating voting systems.  This has already begun.  Locals will then apply the criteria to all voting systems and see if they can reach consensus positions on particular voting

Third, Dr. Rule raises her concerns about instant runoff voting, which she believes CPR and CVD should not advocate.  Since I, like many PR
activists, take Dr. Rule's advice and experience very seriously but nevertheless differ with her on this point, this seemed like a good opportunity to
 explain why I support the advocacy of IRV by CVD and CPR.

 Briefly, although IRV is a majoritarian system that would not significantly improve the representation of political minorities, it represents a substantial improvement over plurality and runoff elections, and it helps pave the way for future PR efforts.

I trust Dr. Rule appreciates the advantages of IRV over plurality and runoff elections.  I believe her opposition to IRV stems from a belief that organizations dedicated to PR should not promote winner-take-all voting  systems.

I agree with Dr. Rule that we should put all of our efforts into winning PR, but I believe that promoting IRV can be the best way to achieve PR in the long haul.  That's why it makes sense for both CVD and CPR to dedicate resources to both IRV and PR efforts.

 The implementation of IRV would accomplish several things:

 1) Empower more voters to vote sincerely for candidates they like
 2) Reduce wasted votes
 3) Introduce voters to ranking candidates
 4) Resolve problems with voting equipment that is incompatible with ranked ballots
 5) Show people that there are other voting systems and they can work much better than the status quo.

All of these would give voters good reasons to consider and support PR. Whenever we can make progress on PR, we should do so.  But in places where no one is listening to PR - if the media isn't interested, if politicians don't perceive a problem that needs fixing and if the public isn't
 interested - then promoting IRV may be a better investment of our scarce resources.

History provides little guidance on these matters, but Australia did adopt choice voting for national elections after IRV delivered disproportional results.  It's too soon to tell if this strategy will ultimately succeed in the United States, but the possibility of IRV leading to PR and the growing
 interest in IRV - legislation introduced in 7 states and passed in 2 localities, IRV used in 2 national and 1 local nominations and numerous organizations supporting and using IRV - tells me that we should continue this strategy.


Caleb Kleppner, Majority Rule Project Director, Center for Voting and Democracy


The views expressed in letters are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Californians for Proportional Representation, unless specifically stated by an authorized official.

News Items from San Francisco
July 28, 2000

Item #1: At the retreat there was interest in knowing what S.F. was doing about new voting equipment.  According to an article in last Saturday's (7/22) paper, the City has invested $3 million in a "high-tech optical scanning system" manufactured by Election System & Software of Omaha.  It involves connecting lines or arrows next to candidates names or Propositions to vote.  The ballots are recorded on a computer pack whose information will be transmitted to City Hall when polls close.  The City ordered 682 of these machines.  They have been used in San Mateo county since 1992. The Department of Elections had no printed information available to the public when I visited the office last week, but they are
anxious to demonstrate the new machines to groups.

Item #2: When IRV isn't Instant - The powerful Harvey Milk Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Democratic Club used IRV to select their picks for Supervisor for SF's upcoming District Elections.  But the Club requires that a candidate receive 60% of the vote and in the hotly contested District 6, neither of the top two candidates reached the 60% majority and so they will face a runoff August 22.

Betty Traynor, S.F. Local Coordinator


Speakers Needed in the South

As we expand in Southern California, we have a need for people who can speak on PR, and, ideally train others to speak on PR in areas south of  San Jose –notably San Diego and Los Angeles. If you have this ability and either live in Southern California or travel there then please contact Nat Lerner at 831-442-1238 or e-mail at natscottl@yahoo.com.


A Berkeley Success Story


For almost a year, the LWV of Berkeley, Albany, and Emeryville have been conducting a study of IRV.  The chapter recently held two meetings that all members were invited to attend ("units") to review the study committee's findings, and to see if a consensus could be reached.

In the units, a consensus *was* reached that the League should support IRV and should work for its adoption in Berkeley (the study was only about
local elections).  This is a great success, and we are very pleased with the results.  We were pleasantly surprised: even some highly skeptical
people were convinced that IRV is superior to plurality and runoff.  In fact, in each unit, the members that attended wanted stronger language than we proposed!

This is not absolutely final, but we believe we have jumped the biggest hurdle.  Next, the

(continued on page 4)


Local Chapter Contacts


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)-841-6761/email at david@diana.lbl.gov


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


Vice-President of Local Chapters is Nat Lerner (831) 442-1238 /email at natscottl@yahoo.com

Contact Numbers in Your Area
You can reach us by calling the local number in your area: 415-558-8133  831-442-1238  510-527-8025  650-962-8412  707-523-5317  916-967-0300  408-432-9148




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://www.fairvoteca.org may have more up to date information. Please submit articles or letters for publication to: c/o Nat Lerner, Voice for Democracy, 68 Penzance Street, Salinas, CA. 93906 or e-mail to natscottl@yahoo.com


(continued from page 3) ... consensus report will go to the League's Executive Board, and then to a larger membership meeting in September that will take the vote to officially adopt it as a League position. 


Old-timers in the League tell us that almost always, though, after a thorough study and units that take such a strong position, that the Board and then the membership go along with the units.

So, this bodes well for the future of IRV (and then PR) in Berkeley!  The League has tremendous credibility.  Our League may adopt this as an action item, but even if they don't, we activists will be well positioned to start some serious lobbying of the Berkeley City Council.  I imagine that the Council will refer it to one or more committee, such as the Charter Review Committee.  Then it will be placed on the ballot, perhaps in 2001 or 2002.

Study committee members were mostly, but not all, CPR members.  This was information we didn't hide.  Many of us are not strangers in the League, and so we had quite a bit of credibility even though we are CPR members that advocate IRV & PR.

If you have any IRV supporters who are also active in your League, you are well positioned for a study in your area.  It isn't that time consuming -- our group met once a month for a year.  And it can be very rewarding.  If you have more specific questions about the League's process, I suggest you contact Jean Safir  (jeansafir@att.ent) or Steve Chessin (steve.chessin@eng.sun).      Jim Lindsay






Voice for Democracy


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