Voice for Democracy


Newsletter of Californians for Proportional Representation

*November-December 2000

Victories in Oakland and San Leandro!

Opportunities state and nationwide!


IRV victories in two Alameda County cities are described by Caleb Kleppner, while in Washington a bipartisan Federal Election Review Commission has been proposed. Although not mentioned in most press releases, the bill itself includes proportional representation and instant runoff voting among the proposed topics of analysis. It includes funding of $2 million. Meanwhile back in California, Bill Jones, Secretary of State has proposed a $230 million funding for new ballot counting equipment which if accepted would trigger the San Leandro move to IRV and remove the cost argument against electoral change Statewide.  PLUS lots more inside this bumper holiday edition………. EDITOR.


 From: Caleb Kleppner, Majority Rule Project Director, Center for Voting and Democracy. 11/8/2000

Voters in two California cities passed initiatives to allow the use of instant runoff voting in local elections.
    In San Leandro, voters overwhelming adopted Measure F, which institutes two round runoff elections for local office with the option of using an instant runoff when the voting equipment is ready. In Oakland, voters passed an initiative to use a special election to fill vacancies on the city council.  This measure includes several measures to boost voter participation in special elections, which is typically quite low, including instant runoff voting, mail voting, extended voting periods and more.
    San Leandro and Oakland are both in Alameda County.  The county is exploring new voting equipment and is leaning toward touch screen equipment.  The county registrar is aware of the issue, and it seems likely that both cities will be able to adopt instant runoff voting within in the next couple years without any concern for the cost or compatibility of the voting equipment. (continued on page 2)

November 15, 2000 WASHINGTON, DC

    Reps. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) and Jim Leach (R-Iowa) introduced a bill in the House of Representatives yesterday to establish a bipartisan Federal Election Review Commission, to examine the federal electoral process. The ongoing presidential election has brought attention to the sometimes awkward nature of America's current electoral process. The commission would study the federal electoral process and make recommendations to ensure the integrity of, and public confidence in, future federal elections.
"States and counties across the country encounter the same problems election year after election year," said DeFazio. "However, this year's presidential election has put a spotlight on the issue. It's time we gather constitutional scholars and election experts together to review the electoral process, and identify areas that warrant reform in order to avoid the confusion that we're encountering this year and restore public confidence in the system." (continued on page 3)

Get inspired!

Co-President calls for action.


Wow, what an exciting time to be involved in the electoral reform movement!
The trick is how to capture the interest and funnel it into productive action and change.  More people than ever are interested in how we elect our representatives and how our democracy works.  With Doug Amy's new book on the market and the League of Women Voters national study on Election Systems we have a lot of opportunity to educate the public and set change into motion. 
Our own organization is moving towards setting up the SACTO/YOLO county chapter and the LA county chapter.  We had a group from the Davis Green party some of whom are CPR members attend our Coordinating/Board meeting to check us out.  We hope like the rest of us they will find a little of their time to engage with us and spread the work in SACTO/YOLO county.   Electoral
reform is the only way the Greens and other minority parties can get more representation. 
Casey Peters and Dan JW are willing to get our chapter going in Los Angeles.
Nat and Rob have changed portfolios so Rob is now Vice President in charge of local chapters.  If you have other leads for Southern California pass
them on to Rob Latham.
Again let me remind you to check out our website and the CVD website.  Get inspired and take action.

Marda Q Stothers, Co President,  Californians for Proportional Representation





CPR member, John Reynolds dies at age 77


    I'm very sorry to report that John Reynolds passed away, on November 6th.  He was 77 years old, and was healthy enough recently to take an extended sailboat trip with his dear wife Ann and some friends recently.  So his death was a bit of shock to all of us.  For those of you
that weren't fortunate enough to know him, I'd like to tell you a little about him.
    John was a key volunteer and leader in the East Bay Chapter of CPR.  He chaired the Berkeley-Albany-Emeryville LWV (League of Women Voters) study on IRV.  Just last month, the League endorsed IRV.  He was also going to
chair the local LWV participation in the statewide elections system study.  He was a regular attendee at chapter meetings, and was a very
valuable person to have at meetings.
    He was a retired Physics professor at UC Berkeley.  He learned about PR when he went to school in Cambridge, where of course they use Choice Voting.  John was a true gentleman, in the best sense of the term, and had a sharp intellect.  The combination of his brainpower, his ability to lead, his sincerity, and his charm, made for a powerful and very positive presence.  All of us that have worked with him will miss him very much.

-- Jim Lindsay, co-founder of CPR




Victories in Oakland and San Leandro (continued from page 1)

    These developments may seem modest, but the historical context suggests a hopeful trend.  In November 1998, voters in Santa Clara County (CA) adopted the first instant runoff voting initiative anywhere in the United States in 23 years.  The previous success had been in Ann Arbor (MI), which used IRV for single mayoral election in 1975.  In November 1999, voters in Vancouver (WA) passed an initiative to allow the use of IRV.
    This year, voters adopted two IRV enabling measures, and in one case, Oakland, the Center for Voting and Democracy played a minor role.  This means that Oakland was a largely local effort, which shows that the support for IRV is growing in the public at large.
    The outcome of the presidential election, will increase calls to abolish the Electoral College.  The Center advocates such a development, but we believe that it is important to require provisions that ensure the winner receives majority support.  We lay out our case in a commentary being published in the Hartford Courant on November 9.  You can read it on our website at: http://www.fairvote.org/op_eds/electoral_college.htm

The time is now - let's seize the day!

Federal Election Review Commission (continued from page 1)


    "We live in a country with a long democratic tradition, but governmental stability requires the unquestioned legitimization of our elections.

    America loves a close contest, but little is more discombobulating than the appearance of a draw, if precise techniques for resolving razor-thin vote margins are not in place," said Representative Jim Leach, who has introduced in this Congress as well as prior Congresses, legislation to reform the Electoral College.
    The DeFazio-Leach bill, HR 5631, would establish a bipartisan commission comprised of six members designated by House and Senate majority leaders, and six members appointed by House and Senate minority leaders. The commission would review a variety of issues including the historic rationale for the Electoral College and its impact on Presidential elections, voter registration issues (same-day, universal, and motor voter), mail-in balloting and absentee balloting, voting technologies, polling location and closing times, impact of ballot design, weekend voting or multiple day elections, and presidential debates.
    "Elections are the foundation of our democracy," said DeFazio. "Every American's vote should count and not be subject to elimination by a machine or human error. It is clear there are improvements that can be made to insure the safety of a person's vote, and the integrity of the entire process. This historic situation clearly illustrates that every vote is important, and we should take this opportunity to make needed changes in the system."
    The legislation requires a final report to be submitted to Congress including the commission's findings, conclusions, and recommendations for addressing the problems identified in their investigation. 


KPFA election a success!


    This may be small potatoes amidst the electoral excitement, but count it as a victory.
    Many of you helped out beginning a year ago when we first started the work towards designing and holding elections for the Local Advisory Board of Berkeley's community radio station KPFA, part of (for now!) the Pacifica Network.
    We concluded the election this week as the Board certified our results; those of us who participated truly empathize with the workers in Florida -we had our own share of irregularities, documented in my full report, which I'll forward to anyone who's interested. Lots to build on for next time. 
    Thumbnail of the election: With 22,000 ballots mailed out, voters cast 5500 votes (25% return) by mail(5000 ballots) and Internet (500 ballots). Internet voting was supported by eBallot.net thanks to Caleb Kleppner's savvy negotiations. Steve Willett gave a command performance running the count using a modified ChoicePlus.
    26 candidates ran for 11 seats, elected using Choice voting w/Droop threshold and fractional transfers, with gender and ethnicity quotas (Final
Board has 14 - 11 plus three grandfathered members from previous Board -and a min/max of 6/8 men, women, people of color, and whites).
    We noted that with the pure Choice vote results (before the quotas were exercised) the gender /ethnicity balance of the 11 winners exactly matched the balance in the candidate pool (12/26 women candidates to 5/11 winners; 8/26 POC cand to 3/11 winners); we may use this to argue for removing the quotas in future elections if the candidate pool is 'balanced'.
    Again, contact me (see Chapter Contacts) if you'd like the full report - I've also got the data for anyone who'd like to play with the numbers. Both will be posted at http://www.cfdp.org shortly. Also, we think this merits a formal write-up, can anyone suggest a proper forum?
    Finally, thanks to all who generously gave support, advice, and real effort to pull this off - CVD and CPR organizationally as well as the individual contributions of Caleb and Steve, Steve Chessin, Rob Richie, Les Radke, Jim Lindsay, Dave Kadlecek joined many others within the KPFA community.
    One side benefit: During ballot processing we discovered one of our local CPR members who remembers hand-counting choice ballots at Antioch in the '30's - I'm going to get more stories from her soon!

Cheers - David Greene.

California Congressional Elections

Winner-take-all voting system exposed!

by Nat Lerner


This year, over 10 million votes were cast for California’s 52 members of the House of Representatives. 32 seats went to Democratic Party candidates and 20 to Republican Party candidates. While at first glance the distribution of seats appear unfair, they are not as bad as most winner-take-all election results, perhaps because the Reform and Green parties did not field candidates except in a few districts.



    Instead of concentrating on the affect of the voting system on choices for voters and fairness to the smaller parties (which we often do), let’s look at what it does for fairness to the voter and the concept of representative accountability.

Fairness to the voter?: If you voted for a winning candidate, you might presume the voting system was at least fair to you, right? Wrong! The winner with the most votes in California (District 4) had over 3 times the votes of the winner with the least votes (District 33). And the District with the most votes cast overall (District 10) had over 4 times the votes cast in the District with the least votes cast overall (District 33 again).



Fairness to the voter? (part 2): If you voted for a losing candidate, of course, you haven’t got a representative in any real sense. But you wouldn’t be alone. 35% of the votes cast this year were ‘wasted’ on losing candidates. And since most races are highly predictable (see Rob Richie’s article), most of these voters knew that there votes would be wasted before they even cast them! This shows the voters’ great respect for preserving the right to vote, but little respect to the voter by the winner-take-all voting system!

Surplus votes?: Because you only need one vote more than the 2nd place candidate, the winners actually only needed 30% of the total votes cast to win – the remaining 35% (which were also cast for the winners) were actually surplus! These voters could have stayed at home and achieved the same result!



Accountability: When a winning candidate has so many surplus votes (because the threshold is actually quite low), he/she can quite effectively ignore the wishes of a large group of supporters especially if they are unlikely to vote for the #2 candidate, but merely stay at home. Of course some races are close – but not many! This year 7 winners had a victory margin of under 10%, 5 between 10%-20%, but 40 had over a 20% margin of victory. This will not improve after the 2001 redistricting exercise.



Mark Your Diary !


Los Angeles November 29th

A pot-luck dinner party on Wednesday, November 29, 6 to 9 p.m. at 446 S. Van Ness Ave., Los Angeles 90020(2-story brown craftsman house with a big tree located 2 blocks north of Wilshire Blvd., and 5 blocks west of Western Ave.)
discussion topic:"HOW WE CAN DEMOCRATIZE AMERICA'S ELECTION LAWS TO MAKE EVERY VOTE COUNT" with special guest: Dan Johnson-Weinberger of Illinois Citizens for Proportional Representation

Help us organize Southern California chapters of CPR Californians for Proportional Representation (for further information call Casey Peters at (213) 385-2786)


Oakland December 6th

Next meeting of East Bay CPR will be held Wednesday, 6 December. Call David Greene at (510)-658-3085  for location and time.


San Francisco December 14th

National Lawyers Guild Forum - Panel discussion on Electoral Reform on Thursday, December 14th, 7 to 9 p.m.  Steve Hill, among others, is a panelist and PR and IRV will be discussed.  Call Betty Traynor at (415)-558-8133 for details.


Do you want this newsletter by e-mail?

If you want an e-mailed newsletter in Word 2000 format instead of on paper, send your name and e-mail address to membership@fairvoteca.org


Local Chapters and Contacts


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 david@diana.lbl.gov


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


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


Vice-President of Local Chapters 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://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




Holiday Gift that will last a whole year!


    You’ve mentioned electoral reform to your friends and they are ‘sort of’ interested, but are always ‘too busy’ to join CPR Well how about treating them to a one year membership in CPR? We’ll include your name in the address line (from you).


    Just complete the form below and send it with $25.00 check made out to CPR to:-


 P.O. Box 128 Sacramento, California 95812


Please enroll:______________________









From (your name) ___________________


A message from Rob Richie,  director of Center for Voting and Democracy (11/22/2000)

    I wanted to alert you to the remarkable moment we have for proposing significant reforms to our electoral system. The drama in Florida has immediate consequences for control of the White House, but it also is triggering a spirited conversation about modernizing our frequently antiquated electoral rules and practices -- from outdated voting equipment to the Electoral College, plurality voting and winner-take-all elections themselves.

    In the past two weeks, our Center's staff has been on a rollercoaster ride of television, radio  and newspaper interviews and outreach to a growing chorus of reformers and concerned citizens who support reform.

    As examples of surprising election 2000 statistics, note that (1) Al Gore ultimately will have received more popular votes than any presidential candidate in history except Ronald Reagan in 1984, but George Bush will have won more popular votes than Gore in four times as many counties across the nation. (2) The National Journal reports that States without a single campaign visit from the presidential candidates between April 1 and the election included Idaho, Utah, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, Mississippi, South Carolina, Hawaii, Delaware and Vermont.  In addition, four of the nation's top eight media markets -- Boston, Dallas, New York City, and Washington, DC -- had a grand total of six presidential ads aired, while eight media markets in battleground states each aired more than 6,500 presidential ads.
    (3) In the mostly overlooked U.S. House races, there was remarkable stasis once again, with a near 99% incumbency re-election rate and a great chance for us to pat ourselves on the back: of 237 House races that we predicted would be won by "landslides" of more than 20% in a publication distributed at our November 1998 conference in Minneapolis, fully 236 were indeed won by landslide -- with the remaining seat "only" being won by 18%.)






Voice for Democracy


P.O. Box 128

Sacramento, California 95812