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April 3, 2013

"House committee approves bill that could limit primary run-offs"

The Montgomery Advertiser reports: A House committee Wednesday morning approved legislation that could curtail or eliminate primary run-offs in the state.

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Mike Ball, R-Madison, passed the House Constitution, Campaigns and Elections committee on a voice vote.

Currently, if no candidate receives a majority of the vote in a party primary, a runoff is held. Ball?s bill would change that to allow candidates that win at least 35 percent of the vote to receive their party's nomination, with no run-off.

Ball told the committee Thursday morning that Alabama was one of only a handful of states that continue to maintain primary run-offs, a practice he called expensive and generally redundant. -- Read the whole story --> House committee approves bill that could limit primary run-offs | The Montgomery Advertiser | montgomeryadvertiser.com

February 11, 2013

Bill proposes eliminating most runoffs in special primaries

The TimesDaily reports: A north Alabama lawmaker is kicking an idea around Montgomery that could dramatically change the state's election process.

Rep. Mike Ball, R-Madison, said he's researching and gathering opinions about discontinuing most party primary runoffs. He said he wants to file a bill to do so by the end of March.

"We go to the polls an awful lot in Alabama," Ball said last week. ...

Ball said he's considering a 35 percent threshold; as long as one candidate receives 35 percent or more of the vote in a primary, he or she would move on to the general election. -- Read the whole story --> Lawmaker suggests changes to runoffs - TimesDaily.com

March 27, 2012

Newt got 2nd in votes, but could finish 3rd in Alabama GOP primary

The Birmingham News reports: The Republican presidential candidates have long since left Alabama, but the delegate race is not over.

Because of a close race between second- and third-place finishers Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney and some voting precincts that are split between congressional districts, Alabama Republicans still aren't sure who will win one of the state's 50 delegates, said Alabama Republican Party Executive Director T.J. Maloney. ...

The GOP said its official statewide vote was Santorum with 34.55 percent; Gingrich with 29.28 percent; and Romney with 28.97 percent. So if the individual ballot analysis in those split precincts awards the last delegate to Romney instead of Gingrich, it would mean the third-place Romney would win one more Alabama delegate than second-place Gingrich, a bit of an anomaly.

Because no one candidate received more than 50 percent of the vote, Alabama's delegates were awarded proportionally, according to Republican National Committee rules. -- Read the whole story --> Alabama Campaign 2012: State's GOP delegate race for 2nd, 3rd not over | al.com

February 8, 2012

Decatur redistricts 5 districts, even though referendum adopted 3-district plan

The Decatur Daily editorializes: The Decatur City Council stepped into perilous territory Monday when it approved a redistricting plan that voters rejected in a 2010 referendum.

The council approved a five-district plan that retains a full-time mayor and five district council members. The referendum mandated a three-district plan and a switch to a council-manager form of government.

The city fluctuates between two theories to justify ignoring the referendum.
One, city officials say the U.S. Department of Justice basically rejected the three-district plan in a letter dated Dec. 19. Two, they argue that even if the Justice Department has not already rejected the three-district plan as violative of the Voting Rights Act, it would have eventually.

The Dec. 19 letter came in response to the city's initial application -- submitted in accordance with the referendum -- to change to three districts, none of which had a black majority. The letter from the Justice Department included the phrase, "the information sent is insufficient to enable us to determine that the proposed changes" comply with the Voting Rights Act. -- Read the whole editorial --> City rebuffs its voters - Decaturdaily.com

December 8, 2011

Alabama SOS opposed National Popular Vote plan

The Birmingham News reports: Alabama Secretary of State Beth Chapman said this morning that she is against a proposal to change the Electoral College system and award the presidency to the winner of the national popular vote.

"I do believe it is an end run around the Constitution," Chapman said during a panel discussion at the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank that opposes the National Popular Vote plan.

Chapman, a Republican, argued that a national popular vote would disenfranchise Alabama and other small states because presidential candidates would focus their campaigns on only the largest, most populous states.

Under the National Popular Vote plan, states would award their electoral college votes not to the winner of the popular vote within their state, but to the winner of the national popular vote. The proposal has been endorsed by nine state legislatures. -- Read the whole story --> Alabama Secretary of State opposes national popular vote | al.com

For background on Chapman's appearance and the GOP campaign against the National Popular Vote plan, see GOP Nonprofit Backs Electoral College.

October 18, 2010

Decatur: Census data will start legal fight over change in form of government

The Decatur Daily reports: The city of Decatur is about six months from kicking off what could become a protracted legal battle to change its form of government.

With census data due to the president in January and to state governors in March, City Planner Karen Smith says she expects to receive Decatur?s demographic information in April.
Redistricting

The numbers will allow her to draw a series of redistricting plans the city needs to seek federal approval to change its form of government. If successful, a professional city manager instead of an elected mayor will run Decatur?s day-to-day business beginning in November 2012.

But it is unclear if the city can create a passable three-district plan as required by the state law that allows the system of government and still maintain its racial-minority district as required by federal voting-rights laws. Read the whole story --> Data to start legal fight - Decaturdaily.com

July 25, 2010

Alabama needs instant-runoff voting

Alec Slatky begins his op-ed in the Birmingham News: The contentious Republican runoff for governor between Bradley Byrne and Robert Bentley has many Alabama political leaders thinking about possible reforms to the election process. Wary of an influx of Democratic voters who might decide the nomination contrarily to the preferences of the Republican Party and its members, GOP officials considered instituting a cross-over rule -- the Alabama Democratic Party already has one -- that would ban anyone who voted on a Democratic ballot in the primary from opting for a Republican ballot in the runoff.

The timing was too close for any changes to be made, and Bentley ended up winning by a 56-44 percent margin. But one potential reform for future primaries could resolve many problems with the status quo: instant runoff voting.

Instant runoff voting is designed to simulate a runoff election, but without the drawbacks of runoffs: low voter turnout, high cost to taxpayers, negative campaigning and potential for the lack of a crossover rule to lead to unrepresentative party nominees. It's been adopted to replace two rounds of voting in such cities as Oakland, Minneapolis and Memphis; has a long record of use in elections in dozens of major associations; and is used for overseas voters in Arkansas, Louisiana and South Carolina.

Voters rank candidates in order of preference, and if no candidate reaches the required threshold -- 50 percent in Alabama -- the top two candidates advance to a runoff, which can be held instantly. Ballots cast for the eliminated candidates are added to the totals of the runoff candidates based on whichever runoff candidate is ranked next on the ballot. That's it -- no need for a second election. Read the whole piece --> MY VIEW: True voting reform tops crossover rule | al.com

June 19, 2010

New York: Port Chester's use of CV results in first election of black and Hispanic to city government

The Washington Post reports: The court-ordered election that allowed residents of one New York town to flip the lever six times for one candidate - and produced a Hispanic winner - could expand to other towns where minorities complain their voices aren't being heard.

But first, interested parties will want to take a look at the exit surveys.

The unusual election was imposed on Port Chester after a federal judge determined that Hispanics were being treated unfairly. ...

Voters also elected a black trustee for the first time: Joseph Kenner, a Republican who was already on the board as an appointee. Read the whole article --> Vote system that elected NY Hispanic could expand

May 11, 2010

UK's possible alternative election systems

BBC has good guide to electoral systems -->
BBC News - Q&A: Electoral reform and proportional representation

May 7, 2010

Britain: a "broken" election system

While everyone is talking about a "hung parliament" and the "squatter on Downing Street," take a look at this table of the election results I prepared. Among the three largest parties, Labour was most efficient, turning out one seat for each 33,350 voters. The Conservatives were close behind, with a votes/seat ratio of 34,989. But the Liberal Democrats had 119,788 for each seat they won.

You can see why the Lib Dems want a proportional system.

May 6, 2010

Britain: will PR come in because of this election?

The Christian Science Monitor reports: British voters taking part in a photo-finish election went to the polls today in what could be the last-ever poll held under a centuries old system if the British election 2010 results are as close as current polls indicate.

With Britain's "first past the post" electoral system under close scrutiny, some here are worried that the ruling Labour party could win the most parliamentary seats even if it comes third in the national popular vote.

“It would be odd, but it can occur,” says Professor Cees van der Eijk of the University of Nottingham, who studies political behavior. “When it happened a number of times in a row New Zealand, it generated enough distress and disquiet that the system was changed.”

Britain, too, could be on the brink of change.

While most parliamentary systems select MPs based on proportional representation – with each party given a number of seats roughly equal to its proportion of the national vote – British electoral districts operate similarly to those in the United States, in which winners take all. Read the whole story --> If British election 2010 results trump popular vote, what next? - CSMonitor.com

Update: A video on The Big Money's Feeling Lucky blog explains how PR works.

October 2, 2009

Germany's election results give an unproportional Bundestag

Renard Sexton writes on Five Thirty Eight.com about the recent German election: In 2009, however, the clash between district-based seats and the overall popular vote (done by party list) resulted in a significant shift in the allocation of Bundestag seats -- almost enough to change the result. -- Read the whole story --> FiveThirtyEight: Politics Done Right: Proportional Voting? Well, Kinda

September 26, 2009

Alabama: Calera will use limited voting; DOJ approves new election date

The Birmingham News reports: Calera officials received permission Friday from the U.S. Department of Justice to proceed with Nov. 10 municipal elections.

The decision came 13 months after city leaders learned that the Justice Department would not accept the voting boundaries used in the 2008 municipal elections last August. Justice Department officials objected to the boundaries, which eliminated the city's sole minority district. As a result, Mayor George Roy and the incumbent city council have remained in office. ...

In July, the City Council passed a temporary voting plan calling for six at-large council seats instead of the current five council members representing five districts. A new plan will be developed based on data from the 2010 Census. ...

"The city's adoption of the at-large, limited voting plan with six council members reflects a good-faith effort to effectively remedy the concerns raised in our objection," the letter from Loretta King, acting assistant attorney general, reads in part. -- Read the whole story at --> Justice Department says OK to Calera election plan - al.com

April 16, 2009

Washington State: Legislature passes National Popular Vote bill

National Popular Vote.org reports: The Washington House of Representatives passed the National Popular Vote bill, thereby sending the bill to Governor Chris Gregoire. The Washington House is the 26th state legislative chamber in the country to pass the National Popular Vote bill. If the Governor signs the bill, Washington (with 11 electoral votes) would become the fifth state to enact the National Popular Vote bill, and give the bill 23% of the 270 electoral votes needed to bring it into effect. -- National Popular Vote -- Electoral college reform by direct election of the President

April 12, 2009

Yglesias on STV replacing SMD

Matt Yglesias writes on his eponymous blog: Ed Kilgore’s interesting post on polarization in congress seems like a good opportunity to point out that there are some practical, structural steps we could take that would probably reduce polarization. One such move would be to shift from single-member constituencies, where a Congressional District has about 600,000 people and one member of congress, to multiple-member constituencies where larger units are represented by multiple reps elected via single transferable vote. -- One Solution to Polarization: Multiple-Member Constituencies

March 26, 2009

Alabama: House committee defeats non-partisan election of judges

The Montgomery Advertiser reports: A House committee voted Wednesday mostly along party lines to defeat two bills supporters said would take partisan politics out of Alabama's judicial elections, which have become among the nation's most costly.

Republicans, who currently hold 18 of 19 appellate court positions in Alabama, opposed the bills that would have created nonpartisan judicial elections and set limits on campaign contributions in those elections.

The House Constitution and Elections Committee defeated on a 6-5 vote the bill calling for nonpartisan judicial elections, while the bill limiting campaign contributions lost on a 5-5 vote. The votes mean that efforts to change the way judges are elected in Alabama are most likely dead for the current session.

The bills were supported by Alabama Chief Justice Sue Bell Cobb, the only Democrat on the appellate bench in Alabama. -- Judicial election bills defeated | montgomeryadvertiser.com | Montgomery Advertiser

March 12, 2009

Alabama: committee approves proportional division of electoral vote

The Birmingham News reports: Alabama, starting in 2012, would divide its nine electoral votes among presidential candidates based on the percentage of the popular vote they won in the general election, under a bill passed by a legislative panel Wednesday.

Alabama now awards all of its electoral votes to the presidential candidate who wins the most votes statewide. So do almost all other states.

Rep. Demetrius Newton, D-Birmingham, said he thinks the winner-take-all system discourages voting in Alabama. Republican presidential candidates have carried the state since 1980. Newton said some Republicans may have stayed home because they assumed a Republican win, and some Democrats may have stayed home for the same reason.

He said distributing Alabama's nine electoral votes in proportion to the candidates' popular votes would give both sides incentive to go to the polls. Newton noted that a third-party candidate, if he or she did well enough, also could get one or more of Alabama's electoral votes. "All of the winners and the losers have a voice" under a proportional system, Newton said. "Today, the losers have no voice." -- Alabama legislative panel passes plan to award Alabama's nine electoral votes proportionately, depending on the vote counts of the presidential candidates.) - al.com

Here is the bill:

HB265
By Representatives Newton (D), Moore (M), Rogers, Dunn, Todd, Graham, Knight, Robinson (J), Curtis, Schmitz, Spicer, Black, Kennedy, Guin, Boothe, Baker (L), Thomas (J) and Vance
RFD Constitution and Elections
Rd 1 03-FEB-09


SYNOPSIS: Under existing law, nine presidential and vice presidential electors are nominated at large and statewide by the political parties.
This bill would provide for the election of presidential and vice presidential electors in direct proportional relationship to the popular vote beginning in the 2012 presidential election.


A BILL
TO BE ENTITLED
AN ACT

To amend Section 17-14-34, Code of Alabama 1975, relating to the election of presidential and vice presidential electors, to provide for the election of presidential and vice presidential electors in direct proportional relationship to the popular vote beginning in the 2012 presidential election.

BE IT ENACTED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF ALABAMA:

Section 1. Section 17-14-34, Code of Alabama 1975, is amended to read as follows:
§17-14-34.

"Within Beginning with the 2012 presidential election and continuing thereafter, within 15 days after the time for making the returns, the Governor, in the presence of the Secretary of State and Attorney General, or either of them in the absence of the other, must certify the returns, and ascertain which electors are elected, and notify them by proclamation by the total number of popular votes for each presidential and vice presidential candidate. The number of electors for each candidate shall directly correspond to the percentage of the popular vote received by that candidate. The Governor shall then notify by proclamation each presidential elector as elected."

Section 2. This act shall become effective on the first day of the third month following its passage and approval by the Governor, or its otherwise becoming law.

February 25, 2009

"How I teach cumulative voting"

Kaimipono D. Wenger writes on Concurring Opinions blog: I use M&M's, of course.

It wasn't always this way. I remember quite well the first couple of semesters that I taught Business Associations. My attempts to teach cumulative voting were -- err, not particularly successful. ...

And then I bring out a bag of M&Ms. And we count cumulative votes.

5 directors. 6 shares. A receives 30 M&Ms. And B receives 20 M&Ms. They will be able to allocate these M&Ms any way that they want to. They can allocate any number of their M&Ms to any students from their respective side of the class. The top five vote-getters are in. ...

For the rest of the semester, every time we mention cumulative voting, I will refer to it as stacking one's M&Ms on a particular candidate. Students will grin. It's not a concept they're afraid of anymore. And the lesson seems to stick -- I tested the concept as a short answer a few semesters ago, and almost the entire class nailed it. -- Concurring Opinions

District of Columbia: bill to give a House seat to DC advances in Senate

AP reports: The people of the District of Columbia were closer Tuesday to gaining the voting rights they were deprived of more than two centuries ago after the Senate agreed to take up a bill giving them a fully vested representative in Congress.

The Senate vote to debate the bill sets the stage for more legislative hurdles and a probable court challenge if the bill is enacted into law. But with the Senate action, D.C.’s 600,000 residents have their best chance of securing a real voice in Congress since a proposed constitutional amendment to enfranchise the federal capital failed a quarter-century ago. ...

Congress in 1978 approved a constitutional amendment giving the district representation in the House and the Senate, but it died when three-fourths of state legislatures failed to ratify it.

Senate action is needed because Congress in 1929 enacted a law fixing House membership at 435. That number was increased to 437 after Alaska and Hawaii became states, but reverted to 435 after the 1960 census. -- D.C. bill on House seat clears first step

February 20, 2009

Illinois: could a quick election rid them of this troublesome senator

Garrett Epps writes in Salon: The ambiguities of the United States Constitution, however, offer the Illinois state Legislature an opening to short-circuit this dreary ritual. The Legislature should call a special election in the next few weeks to fill Burris' seat, and offer the voters a chance to weigh in on the artful evasions of their new unelected senator. It would be the constitutional equivalent of a Hail Mary pass, but desperate times call for desperate measures. ...

One possible answer lies in the text of the 17th Amendment, adopted in 1913, which provides for the election of senators by the people. Under the original Constitution, senators were named by the legislatures; the governors had the power to appoint senators if a vacancy occurred while the legislature was not in session. As Edward Zelinsky of Cardozo Law School wrote recently, many legislatures met infrequently. "A temporary gubernatorial appointment was a sensible way to reduce this gap in senatorial representation until the legislature met to elect a new U.S. Senator."

What the 17th Amendment now says is that "the legislature of any State may empower the executive thereof to make temporary appointments until the people fill the vacancies by election as the legislature may direct." In fact, four states currently by statute bar the governor from making any temporary appointments; eight others permit appointees to serve only until a special election can be held. The rest permit the governor to appoint a senator to serve until the next general election. -- How to get rid of Roland Burris | Salon

Note: as I was creating this, NPR's Morning Edition was playing a report on Sen. Feingold's proposed constitutional amendment.

October 6, 2008

Nebraska: one electoral vote means some attention

The Washington Post reports: With a month to go before Election Day, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, the Republican vice presidential nominee, touched down here Sunday for an unexpected rally in a state that President Bush won by 22 percentage points in 2004.

In early September, even as it was shifting resources out of other traditionally Republican states to key electoral battlegrounds, Sen. Barack Obama's campaign sent 15 paid staffers to Nebraska, a state that has backed a Democrat for president just once since 1936. ...

Both camps have their eyes on the same reward: a single electoral vote that could prove pivotal in determining the next president.

Nebraska is one of only two states that award electoral votes by congressional district, rather than on a winner-take-all basis. Obama strategists see an opportunity in the 2nd District, where disaffection with Washington and strong Democratic voter-registration efforts are narrowing the Republican advantage. -- Nebraska Becomes Unlikely Battleground - washingtonpost.com

September 23, 2008

Scenarios for a 269-269 tie

The Washington Times has an article beginning: President Obama, with Vice President Palin? President Biden? President Pelosi? Call them the "Doomsday" scenarios -- On Nov. 5, the presidential election winds up in a electoral-college tie, 269-269, the Democrat-controlled House picks Sen. Barack Obama as president, but the Senate, with former Democrat Joe Lieberman voting with Republicans, deadlocks at 50-50, so Vice President Dick Cheney steps in to break the tie to make Republican Sarah Palin his successor.

"Wow," said longtime presidential historian Stephen Hess. "Wow, that would be amazing, wouldn't it?"

"If this scenario ever happened, it would be like a scene from the movie 'Scream' for Democrats," said Democratic strategist Mary Anne Marsh. "The only thing worse for the Democrats than losing the White House, again, when it had the best chance to win in a generation, but to do so at the hands of Cheney and Lieberman. That would be cruel."

Sound impossible? It's not. There are at least a half-dozen plausible ways the election can end in a tie, and at least one very plausible possibility - giving each candidate the states in which they now lead in the polls, only New Hampshire - which went Republican in 2000 and Democratic in 2004, each time by just 1.5 percent - needs to swap to the Republican column to wind up with a 269-269 tie. -- Washington Times - 269 tie: An electoral college 'doomsday'?

August 30, 2008

Alaska: who will be the governor?

An Alaska story not about Ted Stevens from the Anchorage News: Who will be Alaska's governor if Sarah Palin becomes vice president? ...

First, Palin has not resigned as governor and doesn't have to before the Nov. 4 election. She remains in command of state government. ...

If Palin wins election as John McCain's vice president, [Lt. Gov. Sean] Parnell would move up to governor and state Attorney General Talis Colberg would become lieutenant governor.

But what if Palin wins and Parnell, locked in a still-undecided Republican primary with U.S. Rep. Don Young, gets elected to Congress?

In that situation, Colberg would take over as governor. -- Plans outlined for election scenarios: Politics | adn.com

Keep reading the story. There are more permutations.

Hat-tip to Brad Smith for the link.

August 20, 2008

Democrats to look at role of superdelegates and caucuses

An AP report begins: Democratic Party leaders want to regain control of the primary calendar and reduce the number of superdelegates through a new commission announced Wednesday.

They also want to review the caucus system, which presumed nominee Barack Obama used so successfully this year. The commission would work over the next year and make recommendations by January 2010.

All the issues are potentially troublesome, with few easy solutions.

Officials said the commission would be formed at the party convention in Denver. The convention's rules committee will take up the matter at a meeting Saturday, two days before the convention starts. -- Talking Points Memo | Democrats to review nominating process

August 16, 2008

The case for reform of the caucuses

TalkLeft publishes a paper on the need for Democratic caucus reform. It concludes: It's time for the Democratic Party to demand reforms in the caucus process -- ie, more inclusion, fixing the security breaches in the internal proceedings and producing exact, certified vote counts with a clear audit trail --and if the state Parties are not willing to implement the reforms then frankly they should get out of the elections business. Further, the DNC needs to reconsider and adjust the delegate allocation to be more in-sync with total votes cast so that the election results are closer to one person one vote. Then the will of the majority will not be overturned by the votes of a few.

Moreover, repeatedly in cases challenging the caucus system, the courts have ruled in favor of the state Party instead of upholding the voting rights of the people. It's said that in the absence of legislation, judges become the legislators.

So at a broader level, it's time for Congress to see and understand how caucuses -- as a voting system -- damage democracy through mass disenfranchisement and through gross distortion of election results and to pass legislation to remedy the injustice.

Hopefully, this report will be a call to reform that voters themselves will take to heart and act on by calling the Democratic Party and by contacting their legislators to demand reform. -- 2008 Democratic Presidential Preference Election

July 15, 2008

UK: government proposes to elect all members of House of Lords

The Scotsman reports: Jack Straw, the Justice Secretary, yesterday outlined proposals to make the Lords fully or mainly elected, although he admitted this would not happen until after the next general election, due by June 2010.

He wants the number of peers reduced from more than 700 to no more than 450, and would abolish the hereditary peers – those sitting in the Lords by right of family ties. Their number has already been reduced to 92 by reforms introduced when Tony Blair was prime minister.

Peers would serve single terms of between 12 and 15 years, compared with MPs, who have to be re-elected every five years.

The Tories also back reform, meaning that changes are likely to be put before MPs which ever party forms the next government. But a number of members of the Lords, which voted by a huge majority last year to reject having the second chamber elected, said they would oppose the changes vigorously. Baroness D'Souza, who heads a group of 61 independent or cross-bench peers, said she was concerned that the primacy of the Commons could be undermined if both MPs and peers were elected. -- Peers vow to oppose planned reforms in Lords amid fears for parliament's integrity

Other stories on this are in the Herald and the Times.

July 1, 2008

Florida: suit filed against write-in candidate "loophole"

The Tampa Tribune reports: Two registered voters have filed a lawsuit in Pasco County challenging the write-in candidate "loophole" in state election law.

They say the provision unfairly closed the Aug. 26 primary election in a county commission race, effectively disenfranchising 170,000 registered Democrats, Independents and minor party voters in Pasco.

Florida voters approved a constitutional amendment in 1998 to let all voters participate in primaries if all candidates in a race come from the same political party. In 2000, however, the state Division of Elections ruled that the primary is not open if the race includes any write-in candidates, who are considered general election candidates.

State Sen. Dave Aronberg, D-Greenacres, has been working to close the loophole, which he said politicians are exploiting. -- Suit Targets Write-In Candidates Loophole

June 8, 2008

"National Bonus" in the Electoral College

David Barron writes in the Convictions blog on Slate: Obviously, one solution for the future is to scrap the electoral college altogether, something Senator Nelson of Florida proposed today.

But as it happens, I came across this news while reading Arthur Schlesinger s updated version of The Imperial Presidency. There, he sets forth a plan for avoiding such a problem that seems to have been lost to history or at least, came as news to me and that seems preferable to dispensing with the electoral college altogether.

Schlesinger calls it The National Bonus plan. The idea is to keep the electoral college, but then augment it with additional electors for the winner of the popular vote. His proposal was to award a total of 101 bonus electors to the winner of the popular vote, which strikes me as at least 50 too many. After all, if the bonus is too big, the college gets wiped out for all practical purposes; candidates need not really compete very hard outside their natural bases of support. -- Enough With Superdelegates, What About the Electoral College

June 2, 2008

DC: a lobbying push for DC voting rights

The Hill reports: A renewed campaign to give the representative from Washington, D.C. the right to vote in Congress is gaining ground with lobbyists for civil rights groups, ethics watchdogs and unions gearing up for a new push next year.

Money is being raised, powerful lobbyists are offering their time free of charge and supporters are traveling the country to spread the message that the city that houses the Capitol deserves a vote inside. Advocates for D.C. voting rights sense that education can help them bridge the gap in votes needed.

Washington’s city council plans to vote Tuesday on a $500,000 grant to DC Vote , an advocacy group, while Democrats in Congress are expected to lift lobbying restrictions that will allow the group to engage lawmakers more aggressively.

That could set the stage for a successful vote on D.C. voting rights in 2009. In September 2007, legislation died in the Senate, falling three votes short of the 60 needed to close off debate. -- TheHill.com - Lobbyists gear up for push to get voting rights for D.C.

May 26, 2008

Libertarians pick Bob Barr as Presidential candidate

As Rob Richie has pointed out, the Libertarians used a live-action version of instant runoff voting choose their presidential and VP candidates. To review the voting, go to the Official Website of the Libertarian National Committee. The lowest polling candidate in each round was eliminated. Also, a candidate was eliminated if he/she had less than 5% of the ballots.

While former Rep. Bab Barr lead on the first two ballots, he and Ruwart were tied in rounds 3 and 4, and Barr was slightly behind on round 5. Barr was able to pull ahead (and win) on round 6 by getting most of Root's votes when he was eliminated. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that Root endorsed Barr before the 6th round and Barr returned the favor by endorsing Root for vice-president.

Congratulations to my friend Bill Redpath on being elected as Party Chair. I head Bill's voice on NPR this morning introducing Barr to the convention after the nomination.

May 3, 2008

London: Boris Johnson wins mayoral race on "instant runoff"

BBC reports: Boris Johnson has won the race to become the next mayor of London - ending Ken Livingstone s eight-year reign at City Hall.

The Conservative candidate won with 1,168,738 first and second preference votes, compared with Mr Livingstone s 1,028,966 on a record turnout of 45%. ...

First preference votes:
Boris Johnson (Tory): 1,043,761
Ken Livingstone (Lab): 893,877
Brian Paddick (Lib Dem): 236,685
Sian Berry (Green): 77,374
Richard Barnbrook (BNP): 69,710
Alan Craig (Christian Choice): 39,249
Gerard Batten (UKIP): 22,422
Lindsey German (Left List): 16,796
Matt O'Connor (Eng Democrats): 10,695
Winston McKenzie (Ind): 5,389 -- BBC NEWS | UK | UK Politics | Johnson wins London mayoral race

Note: Since the bottom eight candidates together had fewer votes than Livingstone, all of their ballots were re-examined and the second preferences counted.

April 14, 2008

Idaho: GOP files suit against open primary system (court docs linked)

Update: Steve Rankin has sent me a link to the complaint.

Free Citizen blog reports: In an open primary, a party's primary ballot is available to any voter who wants it. There are two types of open primaries: Mississippi is one of the 13 states with "open primary, public record," meaning that each primary voter's choice of party is publicly recorded. Idaho, in contrast, is one of the eight states with "open primary, private choice": each primary voter picks a party in secret, and no record is made of this choice. ...

The recently-ended session of the heavily-Republican Idaho legislature failed to pass legislation modifying the primary election law. The Senate did pass a bill, 20-15, to switch to "open primary, public record," but the House refused to consider it. The Republican governor opposes changing the primary setup, as the state GOP chairman also steadfastly has. The chairman is up for re-election at the state convention in June, and he may have a contest from former state Sen. Rod Beck, who has spearheaded the efforts to change the primary election law.

Late Friday, the Republican Party filed a new federal lawsuit against the state-mandated open primary. The Idaho GOP will be able to cite U. S. District Judge Allen Pepper's 2007 ruling that Mississippi's open primary law is unconstitutional. If the 5th U. S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans agrees with Pepper, the Idaho Republicans will also be able to cite that decision. Mississippi Democratic Party v. Barbour. -- Free Citizen: Idaho Republicans Again Challenge Open Primary Law

Dept of Expected Results: Why primaries are good for demoncracy

The Washington Post reports: If this were Britain, Russia or India, Rudy Giuliani '08 caps would not be on the clearance racks. In those countries, where bigwigs and insiders get to nominate party leaders, the former Republican front-runner and establishment favorite would have long ago been anointed the winner.

Giuliani's inglorious fall, and the ascendance of Sens. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.), send an important message to the world about the importance of intra-party democracy: Interesting things happen when you allow rank-and-file voters to choose their leaders. Primaries don't just eliminate over-hyped Giulianis; they also discover underrated Obamas and never-say-die McCains.

"Barack Obama is Exhibit A about the value of holding primaries," said James Adams, a political scientist at the University of California at Davis, who studies how political parties around the world choose leaders. "A lot of Democratic Party elites did not know what a good campaigner he was or would prove to be. Candidates like Fred Thompson and Rudy Giuliani may be Exhibit B about the value of holding primaries, in that they proved less appealing than their press clippings would have suggested."

If the eyes of the world are glued on the U.S. presidential primaries, the most important lesson others take away might have to do with the importance of having such races in the first place. New research by Adams and others shows that primaries are the most efficient way to discover political phenoms such as Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton -- politicians who might never have been chosen if it had been left up to party insiders. -- Shankar Vedantam - Lost in the Smoke-Filled Room: Unexpected Talent - washingtonpost.com

April 3, 2008

"The Irony of Judicial Elections"

Introduction to The Irony of Judicial Elections by David E. Pozen in Columbia Law Review: Judicial elections in the United States have undergone a dramatic transformation. For more than a century, these state and local elections were relatively dignified, low-key affairs. Campaigning was minimal; incumbents almost always won; few people voted or cared. Over the past quarter century and especially the past decade, however, a rise in campaign spending, interest group involvement, and political speech has disturbed the traditional paradigm. In the “new era,” as commentators have dubbed it, judicial races routinely feature intense competition, broad public participation, and high salience. This Article takes the new era as an opportunity to advance our understanding of elective versus nonelective judiciaries. In revisiting this classic debate, the Article aims to make three main contributions. First, it offers an analytic taxonomy of the arguments for and against electing judges that seeks to distinguish the central normative concerns from the more contingent, empirical ones. Second, applying this taxonomy, the Article shows how both the costs and the benefits of elective judiciaries have been enhanced by recent developments, leaving the two sides of the debate further apart than ever. Finally, the Article explores several deep ironies that emerge from this cleavage. Underlying these ironies is a common insight: As judicial elections achieve greater legitimacy as elections, they will increasingly undermine the judiciary’s distinctive role and our broader democratic processes. There is an underappreciated tradeoff between the health of judicial elections and the health of the judiciary, the Article posits, that can help recast the controversy over the new era. -- Columbia Law Review

Maine: Senate passes National Popular Vote bill

PolitickerME.com reports: The state Senate passed a bill Wednesday allowing Maine to participate in the National Popular Vote interstate compact. The bill will next go before the House for consideration.

The Senate was deadlocked over the bill, voting 17 to 17 in early March. Proponents of the bill vowed to lobby heavily until the tie could be broken.

It was a partisan divide, Democrats for and Republicans against, with the exception of Sen. Bill Diamond, D-Windham, who had voted against it.

The bill was able to pass today when Sen. Peter Mills, R-Cornville, jumped ship and voted with the Democrats, for an 18 to 17 final tally. -- Senate approves National Popular Vote initiative | Politicker ME

March 26, 2008

Scotland: Salmond proposes preferential-voting referendum on independence, more powers, or status quo

The Scotsman reports: SCOTLAND could become independent with less than 50 per cent of people backing that as their first choice for the country, under plans unveiled by Alex Salmond yesterday.

The First Minister delivered a bombshell announcement that the referendum on independence would probably not be a straight yes-no vote.

Instead, people would be asked to rank a series of options in order of preference – independence, the status quo or more powers for the parliament. This could mean independence being gained, even if only a minority rank it as first choice.

Critics immediately raised concerns because, on such a momentous issue, voters' second choices would become as important as the first, after the option with least votes was knocked out. In an extreme set of circumstances, independence could be achieved with only 26 per cent making it their top preference, if all the second-choice votes plumped for a break from the Union. ...

Under this system, the first choice votes would be added up and the option with the least support eliminated. The second-choice votes from this third option would then be re-allocated and the option achieving the most overall votes would win. -- Minority vote could take Scotland out of the Union - The Scotsman

January 31, 2008

Symposium on Electoral College Reform

The Michigan Law Review’s companion journal First Impressions today published an online symposium on Recent Proposals for Electoral College Reform.

Several proposals for changing the manner in which electoral votes are assigned have been increasingly debated since the 2008 presidential campaign began. Among these are recent suggestions that states assign their electoral votes based on the popular vote results in individual congressional districts or assign their electoral votes statewide based on the national popular vote. The symposium contributors explore the viability and advisability in today’s political climate of these and other Electoral College reform proposals.

Ohio State University’s Moritz College of Law Professor Daniel P. Tokaji argues that the thirty-five day period in which states can take advantage of the “safe harbor” provision under federal law offers insufficient time for the resolution of post-election disputes over electors. Professor Tokaji proposes a new timetable that would allow states more time to complete recount and contest proceedings in the event of close, contested elections—a change he feels is justified on both fairness and federalism grounds.

Sacramento-based election law attorney and former legal counsel for California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and the California Republican Party Thomas W. Hiltachk explains and defends his proposed statewide initiative that would change California’s winner-take-all system of awarding its fifty-five electoral votes to a system that arguably would make California more relevant to the election process. If the California initiative took effect, the state would award the presidential candidate winning the popular vote in each of the state’s congressional districts one electoral vote while awarding the winner of the state’s overall popular vote two electoral votes.

Washington, D.C.-based election law attorney and former Democratic campaign manager Sam Hirsch critiques Hiltachk’s proposed initiative, arguing that the congressional-district system increases the chances of the presidency being awarded to the second-place finisher in popular votes, is significantly biased to favor one political party, and is founded on the erroneous assumption that congressional-district lines are politically “neutral” and thus well suited to functions other than electing members of the U.S. House of Representatives.

University of Chicago Dean of Social Sciences John Mark Hansen examines the effects of the Electoral College system and the proposed reforms to it on the prospect of equal voice in elections, concluding that if every vote is to count equally, the only solution is to elect the president by direct popular vote.

University of California’s Hastings College of the Law Professor Ethan J. Leib and Hastings College of the Law J.D. Candidate Eli J. Mark critique three state-based reform systems—reforms granting electoral votes based on winning congressional districts, reforms granting electoral votes in proportion to the state’s popular vote, and reforms granting all of a state’s electoral votes to the nationwide popular vote winner—and note the effects of partisan principles on defenses and critiques of them.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology Visiting Scholar Alexander S. Belenky discusses instituting direct popular election of the president as well as the National Popular Vote interstate compact but also evaluates a third option that makes the nationwide popular vote a decisive factor in electing a president but retains the Electoral College as a safeguard against failure to elect a president.

University of Michigan J.D. candidate Daniel Rathbun contends both legal and sociological theory can explain the National Popular Vote compact’s failure to take hold. Legally, Rathbun argues, the NPV overlooks significant constitutional and practical-institutional obstacles. Sociologically, he contends, the NPV is structurally incapable of dis-embedding the federalist theory underlying the Electoral College.

To download a PDF of the entire symposium, feel free to click here.

January 30, 2008

West Virginia: Senate committee kills National Popular Vote

The Register-Herald reports: An attempt to lead West Virginia into a new era of voting for president by tying the hands of electors to the popular vote got nowhere Tuesday with the Senate Judiciary Committee.

For nearly 45 minutes, senators shuddered at the thought of a few electoral-heavy states making the decision on the occupant in the White House.

More than one panelist recalled the thinking of the Founding Fathers before resoundingly killing SB52. -- The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia - Panel nixes popular vote measure

December 27, 2007

Election Data Services slices and dices the Census Bureau estimates

Election Data Services reports: New Census Bureau population estimates released today continue the changes in congressional representation first documented with last year’s population release. However, trends contained in the new data point towards new twists in population growth over the next three years and lead to a variety of potential scenarios by the time apportionment happens in 2010.

[The link on their website is the sentence that begins "Read the full press release ..."]

The good news for Alabama from EDS's projections is that we won't lose a congressional seat after the 2010 reapportionment.

November 23, 2007

California: Rudy's backers are running the electoral vote petition drive

TPM Muckracker reports: Who is Paul Singer? He and Rudy Giuliani would prefer you not think too much about it.

Singer, who founded the multibillion dollar hedge fund Elliott Associates, has raised $200,000 for Giuliani. He flies Giuliani around in his jet.

And, as of September, his $175,000 contribution was the sole backing for the Republican scheme to split up California's electoral votes. Instead of all the electoral votes in the country's most populous state going to the state's winner (almost surely the Democrat), the ballot initiative would throw the loser (the Republican) his percentage, potentially swinging the election. ...

Singer tells the Times that made the contribution because he "believes in proportional voting in the Electoral College." As the Times notes, Singer was also a donor to the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth in 2004. Presumably that was just because he believes in the truth. -- TPMmuckraker | Talking Points Memo | Giuliani's California Schemin' Money Man

October 15, 2007

North Carolina: Cary uses IRV for town council

The Asheville Citizen-Times reports: Cary on Tuesday became North Carolina's first test of instant runoff voting, a system the state will try out next month in Hendersonville's City Council election.

Letting voters make backup choices eliminates the need for runoff elections that cost extra money and tend to draw low turnout.

Opponents of the movement, like Raleigh resident Chris Telesca of the N.C. Coalition for Verified Voting, say it makes voting and counting the votes more complex.

In Cary, though, voters interviewed at the polls all said they understood how to vote using the system. Most of them said they had come prepared to rank candidates after receiving mailers, viewing the county Elections Board's Web site or hearing about it in the media.

"I thought it was really positive," said Alex Funk, a retired engineer who biked to the Herbert C. Young Community Center to vote. "I mean, why do this all twice?"

Corey Cook, an assistant professor of politics at the University of San Francisco who has studied instant runoff voting, said most voters understand it, but governments must spend money before every election to educate those who don't. -- CITIZEN-TIMES.com: Instant runoff gets test run

October 8, 2007

Massachusetts: deciding when to bullet vote

The Boston Globe reports: When he steps into the dim privacy of a voting booth on Nov. 6, Larry Davidson - Dorchester resident, Democrat, math teacher - will circle ovals next to the candidates he has chosen based not only on politics, but on the power of math.

Like all voters in Boston, Davidson will be allowed to choose four at-large candidates for the City Council from nine contenders. And like many other voters, he will contemplate using just one of those votes as a "bullet vote:" a single vote for one candidate, not only advancing that candidacy but denying other hopefuls his remaining votes.

But deciding whether you should cast a single ballot for your first-choice candidate, mathematicians say, you have to make strategic judgments about the race and how others will vote. And that requires a sophisticated view of the election.

"It all depends, truly, on your ability to understand who are the competitors for that last one or two seats," said Arlene Ash, a professor of medicine at Boston University School of Medicine and a statistician who testified in court about voting irregularities in the 2000 presidential election in Florida. -- Voter's quandary: to bullet on the ballot? - The Boston Globe

October 4, 2007

California: proxy war by Gulliani and Clinton over initiative to split electoral vote

The New York Times reports: Supporters of Rudolph W. Giuliani and of Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton are embroiled in their first major affray of the political season over a ballot initiative on presidential electoral votes some 2,500 miles from the pancake houses of Skaneateles, N.Y., and the fire stations of Queens. ...

The proposed measure here would ask voters to apportion electoral votes by Congressional district, potentially giving the 2008 Republican nominee 20 of the state’s 55 votes — the rough equivalent of winning Illinois or Pennsylvania — in this otherwise reliably Democratic state. ...

Started by a Republican lawyer in California, the measure has been driven almost entirely by people who are associated with or have given money to Mr. Giuliani’s presidential campaign.

The effort to kill the initiative — executed with a swift fierceness almost unheard of for an initiative in such an early stage — has been led by a bevy of Clinton supporters, including a former Clinton White House official, prominent elected Democratic supporters and one of Mrs. Clinton’s most prolific fund-raisers. -- In Ballot Fight, California Gets a Taste of ’08

October 2, 2007

Washington State: Bob Bauer's analysis of Washington "top two" case

Bob Bauer writes on ACSblog.org: Political parties are having a hard time, and as the Supreme Court meets this week, it will hear their most recent complaint. It is not the complaint most in the news, as each national party grasps for control over its own Presidential nominating schedule. The Court will hear from parties that one state, Washington State, has approved what is called a “modified blanket primary” system, the effect of which is to deprive them of their right to choose their own candidates for partisan political office. Washington State Grange v. Washington State Republican Party, 460 F.3d. 1108 (2006).

Under the Washington arrangement, approved in 2004 by initiative, all voters of all parties participate in a primary, voting for any candidate they choose. The top vote-getters face each other. But any candidate can express her party preference, at her option, and this preference is reflected on the ballot. Hence the candidate who emerges may be associated with a party, by self-selection, but without the party’s consent, and perhaps over its active opposition. In fact, this system could produce two candidates identifying themselves as, say, Republicans, and they will face each other: but neither may be truly a Republican, and neither may have any support within their own party, or the backing or endorsement of any formal party process such as a convention.

The Republican party, challenging this arrangement, has won both rounds in court, leading to the case now before the Supreme Court. The State of Washington believes that the Republicans have it wrong in imagining that their associational rights are infringed by the blanket primary. -- Guest Blogger: Does Washington State's "modified blanket primary" system violate the right of association?

Washington State: "top two" primary system argued in Supreme Court

The Washington Post reports: The Supreme Court convened its new term yesterday, and the justices immediately immersed themselves in the first of several election-law challenges the court has agreed to decide in the midst of the 2008 elections.

Skeptical justices heard the state of Washington defend its unique voter-approved election system against a challenge that it unconstitutionally prevents political parties from choosing their own nominees.

Washington has a "top two" primary system, in which all candidates on the ballot state a party "preference'' and all voters may choose among them. The top two advance to the general election, even if they prefer the same party. The major political parties have challenged the system, saying it violates their First Amendment association rights.

Washington Attorney General Robert McKenna argued that the state has a right to set its own election rules, and that the party preference listed by the candidates is simply helpful information for voters, not a sign that the party endorses that candidate's views.

But several justices were doubtful. -- State of Washington Defends Its Primaries Before Supreme Court - washingtonpost.com

September 28, 2007

California: GOP gives up on initiative to change electoral vote

The Los Angeles Times reports: Plagued by a lack of money, supporters of a statewide initiative drive to change the way California's 55 electoral votes are apportioned, first revealed here by Top of the Ticket in July, are pulling the plug on that effort.

In an exclusive report to appear on this website late tonight and in Friday's print editions, The Times' Dan Morain reports that the proposal to change the winner-take-all electoral vote allocation to one by congressional district is virtually dead with the resignation of key supporters, internal disputes and a lack of funds.

The reality is hundreds of thousands of signatures must be gathered by the end of November to get the measure on the June 2008 ballot. -- Los Angeles Times: Top of the Ticket: Politics, coast to coast, with the L.A. Times

September 20, 2007

Minnesota: Minneapolis IRV plan may violate state constitution

The Minneapolis Star-Tribune reports: Minneapolis voters have approved a plan for instant-runoff voting, but the state constitution may not allow it, according to a new attorney general's opinion.

The opinion, obtained by the Star Tribune, doesn't explicitly say the Minneapolis system of ranking candidates in order of preference is unconstitutional.

But it concludes that if the closest case to a precedent is followed, instant-runoff voting probably isn't permitted by the state constitution.

The voting method requires voters to rank candidates in order of preference. If no candidate gains a majority, the lowest candidate is dropped and the second-place votes cast by supporters of that candidate are added to the remaining candidates. The process continues until one candidate gains a majority. -- Minneapolis' instant-runoff voting plan may be unconstitutional

September 19, 2007

DC & Utah: Senate blocks bill for 2 more representatives

The Washington Post reports: Republican lawmakers yesterday blocked the Senate from taking up the D.C. vote bill, a potentially fatal setback for the District's most promising effort in years to get a full member of Congress.

The vote was on a motion to simply consider the bill. Fifty-seven senators voted in favor, three short of the 60 needed to proceed. Without enough support to vault the Senate's procedural hurdles, the bill is expected to stall this year and possibly next year.

The Senate action was a crushing disappointment to many activists in the decades-long campaign for voting representation in Congress. The bill, which passed the House in April, has gone further than any other D.C. vote measure in almost 30 years. ...

The bill was a compromise aimed at appealing to both parties. It would expand the House by two seats: one for the overwhelmingly Democratic District and the other for the next state in line to add a seat. That state currently is Utah, which is heavily Republican. Utah would also gain an electoral vote. -- Senators Block D.C. Vote Bill, Delivering Possibly Fatal Blow - washingtonpost.com

September 18, 2007

DC: crucial Senate vote today on House representation for District

The Washington Post reports: Facing a critical Senate vote today, supporters and opponents of the D.C. voting rights bill made impassioned speeches and lobbied on Capitol Hill in a last-minute push on the District's efforts to get its first full member of Congress.

The motion coming up on the Senate floor would merely clear the way for lawmakers to consider the bill. But if supporters fail to get the necessary 60 votes, the legislation will probably be doomed for this year, according to senators and staff. ...

The bill, which passed the House in April, is crafted as a political compromise. It would add two seats to the House of Representatives, one for the heavily Democratic District and the other for the next state in line to pick up an extra seat: currently Utah, which leans Republican.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is strongly critical of the bill, as is the White House, which has threatened a veto. McConnell vehemently denied yesterday that resisting the legislation was tantamount to opposing voting rights. -- 11th-Hour Pressure Applied on D.C. Vote - washingtonpost.com

September 13, 2007

Alabama: intervenors file for rehearing en banc in Chilton County case

As I noted 3 weeks ago, the Eleventh Circuit has ruled that the intervenors in Dillard v. Chilton County Commission had no standing to object to the consent decree entered about 20 years ago. (See this post.)

Now the intervenors have moved for rehearing and rehearing en banc. You can read their petition here.

Disclosure: James Blacksher and I represent the Dillard plaintiffs in this case.

August 21, 2007

Alabama: 11th Circuit kills suit against Chilton County consent decree

The Birmingham News reports: A federal appeals court on Monday delivered a victory to activists who integrated the Chilton County Commission, ruling on the last of more than 150 lawsuits that reshaped the way Alabamians elect local officials statewide.

The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta overturned a lower court's decision, and left in place an election system that led to black representation on the commission. The suit was the last of the so-called "Dillard suits," which challenged the at-large voting system that civil rights activists said kept county commissions, city commissions and school boards all over the state almost exclusively white.

James Blacksher, an attorney who represented civil rights activists in the Chilton County suit and many of the Dillard suits, said the suit was the only one remaining unresolved after 20 years of litigation. ...

The Dillard lawsuits are credited by civil rights activists, legal scholars and historians with giving blacks their first real representation in local government in Alabama since the end of slavery. Before the suits were filed, there were only a handful of blacks in local elected office. Today, more than 17 percent of local offices are held by blacks, according to the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies. That makes Alabama one of just four states in the nation with a percentage of black elected officials in double figures. -- Chilton integration system upheld- al.com

Disclosure: I am one of the counsel for the black plaintiffs in the Dillard cases.

The opinion can be downloaded from the 11th Circuit website.

August 18, 2007

California; GOP trying to grab a chunk of Golden State's electoral votes

Hendrick Hertzberg writes in the New Yorker: Two weeks ago, one of the most important Republican lawyers in Sacramento quietly filed a ballot initiative that would end the practice of granting all fifty-five of California’s electoral votes to the statewide winner. Instead, it would award two of them to the statewide winner and the rest, one by one, to the winner in each congressional district. Nineteen of the fifty-three districts are represented by Republicans, but Bush carried twenty-two districts in 2004. The bottom line is that the initiative, if passed, would spot the Republican ticket something in the neighborhood of twenty electoral votes—votes that it wouldn’t get under the rules prevailing in every other sizable state in the Union. ...

Nominally, the sponsor of No. 07-0032 is Californians for Equal Representation. But that’s just a letterhead—there’s no such organization. Its address is the office suite of Bell, McAndrews & Hiltachk, the law firm for the California Republican Party, and its covering letter is signed by Thomas W. Hiltachk, the firm’s managing partner and Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s personal lawyer for election matters. ...

“Equal Representation” sounds good, too. And the winner-take-all rule, which is in force in all but two states, does seem unfair on the face of it. (The two are Maine and Nebraska, which use congressional-district allocation. But they are so small—only five districts between them—and so homogeneous that neither has ever split its electoral votes.) It would be obviously unjust for a state to give all its legislative seats to the party that gets the most votes statewide. So why should Party A get a hundred per cent of that state’s electoral votes if forty per cent of its voters support Party B? No wonder Democrats and Republicans alike initially react to this proposal in a strongly positive way. To most people, the electoral-college status quo feels intuitively wrong. So does war. But that doesn’t make unilateral disarmament a no-brainer. -- Votescam

Scotland: SNP wins a by-election on local council

The Scotsman reports (and this is the whole report): SNP candidate John Corall yesterday won the first local council by-election in Scotland under the new single transferable voting system. He swept to victory in Aberdeen's Midstocket and Rosemount contest caused by the death of Tory Councillor John Porter. -- The Scotsman - Politics - SNP takes council seat from Tories

A comment to the story gives more details: A row has broken out following Scotland’s first council by-election since the introduction of a system of electing councillors under a fair votes system known as the Single transferable Vote (STV).

The Midstocket and Rosemount by-election for Aberdeen City Council followed the death of long-serving Conservative John Porter.

At one stage during the count, when there were only four votes separating the Liberal Democrats and the Conservatives, the Liberal Democrats requested a recount. The request was denied by the Returning Officer.

Liberal Democrats now plan on raising the Returning Officer’s controversial decision with the Electoral Commission.

June 21, 2007

Oregon: Senate approves repeal of "double-majority" property tax elections

The Portland Oregonian reports: Oregon voters would decide next year whether to all but eliminate the "double-majority" requirement in local property tax elections under a measure approved Wednesday by the Senate.

The proposed constitutional amendment would be on the November 2008 ballot. If approved, it would roll back the provision in the Oregon Constitution that requires bond issues and other property tax measures to receive a majority vote and a turnout of at least 50 percent of registered voters.

House Joint Resolution 15 would exempt elections in May and November of any year from the double-majority requirement. That would effectively repeal the requirement because there would be little reason for local officials to schedule a property tax vote at other times of the year. -- 'Double-majority' rule challenged - OregonLive.com

June 16, 2007

Georgia: the connection between a biased election system and a lynching

AP reports: Newly released files from the lynching of two black couples more than 60 years ago contain a disturbing revelation: The FBI investigated suspicions that a three-term governor of Georgia sanctioned the murders to sway rural white voters during a tough election campaign.

The 3,725 pages obtained by The Associated Press under the Freedom of Information Act do not make conclusions about the still-unsolved killings at Moore's Ford Bridge. But they raise the possibility that Eugene Talmadge's politics may have been a factor when a white mob dragged the four from a car, tied them to a tree and opened fire. ...

Talmadge, who died just months after his 1946 election to a fourth term, dominated Georgia politics in the 1930s and 1940s with a mix of racism and pocketbook populism.

He came under FBI scrutiny because of a visit he made to the north Georgia town of Monroe two days before the Democratic gubernatorial primary and a day after a highly charged racial incident there, a fight in which a black sharecropper stabbed and severely wounded a white farmer. The sharecropper was one of the four people who would later be lynched. ...

Votes from small rural counties played a crucial role in Georgia's elections then because primaries were decided by a "county unit system," similar to the electoral college, which minimized the impact of urban centers. -- FBI Investigated Ga. Gov in Old Lynching

May 24, 2007

Scotland: views of an American observer

Rob Richie's article on observing the Scottish election begins:
On May 3rd, Scotland held groundbreaking elections for its regional parliament and for local government, using two different proportional voting methods. As a result of these new, fairer methods, the Scottish National Party (SNP) ousted the Labor Party from power in the parliamentary vote and with other opposition parties gained major ground in local elections. At the same time, however, a sharp rise in invalid ballots and delays in the count caused a storm of controversy.

I was part of a 25-member delegation of civic leaders, city councilors and election officials organized by FairVote and the British Electoral Reform Society that observed the elections and attended pre-election and post-election briefings on redistricting and election administration in Britain. We need more such delegations, as there is much we can learn from the experiences of other advanced democracies as they work to reform their election practices. -- IN THE NEWS » Blog Archive » Election Observers Abroad

Utah and DC: legal expers disagree on constitutionality of DC vote bill

The Salt Lake Tribune reports: There's one sure thing in the debate over giving Utah a fourth U.S. House seat and the District of Columbia its first full-voting member: legal scholars completely disagree on the plan's constitutionality.
For some, the bill is patently wrong, "the most premeditated unconstitutional act by Congress in decades," as one professor has repeatedly testified.
For others, it's clear the founding fathers didn't intend for nearly 600,000 residents of the nation's capital to go without representation in Congress.
Wednesday, several scholars testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee on the measure primarily meant to give the largely Democratic district a voice in Congress but balanced with a seat for Republican-dominated Utah. -- Salt Lake Tribune - Legal scholars disagree on bill's constitutionality

May 20, 2007

Scotland: ERS report on local government elections

The Electoral Reform Society has issued its report on the Scottish local authority elections: The introduction of the Single Transferable Vote (STV) for Scottish local government was a change long campaigned for by the Electoral Reform Society along with numerous other civic and political groups. We are, on the whole, delighted with the result.

The repercussions of the elections on 3 May are continuing to emerge. There are some points, though, which are already apparent. The elections to Scotland’s local authorities give us a positive story to tell about Scotland’s voters wielding the power of STV for the first time.

It is important to recognise the significance of these Scottish local elections. This was the first time that STV had been used in a large-scale public election on the UK mainland. It was a new system and, to a certain extent, an experiment. This initial report from the Electoral Reform Society aims to present the first findings from that experiment accessibly yet comprehensively. An STV election – particularly this one, being the first – invites further analysis and comment and we will provide that in a comprehensive report in the summer. This initial report, however, contains the key lessons that can be learned from the results of the 3 May local elections. -- Scottish LG report May 2007.pdf (application/pdf Object)

May 18, 2007

Scotland: ERS calls council elections "resounding success"

BBC News reports:
The Electoral Reform Society has hailed Scotland's council election as a resounding success.

The organisation has suggested that there were "major inadequacies" in the vote for the Scottish Parliament, which saw more than 140,000 rejected ballots.

However, a report from the society will say that the single transferable vote (STV) system used in the council election worked well.

It wants Holyrood to adopt the STV method, a call backed by the Lib Dems.

Research carried out by the BBC has shown that the proportion of spoilt ballot papers was far lower for the council election on 3 May. -- BBC NEWS | UK | Scotland | Council election hailed a success

May 17, 2007

North Carolina: National Popular Vote plan passes Senate

The Charlotte Observer reports: Voting in North Carolina could look very different in the years ahead.

There could be a different deadline for voters to register. There could be an earlier date for the N.C. presidential primary or caucus. There could even be a different way to appoint the Electoral College, which picks the president. ...

Perhaps the most historic change could be in how North Carolina appoints people to the Electoral College -- the 538-member group that, under the U.S. Constitution, decides the presidency. As in most other states, North Carolina's 15 electors vote for the winner of the state's popular vote.

Under a bill sponsored by Sen. Dan Clodfelter, a Charlotte Democrat, the electors would vote for the winner of the national vote. He said the bill would draw more attention to North Carolina, which has a low profile in presidential elections, and create a national election for president. ...

In a historic vote, the bill got through the state Senate this week, and it is expected to get a hearing in the House. The vote, though, was along partisan lines, with Republicans arguing the bill would help Democrats. -- Proposals to change election process

May 15, 2007

Scotland: analysis of an STV election

I was reviewing the election returns for the Edinburgh City Council. Edinburgh is divided into 17 wards, each of which returns 3 or 4 council members. Local councilors all over Scotland are elected using Single Transferable Voting.

In most of the wards, the 3 or 4 candidates with the most first preferences were elected. In three wards (Wards 14, 16, and 17), this was not true -- and in each case, it was the Conservative candidate who lost by not getting enough transfers from other parties.

Let's take a look at Ward 17 (Portobello/Craigmillar). You probably ought to print out the "All preferences" spreadsheet so you can follow along. The candidate with the most first preferences was Bridgman (the sole SNP candidate). About 1/3 of his ballots had no additional preferences. The two candidates receiving the most transfers from Bridgeman's surplus were Child (Labour) and McColl (Green). Each of these parties agrees on a lot of issues with the SNP, so the transfers were not that surprising.

But let's look at the end of the count. The top three candidates were Bridgeman (SNP), Child (Labor), and Miller (Conservative). Child picks up enough transfers from eliminated candidates to be elected, but Miller does not get elected. The third position goes to Hawkins (Liberal Democrat) who was behind Miller on first preference votes. What made the difference? Miller received very few transfers, but Hawkins picked up a good number of votes in the Stage 6 exclusion of Circi (Liberal -- not Liberal Democrat), the Stage 10 exclusion of Burns (Independent), and the Stage 12 exclusion of McColl (Green).

In contrast, Miller received only dribbles of votes from excluded candidates' transfers.

Another thing to note about the Edinburgh council elections is the diversity of representation in each ward. Only in a few wards are there more than one councilor from the same party: Ward 3 (2 of 3 are LibDems), Ward 6 (2 of 3 are LibDems), Ward 7 (2 of 4 are Labour), Ward 8 (2 of 3 are Conservative), and Ward 16 (2 of 4 are Labour).

April 27, 2007

Vermont -- IRV passes Senate

The Vermont Press Bureau reports: A bill that would change the way Vermonters vote in congressional elections won final approval in the state Senate Thursday.

In a 16-12 vote, the Senate approved the use of instant runoff voting, a system in which voters would be asked to rank order their choices for Congress in order of preference. If no one candidate drew a majority of the first-place votes, the second choices of voters would be taken into account.

The legislation calls for the system — which was used in last year's Burlington mayoral race — to be used beginning in 2008 for Vermont's lone seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. If approved, Vermont would be the first state in the nation to use it, officials said.

It's unclear whether the House will have time to act on the measure before the Legislature adjourns next month, said House Speaker Gaye Symington, D-Jericho. -- Senate gives OK to runoff voting bill

April 26, 2007

North Carolina: IRV one step closer in Edgecombe County

The Rocky Mount Telegram reports: Instant runoff voting for Rocky Mount took one step closer to becoming a reality Tuesday, but officials say a final decision is still down the line.

The Edgecombe County Board of Elections voted unanimously Tuesday to approve a request by the state to use Rocky Mount as a pilot city for the voting method. However, the board made its vote contingent on the idea being approved by the Rocky Mount City Council. ...

The experimental voting process allows voters to rank the candidates on their original ballot, which would be used to decide any runoffs.

The vote completes one of three steps needed to put the system in place for October's municipal elections. The Nash County Board of Elections will meet to discuss and possibly vote on the initiative May 9, and though not required by law, members of both boards have said they want approval from the city council. -- Edgecombe board OKs voting plan

Vermont: Senate approve Instant Runoff plan

The Burlington Free Press reports: By a slim margin Wednesday, the Senate gave preliminary approval to a bill that would have Vermonters deciding congressional elections by instant runoff voting, the method Burlington used in last year's mayoral vote.

Supporters of the method hailed the 15-13 vote. "This definitely gives it a big boost," said Paul Burns, executive director of the Vermont Public Interest Research Group. "Despite the closeness of the vote, this is a giant step."

Opponents criticized instant runoff voting as confusing, expensive and unnecessary. "It's a problem that doesn't exist that's going to cost us money to fix, and there's not a lot of support around the state," said Sen. George Coppenrath, R-Caledonia.

The legislation calls for using instant runoff voting starting in 2008 with the state's lone U.S. House seat. Voters would rank the candidates in order of preference. If no candidate won more than 50 percent of the first-place votes, voters' second choice would be factored in. The idea is to ensure that whoever wins has the backing of a majority of voters. -- Burlington Free Press.com | Local/Vermont

April 22, 2007

"Should We Dispense with the Electoral College?"

PENNumbra has a debate on the Electoral College: Professor Sanford Levinson, of the University of Texas Law School, argues that true believers in majority rule should find it insufferable that the United States still employs a “constitutional iron cage built for us by [the] Framers,” which allows presidential candidates who lose the popular vote to win our nation’s highest office. Accordingly, he offers a challenge to his two interlocutors, Professor Daniel Lowenstein, of UCLA Law School, and Professor John McGinnis, of Northwestern Law School: “to defend the indefensible.” For his part, McGinnis argues that “majority rule in political decision making is far from sacrosanct,” and that while the Electoral College might not be the “best law that could be enacted,” it “fulfills the . . . essential criteria that any election for a president must meet in a democracy.” Furthermore, he maintains that “it [is] a virtue, not a defect, that the symbolism of the Electoral College reminds us that simple majority will is not the legitimating feature of society, but that instead popular consent is merely an instrument to protect the deep and enduring principles that make us a free people.” Similarly, Professor Lowenstein holds that “abstract majoritarianism” was never a goal of Framers like Madison; rather, the true “republican principle” is consent of the governed, and the Electoral College upholds this principle rather well. Finally, Lowenstein offers five reasons why the Electoral College should continue to receive the support of the American people, suggesting, ultimately, that “ [t]hose of us who see government as a practical enterprise will resist tearing down an institution that, however surprisingly, fits well into our system and fortifies it in numerous and diverse ways.” -- Should We Dispense with the Electoral College?

April 20, 2007

Ontario: Citizens' Assembly has chosen Mixed Member Proportional system

The Ontario Citizens' Assembly on Electoral Reform has announced: After months of learning, consulting and deliberating, the province’s first Citizens’ Assembly decided to recommend a new electoral system for Ontario: Mixed Member Proportional.

The Assembly worked to identify the principles we value most in an electoral system and weighed the options accordingly. This process gave citizens a direct voice in determining the options we have when we vote and how our votes are translated into seats for Members of Provincial Parliament (MPPs).

This recommendation carries real weight.

Referendum legislation was introduced to enable Ontarians to have their say. The government will hold a referendum in conjunction with the next provincial election in October 2007 so that all voters can decide whether to accept the Assembly’s recommendation for a Mixed Member Proportional voting system. ...

The Assembly’s work is nearly done. Our final report is due to the government on May 15, 2007. -- Citizens' Assembly on Electoral Reform

District of Columbia: DC-Utah voting bill passes House

The Washington Post reports: A bill giving the District its first full seat in Congress cleared the House yesterday, marking the city's biggest legislative victory in its quest for voting rights in nearly three decades.

Democrats on the House floor burst into applause, and Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) grabbed the arms of the District's nonvoting delegate, Eleanor Holmes Norton, as the 241 to 177 vote was announced. ...

But the bill faces considerable obstacles. Democrats don't appear to have enough votes in the Senate to avoid a filibuster, and the White House has threatened a veto. If the measure becomes law, it probably will be challenged in court. ...

The legislation, sponsored by Norton and Rep. Thomas M. Davis III (R-Va.), would add two seats to the House: one for the overwhelmingly Democratic District and another for the next state in line to pick up a representative, Republican-leaning Utah. -- House Approves A Full D.C. Seat - washingtonpost.com

April 11, 2007

Maryland: Governor signs National Popular Vote bill

The Washington Post reports: Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley signed into law yesterday a measure that would circumvent the Electoral College by awarding the state's electoral votes to the presidential candidate who wins the most votes nationwide.

The bill, one of 105 signed by the Democratic governor the day after the General Assembly adjourned, makes Maryland the first in the nation to agree to let the national popular vote trump statewide preference. It would not take effect until states that cumulatively hold 270 electoral votes -- the number needed to win a presidential election -- agree to do the same. ...

Supporters of the Electoral College measure, including O'Malley, say deciding elections by popular vote would give candidates reason to campaign nationwide and not concentrate their efforts in "battleground" states, such as Ohio, that have dominated recent elections.

During debate, opponents argued that election by popular vote could just switch the target for candidates from closely divided states to large cities -- a scenario that would not necessarily empower Maryland. And they suggested a national recount could be chaotic. -- O'Malley Revels in Legislative Successes - washingtonpost.com

April 3, 2007

Hertzberg on the need to change the election system

Paul Morton interviews Hendrik Hertzberg on Bookslut: Perhaps because his columns appear one to two weeks after the events they discuss, well after the pundits’ talking points have solidified into the boring, usually half-true conventional wisdom, Hendrik Hertzberg may be better equipped to maintain an interesting voice. Consider this assessment of the 2006 midterm election:

Americans have had enough, and their disgust with the Administration and its congressional enablers turned out to be so powerful that even the battered, rusty, sound-bit, TV-spotted, Die-bolded old seismograph of an American midterm election was able to register it. Thanks to the computer-aided gerrymandering that is the only truly modern feature of our electoral machinery, the number of seats that changed hands was not particularly high by historical standards. Voters -- actual people -- are a truer measure of the swing’s magnitude. In 2000, the last time this year’s thirty-three Senate seats were up for grabs, the popular-vote totals in those races, like the popular-vote totals for President, were essentially a tie. Democrats got forty-eight per cent of the vote, Republicans slightly more than forty-seven per cent. This time, in those same thirty-three states, Democrats got fifty-five per cent of the vote, Republicans not quite forty-three per cent. In raw numbers, the national Democratic plurality in the 2000 senatorial races was the same as Al Gore’s: around half a million. This time, despite the inevitably smaller off-year turnout and the fact that there were Senate races in only two-thirds of the states, it was more than seven million.

In that first sentence, with six well-chosen adjectives and a sure metaphor, Hertzberg brings up his signature talking point -- our 200-year-old electoral system needs a serious rewrite -- and then with a careful tabulation of the numbers, he points out the bleeding obvious: Bush suffered a brutal blow last November. This isn’t the finest paragraph Hertzberg has written, but there’s more wisdom, let alone information, packed into those eight sentences than in a 15-minute discussion on CNN. In an era in which op-ed columnists seem to be throwing out lame notes for their talks with George Stephanopoulos, Hertzberg shows us the value of the written word in political debate. -- Bookslut | An Interview with Hendrik Hertzberg

Florida: Miami-Dade mayor flirts with changes to commission elections

The Miami Herald reports: The next flare-up in Miami-Dade's increasingly tense ethnic politics might be attached to a long fuse lit months ago by Mayor Carlos Alvarez.

Answering questions after a late-January breakfast speech at the Miami City Club, he gingerly toed into a 20-year-old fight about how citizens should be represented on the County Commission.

''Without a doubt, there is a lot of interest in a combination of single-member districts and at-large,'' he said. ``It's a very touchy subject, but one there's a lot of interest in, without a doubt.''

From another politician at another time, it might have been a blip; polls show broad dissatisfaction with the County Commission, and Alvarez is not the first to suggest tinkering with its structure by adding members who are elected by the full county instead of a small district.

But the idea -- which Alvarez and others believe is bound to surface this spring when commissioners appoint a task force to study changing the county charter -- is seen as an attack by many black leaders, who fear their share of commission seats would fall. Some are especially apprehensive after two earlier incidents with racial undertones. -- Dade commission change could stir tension - 04/03/2007 - MiamiHerald.com

March 29, 2007

Maryland: Senate approves National Popular Vote plan

The Washington Post reports: Maryland is poised to become the first state to agree to bypass the electoral college and effectively elect U.S. presidents by national popular vote under legislation moving briskly toward the desk of Gov. Martin O'Malley (D).

But the bill comes with a big caveat: It would not take effect until enough other states agree to do the same. "It's a long way from home," said Senate President Thomas Mike V. Miller Jr. (D-Calvert). "I don't know if it will happen in my lifetime."

The bill, which the Senate approved 29 to 17 yesterday, would award the state's 10 electoral votes to the presidential candidate who wins the most votes nationwide -- not statewide. A similar bill was approved yesterday by a House committee and is expected to come before the full chamber today, and O'Malley signaled his backing.

Supporters of the measure, being championed by a national nonprofit group, say deciding elections by popular vote would give candidates reason to campaign nationwide and not concentrate their efforts in "battleground" states, such as Florida and Ohio, that have dominated recent elections. -- Md. Senate Advances Bill To Dodge Electoral College - washingtonpost.com

March 24, 2007

District of Columbia: Fenty to push DC voting rights bill, while Dem leadership pausing

The Washington Post reports: D.C. Mayor Adrian M. Fenty is scheduled to meet with a top Bush administration official Monday to press for congressional representation for the city, a goal that has grown more complicated in recent days as House Republicans and the White House have stepped up their opposition to a pending bill.

Fenty announced his meeting with White House Chief of Staff Joshua B. Bolten as supporters of a D.C. vote bill hashed out strategies to send it back to the House floor for passage.

The Democratic leadership of the House had expected that the measure giving the District its first full-fledged seat in the chamber would pass easily Thursday. But, at the end of a lengthy debate, Republicans moved to send the bill back to committee with new language that would overturn the city's strict gun laws.

The surprise maneuver was aimed at winning support from conservative Democrats from pro-gun areas. Fearful they would defect, Democratic leaders pulled the bill from the House floor. -- Fenty to Meet With Bush Official to Push Measure - washingtonpost.com

March 21, 2007

District of Columbia: White House threatens veto of DC vote bill

The Washington Post reports: The White House stepped up its opposition yesterday to legislation that would give the District a full seat in the House of Representatives, saying that if it reaches President Bush, his top advisers "would recommend that he veto the bill."

The statement came as the House Republican leadership began a vigorous campaign to persuade party members to vote against the bill when it reaches the House floor Friday.

The D.C. vote measure easily cleared two House committees last week, with strong Democratic support and votes from several Republicans. Democrats have pledged to use their 32-seat House majority to pass it. Friday will mark the first time the full House has considered granting the District a full seat in Congress since 1993, when a statehood measure was defeated.

But the threat of a presidential veto could harm the bill's chances in the Senate, where Republican support is needed to avoid a filibuster. -- Bush Advised To Issue Veto If D.C. Vote Bill Passes - washingtonpost.com

March 19, 2007

District of Columbia: White House signals concerns about DC vote in House

The Washington Post reported on Saturday: The White House declared its opposition yesterday to a bill that would give the District its first full seat in the House of Representatives, saying it is unconstitutional, and a key Senate supporter said such concerns could kill the measure.

"The Constitution specifies that only 'the people of the several states' elect representatives to the House," said White House spokesman Alex Conant. "And D.C. is not a state."

He declined to say whether President Bush would veto the bill, but the White House appeared to be sending a message to Congress just as momentum for the measure was building. It cleared two House committees this week, and the Democratic leadership has vowed to pass it on the House floor next week.

The bill seeks to increase the House permanently to 437 seats, from 435. In a bipartisan compromise, one seat would go to the overwhelmingly Democratic District, which has a nonvoting delegate in the House. The other would go to the next state in line to pick up a seat based on the 2000 Census: Utah, which leans Republican. -- White House Opposes D.C. Vote - washingtonpost.com

March 15, 2007

District of Columbia: committee hearing on legality of giving DC a House seat

The Washington Post reports: A congressional committee yesterday heard sharply differing opinions on whether a bill giving the District a vote in the House of Representatives is constitutional -- with one scholar predicting it would be swiftly overturned by the courts and others saying it would most likely be upheld.

The hearing came on the eve of a key vote on the bill by the House Judiciary Committee. If the measure is approved today as expected, it will advance to the House floor, where the Democratic leadership has pledged to pass it in the next few weeks. It would then go to the Senate.

The bill attempts to overcome partisan concerns by adding two seats to the House -- one for the District, which is heavily Democratic, and another for the state next in line for an additional representative. That is currently Utah, a Republican stronghold.

Legal doubts are the main issue cited by opponents of the bill, who note that the Constitution limits membership in the House to people from "the several states." Jonathan Turley, a constitutional scholar from George Washington University Law School, told the Judiciary Committee yesterday that such concerns are well-founded. -- Legality of D.C. Seat in Congress Debated - washingtonpost.com

March 14, 2007

District of Columbia: House committee passes voting rights bill

The Washington Post reports: A congressional committee approved a bill yesterday granting the District a full vote in the House of Representatives, giving the measure its first victory in what will probably be weeks of fierce wrangling as it moves through Congress.

The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform voted 24 to 5 for the bill, an endorsement its supporters expected. But in a likely sign of things to come, there was feisty sparring, with opponents calling the measure unconstitutional and marshaling amendments to derail it.

The voting rights bill, co-sponsored by Rep. Thomas M. Davis III (R-Va.), would expand the House from 435 to 437 seats. In a political compromise, one seat would go to the overwhelmingly Democratic District, which has sought full representation for decades. The other would go to the next state in line to expand its delegation based on census figures: Utah, which leans Republican. ...

Even if it clears the House, though, the bill faces big hurdles. It would have to be approved by the Senate, where so far it has elicited little support from Republicans. It also would have to be signed by President Bush, whose staff has expressed doubts about its constitutionality. If it succeeds in becoming law, it will almost certainly face a court challenge. -- Committee Endorses Bill to Give D.C. Full Voting Rights in House - washingtonpost.com

March 9, 2007

Arkansas: National Popular Vote defeated in legislative committee

AP reports: Legislation calling on other states to adopt a system of electing the president by popular vote was defeated before a House panel today.

The proposal, by Representative Monty Davenport, a Democrat from Yellville, failed on an eight-to-five vote after members questioned the impact it would have on Arkansas' role in national politics. -- Bill to alter Electoral College fails in committee

March 2, 2007

Alabama: state considering change in judicial elections

The Birmingham News reports: Alabama Chief Justice Sue Bell Cobb says she has millions of reasons the state should change the way it picks top judges:

$14.8 million was spent by candidates in partisan elections in appeals court races last year. Outside groups and political parties spent at least $1 million more.

$7.7 million was spent in the three-way contest for chief justice. It was the second most expensive court race in United States history.

Alabama is one of 13 states looking into changing how their judges are chosen. ...

Since 1993, Alabama Supreme Court candidates have raked in $53 million, tops in the nation. Most has come from groups with an economic stake in how judges rule in Alabama, including trial lawyers, businesses and gambling interests. -- State considers new way to pick judges

The News also carries two related stories: here and here.

December 15, 2006

Sen. Johnson, the "organizing resolution," and Richard Nixon

Kagro X writes on DailyKos: Recent speculation in both the WaPo and Time have sparked a mini-panic, by positing that Sen. Tim Johnson's medical condition could embolden the Senate Republicans to either make an outright attempt to thwart the transfer of control of the chamber to the new majority, or at least set themselves up for such a grab should Johnson (or any other Democrat) be replaced by a Republican during the session.

Here's how it sets up, in the Time article, by Karen Tumulty:

The incapacitation of South Dakota Senator Tim Johnson has put all eyes in Washington on what is normally a little-noticed Senate vote now scheduled for Jan. 4. It is called the "organizing resolution," and is the bit of internal housekeeping that determines how committee memberships will be allotted between the two parties, as well as who will get to serve as chairman and ranking members of each of the panels. These resolutions traditionally stand until the next Congress, even if the makeup of the chamber shifts to put the other party in the majority, which is why precedent would seem to dictate that the Chamber would stay in Democratic hands, even if Johnson is replaced by a Republican. [...]

-- Daily Kos: Could Johnson's absence throw the Senate into chaos?

December 5, 2006

Utah, District of Columbia: will the deal pass?

The New York Times reports: The State of Utah and the District of Columbia are perhaps the oddest imaginable political allies in a nation of polarized partisan loyalties, alike in few things other than bankable predictability: Washington Democratic, Utah Republican.

But they share outrage that each does not have more influence in Congress, and Utah took a big step toward a marriage of convenience Monday when legislators here approved a plan that would give the state a fourth Congressional seat before the next census and Washington its first voting representation ever.

The plan for the District and Utah, a state denied a fourth seat after the 2000 census because the government did not count thousands of residents who were away serving as missionaries for the Mormon Church, faces big hurdles.

Still, the gulf of political difference between the two is the very glue that offers both of them some hope Congress will give its required approval: one of the newly created seats would almost certainly be Democratic, the other Republican, with no net change in the balance of power. -- Utah, Using Olive Branch, Tries to Add Seat in House - New York Times

November 20, 2006

Alabama: judge writes in favor of Missouri plan

Judge J. Scott Vowell writes in the Birmingham News: As an Alabama judge, I am embarrassed by the recent judicial elections. We must change the way we select our judges. Now, before the mud is dry, is a good time to start.

All Alabama state court judges in both the appellate and trial courts are elected for six-year terms in partisan political races. A judicial candidate must first win the nomination of one of the political parties and then win in a general election. Alabama is one of the last states to select judges in this manner.

We want our judges to decide cases based upon the law and the facts. We do not want judges who decide disputes based on politics. Why should we select them because of their politics? Most voters have no way of knowing which judicial candidates are best qualified for the job. The curious voter can learn something about the candidates from bar association polls, attorneys' endorsements and newspaper recommendations. Some voters learn about the candidates from expensive political advertising, but many just vote a straight party ticket, regardless of the candidates' qualifications.

Alabama spends far more money on judicial elections than any other state. During this 2006 campaign alone, it was reported that Alabama Supreme Court candidates raised more than $11.5 million. These campaign funds come primarily from lawyers and special-interest groups who have an interest in the outcome of litigation that will come before these same judicial candidates when they become judges. This hardly promotes the public's confidence in the fairness of the courts. -- Want fairness?

November 10, 2006

District of Columbia: Pelosi will support more voting power for Delegate Norton

The Washington Post reports:
U.S. Rep. Nancy Pelosi said yesterday that she hopes to swiftly bring the District a step closer to full voting rights in the House, a measure D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton called a move in the right direction.

Pelosi (D-Calif.), who is poised to become the speaker of the House in January, said she wants to change House rules Jan. 3, the first day of the new session, so that Norton can vote on proposed changes to legislation on the House floor. Under the planned move, she would not be able to vote on final passage. ...

Norton, just elected to a ninth term, currently can vote in committee but not on the floor.

Beyond the proposed rule changes, Pelosi supports full voting rights in the House for the District. But she opposes pending legislation introduced last spring by Norton and U.S. Rep. Thomas M. Davis III (R-Va.) that would achieve that goal because of a trade-off provision supported by Republicans. That provision would give Utah, a Republican stronghold, another seat in the House. -- Pelosi May Move D.C. Closer to Voting Rights - washingtonpost.com

November 8, 2006

Washington State: IRV ahead in Pierce County

The Tacoma News Tribune reports: Proposed amendment No. 3 would make 10 Pierce County positions – executive, the seven-member council, auditor and assessor-treasurer – decided by instant runoff voting. Instead of having a primary to nominate candidates and a general election to decide between finalists, voters would pick one candidate, regardless of party, in a single election. They would have the option of also selecting second- and third-choice candidates.

Passage of the amendment – which was ahead late Tuesday – would make Pierce County a model for other Washington counties, and be a first step toward the end of the disliked pick-a-party elections, said Kelly Haughton, a charter review commission member and proponent of the amendment. -- Elected-sheriff amendment easily passes | TheNewsTribune.com | Tacoma, WA

California: Oakland adopts instant-runoff voting

The San Francisco Chronicle reports: Bay Area voters took up an array of local measures Tuesday - ranging from the offbeat, only-here issue of whether to call for the impeachment of President Bush to practical matters such as improving libraries and paying for more police officers. ...

Oakland's Measure O would mean the adoption of ranked-choice voting -- also known as instant runoff voting -- in the city. Under the system, already in use in San Francisco, voters rank their three top choices so a winner can be declared even if he or she doesn't garner a majority of first-place votes.

Sixty-seven percent of voters backed the measure, and 33 percent were opposed. -- Offbeat and practical issues taken up around Bay Area

Minnesota: Minneapolis voters adopt instant-runoff voting

The Star Tribune reports: Voters in Minneapolis tossed out years of tradition by adopting a new voting system for local elections, a historic change that supporters said would increase voter participation.

With more than 93 percent of the precincts reporting, city voters approved by nearly a 2-to-1 ratio a charter amendment for instant-runoff voting, a system used in San Francisco and two other U.S. cities.

"It clearly shows that Minneapolis is ready to take the next step toward democracy," said Jeanne Massey, lead coordinator for the Minneapolis Better Ballot Campaign.

The election system eliminates primary elections for most municipal contests and allows voters to rank their choices for office, instead of choosing a single candidate. -- Measure to overhaul municipal races passes

November 7, 2006

District of Columbia: group pushes for DC congressional representation bill

The Washington Post reports: A prominent group of D.C. politicians and business leaders is making a new push for approval this year of a bipartisan bill in Congress that would give District residents full voting rights in the House for the first time.

The initiative comes six months after Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) and U.S. Rep. Thomas M. Davis III (R-Va.) introduced a bill in the House of Representatives that includes a provision for D.C. voting rights. The advocates are calling on Rep. F. James Sensenbrenner Jr. (R-Wis.), chairman of the Judiciary Committee, to move the bill to a floor vote in Congress before the session adjourns. ...

Passage depends on a bipartisan trade-off expanding the House from 435 to 437 members. One seat would go to the District and the other to Utah, which would make it a statewide position. Because more than three-quarters of registered voters in the District are Democrats and Utah is a Republican stronghold, the compromise would likely keep a balance between the parties. -- Power Elite Lean on Congress to Approve Bill - washingtonpost.com

October 20, 2006

Judicial Selection in the States

The American Judicature Society is in the process of updating its website on judicial selection methods (a full update will be done by next summer). Professor Rachel Paine Caufield, a Research and Program Consultant at the American Judicature Society, is seeking folks who can double-check the information for their own states. If you are interested, please contact her at rcaufield@ajs.org.

October 1, 2006

California: Schwarzenegger vetoes national popular vote law

The Los Angeles Times reports: Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger finished evaluating the year's crop of legislation Saturday by requiring landlords to give 60 days' eviction notice, banning people from riding in the trunks of cars and stopping vintners from associating their wine with Sonoma County except under certain conditions. ...

The governor rejected legislation to have California join a campaign by states to elect presidents by a national popular vote instead of by the Electoral College. AB 2948 by Assemblyman Tom Umberg (D-Anaheim) was intended to compel contenders to campaign everywhere and not just primarily in swing states. -- Gov. Acts on Last of New Bills - Los Angeles Times

September 22, 2006

California: state set to become first to adopt "national popular vote" system

The New York Times reports: In his early 20’s, John R. Koza and fellow graduate students invented a brutally complicated board game based on the Electoral College that became a brief cult hit and recently fetched $100 for an antique version on eBay.

By his 30’s, Dr. Koza was a co-inventor of the scratch-off lottery ticket and found it one of the few sure ways to find fortune with the lottery.

Now, a 63-year-old eminence among computer scientists who teaches genetic programming at Stanford, Dr. Koza has decided to top off things with an end run on the Constitution. He has concocted a plan for states to skirt the Electoral College system legally to insure the election of whichever presidential candidate receives the most votes nationwide. ...

The first fruit of his effort, a bill approved by the California legislature that would allocate the state’s 55 electoral votes to the winner of the national popular vote, sits on Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s desk. The governor has to decide by Sept. 30 whether to sign it, a decision that may well determine whether Dr. Koza’s scheme takes flight or becomes another relic in the history of efforts to kill the Electoral College. -- Innovator Devises Way Around Electoral College - New York Times

September 21, 2006

Alabama: federal court orders new election plan be adopted for Chilton County

The federal court in the Middle District of Alabama has ordered Chilton County to develop a new election plan to be used in the 2008 election. The order stems from a suit brought by two white voters to dismantle the cumulative voting plan used in the county since 1988. The CV plan was agreed by the plaintiffs and defendants and put into effect by a consent decree.

The court's opinon and
order may be downloaded here.

Note: James Blacksher and I represent the plaintiffs in this action. We have already appealed the decision setting aside the 1988 injuntion.

Utah: GOP proposes 4-district congressional plan

The Salt Lake Tribune reports: Utah's lone Democrat in Congress may get carved into a Democratic-leaning district under a plan Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. and legislative leaders are pushing as a way to drum up support for Utah to get a fourth congressional seat.

Huntsman, House Speaker Greg Curtis and Senate President John Valentine - all Republicans - endorsed a map Wednesday for four congressional districts, in which Matheson would represent northern Salt Lake County and Summit and Morgan counties.

Matheson was first elected in a district that was wholly within Salt Lake County, but was gerrymandered into a more Republican district stretching from Salt Lake City's Avenues all the way to the Utah-Arizona state line.

The state leaders' move comes as an attempt to assuage congressional Democrats' fear that if they vote to give Utah a fourth U.S. House seat, Matheson would be merged into a district more Republican than his current rea. A bill awaiting action in Congress would grant Republican-dominated Utah another House seat as a way to counterbalance a seat for the Democratic haven of the District of Columbia, which currently has no voting member of Congress. -- Salt Lake Tribune - GOP pitches congressional district plan

September 20, 2006

Nebraska: state judge blocks law on Omaha-area school districts

AP reports: A Douglas County judge issued an order Monday blocking the implementation of a law that would divide the Omaha district into three smaller districts and create a new "learning community" of all districts in Sarpy and Douglas counties. ...

offey also said the voting structure of the learning community is "grossly disproportionate" and violates the Nebraska Constitution.

The schools law says any proposal must win approval from a majority of the learning community council's 11 voting members, and the "yes" votes must represent at least one-third of the public school enrollment in Douglas and Sarpy Counties.

"Nothing in the act in any way attempts to equalize the voting rights of the various and varied member school districts and those they represent," Coffey said. -- Sioux City Journal: Judge issues order blocking law that divides Omaha district

September 15, 2006

District of Columbia: House committee holds hearing on House member for DC

The Washington Times reports: Law experts and officials testified on the Capitol Hill yesterday on the constitutionality of a bill that would give the District one vote in Congress.

The bill, introduced early this year by Rep. Thomas M. Davis III, Virginia Republican, and Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, a Democrat and the District's non-voting member of the House, also would give Utah, a primarily Republican state, an extra vote.

The District is not considered a state and does not have voting representatives in the House or in the Senate.

The hearing was held before the House Judiciary Constitution subcommittee. -- Officials testify on a vote for D.C. - Metropolitan - The Washington Times, America's Newspaper

Utah: governor testifies on additional Congressional representative for state

The Deseret Morning News reports: Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. told a U.S. House subcommittee Thursday that Utah would take a "fair and objective" approach in drawing new congressional districts for the state, if required to do so to gain an extra seat in the House of Representatives.

A pending bill would create an at-large seat for Utah until the 2010 Census is completed and would give the District of Columbia a House vote. But a key lawmaker wants to change the at-large element for the Utah seat and instead create four districts for the state.

Huntsman told the House Constitution Subcommittee that he prefers the at-large seat as it stands in the bill now. The measure would create a fourth seat for Utah that would represent the whole state until the 2012 election. ...

House Judiciary Chairman James Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., is likely to offer an amendment taking away the at-large status and calling for four districts in Utah. His spokesman, Jeff Lungren, said the chairman wants Utahns to each have only one representative, like residents of other states, and creating the at-large seat would give each Utahn two representatives. -- deseretnews.com | Realigning would be fair, Huntsman says

August 29, 2006

Alabama: cumulative voting in Chilton County may end soon, if white group gets it way

AP reports: Chilton County's lone black commissioner, Bobby Agee, figures his tenure on the County Commission is over if the central Alabama county, which is nearly 90 percent white, ends a cumulative voting system that was approved in 1988.

So does an attorney representing black voters in the county, which had an all-white commission prior to the change.

"Because of racially polarized voting, only blacks stand to lose if the voting system is changed," attorney Jim Blacksher said Monday.

U.S District Judge Myron Thompson, who approved the 1988 plan, ruled earlier this month that the cumulative voting for seven county commissioners in Chilton County must end and the county must return to four commission districts elected under one person, one vote. -- Chilton County's lone black commissioner worried about vote order | TimesDaily.com | Times Daily | Florence, AL

Disclosure: James Blacksher and I represent the black plaintiffs in this case.

August 19, 2006

APSA paper: "Pointless Representation: The Tyranny of the Majority in Proportional Electoral System"

Carla, Andrea. "Pointless Representation: The Tyranny of the Majority in Proportional Electoral System"

Abstract: Since the foundation of the state Arab-Israelis are always been considered citizens of Israel and have always had the right to vote for the Israeli parliamentary elections. The core of Israeli democratic character, the Parliament, has been elected with proportional electoral system. This electoral system is supposed to create a representative body that reflects almost like a mirror the various segments that compose the society. Therefore, through this system minorities are able to obtain a voice in the management of the affairs of the state. Indeed, it has worked for various minority groups in the Israeli society, such as the ultra-Orthodox, who, although in an underprivileged position, have been part of several government coalitions, and have participated to the shaping of the general policies of the state, thus being able to satisfy their demands and interests. However, many observers will argue that Arab-Israelis have a long history of discrimination. Despite the presence of Arab-Israeli representatives in the parliament, the Arab minority has not been able to participate fully in the nation-building and decision-making processes of the Israeli state. This paper analyzes how, in the presence of the proportional electoral system, Arab-Israelis have been subjected to policies of discrimination. In particular, it considers which has been the role of the electoral system in causing the voice of Arab minority being ignored.
Through an analysis of the political life of the Arab minority, this paper shows how the proportional electoral system has combined with other factors of the Israeli politics, especially the position of power of the Jewish majority, and how it has determined the status of Arabs in Israel. In the Israeli context the proportional electoral system reveals two paradoxes. Firstly, the political life of the Arab-Israeli population has been characterized by the weaknesses of its political awareness and political leadership, furthered by the activities of the Israeli government and Israeli main parties. The proportional electoral system, by allowing several possibilities of representations, has maintained these weaknesses, undermining the political weight of the Arab-Israeli population. Secondly, Israel is a liberal Zionist Jewish state, in which Arab-Israelis do not enjoy complete citizenship, since they cannot attend to the common good and do not participate in decisions regarding the nature of the state. The representation guaranteed by the proportional electoral system allows institutionalizing this uncompleted form of citizenship, revealing itself as a politically pointless representation, which does not guarantee protection against politics of exclusion and discrimination and leaves the Arab minority subjected to the tyranny of the Jewish majority population.

This case study confirms that equality does not derive from formal representation; rather it comes from substantive participation and inclusion of those affected by the collective decisions. -- Download file

August 15, 2006

Alabama: judge undoes cumulative voting system in Chilton County

The Clanton Advertiser reports: A federal judge yesterday overturned a 1988 ruling that allowed for Chilton County's commissioners to be elected by cumulative voting, paving the way to return to a four-person commission headed by the county's probate judge.

The order, issued by U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson yesterday, read, "all requests for the court to change the way in which the Chilton County Commission is elected different from the one that existed before the 1988 injunction are denied."

Judge Thompson first heard arguments in Chilton County's case in April 2005, and his ruling begins to close the book on the county's seven-man vote. -- The Clanton Advertiser: News

The ruling is here.

Disclosure: I am one of the counsel for the plaintiffs in this case.

July 27, 2006

North Carolina: House passes instant runoff bill

AP reports: The House needed three tries to finally get a bill through that allows up to 20 communities to operate "instant runoff" elections through 2008. The bill, which also pushed back by three weeks the date of the primary runoff date for legislative and statewide elections during even-numbered years, now goes to Gov. Mike Easley for his signature. "This thing's like a vampire, it just won't die," said Rep. Tim Moore, R-Cleveland, before the measure finally passed 60-51. The House narrowly rejected twice this week a Senate version of the measure creating the pilot in which voters in local elections to rank their order of preference among the candidates. It's meant as a way to improve voter participation and reduce expensive runoff elections. No county will be forced to participate. "There won't be any local instant runoff voting if the counties don't agree to do that," said Rep. Deborah Ross, D-Wake, who supported the bill. -- Wednesday at the General Assembly

July 25, 2006

ACS video on civil rights enforcement and paper on ranked-choice voting

An email from the American Constitution Society: Earlier today, ACS distributed two sets of materials of likely interest to your readers and the civil rights community.

First, we posted streaming video of a recent panel discussing recent changes in federal civil rights enforcement at the 2006 ACS National Convention. The issue has been in the news cycle since Charlie Savage’s Justice Department expose in The Boston Globe this Sunday. Panelists included the following:

* Roger Clegg, President and General Counsel, Center for Equal Opportunity

* Stuart Ishimaru, Commissioner, U.S. EEOC

* Brian Landsberg, Pacific McGeorge School of Law

* Bill Lann Lee, Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein, LLP; former U.S. Assistant Attorney General

* Bill Taylor, Chair, Citizens’ Commission on Civil Rights

* Judith A. Winston, Winston, Withers & Associates, LLC

Second, we released an ACS Issue Brief by David Cobb, Patrick Barrett and Caleb Kleppner proposing ranked-choice voting as an alternative to plurality systems. “Preserving and Expanding the Right to Vote: Ranked-choice Voting” suggests that that ranked-choice voting presents a unique opportunity to improve our democratic structure by diminishing negative campaigning, improving voter choice, promoting greater discussion of the issues, eliminating the need for costly runoff elections and, ultimately, increasing the political power of all voters.

May 31, 2006

California: Assembly passes national popular vote plan

The Los Angeles Times reports: Seeking to force presidential candidates to pay attention to California's 15.5 million voters, state lawmakers on Tuesday jumped aboard a new effort that would award electoral votes to the candidate who wins the popular vote nationwide.

As it is now, California grants its Electoral College votes to the candidate who wins the popular vote in the state. Practically speaking, that means Democrat-dominated California spends the fall presidential campaign on the sidelines as candidates focus on the states — mostly in the upper Midwest — that are truly up for grabs.

Under a bill passed by the Assembly, California would join an interstate compact in which states would agree to cast their electoral votes not for the winner in their jurisdictions but for the winner nationwide. Proponents say that would force candidates to broaden their reach to major population centers such as California.

The bill is part of a 3-month-old movement driven by a Bay Area lawyer and a Stanford computer science professor. The same 888-word bill is pending in four other states and is expected to be introduced in every state by January, its sponsors say. The legislation would not take effect until enough states passed such laws to make up a majority of the Electoral College votes — a minimum of 13 states, depending on population. -- Bill to Bolster Election Clout Gains - Los Angeles Times

May 30, 2006

Half-Day course on the National Popular Vote Plan

[Re-updated information:] For those interested in the National Popular Vote Plan for electing the president, there will be a short course on the plan at the American Political Science Association meeting. The details are in the extension to this post. All short courses are held on August 30.

In a nutshell, the NPVP would work through an interstate compact that would come into effect when enough states holding a majority of the electorate votes had adopted it. Thereafter, the member states' electors would be those pledged to vote for the national popular vote winner. For more details, go to the National Popular Vote website.

Continue reading "Half-Day course on the National Popular Vote Plan" »

April 15, 2006

New Hampshire: 8 states apply for early caucuses and primaries

AP reports: At least eight states applied yesterday to join Iowa and New Hampshire in voting early in the 2008 Democratic presidential contest.

Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Michigan, Mississippi, Nevada and South Carolina had put in a bid by yesterday afternoon. Democratic National Committee spokesman Damien LaVera said he wasn't sure how many more states might apply.

The DNC's Rules and Bylaws Committee agreed last month to let several other states that are larger and more racially diverse than Iowa and New Hampshire choose their presidential favorites early.

Under a process that still must be approved by the Rules Committee and the full national committee, one or two states would hold caucuses between Iowa and New Hampshire, while another one or two would hold primaries shortly after New Hampshire. In 2004, both Iowa and New Hampshire votes were in January. The rest of the primaries and caucuses began in early February.

On Thursday, representatives of some other states will be in New Orleans for the DNC's spring meeting to tell the committee why their states should be early ones. -- Eight states request earlier primaries, caucuses - Concord Monitor Online - Concord, NH 03301

March 16, 2006

South Carolina: IRV bill passes House committee

AP reports: A House subcommittee has approved changes in the state's primary elections forced by the threat of a federal lawsuit.

The panel approved creating "instant runoffs" for the state's June 13th primaries. -- WIStv.com Columbia, SC: House subcommittee approves "instant runoffs"

Alabama: House passes bill adopting IRV for overseas voters

AP reports: The Alabama House approved a bill Thursday that will allow military personnel overseas to cast a ballot for the June 27 party runoffs at the same time they vote in the June 6 primary elections - a change lawmakers hope will resolve a lawsuit filed against the state by the U.S. Justice Department.

The House voted 101-1 to approve the legislation sponsored by Rep. Lesley Vance, D-Phenix City. Vance's bill would have originally moved the date of the runoffs to July 18, but the House approved an amendment by Majority Leader Rep. Ken Guin, D-Carbon Hill, to instead allow soldiers to use the special runoff ballots.

But the issue is still not settled. A Senate committee Thursday approved a bill to change the runoff date and some senators said the final version of the bill still must be worked out.

The Justice Department's lawsuit claims there is not enough time between the June 6 party primaries and the June 27 runoffs for military personnel overseas, particularly those fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, to receive and return absentee ballots. -- Welcome to TimesDaily.com

The bill as engrossed (that is as it passed the House) is here.

March 15, 2006

Alabama: House consider IRV amendment to primary runoff bill

AP reports: The Alabama House delayed a vote Wednesday on a proposal to change the date of political party primary runoff elections from June 27 to July 18 to give members time to study a different plan for giving military personnel overseas an opportunity to vote in the runoff.

The U.S. Justice Department has filed a lawsuit against the state, claiming there is not enough time between the June 6 party primaries and the June 27 runoffs for military personnel overseas, particularly those fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, to receive and return absentee ballots.

Attorney General Troy King and Secretary of State Nancy Worley had recommended a bill to delay the date of the runoff to resolve the problem.

But when that bill came up on the House floor for debate Wednesday, House Majority Leader Rep. Ken Guin, D-Carbon Hill, suggested an amendment that would leave the runoffs on June 27, but would allow counties to send soldiers absentee ballots for the runoffs when they mail out the primary ballots.

The special runoff ballots, to be sent only to service members overseas, would list the names of all candidates in races where there are more than two candidates and there is a possibility there will be a runoff. The service members would be asked to rank those candidates from favorite to least favorite and return the runoff ballot with the primary ballot, Guin said. -- Welcome to TimesDaily.com

March 13, 2006

Democrats still fiddling with primary and caucus schedule

The Washington Post reports: The Democratic Party's Rules and Bylaws Committee yesterday dealt a blow to New Hampshire Democrats hoping to keep their coveted place in the presidential nominating schedule, agreeing by voice vote to a plan that would place one or two caucuses between the Iowa caucuses on Jan. 14, 2008, and the New Hampshire primary eight days later.

The proposal, which grew from recommendations by a commission studying how to make the nominating process more diverse both racially and geographically, would also add one or two primaries after the New Hampshire contest but before Feb. 5 -- the date after which any state is free to schedule a vote. -- Democrats to Alter Caucus Schedule to Boost Diversity

March 9, 2006

Vermont: IRV in Burlington worked

FairVote reports on its website: On Tuesday March 7, Burlington, VT became the first city in the U.S. in over 30 years to elect its mayor using instant runoff voting. After the first round of counting, no candidate garnered the required majority to win outright. Progressive candidate Bob Kiss received 39% of first-choice votes, Democrat Hinda Miller 31%, and Republican Kevin Curley 26%. At this point an instant runoff kicked in. Curley and two other independent candidates were eliminated and their second choices counted. This gave Kiss enough votes to cross the majority threshold and win the race.

Voters found the system easy to use and understand, and almost no trouble with the balloting was reported. The Progressive Party has been active in Vermont politics for decades, and Burlington has elected several Progressive mayors in the past under the previous plurality system.

March 6, 2006

Vermont: Burlington to use IRV Tuesday

AP reports: Runoff elections are traditionally cumbersome processes, taking weeks and sometimes months to determine a winner. On Tuesday, Burlington will do it all instantly.

The results for the first election and whatever runoffs are needed to settle a five-way race for mayor will be known soon after poll closing.

That's because voters, for the first time in a mayoral election in the United States, will vote Tuesday not only for their top choice, but also for their second, third and fourth choices through an innovation known as instant runoff voting.

Voters will be handed a ballot listing the five candidates, three of them representing major parties, with columns indicating first through fifth choices. If none of the five gets 50 percent of the vote on the first round, the candidate with the lowest vote total would be eliminated. The second choice of voters who made that candidate their initial top choice then would count. -- Times Argus: Vermont News & Information

February 23, 2006

"National Popular Vote" formed

National Popular Vote announced today: Republicans, Democrats and Independents, including former Republican Representative and Independent presidential candidate John Anderson, joined together today to call for the national popular election of the President. They offered a novel approach which is politically practical because it relies on the Constitutional power given to states to allocate Presidential electors.

“The occupant of the nation’s highest office should be determined by winning the national popular vote,” said Anderson, who today is chair of FairVote. “The current system of allocating electoral votes on a statewide winner-take-all basis dampens voter participation by concentrating campaign efforts on a shrinking number of battleground states and can have the disheartening effect of trumping the national popular vote.”

Today marked the launch of efforts to introduce and pass bills in all 50 state legislatures that would award the states’ electoral votes to the winner of the national popular vote. The National Popular Vote plan will go into effect when the number of states that have passed the law can determine the outcome of the Presidential election.

Texas: Garland tries to decide on elections this year or next

The Dallas Morning News reports: The Garland City Council held a three-hour public hearing Tuesday night but still couldn't decide whether to call for elections in May.

After hearing from 26 speakers, the council voted, 4-3, in favor of calling an election, but that won't happen because it takes at least five votes to make a binding decision. ...

Four council members – Mr. Bradley, Ms. Dunn, Mr. Garner and Mr. Holden – oppose elections this year because they believe they were elected to three-year terms in 2004, even though voters in the same election approved a charter amendment changing council terms from three years to two.

Mr. Hickey has voted with them in the past, making it 5-4 against calling an election.

Mr. Day, Ms. Chick, Mr. Dunning and Mr. Monroe favor holding elections, on the grounds that the charter amendment took effect before the 2004 election winners were sworn in. -- Dallas Morning News | News for Dallas, Texas | Local News

February 20, 2006

My comment on the New York Times article (below):

The New York Times does a dissersive to its readers by publishing a piece that uses terms such as "obscure," "arcane," and "quirky" to say essentially, "This stuff is too complicated for you readers to understand, so we'll just tell you that it's strange."

Actually, the Palestinian election system (or really half of it) shares a trait with most American elections -- the "first past the post" rule. Simply put, the candidate with the most votes wins without regard to whether the candidate has the support of a majority. In the United States, nearly all U.S. Senators and Representatives are elected this way. In Palestine, half the legislature is elected by a nation-wide party list system with seats awarded proportionately to the wons won, and the other half is multi-member districts. Fairvote (the Center for Voting and Democracy) does a good job of explaining the difference:

In the national legislative election held on January 25th, Hamas won 76 of 132 seats, or 58%, compared to 43 seats, or 33%, for the governing Fatah party. Palestine used a parallel system, electing 66 of 132 seats in multimember districts and 66 on a national list basis. Hamas won 30 of the national list seats, or 45%, while Fatah won 27, or 41%.

But Hamas also claimed 46 district seats, or 70%, versus 16, or 24%, for Fatah. Where Fatah overnominated candidates, Hamas proved more apt at "gaming" the winner-take-all district system. Fatah also may have faced spoilers from other moderate parties and independents.

Assuming the list totals are an accurate measure of national support for each party, Hamas is overrepresented by 25% while Fatah is underrepresented by 17%. Even with the mitigating effect of the list seats, Hamas is likely overrepresented in the full legislature by 13% while Fatah is under-represented by 8%. Had the entire parliament been filled in a list election, neither party would have had a majority, and Hamas would have had to form a coalition with more moderate factions. -- Palestinian Election System Delivers Hamas Majority

UPDATE: Fairvote has created a page about the Palestinian election.

Palestine: Hamas won because of "first past the post" election system

The New York Times reports: DEMOCRACY rests on the will of the majority. Or so the speeches say. But in reality, election systems are almost never designed to achieve majority rule alone. Like the famous checks and balances of the American system, they also try to give a wide range of groups a portion of power. But sometimes the framers of an election law can wildly miscalculate, allowing one faction to game the system and gain power far out of proportion to its share of the vote.

That's what seems to have happened in Hamas's victory in the Palestinian territories, according to a new analysis by an American who advised the Palestinian Authority on the elections. It represents a cautionary tale for other new democracies, like Iraq's, whose systems are being designed with the help of outside experts.

The reasons behind the overwhelming Hamas victory in the Palestinian elections go beyond a vote that was split among the numerous candidates backed by Fatah, the former ruling party, this new analysis shows. It strongly suggests that a quirk in the electoral law itself helped convert a slight margin in the popular vote into a landslide for the group.

The analysis was performed by Jarrett Blanc, the American elections expert, who also has worked on elections in Iraq, Afghanistan, Kosovo and Nepal. The lesson is that the way a new election law turns votes into representatives — the fine print of election laws — can have as much of an impact on who will be running a country as an occupying army. -- A Lesson From Hamas: Read the Voting Law's Fine Print - New York Times

February 17, 2006

San Francisco: Ranked Choice Voting saved money, increased turnout

Richard DeLeon, Chris Jerdonek and Steven Hill write in an op-ed: Recent studies of local election results in 2004 and 2005 (posted at www.sfrcv.com) show that the introduction of ranked choice voting in San Francisco is off to a good start. The shift from December runoffs to RCV has saved millions of taxpayer dollars, and voter participation was much higher and more inclusive than would be expected using the old runoff system. The voters themselves, when polled, overwhelmingly preferred RCV to the old December runoff system.

In RCV, voters rank up to three candidates. If no candidate wins a majority of first rankings, the candidate with the fewest first rankings is eliminated. Voters who ranked this candidate now have their vote counted for their second choice, and all ballots are recounted in an "instant runoff." If a candidate reaches a majority, she or he wins. If not, the process repeats until a candidate wins a majority of votes. By using RCV, we elect majority winners in a single election.

Continue reading "San Francisco: Ranked Choice Voting saved money, increased turnout" »

February 6, 2006

Alabama: Democrats support non-partisan election of judges

The Birmingham News reports: The 263 judges who sit on Alabama's district, circuit, appeals and supreme courts should run without Democratic or Republican party labels to give people more confidence that judges are fair and impartial, key Democratic lawmakers say.

"I don't know why you'd need to run a partisan campaign if you're going to be objective, and I think that's what you expect of judges, to be objective," said Speaker Seth Hammett, D-Andalusia, leader of the state House of Representatives.

But House Republicans said switching to nonpartisan elections for judges is a bad idea that's been debated for decades in Alabama and gone nowhere. They predict a similar fate this year for yet another plan to make Alabama's judicial races nonpartisan.

Republicans say party labels help voters choose among candidates, which is needed because most voters don't have time to search through the opinions of a judge seeking re-election, or to review a hopeful lawyer's resume and reputation. -- Democrats seek nonpartisan elections for state's judges

January 30, 2006

New York: federal court holds convention system for nominating trial judges unconstitutional

The New York Law Journal reports: The system of electing Supreme Court justices in New York violates the rights of voters and judicial candidates and must be scrapped, a federal judge said Friday in a scathing ruling that could change forever the way judicial offices in the state are filled.

Eastern District of New York Judge John Gleeson enjoined the New York State Board of Elections from using the unique -- and likely unconstitutional -- system of conventions and delegates that now determines which candidates for Supreme Court judgeships appear on election ballots.

Gleeson said Supreme Court justices should be nominated by primary elections until the state Legislature enacts a new statutory scheme to replace New York Election Law §6-106.

"The plaintiffs have demonstrated convincingly that local major party leaders -- not the voters or the delegates to the judicial nominating conventions -- control who becomes a Supreme Court Justice and when," he wrote in Lopez Torres v. New York State Board of Elections, 04 CV 1129. "The highly unusual processes by which that extremely important office is filled perpetuate that control, and deprive the voters of any meaningful role. The result is an opaque, undemocratic selection procedure that violates the rights of the voters and the rights of candidates who lack the backing of the local party leaders." -- Law.com - Federal Court Determines Party Bosses Control N.Y. Judicial Nominations

December 14, 2005

Illinois: 3 judges miss filing deadline for reelection, may sue

The Chicago Tribune reports: Three Cook County judges face the potential loss of their seats after they missed a deadline last week to file for retention.

"She simply forgot to file," said Mathias Delort, an election lawyer representing Judge Joan Margaret O'Brien. "She is crestfallen about the situation."

Delort and Burt Odelson, a lawyer representing Judge Carole Kamin Bellows, who also failed to file on time, are asking a Cook County judge to rule unconstitutional the state statute setting the Dec. 5 deadline.

A hearing before Judge Patrick McGann, the presiding judge of the county division, has been set for Monday.

Delort said a law passed in 1977 by the Illinois General Assembly violated the state constitution when it moved the judges' filing deadline to December, even though the election does not take place until November of the following year. The constitution calls for judges seeking retention to file in May, he said. -- Chicago Tribune | 3 judges miss deadlines, could lose seats

December 13, 2005

More on the Democratic Party Commission's proposal for primary reform

Spencer Overton writes on the Blackprof blog: Most commissioners and reporters--focused on the New Hampshire/Iowa pre-window debate--left the room after we approved this part of the report. But it was at this time when Harold Ickes and Don Fowler announced proposed "bonus" delegates for later contests after the window opens on February 5. For example, the delegates in the states from weeks 3-5 after the window opens get a 15% boost in their delegates, states in weeks 6-8 get a 20% boost, weeks 9-11 get a 30% boost, and weeks 12-17 get a 40% boost. The objective was to give incentives for states to move their contests back in the schedule.

I like their plan because I think it advances two other important objectives (perhaps more than the stated objective). First and most important, I think that by boosting the influence of VOTERS in the middle and toward the end of the process, you effectively recognize that in past years they have been disadvantaged relative to voters in early agenda-setting primary states and you start to offset that imbalance. Second, even if there is no movement by states, the "bonus" delegates essentially shift the balance of delegates back in the schedule and prevent the presidential contest from being over in early March, and thus more voters "matter" in the process. One small change I'd make--I'd reduce the delegate weighting of the pre-window contests by 10% to acknowledge the advantage that pre-window voters have over voters in the first three weeks of February after the window opens (the current proposal treats all of these voters the same). -- blackprof.com

Spencer is a member of the Commission. His post has more details about the proposals of the Commission.

Louisiana: state asks for modification in open-primary ruling

The Baton Rouge Advocate reported on 7 December: A Baton Rouge federal judge soon may decide whether Louisiana will again hold elections for Congress in October.

In court documents made public Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Frank Polozola reopened a decade-old case challenging the open-primary system, scheduling a hearing on the matter for Jan. 23.

The move was prompted by a motion filed late last month by Gov. Kathleen Blanco and Secretary of State Al Ater, asking Polozola to change a 1998 ruling based on a new law the Legislature passed this summer.

Polozola previously ordered the state to hold elections on the first Tuesday after the first Monday of November, and -- if needed -- a December runoff. That was intended to ensure Louisiana didn't elect its U.S. senators and representatives before federal election day when a candidate won outright.

Blanco and Ater are making their request based on a new state law that took effect in August. The law states that candidates who win outright in October won't be "declared elected" until federal election day in November. -- 2theadvocate.com: News - Federal judge reopens challenge to state's open-primary system 12/07/05

December 12, 2005

Demo Party Commission recommends primary calendar changes

AP reports: Democrats' presidential nominating calendar should have a new early lineup to better reflect ethnic and geographic diversity, with caucuses in one or two states after Iowa's and before New Hampshire's primary, a party commission recommended yesterday.

The proposal, requiring eventual approval by the Democratic National Committee, also would add primaries in one or two states after New Hampshire's.

After that, the election calendar would be open to other states by Feb. 5.

The commission did not identify any of the states that might fill the recommended caucuses and primaries near the start of the nominating process.

That decision would fall to the DNC's rules panel. There have been discussions about picking states from the South and Southwest. -- Democrats call for new primary lineup - The Boston Globe

December 7, 2005

Hong Kong: China may, or may not, kinda hint at a sorta democracy for Hong Kong

Reuters reports: Beijing is likely to hint at the possibility of giving full democracy to Hong Kong by 2017 to win over pro-democracy lawmakers opposed to the city government's election reform proposals, a newspaper reported on Wednesday.

China, however, quickly denied the report.

Citing an unidentified source close to Beijing, the South China Morning Post said the hint would be delivered by a Chinese state leader in a vaguely worded statement. -- China to Hint at Full HK Democracy by 2017: Paper - New York Times

Democrats to vote on changing primary plan

The Los Angeles Times reports: It's more than two years before the next Iowa caucuses, but the first meaningful votes in the 2008 Democratic presidential race will be cast this week.

On Saturday, a Democratic commission will decide whether to challenge the dominant role that Iowa and New Hampshire play in determining the party's presidential nominee. The panel is strongly leaning toward a plan aimed at diluting those states' influence by authorizing other contests in between Iowa's caucuses, which start the nomination race, and New Hampshire's first-in-the-nation primary.

Such a change could increase the influence of blacks and Latinos, who cast few votes in Iowa and New Hampshire, in the Democratic presidential race. And it would allow Democrats from other regions, most likely the South and Southwest, to join Iowa and New Hampshire in winnowing the field of contenders.

Rep. David E. Price (D-N.C.), the commission's co-chairman, said the panel was "fully appreciative of the value" of close contact between voters and candidates "and of the tradition Iowa and New Hampshire has developed in that area."

But, he said, "we have a second goal … which is to have an early [nominating] season that attracts wider participation from a wider range of constituencies." -- Democrats May Shake Up Early Presidential Votes - Los Angeles Times

November 30, 2005

Cert. Petition in Igartua v. United States

Gregorio Igartua de la Rosa, et al, filed a cert petition on 22 November for review of the 1st Circuit's decision.

The version
I have does not Questions Presented or a cover page, so I have reproduced the major argument headings below:

The Federal District Court, and the Appeals Court “en banc” (1st Cir), Erred in Determining that Puerto Rico Cannot Have Electors Without a Constitutional Amendment, Notwithstanding Judicial and Congressional Applicability of Constitutional Provisions to Puerto Rico Without Previous Requirement of Amendment.

The Federal District Court, and the Appeals Court “en banc”, Erred in Determining that Petitioners Request of Their Right to Vote in Presidential Elections Presents a Political Question, or Requires Puerto Rico to Become a State, Disregarding Constitutional Applicability to Puerto Rico Without Political or Statehood Requirement .

The Appeals Court “en banc” Erred in Determining, in Defiance to US Constitution Art. VI, That Treaties to Which the United States is Signatory Are Not Obligatory, But Mere Aspirational Instruments Not Supporting Petitioners’ Claim.

The Court Of Appeals “En Banc” Erred in Denying Petitioners Request For Declaratory Judgment and for Relief, Notwithstanding Domestic Law and Treaty Provisions Providing Judicial Remedies for Petitioners Voting Rights Request

The case is No. 05-650.

November 29, 2005

New Hampshire offers proposal for new primary calendar for Dems

The Associated Press reports: In response to concerns that the Democratic primary system does not give enough voice to minority voters, New Hampshire Democrats have proposed a plan that would leave Iowa and New Hampshire first in 2008, but would closely follow them with contests in states with more diverse populations.

But some Democrats from other states have said they do not think such a change would be that different from the 2004 primary calendar. In 2004, the Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire primary were followed a week later by voting in six states.

Democrats on a national commission have been meeting all year to consider how the party's primary calendar could be changed to give minorities a greater influence in the early selection of presidential candidates. Iowa and New Hampshire, which wield tremendous influence as the traditional first two states in the process, are predominantly white.

Some on the commission have talked about a proposal that would place two caucuses in states with diverse populations between the votes in Iowa and New Hampshire. That would probably include a Southern state with a substantial black population and a Southwestern state with a large Hispanic population. --
Democrats Offer Proposal for Primaries

October 14, 2005

Georgia: voter i.d. case now in the hands of Judge Murphy

The Walker County Messenger reports: A federal judge promised a quick decision Wednesday on a motion to temporarily stop election officials from requiring photo identification at the polls.

Judge Harold L. Murphy heard arguments from both sides in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia in Rome.

Murphy said he would consider the day’s testimony and reread submitted depositions and briefs before issuing an order. While he gave no hint of his opinion during questioning from the bench, his final statement indicated his ruling will hinge on constitutional law.

“I have a lot of respect for the (state) Legislature,” Murphy said. “But I also say I have more respect for the Constitution of the state and the United States.” ...

A coalition of diverse organizations is challenging the new state law, which was enacted by the Georgia General Assembly this year and precleared by the U.S. Justice Department. Their lead attorney, Emmet Bondurant, asked for a preliminary injunction until the issue is settled.

Bondurant argued that the requirement violates a constitutional guarantee that registered voters who meet age and residency requirements shall be allowed to vote unless they are convicted felons or mentally incompetent.

He also said the $20 ID cost makes it an illegal poll tax and the legislature’s claim it addresses fraud is a pretext because it does not apply to absentee ballots or registration — the only areas where fraud has been documented. ...

Attorney Mark Cohen ... said the Georgia General Assembly has the authority to regulate elections as it sees fit. He also noted that the ID fee can’t be considered a poll tax because photo identification is not required with absentee ballots. -- Judge promises quick decision in voter photo ID case

October 9, 2005

Alabama: State Bar pushes merit selection of judges; GOP objects

AP reports: As candidates begin to announce for the state Supreme Court elections next year, the Alabama State Bar is trying to do away with partisan elections for that court and Alabama's two other appellate courts.

The lawyers' group is pushing for an appointed system that it says will end the practice of judges having to raise millions of dollars from special interest groups and will restore public confidence in the fairness of the judiciary.

Republicans hold every seat on the Alabama Supreme Court and Alabama Court of Civil Appeals and all but one seat on the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals. With that 18-1 margin, the Alabama Republican Party is determined to kill the Bar Association's proposal when the Legislature considers it in January.

House Minority Leader Mike Hubbard, R-Auburn, calls it "simply an attempt to pack our state's courts with liberal trial lawyer judges rather than the conservative judges our citizens have wisely selected."

Alabama is one of seven states that use totally partisan elections to select the judges for their top courts. Two other states pick their nominees in partisan primaries or party conventions, but use nonpartisan general elections. -- Dateline Alabama

October 2, 2005

Democratic Commission to dilute the New Hampshire-Vermont influence on presidential primaries

Spencer Overton writes on the Blackprof blog: I serve on the Democratic National Committee’s Commission on Presidential Nomination Timing and Scheduling, and today we had our fourth meeting. Traditionally, the Iowa Caucus and New Hampshire Primary have led the primary season for both parties. According to critics like Carl Levin (who sits on the commission and was instrumental in its formation), voters in Iowa and New Hampshire set the stage and have much more influence than other Americans in determining the party’s nominee (those who perform well in Iowa and NH often pick up contributions and endorsements that allow them to do well in later primaries). ...

Today our Commission made three decisions. First, the status quo is inadequate. Second, two to four other states should be allowed to hold their Democratic presidential contests in advance of the “window” (the period between the first Tuesday in February and the second Tuesday in June that the party generally allows states to hold their contests). Third, in the 2008 presidential season, the Iowa and New Hampshire contests should continue to be held in advance of the window. At our next meeting in December, we’ll make recommendations about how the other two to four states should be selected (presumably diversity will be a major factor) and the timing of those other states relative to Iowa and New Hampshire. -- White Primary?

September 25, 2005

Hong Kong: elections to be held for leader -- maybe in 2012

The Telegraph (UK) reports: All Hong Kong's citizens might be able to choose their own leader by 2012, a Chinese official has said, in a possible sign of greater openness among Beijing's hardline political apparatus.

Yang Wenchang, China's commissioner or senior representative in Hong Kong, told reporters that the government was debating when to introduce a democratic vote for the post of its chief executive. "Some are talking about 2012, some are talking 2017 and even some people, you know they are more conservative, are claiming 2022," Mr Yang said. The election is every five years. -- Telegraph | News | Hong Kong 'reform bid'

September 14, 2005

Louisiana: mid-decade redistricting?

Roll Call reports on speculation that there might be a mid-decade redistricting in Louisiana: Still, there is a realization at the state Legislature in Baton Rouge that Louisiana may have to take action before the end of the decade. Marusak and Lowrey said state lawmakers have discussed holding a special session before they are scheduled to convene again in March 2006.

That recognition may stem from growing pressure in central and northern Louisiana congressional districts that have become a temporary home for thousands of newcomers renting houses, filling public schools and clogging local highways.

Baker spokesman Michael DiResto estimated that the 6th, which is northwest of New Orleans and encompasses Baton Rouge, may have twice as many people in it as most every other district in the nation.

Baker said that motels, hotels and public-housing and rental units are filled in Baton Rouge and surrounding communities. He added that some business owners had bought 20 or 30 houses to relocate their entire operations to the state capital.

The "ideal" district, Lowrey said, has 638,425 people. Officials in Baton Rouge said the 4th, 5th and 6th districts are each housing more than 1 million people. Bonner said Alabama had picked up 20,000 residents, including as many as 5,000 in his district. -- Hurricane may end up costing La. a House seat
[I don't have a link because I don't have a subscription to Roll Call]

Let's assume that most people from South Louisiana have moved to North Louisiana. Without a census, you can't tell how many people are where, so you can't draw a zero-deviation district as the Supreme Court requires for congressional districts, and probably can't draw +/- 5% legislative districts. On the other hand, the de-population of South Louisiana makes it pretty clearly unfair to leave things as they are. What do you do?

A modest proposal: Get Congress to amend the federal law requiring single-member congressional districts to allow an alternative voting system that allows all Louisianans to vote for the same candidates. Congress could authorize the state legislature to choose one of these (taken from the FairVote.org site):

* List System -- by far the most widely used form of full representation. The voter selects one party and its slate of candidates to represent them. Party slates can be either "closed" or "open," with open lists allowing voters to vote for individual candidates rather than political parties. If a party receives 30% of the vote, they receive 30% of the seats in the legislature, 10% of the vote receives 10% of the seats, and so on. A minimum share of the votes can be required to earn representation; typically a 3-5% threshold is used. This type of full representation is ideal for large legislatures on state and national levels. * Choice Voting -- the voter simply ranks candidates in an order of preference (1,2,3,4, etc...). Once a voter's first choice is elected or eliminated, excess votes are "transferred" to subsequent preferences until all positions are filled. Voters can vote for their favorite candidate(s), knowing that if that candidate doesn't receive enough votes their vote will "transfer" to their next preference. With choice voting, every vote counts and very few votes are wasted. Choice voting is ideal for non-partisan elections like city councils. This method is also called "Single Transferable Vote" or "STV".

A disaster the size of Katrina requires some creative thinking. Let's get to it.

August 24, 2005

North Carolina: bill proposes appointment of judges with retention elections

The Charlotte Observer reports: North Carolina's top judges would get to the bench by appointment of the governor, instead of by popular election, under a bill proponents rushed into the legislature Tuesday night.

But voters would get a chance a few years later to confirm the appointment and award an eight-year term, or send the judge packing from the state Supreme Court or Court of Appeals.

The choices of Superior Court and District Court trial judges would remain strictly a matter for local voters to decide.

The bill won swift approval of the House Rules Committee on Tuesday evening and was expected to be taken up by the full House today. -- newsobserver.com | Politics

June 19, 2005

Hong Kong: no election for chief executive

The Christian Science Monitor reports: Donald Tsang campaigned for months for the No. 1 post in China's most sophisticated and wealthy city. He hired top-shelf media managers. He sported a jaunty bowtie as his emblem. Sir Donald asked not to be called "Sir," a legacy of his British knighthood. He chatted with fishermen and truckers.

He was always the front-runner to serve out the term of shipping tycoon Tung Chee-hwa, fired by Beijing, whose unpopularity brought millions to the streets, seeking the right to vote for their leader.

Yet in the curious twists and turns that Hong Kong is heir to since the British handover, Mr. Tsang is now the new chief executive without any election at all, pending a stamp of approval in Beijing that could come as early as this week.

No opposition candidates got approved. None got the requisite 100 nominations out of an elections panel of 800 pro-Beijing loyalists. -- No ballot for new Hong Kong chief | csmonitor.com

May 24, 2005

Supreme Court upholds Oklahoma semi-closed primary

The First Amendment Center has this analysis by Tony Mauro: By upholding Oklahoma’s semi-closed primary election law yesterday, the Supreme Court gave higher priority to the state’s power to regulate elections than to the First Amendment associational rights of the Oklahoma Libertarian Party.

But a close reading of the two main opinions in the decision may give hope to minor parties that the Supreme Court will be more sympathetic to future challenges to election laws.

“The bottom line is that the opinions are an invitation for lower courts to consider challenges by minor parties that state election laws as a whole discriminate against minor parties,” said Loyola Law School professor Rick Hasen on his Election Law blog yesterday.

Under the law upheld in yesterday’s Clingman v. Beaver decision, political parties may allow only their own members and registered independents to vote in their primaries. When the Libertarian Party of Oklahoma (LPO) notified the state election board in 2000 that it wanted to allow registered Democrats and Republicans to vote in its primary as well, the board turned it down. -- Majority backs Oklahoma's primary-election rules

May 19, 2005

North Carolina: 10 counties will test instant runoff

AP reports: Up to 10 counties would have the option of trying an "instant runoff" in upcoming primary elections to avoid the expense and time of a separate second vote under legislation approved Wednesday by the state House. ...

Under the instant runoff bill, approved 79-32 and sent to the Senate, counties chosen by the board could try the process in local elections this year and next.

Voters would rank their order of preference among the candidates listed and election officials initially would tally only the first choices. If the leading candidate fails to win more than 40 percent of the first-choice votes, the top two candidates would advance to the runoff.

In the runoff, election officials would examine the ballots of voters whose first-choice candidate was eliminated and check how many times each of the remaining two candidates was the highest-ranked alternative choice.

These totals would then be added to the original totals for the top two candidates, and the person with the most votes would be declared the winner.

Supporters said the process would reduce the price of a separate runoff, which on a statewide level can cost millions of dollars but can draw very little interest. -- AP Wire | 05/18/2005 | N.C. House votes to try 'instant runoff' in local primaries

May 6, 2005

UK: a great win (?) for Blair

As I write this, the BBC's web page (BBC NEWS | Election 2005 | Results) shows Labour with 355 of the 646 seats, Conservatives with 197, the Liberal Democrats with 62, and a scattering of other parties with 30.

That sounds like Labour trounced the others.

But look at the share of the vote: Labour 35.2%, Conservative 32.3%, and Liberal Democratic 22.1%. That means that Labour got just less than 8% more than the Conservatives, yet got 80% more seats.

It's even worse for the Lib Dems. Labour received 59% more votes than the Lib Dems, but received nearly 6 times the seats.

The culprit is the winner-take-all system of elections. With three "major" parties and lots of regional parties, most seats are won by pluralities (as we Americans call them) rather than "absolute majorities" (as the Brits call a majority). With that sort of situation, you have the Lib Dems spin doctors telling this to Kos:

When the dust settled, the Lib Dems had gained four points from 2001, and won 11 additional seats: lower than hoped, but it still gave them plenty to be excited about.

"The real number is that the Lib Dems moved into second place in over 160 constituencies, which is 50 more than they had in 2001, so they've moved up increasingly as the alternative party," Mr Ridder said. "In a three party system, you have to get to second place before you can win.

The Labour Party has shown interest in alternatives to winner-take-all elections. Under Labour, Parliament has adopted these:

  • An additional member system for Scotland's parliament, the Welsh Assembly, and the London Assembly. Under the AMS, each voter casts one vote for a district representative and another vote for a party. The vote for the party will be used within each region (8 in Scotland, 5 in Wales, the whole metropolitan area of London) to give each party approximately the percentage of members as the party's share of the vote.

  • The Mayor of London is elected by the Supplementary Vote. Each voter may vote for a first and second choice. If no one is elected by a majority of the first-choice votes, all candidates are eliminated except the top two and the votes of the ballots for the eliminated candidates are counted, if possible, for the second choice shown on each ballot.
  • Why has Labour not adopted some alternative to winner-take-all for Parliament? I invite your comments.

    March 2, 2005

    Vermont: Burlington adopts IRV

    FairVote (the Center for Voting and Democracy) reports on its website: On March 1, Burlington voters gave instant runoff voting a landslide win. Even as other high-profile ballot measures went down in defeat, 62% of voters supported adopting instant runoff voting for mayoral elections.

    Attention now turns to the Vermont's state legislature, where an IRV bill has been introduced with tri-partisan support and 43 sponsors. The bill (H. 385), calls for IRV in elections for United States senator and representative to U.S. Congress, electors for U.S. president, and all statewide offices. -- FairVote-The Center for Voting and Democracy

    The only article I could find in a newspaper had the story buried in a one sentence far down in the story -- after the location of riverfront Y and a sales tax.

    January 9, 2005

    Connecticut: Waterbury NAACP seeks single-member district

    AP reports: The Greater Waterbury NAACP has asked the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate what it says are violations of voting rights of minorities in Waterbury.

    James Griffin, president of the local civil rights organization, said Friday that the local at-large election system fails to provide representation for inner-city neighborhoods. The only way to ensure equal representation is to establish voting for aldermen by district, he said.

    ''We found that no matter what we do, it seems that the city leaders tend to find a way to get around dealing with this issue,'' he said. ''We looked at the actual neighborhoods impacted by this and found not one neighborhood that has high concentrations of blacks and Hispanics have any aldermen living in those areas.'' -- Boston.com / News / Local / NAACP seeks federal review of minority voting rights in Waterbury

    December 10, 2004

    Massachusetts: bills for redistricting commission and instant runoff introduced

    The Arlington Advocate reports: Members of Arlington's legislative delegation are looking to change the face of political map making.

    Arlington state representatives Jay Kaufman and James Marzilli and state Sen. Robert Havern are all listed as co-sponsors to redistricting legislation put forward for 2005. The legislation would create an independent commission to redraw the commonwealth's legislative and congressional districts after every decennial census.

    According to Common Cause Executive Director Pam Wilmot, an independent board would once and for all end that great Massachusetts tradition: Gerrymandering. ...

    The redistricting proposal is only one of several bills filed on behalf of Common Cause. Kaufman also filed legislation for instant runoff voting.

    Instant runoff voting has voters rank their preference of candidate instead of choosing only one name. When the votes are counted, a candidate must amass a plurality of votes. If no candidate breaks the 50 percent barrier, the last-place finisher is removed from consideration and the second choice on those ballots are counted. This continues until someone breaks 50 percent.

    Wilmot said it's as easy as voting now. Instead of filling out a bubble or drawing a line, a voter numbers candidates. If a voter doesn't want to, he or she doesn't have to. -- TownOnline.com - Arlington Advocate - Local News

    November 19, 2004

    Ontario to appoint citizens assembly on election reform

    FairVote Canada's website posts this notice: ONTARIO ANNOUNCES CITIZENS' ASSEMBLY ON ELECTORAL REFORM (November 18, 2004)

    Premier Dalton McGuinty announced that Ontario will become the second province to have an independent citizens' assembly on electoral reform. The assembly will assess the current voting system and alternatives. If the assembly recommends a new voting system, that recommendation will be taken to voters in a referendum to be held before or in conjunction with the next provincial election.

    Fair Vote Ontario campaign volunteers had lobbied cabinet ministers and MPPs over the past two months for such an assembly. While awaiting details on how the assembly will be structured, Fair Vote Ontario commended Premier McGuinty for "placing this process right where it belongs -- in the hands of citizens."

    Fair Vote Ontario will now begin rallying citizens of all political stripes to learn how various proportional representation systems can be adopted to the Canadian and Ontario political environment, so the best approach can be identified and adopted. -- Fair Vote Canada - Home

    Thanks to J. Paul Johnston for the link.

    November 17, 2004

    Canada -- Alberta tries for a Triple E Senate

    The Airdrie Echo reports: Next Monday, Albertans will choose not only their MLAs, but their senators-in-waiting, as well.

    Of Alberta's six seats in the 105-seat Canadian Senate, three are vacant and 10 Albertans -- some representing political parties and some not -- have put their names forward in hopes of being elected to fill one of those seats. The Nov. 22 ballot will ask voters to choose four senators-in-waiting -- one more than the number of vacant seats -- but the road doesn't end there. If elected, Alberta's senators-in-waiting will do just that unless appointed to the Senate by Prime Minister Paul Martin.

    "Appointing Alberta's elected Senate nominees to fill our province’s vacant Senate seats would be a meaningful first step the prime minister could take to address Albertans' concerns about their role in the federal decision-making process," said Halvar Johnson, minister of international and intergovernmental relations. "In our federal system, the Senate was designed to represent the interests of the provinces in Parliament. Because the current Senate lacks a democratic foundation, it is not performing this function. ...

    According to a survey conducted this year by Canada West Foundation, 87 per cent of Albertans agree that the Canadian Senate should be equal, elected and effective. -- Airdrie Echo, Airdrie, AB

    The CBC explains: Along with a ballot to elect an MLA, each voter will receive a second ballot with the names of Senate candidates. Voters can select up to four names.

    The four candidates with the most votes will be the province's senators-in-waiting for a six-year term. However, appointments to the upper chamber are made by the prime minister, and Paul Martin doesn't have to choose any of those elected. -- Senate Election

    November 14, 2004

    Complaints about IRV from Chinese Americans

    The Sacremento Bee reports: A group that represents the Chinese American community here said the city's new "ranked-choice voting" system may have left many Chinese language voters confused and unable to fully exercise their voting rights.

    David Lee, executive director of the Chinese American Voter Education Committee, said city efforts to educate voters on the system may not have sufficiently reached Chinese voters, many of whom are newly registered.

    About 18 percent of San Francisco's voters are Asian Americans, the majority of whom are of Chinese ancestry.

    To back up his claim, Lee unveiled the results of pre-election surveys of absentee voters and Election Day exit polls, which found that white voters liked the new system but a majority of minority voters, particularly Chinese voters, either disliked or had no opinion of it.

    The polls, though, also found that voters across ethnic lines found the system easy to use. -- sacbee.com -- Politics -- Inequities alleged in S.F. vote

    November 13, 2004

    Instant Runoff Austin

    Sarah Looney emails: Instant Runoff Austin is a grassroots coalition of people here in Austin are planning to pursue instant runoff voting legislation during the next Texas legislative session.

    Based on an opinion issued by the Texas Office of the Attorney General on March 4, 2003, it is our understanding that minor changes to state law are needed before IRV can be implemented in any Texas municipality. The necessary legislation was introduced during the last session but never made it out of committee. We'd like to try to build energy around IRV this session and give it another try.

    Our blog is available at: http://instantrunoffaustin.blogspot.com/

    The site has lots of good links to other IRV-related resources.

    November 10, 2004

    San Francisco -- complete results from Instant Runoff Voting

    The San Francisco Chronicle reportsL The new voting system, also known as instant runoff voting, was adopted by voters in 2002 and put into use for the first time in Tuesday's election, but it got bogged down Wednesday when the computer program written to tabulate votes choked on the unanticipated large number of ballots.

    That worried supporters of the new system -- which is generally backed by the city's left-leaning progressives.

    On Friday, they were breathing sighs of relief.

    "I think it's good for the city; it's good for California," said Supervisor-elect Mirkarimi. He added that he didn't think the last-minute software snafu detracted from the system's credibility. "If this is as bad as RCV gets, we should be adopting it throughout California," he said. ...

    David Lee, executive director of the Chinese American Voters Education Committee, said his group would be analyzing exit polls to see whether non- English speakers were disenfranchised by the process.

    From what he had seen, a number of Chinese voters had chosen only one candidate for supervisor, when they could have ranked two more to participate in the process fully.

    "If (ranked-choice voting) consistently shows this under-voting, there may be a voting rights case," he said, noting that all four contested districts are home to a large number of black, Chinese and Latino communities. -- SAN FRANCISCO / Preliminary winners in 4 disputed districts / Sandoval, Elsbernd, McGoldrick, Mirkarimi get nod

    November 5, 2004

    Instant Runoff advances in three wins

    Rob Richie writes: I also wanted to report on three landslide wins for instant runoff voting at the ballot this November. Instant runoff voting (www.fairvote.org) is rapidly growing in popularity as a means to elect majority winners when more than two candidates contest an executive / one-winner office.

    * Proposal B on Ferndale, Michigan's ballot won by a lopsided 69%-31% margin. The proposal amends Ferndale's city charter to provide for election of the mayor and City Council through the use of IRV pending the availability and purchase of compatible software and approval of the equipment by the Ferndale Election Commission. A suburb of Detroit with some 10,000 voters that are relatively balanced between Democrats and Republicans, Ferndale had a very energetic, effective campaign led by Ferndale IRV: www.firv.org

    * In Vermont, voters in Burlington overwhelmingly passed an advisory referendum on whether the city charter should be amended to use IRV for the election of the mayor. Under Burlington's current charter, a candidate for mayor can win with as little as 40% of the vote (meaning 60% might consider that candidate the worst choice), and if no candidate achieves that threshold, a separate runoff election is held. These provisions offer the worst of both worlds, creating the risk of a "spoiler" scenario and also the potential cost and lower turnout typical of a separate runoff. Some 66% of voters approved the ballot item, meaning that a formal charter amendment is likely to move forward in March.

    * Voters in 16 western Massachusetts towns approved a non-binding motion in support of IRV, by a margin of 11,956 to 5,568. The question directed state representative Steve Kulik to vote in favor of legislation or a constitutional amendment to require IRV for elections to statewide office (such as Governor, Treasurer, Auditor and Secretary of the Commonwealth. -- ZNet |Electoral Politics | Election 2004 by the Numbers

    San Francisco -- instant runoff software runs into a limit

    The San Francisco Chronicle reports: The software designed to tabulate the ranked-choice voting results of San Francisco's seven district supervisor races was overwhelmed by voter turnout, its makers said Thursday -- but it took just a minor computer programming adjustment to fix the system.

    The tabulation of votes in the city's first ranked-choice election was brought to a halt Wednesday because the computer program used to carry out the calculations wasn't written with such a large turnout in mind, said Lou Dedirer, of Election Systems and Software, the Omaha, Neb., company that sold San Francisco the system.

    "Think of it like having a basketball too big to go through the hoop," Dedirer said. "We're getting a bigger hoop."

    On Thursday, a computer programming adjustment was submitted to the secretary of state, California's chief election official, and was expected to be approved for use by this morning. If that's the case, preliminary results of four still-contested supervisor races -- in Districts 1, 5, 7 and 11 -- could be released by the end of today. -- Turnout swamped 'ranked' software

    October 30, 2004

    A debate on Colorado Amendment 36

    Richard A. Epstein and Sanford Levinson debate on the Legal Affairs Debate Club: Next Tuesday, Coloradans may well decide the presidential election between Bush and Kerry. If the state's citizens pass Amendment 36, Colorado's nine electoral votes will be divided proportionally among the candidates. Because polls indicate a very close race, the candidate who wins might do so by grabbing five of those votes while the other top candidate scores four.

    Colorado wouldn't be the first state to split its votes--Maine and Nebraska already do. But Amendment 36 is freighted with constitutional ambiguities, like whether voters, and not the state's legislature, can change the way its electors are appointed and whether the outcome of the presidential election can rest on an amendment voted on that same day.

    Should Colorado be allowed to split its electoral votes?

    Richard A. Epstein is the James Parker Hall Distinguished Service Professor of Law at the University of Chicago and the Peter and Kirsten Bedford Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution. Sanford Levinson is the W. St. John Garwood and W. St. John Garwood, Jr. Centennial Chair in Law and Professor of Government at the University of Texas and the editor of Torture: A Collection. -- Should Colorado split its electoral votes? (Legal Affairs Debate Club)

    "Lost in the Political Thicket"

    Heather Gerkin writes in Legal Affairs: THE SUPREME COURT'S MOST RECENT VOTING RIGHTS DECISION, Vieth v. Jubelirer, suggests that the court has reached an intellectual dead end in election law. The justices' inability to resolve the case cleanly is unwelcome news in light of the presidential election. With the last election marred by Bush v. Gore, one of the most controversial decisions in the court's history, the country is already aware of how risky it is for the court to intervene in the electoral process without the guidance of a workable analytic framework.

    Both Bush v. Gore and Vieth are part of a story that began four decades ago. The court has long tried to use a conventional individual rights framework to resolve election-related claims that are really about the structure of the political process. An individual rights framework is suitable for addressing a concrete and personal harm, such as the disenfranchisement of a voter blocked from the polls by an illegal tax or a literacy test. But the framework does not provide adequate tools for resolving other types of election law cases, including the claim in Vieth challenging the fairness of a redistricting plan. As a result, the court now finds itself mired in a doctrinal holding pattern.

    If the justices don't radically change course, we face two unappealing prospects. Either the court will withdraw from the field, leaving the fate of our democracy to self-interested legislators, or it will render more incoherent opinions that do as much harm as good. Fortunately, there are better options. Either the court should develop a new way to decide election law cases, or voters and their representatives should create nonpartisan institutions to regulate the electoral process, thus relieving the court of the need to police the politicians who now make the rules. While these solutions may seem abstract this late in the election season, their consequences are tangible. Factors that could determine the outcome of this election (including where and how George Bush and John Kerry spend money, and whether Ralph Nader gets on most state ballots) depend a great deal on how we have regulated—or have failed to regulate—the democratic process in the past. ...

    For this reason, we need a new regulatory strategy. Samuel Issacharoff of Columbia Law School has argued that the court ought to give its stamp of approval only to districting plans that have been drawn by nonpartisan districting commissions like Iowa's, whose members' jobs do not depend on the lines they draw. If every state had a nonpartisan commission, the court might decide to intervene only when necessary to ensure that the process, rather than the outcome, was fair. A more radically democratic solution comes from British Columbia, which is redesigning its electoral process from scratch. The architects of the new design? One hundred and sixty randomly selected citizens of the province, who will spend months analyzing the current process and potentially devising an overhaul that would then be put to a referendum vote in 2005. -- Lost in the Political Thicket (Legal Affairs)


    October 27, 2004

    Only 33 ways to get a deadlock?

    The Washington Post reports: Could one of these electoral college nightmares be our destiny?

    President Bush and Sen. John F. Kerry deadlock on Tuesday with 269 electoral votes apiece -- but a single Bush elector in West Virginia defects, swinging the election to Kerry.

    Or Bush and Kerry are headed toward an electoral college tie, but the 2nd Congressional District of Maine breaks with the rest of the state, giving its one electoral vote -- and the presidency -- to Bush.

    Or the Massachusetts senator wins an upset victory in Colorado and appears headed to the White House, but a Colorado ballot initiative that passes causes four of the state's nine electoral votes to go to Bush -- creating an electoral college tie that must be resolved in the U.S. House. ...

    A computer analysis found 33 potential scenarios leading to a tie electoral vote for Sen. John F. Kerry and President Bush. If neither collects the 270 votes needed, the House will decide-with each state getting one vote. -- Electoral College Calculus (washingtonpost.com)

    October 26, 2004

    Case against Amendment 36 dismissed

    AP reports: Another cloud hanging over next week's election evaporated Tuesday when a federal judge said voters can decide whether to change the way Colorado distributes its electoral votes for president.

    U.S. District Judge Lewis Babcock dismissed a lawsuit over Amendment 36, which would replace Colorado's winner-take-all Electoral College system with one that awards the votes proportionally, according to the popular vote.

    In a separate case, a state judge threw out a lawsuit challenging Boulder County's ballots, saying tracking numbers didn't compromise voter privacy. -- Voters Will Decide Electoral College Amendment (AP via CBS 4 Denver)

    October 25, 2004

    A proposal for single transferable vote in British Columbia

    From the Citizens' Assembly website: The Citizens' Assembly on Electoral Reform recommended Sunday that British Columbians adopt a new voting system -- the Single Transferable Vote process that's often called "as easy as 1, 2, 3."

    Now the decision is up to the voters of B.C., who will cast ballots on STV in a referendum in the next provincial election, on May 17, 2005.

    After almost 10 months of study, research and debate, plus 50 public hearings and 1,603 written submissions from the public, Assembly Members on Sunday overwhelmingly chose a made-in-B.C. proportional STV system as their recommendation to the people.

    First, they voted on whether they thought the current electoral system, often known as First Past the Post, should be retained. The vote: 142 No, 11 Yes.

    Then they voted on whether the STV model they have designed should be proposed to the people. The vote: 146 Yes, 7 No. -- Citizens' Assembly on Electoral Reform - EASY AS 1, 2, 3

    Thanks to J. Paul Johnston for the link.

    Will "the Nader Factor" affect the election outcome?

    The Washington Post reports: A survey conducted this month for the Democratic National Committee by pollster Stanley Greenberg showed Nader averaging 1.5 percent of the vote in a dozen battleground states where his name appears on the ballot, compared with about 3 percent in the summer. It also showed that most of the support Nader lost had shifted to Kerry and indicated that his remaining backers would be as likely to vote for Bush as for the Massachusetts Democrat, if Nader were not running.

    Speaking about what has become known in the news media as the "Nader factor," Leslie Dach, a senior adviser at the DNC, said: "He is less of a threat to us, clearly, than he was in 2000, less of a threat than he was last summer and less than he was even a few weeks ago."

    Four years ago, Nader received about 2.8 million votes nationwide, and Democrats charged that his presence on the ballot handed Bush victories in New Hampshire and Florida. Had the Republican lost either of those states, he would not have become president. ...

    Groups seeking to minimize Nader's impact are focusing on at least seven states -- Iowa, Florida, Wisconsin, New Mexico, Minnesota, Maine and New Hampshire -- where Bush and Kerry are in a virtual dead heat. In all of those but Minnesota, according to aggregates of nine recent polls compiled by the Web site RealClear Politics, Nader's share of the vote exceeds the thin margin separating Bush and Kerry. -- A Fading 'Nader Factor'? (washingtonpost.com)

    Thanks to Richard Winger for the tip about this article, which I had missed on Friday.

    October 22, 2004

    A handy guide for election night

    Contrapositive emailed me: Just added a post to my blog that I thought might be of interest: An hour-by-hour guide to election night, focusing on the presidential contest.

    As I pulled it together, several interesting things became clear. Some highlights:

    --At 8pm EST, Bush is likely to have opened up a substantial lead in the electoral vote count: Somewhere between 50 and 80 votes. (Kerry supporters should *not* panic.)

    --At 10pm EST, if Kerry doesn't have actual or potential victories--among states whose polls have already closed--adding up to 193 electoral votes, he's toast.

    --We'll likely know who the next President is by about 11pm EST--or not for several weeks. --
    ELECTION NIGHT CHEAT SHEET (contrapositive)

    I categorized this under "election systems" because it shows the Electoral College's workings.

    October 19, 2004

    "Why the Electoral College Is Bad for America"

    On NPR's Morning Edition: In his book Why the Electoral College Is Bad for America, author George Edwards argues the system may be outdated and irrelevant in today's political climate. NPR's Steve Inskeep talks to Edwards about how the Electoral College impacts voting in the United States. -- NPR : 'Why the Electoral College Is Bad for America'

    October 14, 2004

    Suit against Colorado Amendment 36 seeks to nix it, not fix it

    AP reports: A man filed a federal lawsuit Wednesday challenging a Nov. 2 ballot proposal that would scrap Colorado's winner-take-all system for Electoral College votes and award them based on how well the candidate did in the statewide popular vote.

    The lawsuit from Jason Napolitano, who describes himself simply as a registered voter, asks a federal judge to immediately declare the closely watched proposal unconstitutional. He said it is up to state lawmakers to determine how electoral votes are distributed.

    "It is up to the Legislature to direct the manner of choosing presidential electors and the proposal prevents the Legislature from doing so in 2004," the suit says. "Therefore, the proposal is unconstitutional."

    Robert Hardaway, professor of law at the University of Denver and author of "The Electoral College and the Constitution: The Case for Federalism," said the U.S. Constitution is clear that it is the job of the Legislature to change the way presidential electors are allocated. -- Federal Lawsuit Challenges Colorado's Electoral College Vote (AP via TheDenverChannel.com)

    If anyone has a copy of the complaint, please email it to me.

    October 13, 2004

    Another nominee for the "Florida of 2004"

    Time Magazine reports: Here's the nightmare scenario: it's Nov. 3, the morning after the presidential election, and there is no winner. In a case of déjŕ vu, the electoral vote is close and in dispute, and neither the Democratic nor Republican candidate will concede defeat. Both dispatch planes stuffed with lawyers to squabble over the results. But this time the jets are heading not to Florida but to Colorado, because the state has awarded five electoral votes to one contender and four to the other.

    This story line is not farfetched. When the nation goes to the polls Nov. 2, Coloradans will also vote on Amendment 36. As of today, Colorado, like 47 other states and the District of Columbia, awards electoral votes on a winner-take-all basis. (Nebraska and Maine give two votes to the statewide winner and one to the winner in each congressional district, though in practice neither has ever split its allotment.) Amendment 36, which would take effect immediately, would divvy up Colorado's electoral votes based on the percentage of votes each candidate wins in the state. If 36 passes, and President George W. Bush's slight lead in statewide polls holds on election night, the President would win five votes and John Kerry would win four.

    Supporters of 36 argue that the proposed system would more accurately represent the will of the people. Presidential elections create the illusion that there are solid Republican and solid Democratic states. But in the 2000 race, in red Colorado, Al Gore won the support of more than 42% of the voters. Bush won 41% in blue California. If every state adopted 36's rules, those supporters' votes would count for something. "It could make California and New York worth a Republican effort," says James Gimpel, an Electoral College expert at the University of Maryland. "Wouldn't it be nice, if you were a Democrat in Texas, to actually see a Democratic presidential candidate visit?" The reform would also greatly reduce the chance of a candidate winning the popular vote but losing the electoral vote. -- The Florida of 2004? (TIME Magazine)

    October 12, 2004

    Instant Runoff Voting in San Francisco

    The Washington Post reports: When voters here go to the polls in November to select their top choice for a seat on the city's Board of Supervisors, they also get to pick their second choice -- and even their third.

    Here, a winning candidate has to receive at least 50 percent of the vote for the Board of Supervisors, which is the local city council. In the past, if nobody did, there was a runoff election.

    But this year, San Francisco has become the largest city in the nation to adopt a form of voting that proponents say is a little like walking into an ice cream shop to order a chocolate cone only to discover the shop is all out -- no problem, just order your next favorite flavor, and if that's out, your third. ...

    Advocates said the new system has made campaigning more civilized -- candidates don't want to lose out on the chance to be a voter's second or third choice by appearing too negative. And they say it may increase turnout.

    But opponents say the new system is too complicated, will discourage turnout and forces candidates to spread themselves too thin. -- For Voters, Choice Is as Easy as 1, 2, 3 (washingtonpost.com)

    October 11, 2004

    Proportionality in the Electoral College

    The Los Angeles Times reports: Nearly 4.6 million Californians voted for George W. Bush in 2000. But their votes utterly had no effect on the outcome of the presidential election.

    The same was true of 2.4 million Texans who voted for Al Gore, 2.4 million New Yorkers who backed Bush, and most dramatically, 2,912,253 Floridians who chose Gore. All of them might as well have stayed in bed.

    The reason is the way almost all states allocate their votes in the Electoral College. All but two states now award their Electoral College votes on a winner-takes-all basis to the candidate who captures the most popular votes in the state.

    Win by one vote or 1 million -- or, as in the case of Florida, 537 -- it doesn't matter: in almost every state, the winner pockets every available Electoral College vote. And since Bush fell short in California and New York, just as Gore did in Texas and Florida, the millions of votes they attracted there did them no good at all.

    Colorado voters next month will decide whether to change that equation for their nine Electoral College votes. They will vote on a ballot initiative to allocate the state's Electoral College votes in proportion to each candidate's share of the popular vote. -- Making Every Vote Count Would Be a Tricky Proposition (LATimes.com)

    September 30, 2004

    Instant Runoff Voting affects campaign styles in San Francisco

    The New York Times reports: Eugene C. Wong is running for an office that typically does not draw the national spotlight. Yet Mr. Wong and the 64 others seeking seats on the County Board of Supervisors here are being closely watched by advocates for election reform around the country.

    In Mr. Wong's case, the reason was evident on Wednesday, at one of his first big fund-raisers in the third district, an ethnically mixed area that straddles North Beach and Chinatown. The evening was unconventional, to say the least, with Mr. Wong sharing top billing with two principal rivals in the race, Sal Busalacchi and Brian Murphy O'Flynn.

    "We are going to have more joint fund-raisers," Mr. Wong said. "I am not opposed to saying that if I don't win, then I hope one of these other guys wins."

    The cooperation is in response to a new election system, instant-runoff voting. The system, which voters approved in 2002 and is having its first run, is viewed by critics of winner-take-all elections as the start of a long-overdue overhaul of the way Americans choose elected officials. -- New Runoff System in San Francisco Has the Rival Candidates Cooperating (New York Times)

    September 25, 2004

    "How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Electoral College"

    Randym writes on DailyKos: I recently had a heated argument with a friend, about the wisdom of splitting Colorado's electoral votes. I argued against it, for obvious reasons: it would reduce Colorado's power, effectively giving them one electoral vote, instead of nine. They would cease being a battleground state.

    My friend thinks it's a price worth paying, because it's a step toward the popular vote. I do not agree. Not only that - I think the popular vote is a bad idea. We are better off with the electoral college, flaws and all, than we would be with a raw, popular vote. Yes, even though it gave us four years of Dubya, the worst president in the history of the United States.

    No, I am not anti-democracy. I am very much pro-democracy. And I am convinced that the electoral college creates a better democracy than a raw vote would. -- Daily Kos :: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Electoral College

    September 19, 2004

    Colorado considers dropping pass-fail in the Electoral College

    The New York Times reports: Colorado voters have delivered the state for the Republican presidential candidate in every election in the last half century, except when Bill Clinton won by a whisker in 1992 and Lyndon B. Johnson swamped Barry Goldwater in 1964.

    But if a ballot initiative called Amendment 36 is approved by the voters here on Election Day, the facade of unanimity will shatter, and in one stroke a new small state's worth of definitively Democratic Electoral College votes will be created in the heart of what has been the solidly Republican West.

    Amendment 36 would make Colorado the first state to distribute its electoral votes on the basis of its popular vote. The change would take effect immediately with this year's election, which means that President Bush and Senator John Kerry would share Colorado's nine electoral votes, but neither would get all.

    Political experts say the implications for the election are deeply uncertain. A Rocky Mountain News/News 4 poll released Friday showed Mr. Bush and Mr. Kerry in a statistical dead heat here. -- Coloradans to Consider Splitting Electoral College Votes (New York Times)

    September 15, 2004

    Texas congressman asks Gov. Perry to call special session to end winner-take-all electoral vote

    AP reports: Texas congressman Gene Green called on Gov. Rick Perry on Wednesday to schedule a special legislative session to end the state's practice of assigning all of its electoral votes to the presidential candidate who wins the state. ...

    Green and Rep. Brian Baird, D-Wash., have introduced legislation proposing to amend the U.S. Constitution to abolish the Electoral College and allow for direct popular election of the president. He has drafted a letter to Perry asking for the Legislature to take up the issue saying the presidential campaigns are largely ignoring Texas voters. ...

    Baird said the system discourages voting because people, especially those who are younger, think their vote doesn't count. ...

    The electoral system helps maintain a stable two-party system by preventing smaller party candidates from controlling the outcome of an election, said David King, a public policy professor at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard.

    It also helps reduces election fraud at the local level, King said. -- Texas congressman pushes for abolishment of Electoral College (AP via Fort Worth Star-Telegram)

    September 8, 2004

    "Faithless elector" problem looms in West Virginia

    The Charleston Daily Mail reports: South Charleston Mayor Richie Robb said today he may vote against George W. Bush in the Electoral College, even if the president carries West Virginia's popular vote.

    Robb, long known as a maverick Republican, said he is considering using his position as one of the state's five Republican electors to protest what he believes are misguided policies of the current administration.

    "It's not likely that I would vote for Kerry," Robb said. "But I'm looking at what my options are when it comes time to cast my vote." ...

    There is no provision in the West Virginia code that controls what an elector does at the Electoral College or provides any punishment for faithless electors. -- Robb's vote may not go to Bush (Charleston Daily Mail)

    August 28, 2004

    Going after one electoral vote

    Taegan Goddard's Political Wire reports: The Wall Street Journal's Washington Wire reminds us of how tight the presidential race is: "Only those two states don't have a winner-take-all system for Electoral College votes. In a sign of how close both parties see the race, Kerry folks eye a congressional district in otherwise solidly pro-Bush Nebraska, while Bush backers do the same in Maine though they expect the state overall to favor Kerry."

    August 13, 2004

    A demonstration of Instant Runoff Voting

    James Cooper has created a site for an Instant Runoff Mock Vote. Take a look at it.

    July 28, 2004

    "The best election system you never heard of"

    Steven Hill and Rob Richie write in the American Prospect: The spoiler dilemma of Ralph Nader's candidacy is back, like the hockey-masked villain from a Friday the 13th horror movie that refuses to die. And unfortunately, Democratic Party leaders have done little over the past four years to change the outcome of this movie.

    What could Democrats have done? As advocated by the likes of Howard Dean and Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr., they could have passed state laws implementing instant-runoff voting for use in presidential elections. The problem is not candidates like Nader but our plurality electoral system, which does not require a majority of votes to win our highest offices. Consequently, popular majorities can fracture their support if there are more than two candidates in a race. ... Fixing Elections (American Prospect Online)

    July 26, 2004

    A good round-up of opinions pro and con on Instant Runoff Voting

    The Seattle Post-Intelligencer reports: If Jerry Cronk's political dream were reality, Al Gore would probably be running for re-election as president, and Slade Gorton would probably still be a U.S. senator.

    Not that Cronk voted for either. In 2000, he supported Green Party nominee Ralph Nader for president and Maria Cantwell, the Democrat who unseated Republican Gorton, for the Senate.

    But while Washington voters might have to navigate three different primary election systems in three consecutive years now that the state's popular "blanket primary" has been invalidated, Cronk is promoting a fourth option: no primary.

    The 72-year-old Shoreline lawyer, whose clients include the Green Party of Washington, is pushing an "instant runoff voting," or IRV, system. It would eliminate primaries altogether, have all candidates run in the general election, and guarantee that nobody wins an election with less than a majority of the vote. -- OK, how about no primary? Lawyer pushes instant runoff election (Seattle Post-Intelligencer)

    July 25, 2004

    Instant runoff voting ready to go in San Francisco

    KTVU reports: A new type of voting system has been given final certification and will be implemented in the November election in San Francisco, officials announced Thursday.

    San Francisco Board of Supervisors President Matt Gonzalez announced that rank choice voting will be implemented for the first time in the Nov. 2 election. The new system will allow voters to pick their first, second and third choices in this fall's board of supervisors election.

    The new technology behind the voting system finished testing and the Voting Systems Panel of the Secretary of State unanimously voted to accept the final test results on July 12.

    Gonzalez said the voting system will have national implications and eliminate the question of who should be allowed to run. It would allow voters to rank each candidate so that if their first choice was the lowest vote receiver, their vote would then go to their second choice and if that candidate was eliminated, the vote would go to the third choice. Candidates are eliminated by receiving the lowest amount of votes. -- Instant Runoff Approved For San Francisco (KTVU.com)

    July 20, 2004

    King Co., Wash., to vote on smaller council

    The Seattle Times reports: Brushing aside warnings that it could be courting a legal challenge, the Metropolitan King County Council voted yesterday to delay the effective date of a citizen initiative that would reduce the size of the council from 13 members to nine.

    The changes, described by proponents as "technical" corrections to Initiative 18, will change language on the Nov. 2 ballot. If the initiative passes, the changes would push back the election of a smaller council from 2005 to 2007 and would restructure three regional committees.

    Critics of the changes said they are substantive, not technical, and could leave the initiative vulnerable to legal claims that it improperly deals with more than one issue.

    County Council President Larry Phillips, D-Seattle, defended the council action, saying, "The fundamental proposition is before the voters unchanged."

    Phillips said there wouldn't be enough time to redistrict the council between the November vote on I-18 and the original redistricting deadline of the end of the year. -- Vote alters initiative on council size (Seattle Times)

    July 13, 2004

    Small minority group cannot seek Cumulative Voting as remedy

    The Eleventh Circuit: We hold that a protected minority group pursuing a vote dilution claim under section 2 of the Voting Rights Act has no right to relief unless it can demonstrate that, in the absence of the challenged voting structure or practice, its members would have the ability to elect the candidate of its choice. If the group is too small to elect candidates of its choice in the absence of a challenged structure or practice, then it is the size of the minority population that results in the plaintiff’s injury, and not the challenged structure or practice. Accordingly, we conclude that the district court did not abuse its discretion in declining to grant additional relief in this case, because it correctly found that no further relief was available. --Dillard v. Baldwin County Commission (13 July 2004)

    The plaintiffs had sought to have the 7-SMD plan converted to a Cumulative Voting plan when the intervenors challenged the SMD plan under the doctrine of Holder v. Hall. Disclosure: I was co-counsel for the plaintiffs when the SMD plan was adopted, but was not involved in the latest round of litigation.

    July 11, 2004

    Instant runoff voting proposed for Washington State

    The Olympian reports: Another alternative to Washington's election system was unveiled Saturday by activists hoping to encourage more voter participation and ensure that winners truly garner a majority to get elected.

    Backers of Initiative 318, which would install instant runoff elections in Washington, will be trying to gather enough signatures by December to present the measure to the state Legislature.

    Instant runoff voting sends two candidates to a second round if at least one doesn't grab a 50 percent majority. It allows voters to rank their choices instead of just selecting one person, so that the losing candidates' votes can be dispersed according to how voters ranked their second and third choices.

    It's designed to eliminate situations where a candidate wins the election even if he or she receives less than 50 percent of the vote. It would also allow voters to "vote their heart" for third-party candidates without "spoiling" elections, supporters say. -- Group unveils I-318 for instant runoff elections (The Olympian)

    Andrew Reynolds defends the UN plan for Iraqi elections

    Andrew Reynolds writes in the Washington Post: In recent weeks conservatives have criticized the choice of a proportional representation system for Iraq's elections and have disparaged the U.N. electoral assistance department and its director, Carina Perelli. But the plan these critics propose for Iraq -- rejection of proportional voting in favor of an Anglo-American-style, winner-take-all system -- is not a recipe for stability.

    According to critics of the United Nations, most notably Michael Rubin on this page [June 19] and Richard Perle in a speech to the American Enterprise Institute, the U.N. plan for Iraq's January elections ignores the desire of liberal Iraqis for constituency-based elections and is likely to bring disastrous consequences, along the lines of those produced by Lebanon's failed communal system. Others claim that the U.N. plan will harm the Shiite majority, breeding more instability. ...

    Why is [the UN] correct in recommending proportional representation for the constituent assembly elections in Iraq? First and foremost, proportional representation will avoid the anomalies that are prevalent when single-member districts or some variant thereof are used in emerging democracies. In 1998 the Lesotho Congress for Democracy won all but one seat in parliament with 60 percent of the vote; rioting and state collapse ensued. In the 2000 Mongolian elections, the ruling party took 95 percent of the seats with 58 percent of the vote. In Iraq such a system would most likely give a significant "seat bonus" to Shiite parties, to the detriment of Sunni-based groups and embryonic multiethnic movements. -- The Right Plan for Iraqi Voters (washingtonpost.com)

    July 8, 2004

    Does the Electoral College need a new curriculum?

    Cox News Service reports: The prospect of presidential campaigns neglecting much of the country while focusing on electoral battlegrounds spurs talk of reform.

    Proposals include scrapping the Electoral College in favor of direct election by popular vote. That's unlikely because the Constitution would have to be amended, an unwieldy process.

    An alternative would allocate electoral votes by congressional district, a change that could be made at the state level and is already in effect in Maine and Nebraska. Candidates would be awarded one electoral vote for each of the nation's 435 congressional districts in which they win the popular vote, and a two-vote bonus for winning a state's popular vote.

    Bob Turner, political scientist at Skidmore College in upstate New York, said that would more closely reflect the popular vote and force the campaigns to "focus on battleground districts instead of battleground states." Three of Georgia's 13 House districts would likely be tossups. -- Presidential campaigns to focus on key states (Cox News Service via News-Journal.com)

    An even better method would be a proportional allocation of Electoral College votes in each state. Unfortunately, the "creative districting" that gives us lopsided delegations in most states would also contribute to disproportionate allocations in each state.

    June 30, 2004

    Iraq will use PR elections

    Not surprisingly, the January 2005 elections in Iraq will not be anything like the "winner-take-all" elections we have in the United States. Instead, Iraq will use a proportional representation system -- similar to what most democracies in the world use. They'll use a "party list" system that will allow for a diverse, representative legislature. And, incredibly,

    "On any list, every third name must be a woman to ensure that at least 25 percent of seats in the assembly go to women, a stipulation made in Iraq's interim constitution, agreed earlier this year."

    I think it's worth noting that we're spreading a more vibrant and inclusive version of representative democracy than we have here in the U.S. Not to mention that we're spending $260 million U.S. dollars to help put on this election -- at the same time that we're tying to pry election reform funds out of our own U.S. Congress to improve and secure voting right here at home. Arghh! -- Will Markson for President: Will's Campaign Journal

    Will Markson is America's favorite fictional candidate.

    June 21, 2004

    Justice Department preclears Richmond "strong mayor" plan

    The Justice Department on Monday approved Richmond's plan for a citywide election of a strong mayor, rejecting claims it would dilute the political might of the city's largely black electorate.

    The ruling clears the way for a Nov. 2 election that would pit the incumbent, Rudolph McCollum, against the nation's first elected black governor, L. Douglas Wilder.

    Wilder, a Democrat, and Republican former U.S. Rep. Thomas J. Bliley last year jointly championed a referendum in which city voters by a 4-1 ratio embraced the new at-large mayor proposal. -- Justice Department OKs Richmond's mayoral election plan (AP via Hampton Roads Daily Press)

    June 19, 2004

    Europe adopts new constitution, still to be ratified

    EUROPE'S leaders clinched a tentative deal on the first EU constitution last night.

    After a firey two-day summit, disputes about national sovereignty, new voting systems and power-sharing were put to bed. ...

    Voting rights had also beena highly contentious issue.

    Talks broke down in December over majority voting which, it was feared, could ignore interests of smaller nations.

    Now, for a measure to be passed, it will have to be backed by a majority of countries plus one representing 65 per cent of the EU's population. -- BRUSSELS BROKERS THE DEAL (Scottish Daily Record)

    June 14, 2004

    Massachusetts legislation may call for special election to fill Kerry's seat

    Prodded by a personal appeal from Senator Edward M. Kennedy, Democratic legislative leaders have agreed to take up a stalled bill creating a special election process to replace US Senator John F. Kerry if he wins the presidency.

    House Speaker Thomas M. Finneran and Senate President Robert E. Travaglini yesterday gave the green light to the joint Committee on Election Laws to hold a hearing on Tuesday, the first leg in what is expected to be swift and certain passage of the legislation.

    National Democrats want the change to prevent Governor Mitt Romney from filling Kerry's seat with a Republican, but the bill had been stalled as Finneran and Travaglini weighed whether to take it up. ...

    Without a change in current law, a Republican appointed by Romney would hold the seat until the 2006 election. The bill calls for a special election no later than 130 days nor sooner than 105 days after a senator submits a letter setting a date for vacating the seat. Potentially the seat could be filled in early February 2005, just weeks after Kerry would be sworn in as president on Jan. 20. -- Special election bill gets new life (Boston Globe)

    June 11, 2004

    Kansas GOP sued over open primary decision

    A Sedgwick County [Kansas] district judge issued a temporary restraining order Thursday to block unaffiliated voters from participating in the Republican primary election pending further hearings.

    A separate order was filed in Shawnee County District Court in Topeka but was not signed by a judge before court offices closed Thursday afternoon. ...

    Open primaries are an issue because of a federal appeals court ruling that struck down an Oklahoma law determining who could participate in primaries.

    The court said that political parties, not the state, must decide who can select the parties' candidates.

    In the wake of that ruling, [Secretary of State] Thornburgh, a Republican, asked the state chairmen of the Republican and Democratic parties how they wanted to conduct their primaries.

    [Republican chairman] Jones made his decision after talking informally with some party officials. Democratic chairman Larry Gates opened his party's primary to unaffiliated voters after a conference call with the state party's executive committee.

    In seeking the restraining order, Wichita lawyer Richard Macias argued that Jones' move exceeded his authority. He said the state Republican Party's constitution requires that any proposed amendments be approved by a majority of state committee members. -- Lawsuit filed to stop open GOP primary (Wichita Eagle via Biloxi Sun Herald)

    Washington Supreme Court leaves the "Montana primary" in effect

    The Washington state Supreme Court has cleared the way for Washington to hold a Montana-style primary this September. It will limit voters to one party's ballot for the first time in nearly 70 years.

    The high court, acting with unusual haste, turned aside an effort by the state Grange to scuttle the primary system that Gov. Gary Locke created with an unusual veto on April 1. ...

    The court's brief order, signed by Chief Justice Gerry Alexander, didn't explicitly say Locke was within his legal rights, but did reject the Grange's effort to halt the Montana-style system.

    Opinions - apparently a majority opinion and a dissent - will be issued "in due course," the chief justice wrote. No vote was listed for the nine-judge court, but it was clear there was division. Alexander said he wrote for "a majority of the court." The ruling came down less than six hours after the oral arguments before a packed courtroom at the Temple of Justice. -- High court clears way for Wash. state partisan primaries (AP via kgw.com)

    June 10, 2004

    Guam primary law held unconstitutional

    The way Guam prepares its primary election ballots is unconstitutional and violates a U.S. Supreme Court decision, according to Superior Court of Guam Presiding Judge Alberto Lamorena, who yesterday afternoon struck down the local law related to primary election ballots.

    Lamorena's decision to strike down the law comes at the request of Attorney General Douglas Moylan, who last year filed a civil suit to challenge the island's primary election process because it allows voters to cross over between races and vote for candidates from different parties. Federal court decisions, including a Supreme Court ruling in 2000, found that similar procedures in Washington and California are unconstitutional because they violate rights of political parties.

    The primary election is scheduled for Sept. 4, and Guam Election Commission officials said July 13 is the latest they can wait for a resolution to the issue, because of the need to prepare and send absentee ballots. -- Judge rules against election law (guampdn.com)

    Washington Supreme Court hears arguments on Locke's partial veto of primary bill

    The state Grange, original sponsors of Washington's popular blanket primary, urged the state Supreme Court on Thursday to throw out Gov. Gary Locke's "crafty" veto that created a new system that limits voters to one party's ballot.

    "It was illegal. It was crafty," Grange attorney James Johnson told the high court.

    The court indicated it will rule promptly, since candidates and election officials need to know by next month at the latest what kind of primary the state will have this September.

    For nearly 70 years, Washington used a wide-open primary system that allowed a voter to pick a favorite candidate for each office, regardless of party label. Ticket-splitting has been permissible — and widely used. -- Grange asks high court to throw out new primary (AP via kgw.com)

    June 9, 2004

    Wilder wants to meet with DOJ over Scott's charges

    Former Gov. L. Douglas Wilder, seeking to become mayor of Richmond, has asked for a meeting with U.S. Justice Department officials to counter Rep. Robert C. Scott's attempt to derail the city's at-large mayoral election.

    Scott, a Democrat from Newport News, told Justice Department officials June 2 that the plan will dilute black voting strength in Richmond, even though 80 percent of the black majority city approved it in referendum. Scott said the plan was illegal under the Voting Rights Act.

    The Justice Department is reviewing the plan, which also was approved by the Virginia legislature and Gov. Mark R. Warner. -- Wilder seeks meeting with feds on congressman's claim (AP via Hampton Roads Daily Press)

    June 7, 2004

    Voting on "Big Thursday" in London

    WHEN Londoners go to the polls on Thursday next week, they will have a chance to vote in three different elections, for the Mayor of London, the London Assembly and the European Parliament.

    June 10 has been dubbed Big Thursday, a reference to Big Tuesday in America when a large number of presidential primaries are run simultaneously. ...

    There might be three elections, but we have five votes.

    European Parliament: one vote This is the simplest election, but it is very different to how general or borough elections are run. We each have one vote, but we are not being asked to elect a local representative to the parliament in Brussels and Strasbourg: at least not directly, and not very local. ...

    We could vote only for a party. The parties were then allocated seats based on a form of proportional representation and then decided privately who, from a list of "candidates", filled those seats. ...

    Mayor of London: two votes The election of the Mayor will be by the "supplementary vote" system, under which we are asked to indicate our first and second choice of candidate, although you don't have to use your second vote.

    If a candidate secures more than half of the first choice votes cast he or she is elected, and the process stops there.

    But if, as is almost certain, no candidate passes this threshold, all the candidates, except those with the largest and second largest number of first choices votes is eliminated.

    The second choice votes from all of the eliminated candidates are then added up and distributed and the candidate from the remaining two with the biggest combined total of first and second choice votes is elected. ...

    London Assembly: two votes The London Assembly election combines the traditional English first-past-the-post system and a form of proportional representation.

    The assembly has 25 members, but only 14 are elected to directly represent a constituency, such as Brent and Harrow. The other 11 are London-wide "top-up candidates" who provide the proportionality. -- Three Elections Five Votes On Big Thursday (from This Is Local London)

    June 5, 2004

    Wilder and Scott square off on preclearance of at-large mayor for Richmond

    Former [Virginia] Gov. L. Douglas Wilder, who is seeking to become mayor, on Friday assailed a congressman who said Richmond's pending switch to an at-large mayoral election could dilute black voting strength.

    Rep. Robert C. Scott apparently believes the people of Richmond "are obviously too stupid, too dumb or too racist to elect their own mayor," said Wilder, who, like Scott, is a black Democrat. ...

    The mayor is now appointed by city council members, who are elected from wards within the city. The change to at-large elections, coupled with the strengthening of the mayor's executive powers, received 80 percent support in a city vote and was approved by the General Assembly and Gov. Mark R. Warner.

    It is now being reviewed by the U.S. Justice Department, and if it is approved, residents will elect a mayor on the November ballot. -- Wilder assails congressman for criticizing change to Richmond, Va., mayoral elections (AP via Hampton Roads Daily Press)

    GOP primary would have been open if no opposing party candidates had filed

    Odds are either Chuck Rushe or Heather Fiorentino will be [the] next school superintendent [in Pasco County, Florida].

    The two are embroiled in arguably the most important local race in the county this year.

    But 60 percent of the electorate won't be able to choose between the two candidates.

    Many people blame that on James Sean Griffin.

    The 33-year old Land O'Lakes Republican joined the race as write-in candidate Thursday, effectively freezing out Democratic, Independent and other non-Republican voters from casting ballots in the Aug. 31 primary. ...

    According to state law, write-in candidates, regardless of party affiliation, are eligible to participate during general elections. Before Griffin filed, the primary election between Rushe and Fiorentino - both Republicans - was open to all voters because there was no outside competition. -- Pasco: School chief race hit by twist (St. Petersburg Times)

    This is the first I have heard of this mandatory opening of party primaries only under certain conditions. It seems to violate the rights of the party to decide who will be its members.

    June 3, 2004

    Appointed House members amendment is dead

    House lawmakers rejected a proposed constitutional amendment yesterday that would have allowed governors to name replacements if half the 435-member chamber died in a terrorist attack or other disaster.


    Opponents said the House should never abandon direct election. Lawmakers supporting the amendment said that without the succession plan, the House would expose itself to a lengthy period of powerlessness should hundreds of members die at the same time.

    "We feel very, very passionately about the need to ensure that no one ever serves in the 'people's house' without having first being elected," said House Rules Committee Chairman David Dreier (R-Calif.), a critic of the amendment. ...

    [The] proposal was defeated by a vote of 353 to 63, well short of the two-thirds needed to approve a constitutional amendment. -- Plan to Allow Appointed Successors Is Defeated (AP via washingtonpost.com)

    May 18, 2004

    Utah newspaper editorializes in favor of instant runoff

    Amid the political machinery known as Utah's caucus-convention system, there is only one part that could reinvigorate politics and let people know their vote really counts.

    It's so-called "instant runoff" voting. The state Republican Party has used it for the past four years in selecting party officers and candidates. The system is efficient and would bypass the silly and wasteful caucus-convention system, which allows an easily manipulated oligarchy to anoint candidates.

    The Republicans' recent selection of candidates for governor shows how the instant runoff system works. Each delegate makes first- and second-choice votes on a ballot. If no candidate gets 60 percent of the votes in the first round, the lowest candidate on the ballot is eliminated, and the votes for that candidate are redistributed to candidates selected as second choices on the loser's ballots. The process is repeated until one candidate gets a 60 percent majority or until two candidates are left for a primary runoff.

    It was this system that allowed Nolan Karras, the Republican convention's dark horse, to force Jon M. Huntsman Jr. into a primary runoff in the seventh round of counting. -- IN OUR VIEW An instant improvement :: The Daily Herald, Provo Utah

    May 15, 2004

    Kerry will not support member of Congress for DC if Utah gets one too

    Presumptive Democratic nominee Sen. John F. Kerry (Mass.) said yesterday that if elected president, he would not sign legislation to give the District a vote in the House of Representatives as proposed by Rep. Thomas M. Davis III (R-Va.).

    Kerry's declaration, made after he spoke with top city Democrats including Mayor Anthony A. Williams and Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, marked a rare break between the national Democratic Party's standard-bearer and District aspirations for congressional voting rights. ...

    Kerry otherwise reaffirmed his support for District voting rights.

    "I believe that people deserve representation," Kerry said. "I intend to fight to see that representation occurs somehow, and I can't tell you what possibly will pass, but I know what I believe." A vote in the House and two votes in the U.S. Senate for the District have been a part of the national Democratic Party platform. -- Kerry Skeptical of Bill on D.C. Vote (washingtonpost.com)

    May 13, 2004

    DC Council backs Rep. Davis's plan to expand U.S. House

    D.C. Council members are preparing to endorse a congressional proposal to give the city a vote in the House of Representatives -- even if it means adding a seat for Utah at the same time.

    Twelve members signed on to a non-binding, sense-of-the-council resolution Friday that is scheduled to come up for a May 19 public hearing and a June 1 vote.

    It would put District elected leaders on record as supporting a proposal by Rep. Thomas M. Davis III (R-Va.) to temporarily expand the House by two seats by adding a voting representative for the nation's capital and another seat for Utah. Utah was next in line to gain another member after the 2000 U.S. Census.

    Under the Davis plan, the House would revert to its current size, 435 seats, after the 2010 census and redistricting, but the District would keep its voting member. ...

    House Democrats object to giving away at least one seat to the GOP majority -- at a time when Republican control hangs on a 12-vote margin -- and another vote in the Electoral College, which selects the president, however temporarily. -- Council Backs Compromise to Get House Vote (washingtonpost.com)

    May 12, 2004

    California to vote on non-partisan primary initiative

    Voters may be able to choose any candidate in state primaries regardless of their party affiliation.

    The California Secretary of State's office announced May 3 that an initiative to make California's primaries nonpartisan - allowing voters to choose any candidate regardless of party affiliation - has collected enough signatures for the November 2004 ballot.

    If voters approve the new system, races for the U.S. Senate, House of Representatives, the state Legislature, governor, attorney general, treasurer, controller, lieutenant governor, insurance commissioner and secretary of state will all be changed to open primary elections.

    Proponents of the initiative said it will help bridge the gap between the two parties and increase voter turnout by making primaries more competitive. -- Initiative to make primary nonpartisan on state ballot (California Aggie)

    May 10, 2004

    More footdragging in San Francisco IRV launch

    S.F. Examiner: Ready to roll

    Despite assertions that the Department of Elections is moving forward with a plan to implement a new voting system in November, voter-education groups are concerned officials are lagging on conducting crucial outreach.

    The concerns come as The City moves to implement ranked-choice voting, a system that allows voters to rank three candidates in order of preference so that a costly runoff election, typically priced upwards of $2 million annually, can be avoided.

    Known as "instant runoff voting," voters approved the idea in 2001, but legal hang-ups and sluggish bureaucracy have left it languishing.

    After months of dormancy on the subject following a frenzy of hearings meant to get the system in place for last year's mayor race, the Elections Department will today go before the Board of Supervisors Rules Committee and the Elections Commission to discuss plans for implementing and educating voters on the ranked-choice voting system. --

    May 6, 2004

    House committee "unfavorably recommends" bill to appoint replacement members

    A House committee chairman and his GOP colleagues voted yesterday to send legislation they strongly oppose to the House floor.

    Democrats who might support the bill, or one like it, argued for hearings instead. ...

    The amendment, by Rep. Brian Baird (D-Wash.), calls for changing the Constitution to allow governors to appoint temporary replacements if a majority of the House's 435 members perish or are incapacitated in a terrorist strike or another disaster.

    Baird and other Democrats argue that temporary lawmakers would be needed until special elections could be held to ensure that the House could function in the aftermath of a calamity.

    Most Republicans, however, ardently oppose wiping out the constitutional requirement that all House members win their positions through elections, a requirement they believe makes the chamber uniquely reflective of the people's will. (Governors can appoint temporary replacements if a senator dies, and the line of presidential succession includes Cabinet members who are not elected.) -- GOP Hopes Roll Call Will Bury Democrat's Bill (washingtonpost.com)

    May 3, 2004

    Thinking people are for Sen. John Edwards

    IMAGINE there's no Iowa. No New Hampshire, too. Imagine the Democratic Party, instead of relying on a few unrepresentative voters to quickly anoint John Kerry, had allowed people across America to vet the candidates and contemplate the issues.

    Then Mr. Kerry might well not be the nominee, and the Democrats would stand a better chance of reaching the White House, at least according to the results of a novel experiment during the primary season.
    After choosing a representative national sample of more than 700 people, political scientists conducted what is called a deliberative poll. They created a group of well-informed voters by giving them home computers and exposing them to the candidates' commercials and policy positions.

    These voters, using microphones with the computers, discussed the candidates and the issues in small groups that met online once a week, starting in January on the day of the Iowa caucuses.

    Over the next five weeks, as Mr. Kerry built up momentum among both real-life primary voters and the control group in the experiment, Senator John Edwards enjoyed the biggest surge in the well-informed test group, which was won over by his personal traits as well as by his policies, notably his protectionism on trade. Besides appealing to the Democrats in the test group, Mr. Edwards did better among the group's independents and Republicans, and he emerged as the strongest candidate against Mr. Bush. -- The New York Times > Washington > Campaign 2004 > Political Points: Edwards Wins: A Theory Tested

    That reminds me of a story Scott Simon repeated on NPR's Weekend Edition a few years ago:

    A supporter once called out, "Governor Stevenson, all thinking people are for you!" And Adlai Stevenson answered, "That's not enough. I need a majority."

    May 2, 2004

    Texas columnist recommends Louisiana primary system to California

    The last thing that California imported from Louisiana was probably some ersatz Cajun joint in Malibu. Blackened tofu? Bean sprouts étouffée? Kiwis Foster?

    But California voters are almost certain to be asked this fall if they want to adopt an electoral system similar to Louisiana's free-for-all hybrid.

    It might seem unlikely that Californians, despite lingering pre-Schwarzenegger distaste for gridlock, will adopt a moss-draped election system. This may be in no small part because party leaders, in mortal fear of the phrase "regardless of party," are already in full-cry opposition.

    But can anything that party hacks oppose be all bad? Short answer: No. -- Hines: If party hacks hate it, can it be all bad? (HoustonChronicle.com)

    April 29, 2004

    4th Circuit afirms decision against Charleston County

    A federal appeals court ruled Thursday that a South Carolina county's at-large method of electing county council members illegally dilutes minority voting strength.

    A three-judge panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously affirmed U.S. District Judge Michael Duffy's ruling that Charleston County's system discriminates against blacks. The court said only a "clearly erroneous" ruling could be overturned.

    "While the district court's finding ... is certainly disputable, it is not clearly mistaken," Judge J. Harvie Wilkinson III wrote.

    The U.S. Justice Department and a group of Charleston County voters challenged the at-large system, in which all county voters choose all nine council members. At the time of the trial, only three blacks were among the 41 council members elected since 1970. The county's population is 31 percent black, according to the 2000 census. -- Court strikes down S.C. county's at-large elections (AP via Charleston State)

    The opinion is here on the 4th Circuit website.

    April 26, 2004

    China to Hong Kong: no direct elections

    China's parliament Monday dashed Hong Kong people's hopes of directly electing their leaders in polls in 2007 and 2008, reinforcing Beijing's full control over democratic progress in the territory.

    The decision came after top members of the National People's Congress (NPC) had voted on political reforms for the former British colony, where calls have mounted for more voting rights out of growing frustration with the China-backed administration.

    "There will be no universal suffrage for electing the third Chief Executive in 2007," Tsang Hin-chi, a Hong Kong member of the NPC's Standing Committee, told reporters in Beijing.

    "There will be no universal suffrage for all legislators," he said, referring to elections due in 2008. His comments were carried live on Hong Kong's Cable Television. ...

    Half of Hong Kong's Legislative Council is returned via direct election, while the other half is selected by largely pro-Beijing professional and business groups. -- China Rules Out Direct Elections in HK in 2007-08 (Reuters.com)

    April 23, 2004

    House approves special elections bill

    Fearing that a terrorist attack on the Capitol could decimate the legislative branch, the House overwhelmingly approved a measure on Thursday that would provide for quick special elections if 100 or more of its members were killed.

    The bill, which would allow for elections 45 days after a catastrophe, went to the Senate after it passed by a vote of 306 to 97. But its Republican sponsors refused to take up the politically thorny question of whether the Constitution should be amended to allow for temporary appointments to the House until special elections could be arranged. ...

    The measure would allow for special elections in "extraordinary circumstances," which the bill defines as occurring when the speaker of the House announces that there are more than 100 vacancies. Within 10 days of the announcement, the political parties in states with vacancies would be permitted to nominate candidates to run in a special election within 45 days. -- House Sets Up Quick Elections if Its Members Die in Attack (New York Times)

    Suit attacks Washington governor's veto of blanket primary

    The state Grange on Thursday sued [Washington] Gov. Gary Locke, challenging the constitutionality of his veto that restricts voters to one party's primary ballot.

    The Grange, which is backing a rival plan that is similar to the outlawed blanket primary, asked the state Supreme Court to take direct and speedy review of the governor's action.

    Grange lawyer James Johnson, a prominent appeals attorney who is running for a vacant seat on the high court, said Locke's veto was clearly unconstitutional.

    "He essentially turned apples into oranges," he said. -- The Daily News Online

    April 15, 2004

    Irish Senate committee calls for public elections of Senate members

    A committee on Seanad reform is set to tell the Government that the public should be given the right to vote in Seanad elections, The Irish Times has learned.

    In a report calling for sweeping changes in the functions and com-position of the Seanad, the Government will be told that the number of senators elected by local councillors and TDs should be radically reduced.

    In addition, the committee will call for the abolition of the Seanad vocational panels which nominate candidates for Seanad elections. It will also seek an extension of the university franchise. -- Public voting for seats urged in Seanad reforms (Irish Times)

    April 11, 2004

    A call for modest Electoral College reform

    Without belaboring why the Founding Fathers created a system that seems to modern citizens both bizarre and antiquated, the most maddening feature has to be the fact that the will of a large number of voters is routinely ignored by our electors.

    While the U.S. Constitution establishes an Electoral College, it doesn't prescribe how the individual states will allocate their electoral votes. Alabama has chosen to follow a "winner-take-all" approach that essentially steals the votes of the losing candidate when our results are reported nationally by awarding all of our electoral votes to the victor.

    Put more simply, if you voted for President Gerald Ford way back in 1976, Vice President Al Gore in 2000, or any losing candidate in the history of our state, your vote was completely ignored at the national level. By casting all of our electoral votes for a single candidate, these electors absurdly suggest to people across the nation that 100 percent of the folks down in Alabama agree on who should be president.

    If you're thinking the whole "winner-take-all" thing doesn't seem quite fair, you're right. Like most voters, whether I agree or not with my fellow Alabamians on Election Day, I do think every one of their votes should count - period. -- Time to change winner-take-all approach by Mike Higginbotham (Birmingham News)

    April 1, 2004

    Proposal to change Welsh assembly

    Welsh Secretary Peter Hain today vowed to block moves to introduce a different proportional representation voting system for the Welsh Assembly.

    A report into the workings of the devolved body has suggested increasing the number of members from 60 to 80 and electing them using the single transferable vote (STV).

    It was one of the recommendations of a team led by former Lords leader Lord Richard into the future powers and structure of the Cardiff-based institution.

    Mr Hain said the present voting system was "deeply flawed" but told MPs he was strongly opposed to the idea of switching to STV. -- Hain Vows to Block Wales Vote Switch Proposal (Scotsman.com )

    Canadian Law Commission recommends adding proportionality to election system

    Because elections play a central role in modern democracy, the particular formula employed to translate votes into seats in the legislature assumes special importance. Recently, some countries have questioned their electoral systems and the democratic values that they reflect, and have instituted reforms. Canada, for the most part, has been hesitant to experiment with its electoral system. However, a growing number of Canadians are interested in critically examining the existing electoral system, and many deem that it is time to change the way we cast our votes. ...

    The conclusion of this survey is that adding an element of proportionality to Canada's electoral system, as inspired by the system currently used in Scotland, would be the most appropriate model for adoption. Its potential benefits include:

    • reducing the discrepancy between a party's share of the seats in the House of Commons and its share of the votes;

    • including in the House of Commons new and previously under-represented voices, such as smaller political parties;

    • electing a greater number of minority group and women candidates;

    • encouraging inter-party cooperation through coalition governments;

    • reducing the huge disparities in the value of votes that currently exist, in which a vote for the winning party is often three to four times more “valuable” than a vote for any of the other parties;

    • reducing the number of disregarded votes, thus increasing the number of “sincere,” as opposed to strategic, votes; and

    • producing more regionally balanced party caucuses.

    The Commission, therefore, recommends adding an element of proportionality to Canada's electoral system, and that Canada adopt a mixed member proportional electoral system. --
    Voting Counts: Electoral Reform for Canada - Executive Summary

    The Law Commission of Canada is an independent federal law reform agency that advises Parliament on how to improve and modernize Canada’s laws.

    March 14, 2004

    Socialist Party wins in Spain

    Voters ousted Spain's ruling party in elections Sunday, with many saying they were shaken by bombings in Madrid and furious with the government for backing the Iraq war and making their country a target for al-Qaida.

    The Socialist Party declared victory with 79 percent of the votes counted, as results showed it winning 164 seats in the 350-member parliament and the ruling Popular Party taking 147. The latter had 183 seats in the outgoing legislature. ...

    Turnout was high at 76 percent. Many voters said Thursday's bombings, which killed 200 people and wounded 1,500, was a decisive factor, along with the government's much-criticized handling of the initial investigation. ...

    Until the bombing, the conservative Popular Party was projected by most polls to beat the Socialists, although perhaps without retaining their majority in the 350-seat Congress of Deputies.

    But the disaster, which the government initially blamed on the Basque separatist group ETA, threw the election wide open. The attack was followed by emotional rallies across the country.

    Critics accused the government, which had trumpeted its crackdown on ETA, of manipulating the investigation for political gain. That struck a chord with voters. -- Spain's Socialists Claim Victory (AP)

    Spain's lower house is elected by proportional representation using a closed list. Elections are held in each of the 50 provinces which have a population-based share of the 350 deputies. See Election Resources on the Internet.

    Socialist Party wins in Spain

    Voters ousted Spain's ruling party in elections Sunday, with many saying they were shaken by bombings in Madrid and furious with the government for backing the Iraq war and making their country a target for al-Qaida.

    The Socialist Party declared victory with 79 percent of the votes counted, as results showed it winning 164 seats in the 350-member parliament and the ruling Popular Party taking 147. The latter had 183 seats in the outgoing legislature. ...

    Turnout was high at 76 percent. Many voters said Thursday's bombings, which killed 200 people and wounded 1,500, was a decisive factor, along with the government's much-criticized handling of the initial investigation. ...

    Until the bombing, the conservative Popular Party was projected by most polls to beat the Socialists, although perhaps without retaining their majority in the 350-seat Congress of Deputies.

    But the disaster, which the government initially blamed on the Basque separatist group ETA, threw the election wide open. The attack was followed by emotional rallies across the country.

    Critics accused the government, which had trumpeted its crackdown on ETA, of manipulating the investigation for political gain. That struck a chord with voters. -- Spain's Socialists Claim Victory (AP)

    Spain's lower house is elected by proportional representation using a closed list. Elections are held in each of the 50 provinces which have a population-based share of the 350 deputies. See Election Resources on the Internet.

    March 13, 2004

    Locke may veto part of primary bill

    [Washington] Gov. Gary Locke on Friday signaled that he's likely to veto a "Top 2" primary system and leave in place a "Montana Plan" that will restrict voters to taking only one party's primary ballot.

    Secretary of State Sam Reed, Senate Majority Leader Bill Finkbeiner and other advocates of the Top 2 system were upset at that prospect, but the political parties and legislative backers of the backup plan were delighted.

    The primary fix -- and the strange choice the Legislature dumped in Locke's lap -- was among the top accomplishments of the just-concluded 60-day legislative session. ...

    [Locke] said his lawyers say the partial veto is "very doable. The Constitution allows the governor to veto entire sections. We will look at our constitutional authority and we will exercise it." -- Locke opposes "top two" primary bill (AP)

    Locke may veto part of primary bill

    [Washington] Gov. Gary Locke on Friday signaled that he's likely to veto a "Top 2" primary system and leave in place a "Montana Plan" that will restrict voters to taking only one party's primary ballot.

    Secretary of State Sam Reed, Senate Majority Leader Bill Finkbeiner and other advocates of the Top 2 system were upset at that prospect, but the political parties and legislative backers of the backup plan were delighted.

    The primary fix -- and the strange choice the Legislature dumped in Locke's lap -- was among the top accomplishments of the just-concluded 60-day legislative session. ...

    [Locke] said his lawyers say the partial veto is "very doable. The Constitution allows the governor to veto entire sections. We will look at our constitutional authority and we will exercise it." -- Locke opposes "top two" primary bill (AP)

    March 12, 2004

    Richmond mayoral bill passes

    The [Virginia] House of Delegates and Senate approved a compromise bill Friday that would allow Richmond residents to elect their mayor directly, a proposal that overwhelmingly passed a voter referendum in the fall.

    The legislation also lays out specific duties for the office that would make Richmond's mayor the strongest such city leader in the state, supporters said. The mayor is currently a largely ceremonial position filled by members of the city council. ...

    The voter referendum, which passed in November by a wide margin, was opposed by many of the city's black leaders. Councilman Walter T. Kenney Sr., a former mayor, warned that direct election of the mayor could bring to power a well-financed white candidate in a city that is nearly 60 percent black.

    However, former Gov. L. Douglas Wilder, the nation's first black elected governor, said that having a strong mayor was necessary to bring more accountability to "the cesspool of corruption and inefficiency" in city government.

    The legislation was drawn to protect the black vote by requiring a mayor to win the most votes in at least five of the nine city council districts. A run-off election would be held if nobody wins five districts. -- House, Senate approve Richmond mayor proposal (fredericksburg.com)

    Richmond mayoral bill passes

    The [Virginia] House of Delegates and Senate approved a compromise bill Friday that would allow Richmond residents to elect their mayor directly, a proposal that overwhelmingly passed a voter referendum in the fall.

    The legislation also lays out specific duties for the office that would make Richmond's mayor the strongest such city leader in the state, supporters said. The mayor is currently a largely ceremonial position filled by members of the city council. ...

    The voter referendum, which passed in November by a wide margin, was opposed by many of the city's black leaders. Councilman Walter T. Kenney Sr., a former mayor, warned that direct election of the mayor could bring to power a well-financed white candidate in a city that is nearly 60 percent black.

    However, former Gov. L. Douglas Wilder, the nation's first black elected governor, said that having a strong mayor was necessary to bring more accountability to "the cesspool of corruption and inefficiency" in city government.

    The legislation was drawn to protect the black vote by requiring a mayor to win the most votes in at least five of the nine city council districts. A run-off election would be held if nobody wins five districts. -- House, Senate approve Richmond mayor proposal (fredericksburg.com)

    March 10, 2004

    Will the European Union founder on the question of voting rights for member states?

    The European Union's Irish presidency warned Wednesday that time is running out on the EU's stalled bid to forge a constitution, amid signs of a potential breakthrough in the divisive debate. ...

    The unprecedented EU charter is supposed to introduce major changes to how the bloc runs its affairs to get it in shape for its enlargement in May to 25 member states.

    But an intergovernmental conference in December that was supposed to agree the text collapsed in acrimony. Since then, the Irish have been taking soundings on how to unblock the main sticking point -- voting rights in the enlarging bloc. ...

    The EU's draft constitution envisages that laws would require the support of at least 50 percent of EU member states representing at least 60 percent of the bloc's population.

    Two German MEPs who helped draft the constitution said that under a new compromise, these figures could be tweaked to 55 percent on both counts -- which would give a slightly greater say to smaller member states. -- EU's presidency warns of race against time on constitution (EUBusiness.com)

    March 9, 2004

    Washington House adopts another open primary

    The [Washington] state House, in another setback for the state's political parties, last night approved a Louisiana-style primary system that would let voters cast ballots for any candidate and would send the top two finishers to the general election.

    The House, by a 51-46 vote, went for the same system that passed the state Senate last week over the objections of the parties and Gov. Gary Locke.

    The House proposal adds a twist, however -- requiring the state to revert to a much-different election system patterned after Montana's if the Louisiana plan doesn't pass muster in court. ...

    The Louisiana-style primary is similar to the blanket primary in that voters can cast votes for any candidate, regardless of party. But instead of one candidate from each party advancing, only the two people with the most votes would appear on the November ballot.

    The fallback "open primary, private choice" system used in Montana lets voters pick one party's ballot for the primary, but no record is kept of their party choice. -- House approves Louisiana-style primary (Seattle Times)

    Suit challenges Maryland judicial primaries

    A three-judge panel [in Maryland] is considering a request to nullify last week's primary election results for Anne Arundel County Circuit Court after an independent voter alleged that it was unconstitutional to exclude him from casting a ballot.

    If the challenge is successful, the case could transform procedures statewide for electing judges.

    The lawsuit, filed by Gregory Care of Linthicum with assistance from the American Civil Liberties Union, argues that because candidates for circuit judge are listed on both Democratic and Republican ballots, the contests are nonpartisan. And therefore, the suit says, judicial elections should be open to all registered voters regardless of party affiliation. ...

    Of the eight candidates, the top three chosen by Democratic voters were incumbents David S. Bruce, Michele D. Jaklitsch and Rodney C. Warren, while Republicans voters supported challengers Paul Goetzke and Paul F. Harris in addition to Jaklitsch. The top three contenders from each party will face off for three judgeships in November.

    On the Republican ballot, Jaklitsch finished in the top three ahead of challenger Scott A. Conwell by 89 votes, according to unofficial results. ACLU attorneys argue that if independent voters had been allowed to participate, they could have represented the margin of victory for a candidate. -- Lawsuit seeks to nullify primary (baltimoresun.com)

    March 6, 2004

    New wine into old bottles

    Confusion in Orange County that led to some voters receiving the wrong ballots on Tuesday highlights a problem election officials have been struggling with for years: recruiting and training temporary poll workers.

    With the advent of high-tech voting, the problem is only going to get worse, some analysts say.

    In Orange County, poll workers -- including some who said they received inadequate training -- gave some voters incorrect access numbers that led some of them to vote for candidates in the wrong political party or in the wrong election district.

    Officials are investigating the problem, but say they may never know how many votes may have gone astray. -- New Voting Hitch Had Old Cause (latimes.com)

    DOJ objects to partisan elections for Charleston SC school board

    Charleston County School Board candidates won't have to declare a political party or run in a primary in November now that the U.S. Justice Department has determined it would be harder for minority candidates to win seats under partisan elections.

    The Justice Department decision prevents the state from implementing a law passed last year making school board elections partisan. The state has the option to appeal.

    School board members celebrated the decision Friday. -- Decision prevents partisan school vote (Charleston Post & Courier)

    The letter of objection is here. The letter is worth reading.

    February 23, 2004

    Supreme Court rips the blanket primary

    The state of Washington on Monday lost an appeal to the Supreme Court to save its wide-open primary election system, an expected setback that forces state leaders to find a new way for political parties to choose candidates for office.

    The high court had already ruled that so-called "blanket primaries," which had also been used in Alaska and California, are unconstitutional..

    Washington, the last holdout for blanket primaries, argued its system was different and urged the court to intervene to keep it intact. Justices declined, without comment. -- Court Won't Take Primary Election Case (AP)

    February 15, 2004

    Escambia County (FL) voting on charter

    The Pensacola News Journal has two articles today about the proposed charter for Escambia County. The county would change from 5 commissioners elected from single-member districts to 10 members, 7 from single-member districts and 3 at-large. While an illustrative districting plan has been drawn, the county commission does not have to draw the final plan till the charter passes.

    February 11, 2004

    OAS court rules DC residents should have seats in Congress

    The New York Times reports

    In a case brought by voting rights activists from Washington, an international human rights commission has ruled that the United States is violating international law by refusing to give residents of the nation's capital the power to elect members of Congress.

    The ruling, issued on Dec. 29 by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, an agency of the Organization of American States, is not binding. But it brings the moral authority of a major international organization - one the United States belongs to and helps finance - to bear on Capitol Hill, which for 200 years has rebuffed proposals to give Congressional seats to Washington.

    "No other federal state in the Western Hemisphere denies the residents of its federal capital the right to vote for representatives in their national legislature," the ruling said. The commission called on Congress to provide "an effective remedy" that would guarantee this city's residents representation in Congress.

    February 7, 2004

    Strong mayor for Richmond

    The Richmond Times Dispatch reports on action in the Virginia Legislature:

    In a surprise, the House Committee on Counties, Cities and Towns yesterday rejected a mayoral-election proposal overwhelmingly approved by Richmond voters last fall.

    That plan required a successful mayoral candidate to win at least five of the nine City Council districts and kept a city manager to be appointed by the mayor with the consent of council.

    Instead, the committee sent to the House of Delegates floor a bill allowing the citywide election of a strong mayor without the five-of-nine requirement.

    The 12-8 vote was a triumph for Del. Bradley P. Marrs, R-Chesterfield, who has argued that the proposal approved overwhelmingly by Richmond voters was a vote for a strong mayor, not about how the mayor is elected.

    February 5, 2004

    Outlaw single-member districts

    Guy-Uriel Charles has a column in Findlaw's Writ entitled, Should Single-Member Districting Be Held Unconstitutional? He argues that single-member districts allow for gerrymandering and that cumulative voting would undercut gerrymandering.

    Our society is too heterogeneous and we have too many cross-cutting political identities to tolerate political gerrymandering in its present form. Yet politicians will never, on their own, be able to resist the temptation to manipulate the lines for their own benefits -- any more than they could restrain themselves from creating districts that violated the one person-one vote principle before Baker v. Carr.

    January 30, 2004

    Fourth Circuit denys stay to Charleston County

    The Charleston (SC) Post and Courier reports:

    The 4th Circuit Court of Appeals will meet Feb. 24 to hear arguments in Charleston County Council's voting rights case, and it refused to postpone a judge's order that the county begin holding elections in new single-member districts this fall.

    At issue is whether the council can keep its current makeup of nine members elected at large or whether it must change to another system, such as nine members elected from nine single-member districts, which some say would give minority voters a greater voice.

    Instead of asking [U.S. District Judge Michael] Duffy to reconsider his decision to order single-member district elections this fall, the county's lawyers bypassed his court and asked the appeals court for a stay.

    The [Fourth Circuit] judges refused, citing a rule that requires such requests to go through the lower courts first unless impractical.

    January 27, 2004

    IRV on the Berkeley ballot

    The Berkeley Daily Planet has a commentary promoting the use of Instant Runoff Voting. The voters of Berkeley, Calfornia, will decide on switching to IRV from a "delayed" runoff on 2 March.

    Should the Nashville Metro Council be smaller?

    The Nashville Tennessean reports today:

    Would Nashville be better served if Metro Council had fewer than 40 members?

    Freshman Councilman Chris Whitson thinks so, and wants to do something about it.

    He talked about the issue in his campaign last summer, and he's considering a petition drive to cut the council to 20 members. Whitson said he had tested the idea on a few colleagues and citizens and would like voters in the November presidential election to vote on it.

    Councilman Mike Jameson is one council member that Whitson has discussed the issue with. He supports Whitson in his effort to explore the idea but said he isn't sold on it.

    ''I do get frustrated still with how difficult it is to get a consensus out of a 40-member body,'' Jameson said. ''There are countervailing issues I haven't looked at. One of those is the practicality of representing a much larger district.''

    I wonder what effect the smaller council would have on black representation? Anybody know the answer?

    January 17, 2004

    More on the Montana redistricting

    AP reports:

    The Legislature had no business meddling in decisions over how to assign midterm senators to newly drawn legislative districts, and the Montana Supreme Court should say so, a lawyer for three affected lawmakers says.

    In written arguments filed with the high court Wednesday, Jennifer Hendricks said determining which Senate districts are on the next general election ballot is a task reserved for the Districting and Apportionment Committee after each census.

    "The Montana Constitution expressly deprives the Legislature of authority over the districting and apportionment process, and creates the commission for the sole purpose of exercising that responsibility," she said.

    Hendricks' argument that nothing in the constitution gives lawmakers the power to interfere in the commission's work is opposite of Secretary of State Bob Brown's major argument defending the Legislature's assignment of holdover senators.

    Brown, the chief elections officer, has argued nothing in the constitution prevents such legislative action.

    January 14, 2004

    Escambia County FL to use mixed election system

    The News | Pensacola News Journal reports:

    After 15 months of meetings, the Escambia County Charter Commission agreed Tuesday night to have "at-large" county commissioners in its proposed new form of county government.

    The charter commission voted 9-4 in favor of a move to install a 10-member county commission, with seven single-member districts and three at-large districts.

    Such a set-up will not dilute the minority vote, said Garrett Walton, the charter commission member who proposed the at- large plan. Escambia County Supervisor of Elections Bonnie Jones has managed to draw seven districts, of which two districts have a majority of black voters. The district lines are not set in stone, and the current county commission would be responsible for redistricting.

    At-large representation brought up another issue among charter commission members.

    Countywide representation possibly could result in three people from the "downtown crowd" getting elected to the county commission, said Barbara "Bobbie" Brown, a charter commission member.

    To quell those concerns, the charter commission voted 8-5 to create northern, central and southern zones, where residents who wanted to run for the at- large seats must reside. The at- large members would be elected - one from each zone - but still would directly represent the entire county.

    I am particularly interested in this plan because I was one of the lawyers representing the plaintiffs in a suit about 20 years ago to dismantle the at-large elections and go to districts.

    January 8, 2004

    Preclearance for abolition of NYC community school boards

    The Queens Chronicle reports on the preclearance of the abolition of the community school boards in New York City:

    The federal government has given preliminary approval to a city plan to replace community school boards with parent councils.

    The Justice Department’s decision last Thursday clears the final administrative hurdle to dissolving the boards, which have governed the city’s schools since 1969.

    The approval also marks a significant victory for Mayor Bloomberg as well as state lawmakers, who passed a law eliminating the school boards in 2003 after giving the mayor direct control over the system.

    Montana Supreme Court to rule on holdover question

    The Billings (MT) Gazette reports:

    The Montana Supreme Court has promised a decision by Feb. 3 on whether the Legislature went too far in deciding how midterm senators should be assigned to newly drawn legislative districts.

    In an order this week, the court gave both sides until Jan. 20 to submit their written arguments. The justices did not indicate whether they will require the attorneys to also argue personally before the court, as is often done on major cases.

    The high court agreed to put the matter on a fast track, because a ruling will affect the status of 11 Senate districts containing about a fifth of the state's population, and the period for candidates to file opens Jan. 26. The Supreme Court's decision will determine which of those seats will be on the ballot this year.

    The legal dispute centers on the 2003 Legislature's decision to pass a law dictating how "holdover senators" - those not up for election until 2006 - are assigned to the new districts created following the 2000 census.

    January 6, 2004

    Scottish MP voting to be challenged

    The Glasgow Evening Times reports:

    Premier Tony Blair is likely to need Scottish support to force through increases in tuition fees in English universities, so Conservative James Gray is seeking to stop their voting rights.

    Mr Gray, who was educated at Glasgow High School and Glasgow University, is MP for North Wiltshire. He believes Scots votes at Westminster are "completely unsustainable".

    Mr Blair wants to force through higher tuition fees for England - against fierce opposition from many of his own MPs.

    More than 150 have said they will rebel - and Mr Blair has made it clear he could be forced to quit if he loses such a vital vote.

    Mr Gray believes Speaker Michael Martin should rule that Scots MPs must refrain from voting when a Bill affects only England and Wales.
    He also wants to stop Scottish MPs becoming ministers in departments with England-only responsibilities.

    January 5, 2004

    Democratic Delegate Selection Plans

    Rob Richie asked if I had links to Democratic Party delegate selection plans showing the use of proportional representation. Here's what I have found so far:

    A summary of the national rules on the allocation of delegates to the states (found for some reason on the website of Mr. Carmel High School)

    a CBS News summary

    Alabama

    Florida

    Hawai'i

    New Jersey

    North Dakota

    Ohio

    Oklahoma

    Texas

    Wisconsin

    If you have links to some more, let me know.

    January 1, 2004

    Voting rights in history

    Three articles about voting rights in museums or in historical magazines:

    AP reports:

    ATLANTA (AP) -- The daughter of the late civil rights leader Hosea Williams plans to build a museum and community center on the site of the house where he lived for 35 years.

    The Providence Journal reports:

    The [Glocester Historic Society] hopes to make the [Reuben Mason house in Chepachet Village] into a museum about the Thomas Dorr rebellion of 1842 -- a battle that made the extension of voting rights a dominant issue in Rhode Island.

    The house also played a significant part in Thomas Dorr's rebellion in 1842 against Rhode Island's limit of suffrage. Dorr's lawyer was from the area and a large number of people who supported Dorr worked on the local farms, according to Edna Kent, a Glocester historian. As a result the house was designated as the military hospital for Dorr's supporters.

    The Lennox (SD) Independent reports on the latest issue of the journal South Dakota History:

    Emma Smith DeVoe was a key figure in the first campaign for the adoption of a woman suffrage amendment to the state constitution in 1890. Those fighting for women’s voting rights continued to look to her leadership until they achieved victory in 1918. DeVoe’s story is told by Jennifer Ross-Nazzal in “Emma Smith DeVoe and the South Dakota Suffrage Campaigns.” Ross-Nazzal works as an oral historian for the NASA Johnson Space Center Oral History Project in Houston and is a Ph.D. candidate in United States history at Washington State University.

    "The Slave Power"

    The Indiana Law Blog has an interesting post on the election of 1800. According to Garry Wills, in his new book The Negro President, Jefferson won because of the disproportionate voting power given to slave holding states -- three fifths of all the slaves were counted as part of each state's population for purposes of apportioning Congress and the Electoral College.

    Just think: an institution as evil as slavery gave us a president as great as Jefferson.

    October 7, 2003

    Report on Instant Runoff Voting

    Marketplace Morning Report, the business report from Minnesota Public Radio, had a segment on Instant Runoff Voting this morning. You may listen to it here (Real Player required).

    October 6, 2003

    Should the Scots vote on English laws?

    The Scotsman reports:

    SENIOR Tories launched a concerted attack on what they described as "the unfinished business of devolution" yesterday - Tony Blair’s use of Scottish MPs to push through legislation designed solely for England.

    Liam Fox, the party’s health spokesman, and David McLetchie, the Scottish party leader, used the Tory conference in Blackpool as a platform to insist on a change in the rules to prevent Scottish MPs from deciding English laws.

    Mr Blair had to rely on the votes of Scottish Labour MPs to drive through his plans for foundation hospitals earlier this year, despite the fact that the policy was not being pursued in Scotland.

    Mr McLetchie said the only way the problem could be resolved would be to change the rules governing the voting rights of Scottish MPs in the House of Commons.

    He said "English votes for English laws" would solve the problem, preventing Scottish MPs from voting on English domestic issues which are decided for Scotland by the Scottish Parliament.

    September 15, 2003

    9th Circuit overturns Washington's blanket primary

    The Ninth Circuit issued this opinion today holding unconstitutional the Washington State "blanket primary." A blanket primary is a primary in which the voters may choose among all candidates on the ballot, not just the persons seeking the nomination of one party. To be "nominated" by the primary, a candidate must receive a plurality of the votes cast for the candidates of that party and at least 1% of the total vote for all the candidate for that office.

    Thanks to Howard Bashman for the link.

    July 7, 2003

    Winner-take-all makes losers of many

    William Raspberry's column on the problems of winner-take-all elections appeared in the Washington Post, the Tallahassee Democrat, and other papers.

    June 28, 2003

    MoveOn "primary" used Approval Voting

    In all the hoopla over Howard Dean winning the MoveOn.org PAC online straw poll, most (but not Nathan Newman) have overlooked the second question:

    Please select all of the candidates who you would enthusiastically support in the 2004 general election against George W. Bush, if chosen as the Democratic Party nominee next summer after the Democratic Primaries:

    (Choose as many as you like.)

    That is a classic use of the Approval Voting system. It allows voters to choose among several candidates, express their approval for more than one, and come up with a result showing the most approved candidate.

    The MoveOn "first past the post" results were Dean, Kucinich, Kerry. But the MoveOn members were willing to support enthusiastically the following: Dean, Kerry, Kucinich, Edwards, Gephardt, and Braun.

    So for all the spin about Kerry losing big among the supposedly leftist voters of MoveOn is this fact, 3/4 of all the MoveOn voters would enthusiastically support him.

    June 27, 2003

    A House seat for DC?

    Rep. Tom Davis (D-Va.) is working on a plan to add two seats to the House of Representatives -- one for the District of Columbia and one for Utah (which lost a seat in the last reapportionment), according to the Washington Post.

    June 26, 2003

    Nonpartisan elections for NYC?

    "Staff members of a commission looking at the future of elections in New York City will recommend dramatic changes, including a move to nonparty elections and a fast timetable that will make the changes effective either in time for the 2005 elections or, at the latest, four years later."

    Panel Staff to Urge Big Change in How Elections Are Handled, New York Times. (thanks to Taegan Goddard's Poltical Wire for the link.)

    June 15, 2003

    Instant Runoff Voting

    "Instant Runoff Voting" is a preferential voting system that allows voters to choose one winner with majority support even if there are more than two candiates. The Center for Voting and Democracy website has a page with lots of resources on IRV (to use some shorthand), including the text of the San Francisco charter amendment.

    San Francisco adopted the amendment in March 2002, but it has yet to be implemented. The formal reason for the holdup is the lack of state approval of the software according to the San Francisco Chronicle. The City is planning to use handcounting as a backup.

    What's the cost of hand counting? The City estimates $2.3 million, but the Center for Voting and Democracy disputes this in a San Francisco Examiner article.

    June 2, 2003

    The Book Store

    Three young political scientists -- Shaun Bowler, Todd Donovon, and David Brockington -- have written Electoral Reform and Minority Representation: Local Experiments with Alternative Elections. The "alternatives" discussed in the book are Limited Voting and Cumulative Voting, now used in dozens of U.S. towns, counties, and school boards. The book discusses not just the raw election results from these places, but uses survey data, statistical analysis, and interviews with key players to discuss the campaign strategy a candidate must use, the attitudes of voters to these systems, and the effect on voter turnout.

    The book covers an issue close to my heart because I wrote on the same topic in 1984 (except that I was advocating the use of these "alternative election systems," rather than reporting on their use). Disclosure: the book cites two of my articles.

    This slim book is a worthy addition to your library on election systems.

    May 30, 2003

    What's wrong with American democracy?

    Steven Hill and Rob Richie of the Center for Voting and Democracy have a piece on the American Prospect website cataloging the problems that plague our voting system. They conclude,

    It's time for a representative democracy where every vote is counted and every vote counts. It's time for serious candidates to proclaim a real democracy agenda, and for serious reformers to develop a strategy for building a broad and enduring movement. Citizens across the political spectrum must join to create a democracy that not only works for all Americans but also is a shining beacon worthy of export to the rest of the world.

    May 28, 2003

    PR as a cure for redistricting woes

    Andrew Reding has a pithy piece, Beyond gerrymandering and Texas posses: US electoral reform, in the Christian Science Monitor. He points out, as I did a few days ago (here), that the problems of redistricting (gerrymandering, re-redistricting, litigation, etc.) stem from the use of districts rather than some form of proportional representation.

    May 21, 2003

    Canada begins consideration of electoral system reform

    Rick Hasen has a post on his Election Law blog about the publication of the discussion paper, "Renewing Democracy:
    Debating Electoral Reform in Canada." I thought that I had mentioned that report months ago, but can't find it.

    Those interested in true reform of the electoral system would do well to review this report. I'm currently having a good time blogging about the efforts of the GOP to redo the congressional districts in Texas and Colorado to give themselves an advantage. If some sort of proportional system were used, the incentive or opportunity to gerrymander would vanish. For instance, if Alabama used the system called Additonal Member System in Scotland and Mixed-Member Proportional Voting in New Zealand, we could scrap our 7 congressional districts and replace them with 4 districts. Each would elect one member of Congress using the same system we do now. In addition, each voter would have a second vote to cast for a party. If the Republicans got about 5/7 of the statewide "party-choosing" vote, they would get 5 members of the total delegation; if they had won 3 of the 4 districts seats, they would get two elected from their statewide list. If they had won only 2 district seats, they would get all three of the statewide seats. What's the point in gerrymandering to screw the other party, if the other party is going to get a fair share of the seats no matter how gerrymandered the system?

    Note: This Additional Member System is used in Germany, but I don't remember the German term for it.

    May 18, 2003

    PR in Scotland I reported

    PR in Scotland

    I reported earlier this week that the new coalition government in Scotland agreed to adopt Single Transferable Vote in local councils in Scotland.

    The Glasgow Sunday Mail reports that Labour could lose control of 7 local councils because of the new system.

    The Glasgow Herald has a column asking whether the proliferation of voting systems in Scotland means its voters are sophisticated or confused.

    The Evening Telegraph reports that Dundee's council elections using First Past The Post resulted in a proportional distribution of the seats among the parties.

    May 14, 2003

    Scotland to adopted Proportional Representation

    Scotland to adopted Proportional Representation for local elections

    According to the BBC and the Edinburgh Evening News, Labour and the Liberal Democrats have reached an agreement for a coalition government in Scotland. One key point of the agreement is to introduce Single Transferable Vote at local council elections by 2007. See the Lib Dem Manifesto. Labour had opposed STV at the local level, according to an earlier BBC story.

    The Scottish Parliament is elected using the system called Additional Member System in Britain. It is the same system used in Germany and New Zealand. Voters elect one or two MPs for each constituency and also vote for a party on a regional list. Members are elected from the regional list so that the total number of party members in that region is proportional to the regional vote for the party. Here is the BBC slide on AMS.

    Here are the results according to the Lib Dems site. To see a different view, go here and click on "Hollyrood Results" on the right margin.

    April 21, 2003

    Wagner (SD) school district adopts

    Wagner (SD) school district adopts cumulative voting

    The Wagner, South Dakota, school district has settled a vote dilution suit by agreeing to switch to cumulative voting. The suit, brought by the ACLU on behalf of American Indians, charged that the at-large system kept Indians (42% of the local population) from winning any seats on the 7-member board. See the story here, here, and here. Thanks to Rob Richie of the Center for Voting and Democracy for the tip.

    December 17, 2002

    Instant Runoff Voting proposed in Vermont

    The Rutland Herald reports on the coalition that will seek legislative support for the pasage of Instant Runoff Voting (IRV). IRV allows each voter to cast a ballot indicating her first, second, etc. choice. All ballots are counted according to the first choice. If one candidate gets 50% + of the votes, she wins. If not, the candidate with the lowest number of first choice votes is eliminated, and the ballots of that candidate are counted for the second choice on each ballot. The counting continues until one candidate has received a majority. For more information, see the Center for Voting and Democracy's explanation of the system.