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Fwd: IRV to be featured in major pro-democracy conference / San Francisco aftermath

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  • Dan Johnson-Weinberger
    Save the date and plan to bring friends and allies -- we re having a big D.C. democracy conference November 22 and 23. www.democracyusa.org ... wrote:
    Message 1 of 1 , Aug 28, 2003
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      Save the date and plan to bring friends and allies -- we're having a
      big D.C. democracy conference November 22 and 23.

      www.democracyusa.org



      --- In instantrunoff@yahoogroups.com, Rob Richie <fairvote@c...>
      wrote:
      Greetings!

      We're disappointed about the delay on implementing IRV in San
      Francisco, but believe that we can still keep IRV on track there for
      2004 and that momentum for IRV continues to build. It's not easy
      to stop the right idea at the right time if people keep pushing.

      On that front, I wanted to make sure you knew that our organization
      is taking the lead role in organizing a conference with the theme
      of "Claim Democracy: Securing, Enhancing and Exercising the
      Power of the Right to Vote." Backed by a broad range of pro-democracy
      groups (see call-to-action link below), it will take place on November
      22-23
      in Washington, D.C. 's new convention center, Instant runoff voting
      will be
      among the topics discussed in general sessions and will be the focal
      point of several workshops and trainings on Sunday, November 23.
      We expect major presidential candidates to be among speakers.

      We are starting to handle registrations and shortly will provide
      information
      on a nearby hotel where we will have a block of rooms available. Stay
      tuned for more information, but for now, I hope you can visit:

      http://www.democracyusa.org/events/conference.html

      See links from this page to the list of endorsing organizations (a
      list
      that is still growing), the call-to-action and registration. Note that
      there
      is a less expensive "early bird" registration price through September.

      We also have recently posted more information from San Francisco,
      including a complete set of filings in the lawsuit, a revealing
      timeline
      of what took place over the past 17 months and a very pro-IRV
      editorial
      in the San Francisco Bay Guardian. See:

      http://www.fairvote.org/media/index.html

      - San Francisco Bay Guardian: "Voting as usual: S.F. officials
      won't implement election reform this year - and maybe not even
      next year - in defiance of the public will." August 27, 2003

      -San Francisco Bay Guardian: "Don't bury IRV." . August 27, 2003

      http://www.fairvote.org/sf/irvlawsuit.htm

      - Includes link to full set of filings in the lawsuit and a new
      timeline
      about how the Department of Elections mishandled the election

      Finally, Steven Hill and I recently submitted the piece below for
      publication. We believe it raises important questions about
      sustaining reform efforts in the years ahead.

      best regards,
      Rob Richie, CVD

      ############
      Bureaucrats Stall IRV in San Francisco
      By Steven Hill and Rob Richie

      Instant runoff voting (IRV) is an exciting new reform idea in the
      United
      States. A ranked-choice voting method, IRV allows voters to have
      more than two serious choices without the system breaking down and
      electing leaders opposed by a majority of the people they represent.
      For that reason, it is the clear ticket to multi-party democracy in
      elections.

      Well-tested in a growing number of places around the world, including
      national elections in Ireland and Australia, IRV also encourages
      coalition-
      building and high-turnout elections. In March 2002, IRV advocates won
      a stirring ballot measure victory in San Francisco, beating back
      opponents who spent more than $100,000 to keep the status quo.

      But powerful opponents do not give up easily. On August 20, a
      Superior Court judge ruled that the San Francisco Department of
      Elections is breaking the law for failing to implement IRV for this
      November's
      elections for mayor and other offices. The judge sternly chastised
      the Department, characterizing its efforts to implement IRV since
      passage
      of the charter amendment as "fumbling" and "haphazard."

      In a troubling turn, however, the judge gave the Department of
      Elections permission to postpone implementing IRV until 2004.
      He feared that, with time running out before the November election
      and the pressures of the statewide recall election in October, these
      bumbling bureaucrats could not be relied on to implement IRV fairly.

      It was a classic Catch-22. The various government agencies charged
      with
      fulfilling the law, particularly the Department of Elections and the
      Elections Commission, had dragged their feet to the point where, when
      finally they were sued for not implementing by IRV advocates like
      the San Francisco Labor Council and California PIRG, the judge ruled
      it was

      too late to follow the law in 2003. It was an utter failure of
      government.


      Immediately following his ruling, the city's elections director then
      had
      the gall to tell reporters that he could not guarantee that IRV will
      be in
      place by the November 2004 elections, more than two and a half years
      after voters approved the system. Apparently no amount of time
      is enough for this fumbling director.

      The ruling has disappointed IRV advocates, both those in the City
      who looked forward to its positive impact on the City's hotly
      contested
      race for mayor and those who believe that an American model of IRV
      will lead to rapid adoption in a range of elections across the nation.

      But beyond its impact on IRV, this year's developments point
      to a larger problem. What happens when unelected government
      bureaucrats fail, either by design or ineptitude, to implement the
      law?
      After the marches and protests of the civil rights movement that
      resulted in landmark legislation, the federal government forced
      Southern bureaucrats to uphold the law. Who will uphold the laws
      for democratic reform in San Francisco, or other states and cities?

      In Alameda County, for example, when charter cities Berkeley and
      Oakland expressed interest in using IRV, the county's Director of
      Elections

      informed both cities that he would refuse to run their elections and
      even
      deny them the opportunity to use the county's voting equipment for
      IRV elections. In Santa Rosa, a charter commission last year
      recommended
      using another fair election method called cumulative voting for city
      council elections to give better representation to that community's
      burgeoning diversity, but interest was stopped in its tracks when the
      county election director informed them she would not run cumulative
      voting elections. These administrators are not elected, but hold
      effective veto power of proposed reforms.

      In Massachusetts, a major victory at the ballot box for public
      financing
      of elections was upended by the Speaker of the House, and even
      a court order was unable to prevent it. Federal bureaucrats began
      undermining McCain-Feingold immediately following its passage. In
      other
      states, reformers seek badly-needed changes like election day
      registration (EDR). But what if a state passed EDR, only to see
      election officials refuse to implement it? What recourse do reformers
      have when unelected bureaucrats, or even elected politicians,
      disobey the law?

      They can go to court, as we did in San Francisco. But going to court
      is expensive -- and in this case, still couldn't lead the judge to
      order election administrators to uphold the law and do their job.

      There are lessons to be learned here. For one, winning at the ballot
      box
      is only part of the battle. The movement for political reform, whether
      it involves clean elections or IRV, must be prepared to
      defend its wins in court, and to resist repeal attempts. The history
      of
      the choice voting method of full representation used in two dozen
      city councils last century shows that the anti-reformers and machine
      politicians mounted repeal after repeal, waiting for any opportunity
      to roll back the reform that most challenged their power.

      But is the national reform movement equipped -- financially and
      strategically -- for such a deep and unwavering commitment? Where are
      the movement lawyers, the movement funders, and political strategists
      who can assist reformers in the field when our successes are
      threatened?

      What is at stake is the integrity of government itself, and whether
      unelected government bureaucrats must act when the voters have
      spoken. Does the movement for political reform have the
      strength and strategy to hold stonewalling bureaucrats' feet to the
      fire?

      There are no easy answers to these questions. IRV is far from dead
      n San Francisco, as advocates are preparing a strategy to ensure
      IRV is implemented in November 2004. Yet this is an opportune
      time for reflection, as we assess how state and national reformers
      can
      keep the reforms they win even as they seek urgently needed new
      victories.


      Rob Richie, Executive Director
      The Center for Voting & Democracy
      rr@f..., www.fairvote.org

      6930 Carroll Avenue, Suite 610
      Takoma Park, MD 20912
      (301) 270-4616

      "Make Your Vote Count!"
      --- End forwarded message ---
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