The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release
Contact: Sam Husseini, (202) 347-0020; or David Zupan, (541) 484-9167

Making Elections Better


Richie is executive director of FairVote and co-author of Every Vote Equal and Whose Votes Count. He outlined eight points toward better elections:

1) "Non-partisan election officials: It hardly matters whether the
method of voting is with paper and pen or open-source computerized
equipment if election administrators are not trustworthy. In 2004, the
secretaries of state overseeing elections in three battleground states
-- Ohio, Missouri, and Michigan -- were co-chairs of their state's
George Bush reelection campaigns. In Missouri, that Secretary of State
was running for governor -- he oversaw elections for his own race! A
highly partisan Republican Secretary of State ran elections in Florida,
as did a partisan Democrat in New Mexico. Election administrators
should be civil servants who have a demonstrated proficiency with
technology, running elections and making the electoral process
transparent and secure.

2) "National elections commission: The U.S. leaves election
administration to administrators in more than 12,000 counties scattered
across the nation with too few standards or uniformity. ...

3) "Universal voter registration: We lack a system of universal voter
registration in which citizens who turn 18 years of age automatically
are registered to vote by election authorities. This is the practice
used by most established democracies, giving them voter rolls far more
complete and clean than ours. ...

4) "'Public Interest' voting equipment: Currently voting equipment is
suspect, undermining confidence in our elections. The proprietary
software and hardware are created by shadowy companies with partisan
ties who sell equipment by wining and dining election administrators
with little knowledge of voting technology. ...

5) "Holiday/weekend elections: We vote on a busy workday instead of on
a national holiday or weekend (like most other nations do), creating a
barrier for 9 to 5 workers and also leading to a shortage of poll
workers and polling places. Puerto Rico typically has the highest voter
turnout in the United States -- and makes Election Day a holiday.

6) "Ending redistricting shenanigans by adopting forms of proportional
representation: Most legislators choose their voters during the
redistricting process, long before those voters get to choose them.
More than 97 percent of U.S. House incumbents have won re-election
since 1996, overwhelmingly by landslide margins. The driving factors
are winner-take-all elections compounded by rigged legislative district
lines. ...

7) "Establish the National Popular Vote plan for president: The current
winner-take-all rules governing the Electoral College in states enable
presidential campaigns to completely ignore most states in general
elections. ... States have the power by 2012 to guarantee election of
the candidate who wins the most popular votes in all 50 states by
joining several states that have adopted the National Popular Vote plan
for president.

8) "Pry open our democracy: Our 'highest vote-getter wins' method of
electing executive offices creates incentives to keep third-party
candidates off the ballot. ... Controversies of the New Jersey
governor's race is the latest example of how our system is not designed
to accommodate three or more choices, yet important policy areas can be
completely ignored by major party candidates. Most modern democracies
accommodate voter choice through two-round runoff or instant runoff
elections for executive offices, and proportional voting for
legislatures. Instant runoff voting is being used today in many
American elections, including city elections in Minneapolis, San
Francisco, and Pierce County, Wash."

A nationwide consortium, the Institute for Public Accuracy (IPA) represents an unprecedented effort to bring other voices to the mass-media table often dominated by a few major think tanks. IPA works to broaden public discourse in mainstream media, while building communication with alternative media outlets and grassroots activists.