Thursday, June 04, 2009

The Political Outsiders Part III: FairVote

Political reform is a dicey matter. There are many who clamor for and demand reform of the political system. I’ve been an observer of the American political scene for a long time and I have seen anti-establishment reform movements and efforts come and go through the years. Many of these efforts generate a lot of activity and even media attention but eventually fizzle out and end up not reforming anything.

One organization’s reform efforts, however, stuck out to me like a sore thumb—an organization called FairVote. This organization’s efforts stuck out to me because they actually are succeeding in implementing crucial reforms. Not only are the reforms the type of actions designed to promote democratic participation among ordinary people and those who are outsiders to the two major parties—which I thoroughly support—FairVote actually has a record of concrete results in implementing reform on the local and even the state and national level.

The most successful and visible of FairVote’s many projects are:

Instant Runoff Voting
National Popular Vote

Instant Runoff Voting or IRV is a voting method designed to encourage participation of third and minor parties in elections by removing the “spoiler effect” that is intrinsic to our two-party dominated, winner-take-all model of elections. The National Popular Vote or NPV plan would guarantee the Presidency to the presidential candidate who receives the most popular votes in all 50 states (and the District of Columbia). The respective links above contain more specific information on these efforts.

A Track Record of Results

FairVote has a track record of success of implementing these reforms incrementally on the local level, for example, such as municipalities and city councils that have adopted IRV as their voting method. But more impressively, FairVote has also had some success on the state and national level. The NPV plan has been submitted for legislative consideration in all 50 states and (as of today) and has been enacted into law in five states (Maryland, Illinois, Washington State, Hawaii, and New Jersey).

FairVote could not have accomplished all of this without heavy-hitting political allies and if you review the websites for both IRV and NPV you will see that among FairVote’s endorsers and supporters are current and former state legislators from both major parties, mayors and city councils across the country, and even nationally-known politicians from both major parties including John McCain and President Barack Obama.

Both IRV and NPV also enjoy wide media coverage from and have been endorsed by prominent news outlets. Despite this, however, FairVote still operates pretty much under the radar of public consciousness and is not yet a household name in mainstream American politics. If you ask most Americans if they are familiar with FairVote and its reform efforts you would most likely draw a blank.

One can argue with the merits of the IRV and NPV plan—and a healthy discussion on political reform is always a good thing in my book. But one thing that cannot be argued with is results. FairVote has consistently and incrementally shown results in its efforts. Whether it is media coverage, endorsements by prominent politicians or actual implementation of its plans into law through local and state legislatures, no one can deny that FairVote has been a highly effective force for political reform. At the end of the day, that is really what counts and the metric by which reform efforts should be measured.

Part I of this series
Part II of this series


The Angry Independent said...

I like the idea of IRV as well as other reforms. But I am disappointed by the lack of attention that the Obama administration is putting on election reform, especially the campaign finance issue. That may have something to do with the fact that Obama & Co. benefited so much from all the money they received.

Torture from 5, 6, 7 years ago...and Gay Marriage have become more important issues for Obama. It's annoying. Torture and Gay Marriage aren't even in my top 10 list of most important issues. Never have been. But election reform definitely is. But I doubt that it will ever get the national attention that it really deserves.

If there is going to be any real change regarding the election system... the President has to make it a priority.... and I just don't see that happening.

Liberal Arts Dude said...

I agree with you here AI. Election reform isn't such a hot button issue as other issues out there, although politicians seem to pay a lot of lip service to appearing to be for election and campaign finance reform during election years.

Interestingly, the rhetoric of being a reformer seems to resonate with the American electorate that a lot of politicians take on that mantle in their messaging and image-cultivation when they run for office. I'd like to see how a "reformer for real" will perform on the national stage given the type of financial and organizational backing usually reserved for major party candidates.

I know -- wishful thinking on my part.