News Release

Making Elections Better

ROB RICHIE
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.”

For more information, contact at the Institute for Public Accuracy:
Sam Husseini, (202) 347-0020; or David Zupan, (541) 484-9167