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Making your city a model for voting rights and civic participation

By       Message Rob Richie     Permalink
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  • Voter guides: We should follow many states' example and send city-issued voter guides to every registered voter with all relevant information for the upcoming election. Printed guides would also be distributed at all city offices, libraries, and participating businesses.

  • Public Interest Ballot Design & Voting Technology: Minimize errors and ensure accuracy

    • With the numerous election problems demonstrated throughout the nation, the District of Columbia should mandate voter-verifiable paper ballots for all voters.

    • Legislate for government-owned and operated equipment and software, as well as giving the Board of Election Commissioners full discretion in purchasing the machines and the budget and authority to switch to improved technology as it becomes available. Oklahoma and New York State provide examples of states where elections are run without working through private vendors.

    Early/Provisional/Absentee Voting: Boost participation, turnout, and engagement

    • Campaign for an Election Day holiday

    • Explore folding two elections into one with instant runoff voting.

    • Allow ease for poll workers to address and correct problems that arise on Election Day by supplying adequate provisional ballots.
    • Allow early voting and ensure sufficient polling places for early voting to make it accessible to more people.
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    • Pass an ordinance that requires the counting of every provisional ballot, as well as a way for voters to verify that their provisional or absentee ballot was counted.

    • Support Election Day registration with sufficient proof of residency.


    Instant Runoff Voting: Ensure majority winners and positive campaigns
    • Instant runoff voting allows voters to rank candidates in order of choice and then simulates a series of runoff elections to determine the most popular candidate. The campaign to implement instant runoff voting for municipalities is growing - just last year, for example, Memphis (TN) became the latest city to pass it in a charter amendment vote approved by 71% of voters.
                 One approach for instant runoff voting is to explore election of citywide leaders and city council within their wards in one high turnout, majority vote election rather than spread elections over two separate Elections Days. Parties can nominate one or more candidates per office without state-financed primaries, and all candidates can have access to the ballot with 50 valid signatures. Alternatively, instant runoff voting can be used to replace plurality vote rules in party primaries and replace the plurality elections for the school board.

    Proportional voting: Promote fair representation and diverse government
    • Proportional voting was used to elect the Illinois state house of representatives from 1870 to 1980 and is used in most of the world's leading democracies. This principle voting gives more voters the power to elect a representative and more balanced representation. The District of Columbia already makes one key nod toward the concept of fuller representation by having the two at-large seats that cannot be won by the majority party. The District should adopt proportional voting for local ANC elections and explore its use for some or all of members of the school board and city council.

    • The District should explore a larger city council. Every state legislature has far more members than 13, and some city councils like those in New York City and Chicago have at least 50. With a larger city council, the council could operate more like a legislature, and better systems of representation could more easily be implemented.
    Campaign finance reform: Limit special interest influence on city decisions
    • Require and reserve free television time prior to an election for candidate spotlights, debates, and other election information.
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    • Institute a public financing matching plan, such as New York City's plan where candidate accepting certain contribution and spending limits receive four public dollars for every dollar they raise.

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    FairVote is a non-profit, non-partisan organization devoted to electoral reforms that respect every vote and ever voice. Signature proposals we have developed or advanced include proportional voting, instant runoff voting, ranked choice voting, the (more...)

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