PRESS RELEASE – ELECTORAL REFORMS
Libertarian Party of Northern Virginia
For Immediate Release – 10-10-17
The last NYT/CBS poll before the 2016 Presidential election found a stunning 82% of the people “DISGUSTED by the state of American politics” (see NYT/CBS Poll). In an Associated Press poll in April, 2016, 78% were “Dissatisfied/Angry” with “The way the federal government is working” (see AP poll here). And 62% felt the same way about their state and local governments. A November 2015 Pew Research survey found only 24% trusted government “always or most of the time” (see Pew poll here). The lowest since 1958 when the number was 73%.
In 2015, 71% of Virginia Delegates ran unopposed (see Ballotpedia). And 100% of incumbents were reelected. Did they really do that good a job?
Clearly, something is wrong. Can this situation be improved?
The Libertarian Party of Northern Virginia (LPNOVA) believes the answer is “Yes.” We support, and urge the Virginia Legislature to pass legislation implementing four electoral reforms:
It is astounding that here, in the very cradle of Liberty, the members of the Virginia Legislature prevent citizens from initiating citizen proposed statues, and amendments to the state Constitution. They reserve that function to themselves – despite the Virginia Constitution, which in Article I, Section 3 guarantees that right to the citizens. What would Jefferson, Washington, Madison, or Mason think? The enabling legislation for Citizen-Initiated Referendums should require the signatures of 5,000 valid registered voters – the same number needed to place a Presidential candidate on the ballot.
Second, we oppose the current system of “gerrymandering” state legislative districts, where Delegates and Senators draw convoluted districts to disadvantage their opponents – be they Democrats or Republicans, or other parties. The politicians in the Legislature want to be able to choose their voters, rather than the voters choosing their elected representatives. Therefore, we support, and urge the Virginia Legislature to pass a statute, implementing a non-partisan Redistricting Commission composed of three retired judges to oversee a computer algorithm that draws districts of near-equal population and optimized for compactness of contiguous areas without regard for sex, race, or party affiliation. In 2015, 71% of candidates running for Virginia’s House of Delegates ran unopposed because of gerrymandering. And 100% of incumbents won reelection. That’s not healthy for our political system.
Third, LPNOVA supports a voting system known as “Instant Runoff Voting (IRV)” (sometimes also called Ranked Choice Voting) for all state and federal elections in Virginia. Instant Runoff requires that a candidate for an office get a majority of the votes – not just a plurality. This requirement promotes more civilized campaigns, because candidates can’t just appeal to their extreme left or right base: they need a broader swath of the electorate to win. The second feature of Instant Runoff is that voters can rank multiple candidates in the order of the preference on a single ballot. When the votes are counted, if no one has a majority, the last place candidate is eliminated, and their second-choice votes distributed to those candidates, and the votes are again tallied. This continues until a winner emerges with a majority.
This is similar to the runoff elections in Louisiana and other states, except that traditional runoff elections have everyone go back to the polls for subsequent rounds – participation drops off significantly for the “runoff” from already low voter participation rates.
In 2016, voters in Maine passed by 52% a citizen-initiated referendum to implement Instant Runoff for state and federal offices. The referendum was endorsed by over 500 civic, business, labor leaders and organizations including the League of Women Voters (see LP News, page 3). Instant Runoff is already used by tens of millions of voters, including for national elections in Australia, Ireland and New Zealand, and London and San Francisco and ten other American cities when electing mayors. It is also used by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in picking the Academy Awards, the Heisman sports trophy, and in electing student leaders at more than 50 American colleges (see Wikipedia for a description of IRV details, and FairVote.org for a long list of organizations which use IRV – including 19 states which use it in at least some public elections).
Instant Runoff allows voters to choose the candidate that truly represents their views, rather than feeling the need to choose from the lesser of two “evil” candidates to prevent the “greater evil” from winning. Where it has been used, IRV has reduced negative campaigning, because it requires candidates to appeal to a broader range of voters (in attempt to earn second and third choice votes, which might be necessary to win election), and because it allows a more diverse set of candidates, some from outside the Republican and Democratic parties, to better compete.
In 2014 the Arlington County Democratic Committee (ACDC) instituted IRV to select nominees in their primary for three special elections.
Afterward, the group FairVote.org conducted an exit survey of the voters in that Democratic primary. They found:
– 85% of respondents found ranking candidates easy.
– 88% of respondents found the instructions on the ballot very easy to understand.
– 49% of respondents said that there was less criticism in that race, compared to only 2% that
thought there was more criticism.
– 73% of respondents would favor using IRV for state and congressional primaries.
Finally, LPNOVA requests that the General Assembly consider implementing awarding Electors for U.S. President by Congressional District to the candidate who has a majority of the votes in that district using Instant Runoff, instead of joining the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact. An additional two electors would be awarded to the candidate who has a majority of votes statewide using Instant Runoff. Nebraska and Maine already use this method. There is nothing wrong with the Electoral College – it protects the smaller states from dominance by the larger ones. The problem is the way the Electors are awarded. The “winner-takes-all” method (especially when awarded by a plurality, and not an Instant Runoff majority) leads to negative campaigning, and allows a small number of swing voters to effectively decide the election for the entire state.
Steve Resz, LPNOVA Vice-Chair, said, “These mutually reinforcing reforms will make our political system more responsive to the citizens. Instant Runoff has been shown to make election campaigns more civil, and less polarizing. And it is simply appalling that in the home of Jefferson, Washington, and Mason, the office holders of the two old political parties, Democrats & Republicans, don’t trust the people with the right of referendum.”
Press Contacts – available for interviews:
LPNOVA Chair – Matt Cholko, Annandale resident, email: email@example.com, phone: 703-343-0047.
LPNOVA Vice-Chair – Steve Resz, Reston resident, email: firstname.lastname@example.org phone 703-471-3972
ELECTORAL REFORMS RESOLUTION
We, the members of the Board of Directors of the Libertarian Party of Northern Virginia, supports and urges the Virginia Legislature to pass statues implementing:
- Citizen-Initiated Referendums. A Referendum shall be placed on the ballot in the next election when it has received the valid signatures of 5,000 registered voters.
- A non-partisan Redistricting Commission composed of retired judges to oversee a computer algorithm that draws districts optimized for compactness of contiguous areas and of near-equal population.
- Instant Runoff (sometimes called Ranked Choice Voting), which requires a winning candidate to have a majority of the votes, and where voters may rank their choice of candidates by order of preference, for all federal and state offices in Virginia.
- Awarding Electors for U.S. President by Congressional District to the candidate who has a majority of the votes in that district using Instant Runoff. An additional two electors shall be awarded to the candidate who has a majority of votes statewide using Instant Runoff. This should only be implemented after a non-partisan (not bipartisan) Redistricting Commission has been established and completed its first redistricting.