Turnout strong at Electoral Reform Forum

March 22, 2010

About 80 political junkies, elected officials, and voters attended the Civic Forum on Electoral Reform in Boca Raton on March 20th. The non-partisan event was organized by the Florida Initiative for Electoral Reform to introduce the public to the broad concept of electoral reform with the goal of improving democracy in Florida and the nation as a whole. Kicking off the event, moderator Jayne King, cited electoral reform as “the most important ignored issue in America.”

Speaking at the event were Dr. Robert P. Watson on gerrymandering and fair redistricting; Fred Markham on campaign finance reform; Carolyn Thompson on voting rights; and Michael E. Arth on ending the winner-take-all system and replacing it with ranked choice voting for all elections.

Attendees participated in a form of rank voting, called instant runoff voting, to elect their favorite ice cream flavor. Chocolate won. If a winner-take-all ballot had been used, Butter Pecan would have won, and far less than a majority would have been represented.

Among the proposed solutions to the electoral malaise were delegating redistricting to an independent commission with public consultation, or making it obsolete with proportional representation; public campaign financing based on granting funds to candidates who limit spending and private fundraising, or eliminating private funding altogether; implementation of instant runoff voting for both single member and multi-member races; and allowing Supervisors of Elections to improve voter access.

Organizers stressed that this Civic Forum was merely the first and that the issues covered were only some of the various reforms that would need to be implemented to realize “pluralistic, competitive, and representative democracy.” The group is working on a white paper detailing these and other reforms and will be advocating implementation to decision makers upon completion.

The Florida Initiative for Electoral Reform is a non-partisan group of concerned citizens advocating electoral reforms for the enrichment and expansion of democracy.