Ranked choice voting (RCV), or sometimes referred to as “instant runoff voting,” is an electoral system that allows voters to rank multiple candidates in order of preference on their ballots. If a candidate wins a majority of first-preference votes, he or she is declared the winner. If no candidate wins a majority of first-preference votes, the candidate with the fewest first-preference votes is eliminated. First-preference votes cast for the failed candidate are eliminated, lifting their second-preference. A new tally is then conducted to determine whether any candidate has won a majority of the adjusted votes. The process is repeated until a candidate wins an absolute majority. FairVote Washington, now a project of Fix Democracy First, is working to help attain RCV and proportional representation in Washington State through local and statewide legislation.

Washington recently successfully passed Initiative 735: WA State Initiative to get Money out of Politics with 63% approval statewide. This initiative calls on our Congressional Delegation propose an amendment to the U.S. Constitution that would overturn decisions like Citizens United. With I-735 passing in all 10 Washington State Congressional Districts, we are now pushing to get all 10 of our congressional representatives to sign on to The We the People Amendment, House Joint Resolution 48. Our mission is to get as many of Washington State congressional delegates as possible to sign as co-sponsors. So far three of our Representatives have honored the will of the people in Washington State and signed on to The We the People Amendment, House Joint Resolution 48, which closely aligns with the language and intent of Initiative 735. Those Representatives include Derek Kilmer in the 6th Congressional District, Pramila Jayapal in the 7th, Susan DelBene in the 1st, and now Adam Smith in the 9th CD. We need help to continue to put pressure on our remaining representatives to follow the will of Washington State voters as these Congresswomen and men have done. A Senate companion bill has not been introduced yet, but we are putting pressure both Senators Murray and Cantwell to introduce or co-sponsorship a We the People Amendment companion bill to HJR 48 in the Senate.

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With the help of Fix Democracy First, in 2015 Seattle voters passed a citizen-led initiative known as Honest Elections Seattle (HES) Initiative 122. This enacted several campaign finance reforms that will potentially change the way campaigns are typically financed for Seattle election candidates. One major reform allows the Seattle Ethics and Elections Commission to distribute “Democracy Vouchers” to eligible Seattle residents. Eligible Seattle residents receive four $25 vouchers they can use to support the candidate(s) of their choice running for Seattle City Council or City Attorney. Future mayoral races in Seattle will also be included in the Democracy Voucher Program. Fix Democracy First has been a coalition member of HES and strong advocate in helping pass and inform voters about this important program. It is a goal of FDF to help get legislation passed to replicate this type of voucher system in other cities and eventually the state.

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Fix Democracy First is a member of WA Voting Justice Coalition, and passing the Washington Voting Rights Act (WVRA) is a big part of the coalition’s mission. The WVRA will ensure all communities have a fair chance to elect candidates of their choice in local elections. For the government to be accountable, all voices need to be heard. But some election systems prevent all neighborhoods from being represented in local government. The result is a lack of accountability at the local level that leaves potholes, sidewalks, public safety and other critical issues unaddressed in those communities. The WVRA empowers local governments to fix this problem. Local government should be accountable to “we the people” and every voter should feel like their vote can make a difference. The Washington Voting Rights Act protects accountability and fairness in local democracy by fixing broken election systems that can deny voters an equal opportunity to influence elections.

As part of the Washington Voting Justice Coalition (WVJC), Automatic voter registration, pre-registration of 16 & 17 year olds, and same-day registration are all goals of the coalition. We believe voting should be accessible to all, and our democracy is at its best when all eligible voters participate. In 2018, we are advocating for several priorities in the legislature to help ensure that everyone has the freedom to be represented and have their voice heard. This is one of two priority pieces of legislation in 2018 for WVJC. The other is the Washington Voting Rights Act.

Civic engagement and public education of the issues is vital for us to attain and maintain a thriving democracy, where all have easy access to voting and feel represented in our government. Fix Democracy First is dedicated to providing and promoting opportunities for citizens to get more actively involved in democratic processes. FDF also partners with other organizations and groups to promote public forums and other educational opportunities.