A Congress for Everyone: The Impact of the Fair Representation Act
February 4, 2020
At a time when Americans increasingly feel like elections are broken, a bold new proposal has been put forward that could, in the words of the New York Times editorial page, create "A Congress for Every American." The Fair Representation Act is intended to solve problems of partisan gerrymandering and uncompetitive elections by replacing America's winner-take-all system with a fair and proportional system: ranked choice voting in multi-winner districts.
NYU Washington, DC and Fair Vote presented an afternoon panel discussion featuring scholars and practitioners who discussed what impact the Fair Representation Act can have on democracy in the United States.
Please note that this program may have been filmed and/or photographed.
Introductions to Program and Fair Representation Act
Rob Richie, President and CEO, FairVote
Rob Richie has been the leader of FairVote since co-founding the organization in 1992; he was named president and CEO in 2018. He has played a key role in advancing, winning, and implementing electoral reforms at the local and state levels. Richie has been involved in helping to develop, win, and implement: ranked choice voting in states and more than 20 cities, fair representation voting systems in numerous Voting Rights Act cases, the National Popular Vote plan in 16 states, and voter access proposals like voter preregistration and automatic voter registration.
Richie is a frequent media source and has been a guest on NBC, CNN, C-SPAN’s Washington Journal, NPR’s All Things Considered, On the Media, and Freakonomics. His writings have appeared in every major national publication, including the opinion pages of The New York Times and The Washington Post as well as in 11 books, including as co-author of Every Vote Equal, which is about Electoral College reform, and Whose Votes Count, which is about fair representation voting. He has addressed conventions of the American Political Science Association, the National Association of Counties, the National Association of Secretaries of State, and the National Conference of State Legislatures. He is a graduate of Haverford College, where he serves on its Corporation. Richie and his wife Cynthia Terrell are parents of Savanna, Lucas and Rebecca.
Kevin Johnson, Founder and Executive Director, Election Reformers Network
Kevin Johnson is the founder and executive director of Election Reformers Network. Kevin has 19 years’ experience in election reform programming, including two years with ERN, ten years as a Board Member of Common Cause Massachusetts, and seven years working on overseas democracy promotion with the National Democratic Institute. Kevin is on the Advisory Boards of Fairvote, Issue One and Voter Choice Massachusetts.
On the Board of Common Cause Massachusetts, Mr. Johnson participated in successful reform campaigns to establish automatic voter registration, early voting, online registration, improved access to government information, and the Massachusetts State Ethics Commission. He led a successful ballot question campaign in the city of Newton Massachusetts in support of an anti – Citizens United constitutional amendment. Mr Johnson was also part of a team organizing citizen participation in the highly regarded 2011 Massachusetts redistricting process. Mr. Johnson served on the Advisory Council to former Common Cause National President Bob Edgar.
At the National Democratic Institute, Mr. Johnson directed a range of programs including election observations in the West Bank and Gaza and several countries in Africa, and advisory programs for constitution drafters in new democracies.
Mr. Johnson is also CEO of Liberty Global Partners, an investment advisory firm focused on venture capital and private equity in emerging markets, which he co-founded in 2002. At Liberty Global, he has led capital marketing initiatives that have raised more than $6bn for investment funds targeting China, India, Brazil, Africa, Central and Eastern Europe, and Southeast Asia.
Over the past year, Kevin has published nine articles or opinion pieces on election-related issues in media outlets including The Daily Beast, Commonwealth Magazine, and Independent Voter News. These pieces include a work of original research demonstrating a statistical link between extremism in Congress and the use of plurality voting in primary elections and the analysis of state level independent redistricting ballot initiatives referenced above.
Mr. Johnson has an MBA from Wharton and a BA in English Literature from Yale University.
Drew Penrose, Law and Policy Director, FairVote
Drew Penrose heads the law and policy department at FairVote. He contributes to work around ranked choice voting, primary elections, election administration, and the Voting Rights Act. He and Rob Richie have co-authored two law review articles arguing for the use of ranked choice voting in legislative elections. Penrose has also helped draft and submit amicus curiae briefs in cases concerning voting rights, primary elections, and ballot access.
Penrose earned a B.A. in Philosophy and a B.S. in Psychology from the University of Arizona in 2006, and a J.D. from the James E. Rogers College of Law in 2012. He is licensed to practice law in Arizona, where he has also published articles on public financing of elections in the Arizona Law Review and Arizona Attorney Magazine.
Back to Back Dialogues
George Cheung, Director, More Equitable Democracy
George Cheung is the Director of More Equitable Democracy, an intermediary focused on engaging communities of color and young people in electoral systems reform. Prior to this, he served Program Director for the Joyce Foundation’s Democracy Program and Co-Chair of the Funders’ Committee for Civic Participation. Cheung was also executive director of the Win/Win Network, an affiliate of State Voices, and founder/executive director of Equal Rights Washington, a statewide LGBTQ advocacy organization. He holds a Masters in Public Policy from Harvard Kennedy School and a Bachelor’s degree in Political Science from Brown University.
David Daley, Senior Fellow, FairVote
David Daley is a senior fellow for FairVote, the author of, Ratf**ked: The True Story Behind the Secret Plan to Steal America's Democracy (W.W. Norton/Liveright) and a frequent lecturer and media source about gerrymandering. He is the former editor-in-chief of Salon.com, and the former CEO and publisher of the Connecticut News Project. He is a digital media fellow at the Wilson Center for the Humanities and the Grady School of Journalism at the University of Georgia. His work has appeared in New York magazine, the Atlantic, the Boston Globe, the New Yorker, The Washington Post, USA Today, Rolling Stone, Details, and he's been on CNN and NPR. He earned a bachelor's degree in political science at Boston College and a master's degree in journalism at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. When writing for the Hartford Courant, he helped identify Mark Felt as the "Deep Throat" source for Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein.
Lee Drutman, Senior Fellow, New America
Lee Drutman is a senior fellow in the Political Reform program at New America. He is the author of The Business of America is Lobbying (Oxford University Press, 2015) and winner of the 2016 American Political Science Association's Robert A. Dahl Award, given for "scholarship of the highest quality on the subject of democracy." In addition, he writes regularly for Polyarchy, a Vox blog. He is currently writing a book about the crisis of the two-party system in America.
His areas of expertise include hyper-partisanship, Congress, lobbying, and money in politics.
Drutman also teaches in the Center for Advanced Governmental Studies at The Johns Hopkins University. He holds a Ph.D. in political science from the University of California, Berkeley.
He has been quoted and/or cited in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Economist, Slate, Mother Jones, The Atlantic, Business Insider, National Review, Politico, and many other publications, and on Morning Edition, All Things Considered, Planet Money, This American Life, Marketplace, Washington Journal, and The Colbert Report, among other programs.
Ruth Greenwood, Co-Director, Voting Rights and Redistricting, Campaign Legal Center
Ruth Greenwood is based in Cambridge, Massachusetts and has been working in voting rights for over ten years. Ruth litigates a variety of redistricting cases, with a particular focus on ending partisan gerrymandering and promoting minority representation. Ruth litigated two partisan gerrymandering cases from the trial level to the Supreme Court of the United States (Whitford v. Gill and LWVNC v. Rucho), and has advised dozens of states on how to draft and implement independent redistricting commissions.
Ruth was previously the Lead Counsel for Voting Rights at the Chicago Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, and prior to that a Redistricting Fellow with the Democratic National Committee’s Voting Rights Institute. She received her Masters in Law from Columbia Law School in 2009 and her undergraduate law and science degrees from the University of Sydney in 2005 and 2003.
Ruth was a 2016 Chicago Civic Leadership Academy Fellow and was awarded an Exceptional Service Award by the Chicago Board of Elections’ in 2014 for her work on Chicago Democracy Week. Ruth is a lecturer on law at Harvard Law School.
Pedro Hernandez, Senior Policy Coordinator, FairVote
Pedro Hernandez is the son of immigrant agricultural workers. His experiences growing up in Watsonville, serving as a student trustee for the local school board, set in motion his commitment to community empowerment at a young age.
Pedro brings both experience and passion to electoral reform and community advocacy. He worked as an Associate at the Law Office of Robert Rubin where he specialized in claims under the California Voting Rights Act. He served as Editor-in-Chief of the Hastings Race & Poverty Law Journal, and as Political Chair at UC Hastings La Raza Law Students Association. He previously served as an Education Equity Fellow at Public Advocates, clerked at the Equal Justice Society and California Rural Legal Assistance (CRLA), and externed at the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights.
Pedro previously served as the Deputy Director of FairVote California. He earned his bachelor's degree in Political Science, with a minor in American Studies, from the University of California, Davis; and J.D. from the University of California, Hastings College of the Law, where he earned recognition for his outstanding achievement in providing pro bono legal services.
Allison Riggs, Chief Counsel, Voting Rights, Southern Coalition for Social Justice
Allison Riggs leads the voting rights program at the Southern Coalition for Social Justice, an organization she joined in 2009. Her voting rights work has been focused on fighting for fair redistricting plans, fighting against voter suppression, and advocating for electoral reforms that would expand access to voting.
She has litigated redistricting cases on behalf of State NAACP Conferences in Texas, Florida, Virginia and North Carolina. In 2018, she argued the Texas redistricting case in the United States Supreme Court. Allison works closely with grassroots organizations and communities of color as they seek to advance their political and civil rights. She received her undergraduate, Master’s Degree and J.D. from the University of Florida.
Neal Simon, Author
In 2018, Neal Simon was an independent candidate for a U.S. Senate seat in Maryland, polling as high as 18 percent in the three-way race. Unaffiliated with any political party, he ran to unite the country and to bring pragmatism back to Washington.
Running as an independent, Simon witnessed the destructive nature of modern American politics. He experienced firsthand the perverse incentives that push candidates and lawmakers to ideological extremes. He saw the resistance of party leaders to pragmatic solutions to our nation's problems. And he watched politicians prioritize loyalty to their party bases over progress for the American people.
That's why Neal Simon wrote Contract to Unite America, providing specific, practical solutions for an improved government and a better tomorrow.
Before seeking office and embarking on the book, Simon was CEO of Bronfman Rothschild and previously of Highline Wealth Management. In his community, he has served as board chair for both the Greater Washington Community Foundation and the Montgomery County Community Foundation. In 2016, his family was recognized by Interfaith Works, a leading non-profit that helps low income families, as Humanitarians of the Year.
Simon also serves on the boards of BPC Action (Bipartisan Policy Center), Stand Up Republic, and Unite America.
Simon holds a bachelor of arts from Brown University and a master’s in business from the University of Chicago. He and his family live in Potomac, Maryland, where he and his wife, Jennifer, love the outdoors and a variety of sports–especially those their three children are playing.
Representative Don Beyer of Virginia, member of the House Committees on Ways and Means and Science Space and Technology
Congressman Don Beyer is serving his third term as the U.S. Representative from Virginia’s 8th District, representing Arlington, Alexandria, Falls Church, and parts of Fairfax County. He serves on the House Committees on Ways and Means and Science Space and Technology, and is a Co-Chair of the New Democrat Coalition's Climate Change Task Force. He was the Lieutenant Governor of Virginia from 1990 to 1998, and was Ambassador to Switzerland and Liechtenstein under President Obama.
Rep. Beyer’s signature work as lieutenant governor included advocacy for Virginians with disabilities and ensuring protections for Virginia’s most vulnerable populations as the Commonwealth reformed its welfare system in the mid-1990s. Rep. Beyer was Virginia’s Democratic nominee for governor in 1997.
After leaving office, Rep. Beyer spent fourteen years as Chair of Jobs for Virginia Graduates, a highly successful high school dropout prevention program, and was active for a decade on the board of the D.C. Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy. As Chair of the Virginia Economic Recovery Commission, he helped pass permanent pro-business reforms and was co-founder of the Northern Virginia Technology Council.
President Obama nominated Rep. Beyer to serve as Ambassador to Switzerland and Liechtenstein in 2009. He used his position to advocate for stricter sanctions to compel Iran to begin nuclear disarmament discussions. As Ambassador, Rep. Beyer was integral to US Department of Justice efforts to halt the abuses of Swiss bank secrecy by wealthy Americans.
Rep. Beyer has spent four decades building his family business in Northern Virginia after a summer job at a car dealership in 1974. He is a graduate of Williams College and Gonzaga College High School in Washington, DC. He was named a Presidential Scholar by President Lyndon Johnson.
Rep. Beyer has four children and two grandchildren. He and his wife Megan live in Alexandria, Virginia.
Cynthia Terrell, Founder and Executive Director, RepresentWomen
Cynthia Richie Terrell is the founder and executive director of RepresentWomen (formerly Representation2020) and an outspoken advocate for rules & systems reforms to advance women’s representation and leadership in the United States. Terrell and her husband Rob Richie helped to found FairVote - a nonpartisan champion of electoral reforms that give voters greater choice, a stronger voice, and a truly representative democracy. Terrell has worked on projects related to women's representation and voting system reform in the United States and abroad.
Previously, Terrell worked extensively on political campaigns, working as campaign manager and field director for campaigns for the U.S. President, U.S. House and U.S. Senate, for governor and for state and city-wide initiative efforts, including a state equal rights amendment and a city campaign for fair representation voting.
Terrell has been published in numerous print journals including: the Washington Post, The New York Times, The Hill, Refinery29, The Nation, the Pittsburgh Post Gazette, The American Prospect, The Philadelphia Inquirer, The Baltimore Sun, and The Christian Science Monitor; has appeared on C-SPAN’s Washington Journal; and has participated in numerous radio shows & panel discussions on the topics of electoral reform and structural strategies to elect more women. She is an avid knitter & gardener, has three children, and is active in the Quaker community. She graduated with a B.A. in political science from Swarthmore College in 1986.