FairVote is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization located in Takoma Park, Maryland that promotes and is a principal activist for ranked-choice voting (RCV), universal voter registration, and abolition of the Electoral College. FairVote was founded in 1992 in Cincinnati, Ohio by a group of activists, educators, and former government officials, and initially operated under the name Citizens for Proportional Representation.
FairVote maintains focus on RCV and proportional representation in local municipalities; a number of municipalities and the state of Maine have adopted RCV systems. FairVote has been involved in numerous court battles arising out of or relating to its initiatives. Its current major programs include “Reform 2020” and lobbying for the Fair Representation Act to eliminate the Constitution’s electoral college.
FairVote is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit headquartered in the Washington, D.C. area. FairVote was founded in Cincinnati, Ohio in 1992 as Citizens for Proportional Representation by a group of scholars, activists, government bureaucrats, and former elected officials. The initial focus of the group was to advance ranked-choice voting (a voting system under which voters choose candidates by ranking them in order of preference, with an elimination-and-re-allocation process determining the winner rather than by declaring the candidate with the most single-candidate selections the winner) and adopt forms of proportional representation in local elections.
In 1993, with the appointment of former U.S. Representative and independent candidate for President John B. Anderson as executive director, the organization opened an office in Washington, D.C. and became the Center for Voting and Democracy.
In 2004, the organization changed its name to FairVote.
FairVote advocates for forms of proportional representation, an electoral system in which the number of seats held by a political group or party in a legislative body is determined by the number of popular votes received. FairVote has focused on ranked-choice voting, a form of semi-proportional representation in which candidates are ranked by the voters’ preference on their ballots. If no candidate receives a majority of first-preference votes, the candidate with the fewest first-preference votes is eliminated, adding the second-preference votes on the eliminated candidate’s ballots to the totals of other candidates. This process continues until a candidate has a majority.
FairVote claims credit for the adoption of RCV and other legislation in a number of municipalities and regions. In 2002, San Francisco became the first city to adopt RCV for certain city-wide elections. In 2006, Oakland and Minneapolis passed RCV for city-wide elections.
In 2005 and 2006, Arkansas and South Carolina, respectively, instituted RCV for military and overseas voters. In 2016, Maine adopted RCV statewide by referendum, in part due to millions of dollars of largely out-of-state money. FairVote spent $375,000 to support the ballot measure, which passed 52-48, despite an opinion offered by Maine’s Attorney General that RCV is unconstitutional. (RCV was used in the 2018 midterm elections in the state.)
In 2007, Maryland became the first state to pass its National Popular Vote plan for electing the U.S. president. FairVote is thought to be the incubator and main strategist for this compact coalition among states. FairVote’s Richie and Andersen were early supporters of the initiative and contributors to its manifesto Every Vote Equal.
The NPV Initiative is an agreement among states that would accomplish popular election of the president and vice president—and thereby elimination of the unique American electoral college system—without a constitutional amendment. The compact would only have a chance to be effective if states controlling a majority of the Electoral College votes (270) join the initiative. As of October 2018, 11 states and the District of Columbia (totaling 172 electoral votes) have joined.
FairVote has partnered with Stanford’s Democracy Fund to facilitate understanding of “applying ranked choice voting to Congressional elections.” Professors from Harvard, Penn State, Stanford, and others continue to work with FairVote to facilitate the electorate’s understanding of RCV.
In 2006, FairVote filed an amicus curiae brief on behalf of individuals and organizations suing the City of Modesto, California, claiming the Latino vote was not proportionally represented in local city council elections, which were conducted by an at-large plurality election. While the trial court ruled in favor of Modesto, the California Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals sided with FairVote and the plaintiffs, reversing the lower court’s decision.
In 2009, FairVote Minnesota, an independent ally of FairVote, was an intervenor-respondent in the Minnesota Supreme Court case Minnesota Voters Alliance, et al. v. City of Minneapolis, et al. This case dealt with the constitutionality of ranked-choice voting, which had been adopted in 2006 by the city of Minneapolis for its municipal elections. Minnesota Voters Alliance, a nonprofit organization attempted to persuade the court that the RCV method “violates their right to vote, to associate for political purposes, and to equal protection under both the US and State of Minnesota Constitutions.” FairVote Minnesota argued that the appellants bore a “heavy burden of persuasion” with a challenge based on the grounds that instant run-off (RCV) was unconstitutional. The Minnesota Supreme Court affirmed the lower court’s ruling that RCV did not infringe upon the appellant’s constitutional rights.
FairVote has released its “Reform 2020” plan which includes four main strategic objectives: Fair Representation Voting, Constitutional Right to Vote, Ranked Choice Voting, and National Popular Vote. 
Fair Representation Act
FairVote’s main resources towards fair representation are dedicated to lobbying for the The Fair Representation Act (H.R. 3057), initially introduced by Representative Don Beyer (D-VA) in 2017. This bill would change House elections from “winner take all” to ranked choice voting, fundamentally transforming how Americans elect their representatives to Congress. The bill would primarily mandate that states with six or more House members create multi-member districts (between three and five members per district). The overall size of Congress under this bill would remain the same. The bill would further require each state to redistrict by independent commissions.
National Popular Vote
The National Popular Vote seeks to eliminate the Electoral College in national elections. Rob Richie, as executive director of FairVote, co-authored Every Vote Equal, a book that includes a forward from John B. Anderson. FairVote advertises the fact that they have been the research arm of the national popular vote movement since 2005.
The President & CEO of FairVote is Rob Richie. He has been with the organization since its founding in 1992.
Major funding to FairVote has come from a number of prominent left-of-center private grantmaking foundations and public charities, including the Laura and John Arnold Foundation, Omidyar Network Fund, Open Society Foundations, Jennifer and Jonathan Allan Soros Foundation, Democracy Fund, Tides Foundation, William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, Joyce Foundation, John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, Public Welfare Foundation, Soros Fund Charitable Foundation, Carnegie Corporation of New York, Rockefeller Brothers Fund, and Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation.