[EM] You, too, can be a lobbyist!

Jan Kok kok at surfbest.net
Sun Feb 23 20:41:34 PST 2003

Following are some general suggestions on how to become
politically active, plus some specific suggestions related
to election reform.

* Peter McWilliams devotes a chapter of his book "Ain't
Nobody's Business If You Do, The Absurdity of Consensual
Crimes in Our Free Country" to political activism.  That
chapter can be read at
.htm . (The book is available on the shelves of
Barnes & Noble for $9.95.  Highly recommended to
Libertarians and Greens.)

* There is a whole page full of "Writer's Resources" and
other activism links at http://www.mapinc.org/resource/ .
I have read and recommend "Three Tips For Letter Writers"
and "Tips for Getting Letters to the Editor Published."

* Volunteer to help with the next election.  Staff the
polling places, check people's names against the registered
voter list, count ballots, etc.  I haven't done this (yet),
but it seems like a good way to meet other people who might
have an interest in voting reform.  It would also be an
opportunity to monitor the security arrangements, and make
sure that the votes from your precinct make it into the
official count.

* It may be helpful to contact some multi-issue activist
groups such as League of Women Voters (http://www.lwv.org/)
or Common Cause (http://www.commoncause.org/) -- not to
mention your favorite political party and related groups.
The sponsor of the Maine IRV bill got the idea from a
conference of Northeast Action (http://www.neaction.org).

* If you would like to improve your powers of persuasion,
I highly recommend joining and participating in Toastmasters.
Toastmasters is an organization dedicated to helping its
members improve their speaking and leadership skills.  I
have found that preparing and delivering a speech helps me
clarify my ideas about a topic.  I have delivered several
speeches to my Toastmasters clubs as preparation for
speaking to a committee of my state legislature, and for
speaking to the staff of my US representative.  In both
cases (committee and staff), the visits went off well.  The
practice speeches helped me learn the material, memorize
the points I wanted to make, develop confidence and
overcome nervousness.

You can find a Toastmasters club near you by checking
http://www.toastmasters.org/find/default_new.asp .
Guests are always welcome at the public clubs - just
show up at the indicated time and place.

* Look for opportunities to establish Approval voting
in the organizations you are involved with.

For example, I delivered speeches on "Alternative Voting
Methods" to both of my Toastmasters clubs, and then got
both clubs to adopt Approval Voting for choosing Best
Speaker, Best Evaluator and Best Topic Speaker in the
regular meetings.  (We have been using Approval for a
month or two with no problems.  A couple years ago
(before I knew about Approval) I tried to use IRV in one
Toastmasters meeting and immediately encountered problems
- I didn't know how to resolve ties.  With Approval,
anyone can count the ballots.  With IRV, it takes some
training and practice!)

Another example: I participated in the formation of an
association of consulting engineers.  No one else had
any ideas about how to conduct the voting for selecting
board members, so I proposed Approval voting, and the
proposal was adopted.  Approval voting may not be the
theoretically best method to use for a multiple winner
election, and, due to a misunderstanding, the voting
instructions were "choose up to five candidates" from
the seven candidates running.  Despite those problems,
people seemed to be satisfied with the results of the

Another example: If you are part of a group of people
deciding where to go for lunch, use Approval Voting to
decide.  (If you are in a meeting and want to give people
more options, consider using the "-1, 0, 1" version of
Cardinal Ratings voting.)

Yet another example: IRV is spreading into numerous
college student organizations.  (Student Approvalists,
where are you?  Get busy! :-)

* Look for ways to get your favorite voting method
established in the public consciousness.  For example,
ask web sites that conduct polls to use Approval voting.
Approval has the advantage that the results are very
easy to report real-time in a form that can be readily
understood by anyone.

I hope these suggestions will be of some use.

- Jan

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