Changing the Voting Method, a handbook


Becoming an advocate for voting reform is one of the best things you can do to help fix politics, but it’s not easy. This handbook is the first step towards creating a local organization to change the ballot where you live.


You need to know if your target legislature has the authority to determine it’s own voting methods.

States with home rule where Dillon’s Rule does not apply:

  • Alaska
  • Iowa
  • Massachusetts
  • Montana
  • Nevada (Home rule legislation passed and took effect July 2015)
  • New Jersey
  • Ohio
  • Oregon

Some cities are “Charter Cities” which means they can create their own municipal laws.

Which voting method?

There are many voting methods to choose from. Pick one and stick to it, and build alliances between organizations. The worst thing you can do for your organization is to be divisive.

The Center for Election Science recommends Approval Voting as one of the simpler forms of voting that’s compatible with most voting software. For more information on approval voting, look into, or for general comparison, see

Organizing the Organization

When you create your organization, you should have a clear strategy on which region you wish to adopt voting reform. Start at City or County level. We recommend against going directly for state-level advocacy as the difficulty is too high for new campaigns.

You’ll want to create a 501©4 social welfare organization to give you access to tax benefits and to establish yourself as a serious organization within your community.

Once you’re organized, reach out to the Center for Election Science and we’ll help support your organization.

Once you’ve established your organization and collected funds, you’ll want to begin the campaign drive.


Create a website. You can probably get some help from people on this forum. You’ll want three key things.

  1. A detailed and informative site about what you’re trying to do in your region.
  2. A mailing list where you can collect the information of interested peoples
  3. A way to collect donations.

Ballot Initiatives are the go-to method for voting reform.

Existing Voting Reform Organizations

For now this is only a beginning. Comments will be edited into this first post. Suggestions welcome.


FV’s a 501c3, interestingly, which comes with a lot of benefits—donations are tax deductible, you’re eligible for corporate matching, and you qualify for things like GSuite for Nonprofits (free pro-level email and office software). It’s worth navigating the law in your state for affiliated 501c3s, c4s, and PACs. You may be able to set up a c3 foundation for the educational and day-to-day activities side, but maintain an affiliated c4 for active lobbying and initiative efforts. Talk to a lawyer and/or an accountant to make sure you’re keeping everything neat, tidy, and legal.

Before you set up a website, get brand guidelines together. They don’t have to be super complex, but you need to make sure everyone putting out official content from your org is using your colors, fonts, and logo consistently. Making sure all of your graphics, photos, PowerPoint presentations, social media sites, websites, handouts, business cards, emails—all of it—look good together is key. Building an appealing, recognizable, professional brand will help you get taken seriously. Reform Fargo is doing a great job here, from what I’ve seen.

Get non-technical people to review what you’re putting out there. Most people aren’t aware voting reform is really a thing and don’t speak math fluently. You can have advanced areas of your site that deep dive into technical details, but the first pages people see should be 101-level and as succinct as you can make it.

Talk to your local elected officials. It’s worth a shot to see if they’ll adopt reforms without making you do an initiative. Make a flyer or booklet just for them, explaining the issue and your proposed solution. Even if you can’t get the full city or county council on board, you may be able to get an endorsement for your initiative out of it. Look at the websites for effective local lobbying groups in your area and see what they’re putting out there for inspiration.



States with home rule where Dillon’s Rule does not apply:

Nevada *Home rule legislation passed and took effect July 2015
New Jersey


If California is subject to Dillon’s rule, how do SF and Oakland have IRV?

Felix Sargent


They are charter cities, to which the state explicitly grants permission to establish their own voting procedures.