The driving force behind STAR Voting, The Equal Vote Coalition is a registered 501c3 non-profit.
Equal Vote Coalition Mission Statement
"The Equal Vote Coalition's mission is to promote true equality in the vote. The Equal Vote Coalition mandate is top-notch research, community education, and coalition building.
Our five core criteria for electoral reform are: Equality, Honesty, Accuracy, Expressiveness, and Simplicity. These criteria form the basis by which we evaluate and advance proposals for reform."
The History of STAR Voting
STAR Voting was created in 2014 after a group of election scientists from around the nation gathered at the Equal Vote Conference at the University of Oregon. Necessity is the mother of invention and STAR Voting emerged as a new model for fair elections. A hybrid of Score and Instant Runoff Voting, STAR combines the best aspects of both to offer more accurate results than either.
Credit for the Score-Then-Automatic-Runoff concept goes to Equal Vote founder Mark Frohnmayer, and Center for Election Science co-founder Clay Shentrup, with a hat tip to Rob Richie founder of FairVote, for sparking the idea. Credit for refining the concept by solidifying on the 0-5 star ballot and the naming the system STAR Voting goes to Equal Vote executive director Sara Wolk.
In 2016 STAR Voting launched onto the political scene with it's first round of ballot initiatives and the movement has been scaling up since. As a 501c3, The Equal Vote Coalition focuses on the election science, education and coalition building work that forms the foundation of the movement. All campaign related activity is conducted under the STAR Voting Action 501c4.
The History of the Equal Vote Coalition
Equal.Vote itself is the evolution of the 2014 Unified Primary campaign, an effort to reform Oregon's partisan primary election system to use a unified Approval Voting primary and then a Top Two general election. Based on the experience from that election cycle and the full-spectrum feedback from Oregon's electorate and advocacy groups, we focused on bringing forward a reform that maximizes choice in the single General Election when the most voters participate. Enter STAR Voting.
History of the Eugene STAR Voting chapter
The Equal Vote Coalition was first envisioned in 2007 in Eugene, Oregon by Mark Frohnmayer. In 2014 Equal Vote ran a ballot initiative to implement the Unified Primary, a groundbreaking proposal which included a non-partisan primary using Approval Voting and a Top-2 general election. That reform went further than any previous proposals in Oregon, but it didn't go far enough for many and it ultimately fell short of the required signatures to make the ballot. Still, the reform did serve as a catalyst for change and it did spark a new wave of discussion and feedback around voting reform in general.
The campaign hosted an Equal Vote Conference at The University of Oregon with a number of leading election reform groups from around the country represented. At that conference, a conversation between founding members of the groups advocating for three leading voting methods sparked the idea for STAR Voting, which is essentially a hybrid between Score Voting and Instant Runoff Voting.
In 2017 The Eugene chapter launched the STAR Voting for Lane County Campaign. After submitting the required 11,500 verified signatures the initiative was approved for the 2018 November 6th ballot! If passed Lane County will be the pilot project and model for STAR Voting reforms around the country, and it will be the first time that a voting method anywhere in the world has offered the electorate a perfectly equally weighted vote!
History of the Portland STAR Voting chapter
2016: RCV Oregon's Portland Chapter started meeting Nov. '16 after the presidential election with the idea of launching an Ranked Choice ballot initiative. So naturally everyone was surprised to find that the group wasn't fully sold on RCV and that a large percentage of the members preferred other voting systems, like Score Voting, Approval Voting, and even a new system called Score Runoff (STAR.) Everyone agreed that all the options on the table would be an improvement, but it was clear that the group needed to do some homework and build consensus before determining which proposal had the support needed to take it from the drawing board, and put it successfully in the county charter.
The plan was to work together to make a collective decision early in the game so that the various camps could avoid running competing initiatives and getting in each others way.
2017: The group launched into 4 month process with over a hundred people actively meeting regularly and engaging across a number of forums and thousands more following our progress. Getting educated and debating the issues was a priority, and once the membership felt confident that they could make an educated decision, a vote was scheduled and promoted a month out. In April 2017 RCV OR hosted a public meeting to decide on a voting system to take to ballot initiative.
In the days leading up to the vote, a few founding members of the chapter who still were advocating for RCV announced via email blast that RCV-PDX had decided to continue working on Ranked Choice Voting and that they wouldn't be voting. Many people found it to be misleading and confusing to use the name RCV-PDX (rather than RCV-OR) and to then announce a decision as if it was a larger group decision, when in fact the much larger group had been very consistent and clear on wanting to host an inclusive, democratic, and transparent process. The move was referred to as an unsuccessful coup. RCV-PDX is not affiliated with the statewide group RCV-OR.
Another email went out confirming that the vote and general meeting were still happening, and fortunately the meeting was still well attended by people on all sides of the issue. STAR Voting won that vote by a significant margin enough margin that even if the splinter group's members had all attended, STAR would still have won. (STAR was called SRV or Score Runoff Voting at the time.) At the general meeting it was also decided that the official position was to still be supportive of RCV where it's been passed, and to consistently affirm that RCV is a better choice than Plurality Voting, but that RCV would not be the goal for new initiatives. At the end of that meeting, a new steering committee was appointed by consensus.
In order to prevent confusion between RCV-OR and the splinter group RCV-PDX some name changes were needed. The appointed steering committee of the local Portland chapter of RCV-OR voted in May '17 to join the Equal Vote Coalition and adopted the name Equal Vote-PDX which they have been using ever since. The chapter continues to operate under the Equal Vote name and umbrella with the same membership as always.
2018: On March 25th 2018 the Portland chapter of the national organization Represent.Us met with the Equal Vote PDX Chapter and voted to coalition and merge so that the two groups could function as one. The chapter was instrumental in launching the "STAR Voting for Multnomah County" ballot initiative, which was met with broad support in the local movement. Due to a shortage of funding, it didn't make the ballot, but the movement is ongoing and plans to continue organizing around implementing STAR Voting for Portland, Multnomah County, as well as in surrounding areas.
2019: In 2019 the Portland Chapter focused on education, outreach, and implementation, and has made major headway getting STAR Voting implemented by local organizations. Specifically the Multnomah County Democratic Party has now adopted STAR Voting for all internal elections, and the Democratic Party of Oregon has adopted STAR Voting for the Presidential Delegate Selection elections to the Democratic National Convention. The chapter is now working with other political parties to adopt STAR Voting as well.
The Equal Vote Implementation team -largely led by PDX activists- has made significant progress in piloting options to tabulate STAR elections on any scale, from hand counted ballots on up. The team is now set up to officiate larger scale elections featuring automatic tabulation using efficient techniques which comply with all election integrity best practices; paper ballots, local tabulation maintaining chain of custody, and risk limiting audits.