Proportional representation in U.S. House (MO)

The state of Missouri provides a good example of the problems associated with gerrymandering and a “winner-take-all” system.

Missouri’s voters are fairly evenly divided between the two major parties.  Over the past fifteen to twenty years, elections involving state-wide candidates have typically been fairly close, with Democrats having a slight edge, winning a solid majority of state-wide races.  Yet Republicans have consistently won six of Missouri’s eight seats in the U. S. House of Representatives and hold super-majorities in both houses of the state legislature.

Proportional Representation Described

Advantages of Proportional Representation

Go here for a text explanation of proportional representation.

In Missouri, Democrats have two safe seats (in the first and fifth Congressional districts) and Republicans have a safe hold on the other six seats in the U. S. House of Representatives.  Closely contested races are extremely rare.

Democratic voters are packed into the urban areas in St. Louis and Kansas City, with strong pockets of support in college towns.  Republican voters dominate rural and suburban areas.  As a result, the Democratic Party has a solid grip on Congressional seats from the first and fifth Congressional districts and the Republican Party controls all of the other districts.  Republican voters in the first and fifth districts (urban KC and St. Louis) have no voice in who will represent them in the U. S. House and Democratic voters outside of those two urban districts are likewise deprived of any meaningful role in deciding who will represent them.

This initiative proposal would amend the statutes in Missouri to provide for our state’s representatives to the U. S. House to be elected at-large, without regard to districts.  This would eliminate gerrymandering and result in a congressional delegation from Missouri that more accurately reflects the partisan preferences of the people of Missouri.

More importantly it would give voters throughout the state a much broader range of choices for who will represent them in the U. S. House of Representatives.  In the primary election, voters within each political party could vote for any of their party’s candidates, not just those from the congressional district in which a voter resides.

Each party would put together an ordered list of candidates based on the results of a primary election, caucus, convention, or some combination thereof.  In the general election, voters would vote for a political party (and its ordered list of of up to eight potential representatives) or for a single independent candidate (who would be placed on the ballot if the required number of signatures is gathered by, or on behalf of, the candidate.

Based on the results of the general election parties would get one seat in Congress for each 12 1/2 percent of the total number of votes cast.  (Rounded to the nearest 12 1/2 percent.)  For purposes of awarding seats, all independent candidates would be treated as a party.  For example, if there were seven independent candidates and between them they received 15% of the total votes cast, the independent candidate with the most votes would earn a seat in the U. S. House.  If a party earned 50% of the total votes cast, the top four candidates from that party would win seats in the U. S. House.

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This initiative has been approved for circulation.  If enough signatures are gathered by May 6, 2018, it will appear on the ballot in Missouri on November 6, 2018.  If approved by voters, it will become law 30 days later.

This is the exact text of this initiative petition.  (Material in [brackets] is being repealed.  Underlined text is being added to the statutes.):

Be it enacted by the people of the state of Missouri:

Sections 128.346 and 128.348 of the Revised Missouri Statutes are hereby amended, to read as follows:

128.346. The districts established by the provisions of sections 128.400 to 128.440 for the election of representatives to the Congress of the United States shall be effective beginning with election to the 108th Congress and through the election of the 112th Congress. The districts established by sections 128.451 to 128.458 for the election of representatives to the Congress of the United States shall be effective beginning with the election to the 113th Congress.  Effective beginning with the election of representatives to the 117th Congress, representatives to the Congress of the United States shall be elected at large, in the manner prescribed by section 128.348.

128.348. 1. The state of Missouri is hereby divided into nine congressional districts. Effective with the election for the 113th Congress, the state of Missouri shall consist of eight congressional districts. [The legal voters of each district shall elect one member of Congress of the United States.]  Effective with the election for the 117th Congress, representatives to the Congress of the United States shall be elected according to the method described herein.

  1. Each political party shall nominate an ordered list of candidates, including a number no greater than the number of representatives (members) to which the state of Missouri is entitled.
  1. 3. Each political party may determine its ordered list of candidates through a primary election, caucuses, a statewide party nominating convention, or a combination of caucuses and a statewide party nominating convention.
  2. A primary election will be the default method for parties to select an ordered list of candidates. Should a political party determine that they will select candidates by caucuses, statewide party convention, or a combination of caucuses and a statewide party convention, a legally designated representative of the party will notify the secretary of state, in writing, of the method to be used, no later than the first day of April of an election year.
  3. If a political party elects to use a primary election as the means of determining its candidates for the general election, all qualified candidates who file for said party’s nominations will appear on the primary ballot for that party. Registered voters will be allowed to vote in one, and only one, party’s primary election, and for one, and only one, candidate from that party.
  4. An ordered list of candidates for each party, including a number of candidates totally up to two more than the number of seats in Congress to which the state of Missouri is entitled, will be placed on the ballot in the general election, based on the number of votes received by each candidate in the primary election for each party.
  5. Should a party elect to nominate candidates for the general election by means of caucuses and/or a statewide party convention, an ordered list of that party’s candidates shall be filed with the secretary of state’s office no less than 90 days before the general election date in election years.
  6. To qualify for a place on the ballot, an independent candidate must present petitions signed by one-quarter of one percent of the legal votes cast for the sum of all candidates for the United States House of Representatives from Missouri in the general election last preceding. Said petitions must be delivered to the secretary of state no later than one-hundred and twenty days before the general election.
  7. The signatures on petitions submitted by independent candidates and political parties shall be subject to verification according to the procedures in the code of state regulations for independent candidate petitions in force at the time the petitions are submitted.

10.) In each general election, each voter will cast a single vote for a political party, and its ordered list of candidates, or for an independent candidate for Congress appearing on the ballot, or a single write-in vote for a candidate not appearing on the ballot, having properly registered with the secretary of state as a write-in candidate.

  1. The following method of tabulation shall be used to determine how many representatives (electors) will be awarded to each political party and which independent candidates will be elected (if any):

(1) The total number of valid votes cast for all parties and independent candidates will be divided by the number of representatives to be elected.  The resulting number is then to be rounded to the nearest whole number.  The total number of votes cast for each party or independent candidate is then to be divided by that number and each party is awarded that number of representatives and the candidates from that parties ordered list are elected. Any independent or valid write-in candidate receiving at least the number of votes needed to be elected is elected.

(2) Any remaining votes for each party above the number needed to elect those representatives are “surplus votes” for that party.  The votes for any party or independent candidate or valid write-in candidate falling short of the number needed to be elected are also treated as surplus votes.

(3) The number of representatives thus elected is subtracted from the total number of representatives to be elected.  If the number of representatives thus elected is fewer than the number to which the state of Missouri is entitled, additional representative will be elected, in order, based on the highest number of surplus votes.  The next candidate(s) from the ordered list of a party that has already had some candidates elected, the first candidate from the ordered list of a party that has not had a candidate elected, or the independent or valid write-in candidate, with the most surplus votes is elected.   

(4) In both primary and general elections, officials shall determine a random selection algorithm, prior to tabulation, to resolve ties between candidates.  If a tie occurs at any point in the tabulation procedure and tabulation cannot proceed until the tie is resolved, then the random selection algorithm shall resolve the tie.

  1. If a representative resigns, dies, or is removed from office for any reason during the subsequent legislative sessions, she or he will be replaced by the next nominee from her or his party’s ordered list of candidates, or in the case of an independent candidate, by the candidate with the next greatest number of surplus votes. 
  1. All subsections and all clauses of this statute, and the phrases, and the words within them, are severable. If any of the provisions within them are found by a court of competent jurisdiction to be unconstitutional or unconstitutionally enacted or invalid, the remainder of those provisions shall remain valid and the application of such provisions shall not be affected thereby.