Proportional representation and ranked-choice voting

We support electing members of Congress and state legislatures using proportional representation or ranked-choice voting with multiple-representative districts. We support electing candidates to executive offices (president, governor, etc.) using ranked-choice voting.

Two important objectives would be accomplished by institution these reforms: (1) by minor party and independent candidates would have a fair chance of winning elections, it would give voters more parties and candidates from which to choose, and (2) it would end gerrymandering.

Legislation that has been introduced in Congress:

The “Fair Representation Act” [H. R. 3057] would establish the use of ranked choice voting in elections for Representatives in Congress, require each State with more than one Representative to establish multi-member Congressional districts, and require States to conduct Congressional redistricting through independent commissions.

Major party platforms on this issue:

The Democratic Party platform:

“We will bring our democracy into the 21st century by…ending partisan and racial gerrymandering.”

The Republican Party platform has nothing to say about this issue.

Polling on this issue:

“Gerrymandering” is the practice of political parties drawing non-competitive districts. Ending gerrymandering would result in more elections being competitive. Ending gerrymandering was supported by 73% of voters, with 13% opposed and 13% neutral. This included 81% of Democratic voters, with 9% opposed and 8% neutral; 67% of independent voters, with 17% opposed and 14% neutral; and 70% of Republican voters, with 13% opposed and 17% neutral. (From a poll by GBA Strategies.)

According to a Gallup poll, ” Nearly twice as many Americans today think a third major party is needed in the U.S. as say the existing parties do an adequate job of representing the American people. The 61% who contend that a third party is needed is technically the highest Gallup has recorded, although similar to the 57% to 60% holding this view since 2013. Barely a third, 34%, think the Republican and Democratic parties suffice.”

Rationale

The benefits of proportional representation and ranked-choice voting are not theoretical in nature because proportional representation is not a new or untested system. It is, in fact, the norm among democratic governments around the world. Ninety-four countries have some form of proportional representation. An “ordered party list” system is the most common form (in place in eighty-five of these countries).

Ranked-choice voting was adopted in Maine in 2016 through a ballot proposal using the initiative process.

Proportional representation is based on the principle that political parties (or other groups of like-minded voters) should be awarded seats in a legislature based on the percentage of the total vote received by each party. If a party gets 50% of the votes cast in an election, that party should get 50% of the seats in a legislative body. If a party gets 10% of the votes cast, that party should get 10% of the seats.

This approach is based on the belief that all voters deserve representation and that all political groups in society deserve to be represented in our legislatures in proportion to their strength in the electorate. Like-minded voters should be able to elect representatives in proportion to their numbers.

Here is a link to one of many videos explaining proportional representation.

With ranked-choice voting, voters can vote for as many candidates as they want to vote for, ranking them in order of preference. Votes are counted in rounds. Ballots are initially counted for each voter’s first choice. If a candidate gets a majority of the first-choice votes, that candidate is elected. If no candidate has more than half the first-choice votes, the last place candidate is eliminated and the second-choice votes of the voters who voted for that candidate are then distributed among the remaining candidates. This process is repeated until a candidate has a majority of the votes.

Here is a link to one of many videos explaining ranked-choice voting.

Moving to proportional representation (PR) and/or ranked-choice voting (RCV) will not be easy. The Republican Party will fight it and support within the Democratic Party may not be strong enough to get reforms like this passed anytime soon. It will much easier to get these reforms passed if support within the Democratic Party grows. Unless and until that happens, instituting PR and RCV at the state level in the states that have the initiative. That process will enable independent voters, third party supporters, and major party members who recognize the advantages of moving to a more genuinely democratic system to work together to get proposals on the ballot and passed into law without the support of either major party. (As happened in Maine to get RCV.)

The fact the a Democrat introduced RCV in the U. S. House of Representatives, and has six other Democrats signed on as cosponsors, offers at least a glimmer of hope that support will build within the Democratic Party to institute these reforms through Congress eventually.