Proportional Representation

Proportional representation is a simple principle, derived from democratic theory, that in a representative body the share of seats won should correspond to the share of votes won. The electoral system is thus the link between the preferences of the voters and the making of policy. As Ernest Naville wrote in 1865, “In a democratic government the right of decision belongs to the majority, but the right of representation belongs to all.”
—Kathleen Barber

Proportional representation, or PR, is a property of electoral systems in which the makeup of the elected body closely matches the makeup of the voters, as expressed through their ballots, in contrast to majority-take-all systems, in which a majority (or even a plurality) of voters controls the makeup of the body.

In PR systems, a majority of voters will still elect a (representative) majority of a legislative body, but smaller groups have the power to elect their own representatives as well, directly via the ballot. PR is used widely around the world, but its use to date in the US has been limited.

The Proportional Representation Foundation (PR Foundation) is dedicated to public education on the subject of proportional representation as a fundamental democratic reform.

 

News & Updates

  • Ernest Naville

    Our front page features a quote from Ernest Naville, “In a democratic government the right of decision belongs to the majority, but the right of representation belongs to all.” Who is Ernest Naville, and where does the quote come from? Naville was born in 1816 in Geneva, Switzerland, and most of his writings are theological […]

  • Matthew Yglesias: Proportional Representation Can Ease Redistricting Woes

    Matthew Yglesias has a nice PR post on his Think Progress blog. It’s basic stuff, but the basic stuff bears repeating. Washington, D.C. is currently mired in some controversy over the need for post-census redrawing of our Ward boundaries. I’ve also been reading some analysis of the new congressional district plan out of Democratic-controlled Illinois, […]

  • Semi-Proportional Electoral Methods

    I’ve posted a new page in the PR Basics section: Semi-Proportional Electoral Methods. Semi-proportional methods, such as the limited or single non-transferable vote (SNTV) or cumulative voting, sometimes proposed to encourage minority representation, have the serious flaw that they achieve proportionality only when groups of voters can cooperate to implement voting strategies. To the extent […]

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