PR-Related Subjects

Here we touch on a range of subjects that are not the direct focus of the PR Foundation, but that are related, one way or another, to proportional representation. For additional topics relating specifically to STV-PR, see also Why Use STV-PR?

Other Democratic Reforms

We include PR among a small set of other fundamental democratic reforms that together are necessary for a thriving and responsive democracy.

Campaign finance

The influence of money in our electoral and legislative system is pernicious; fundamental reform is crucial. The most promising reforms that we’re aware of are “clean money” public campaign finance systems such as Arizona’s. We’re also interested in looking at the example of other countries that manage to have elections in which money places a much smaller role than it does in the US.

Voter education

Democracy requires that voters make informed decisions. This is impossible when the electorate is ignorant of issues, or is actively misled. We don’t have ready answers for this set of problems.

Single-Winner Elections

While single-winner elections cannot result in proportional representation except by accident, there remain offices—in particular executive offices—for which single-winner methods are required. In this case, we observe that plurality or first-past-the-post elections, the most common system in the US, have serious shortcomings. We favor ranked-voting systems such as IRV or the Condorcet family of methods. We do not believe that top-two runoff systems are an adequate reform.

US Electoral College

US presidential elections are a special case of single-winner elections, and are especially problematical. Ideally, we’d like to see a national ranked-voting method used, but we recognize that the obstacles to such a reform, including the need for a constitutional amendment, are formidable. As an interim measure, we support the National Popular Vote proposal, which corrects the worst aspects of the Electoral College system without requiring a constitutional amendment. The resulting system, effectively a national plurality election, falls short of the ideal, but would be a big step forward.

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 that any of these systems are simpler to implement than true PR (and we contend that they are not), that simplicity is more than offset by the requirement for complex voting strategies.

See Semi-proportional Electoral Methods for a full discussion.

Redistricting and Gerrymandering

In the US, where we use single-member districts for many legislative bodies (notably Congress and state legislatures, but also many local bodies such as city councils or county boards), drawing district boundaries is a perennial (or at least decennial) problem. The problem is that even with the best intentions there is no way to draw district boundaries in such a way as to enfranchise all voters. PR solves the problem by doing away with districts and their boundaries altogether.

PR and Voting Rights

A common complaint under the Voting Rights Act is that minority groups are incapable of electing a representative under a multi-member plurality voting system. One proposed solution is single-seat district elections, with at least one district drawn (perhaps gerrymandered) so that the minority group constitutes a majority in that district. Cumulative voting is sometimes proposed, but suffers from the defects described above.

PR, in particular STV PR, is an ideal solution to voting-rights problems, since it allows minority groups, along with other voters with similar views, to achieve proportional representation without gerrymandered districts or the strategizing and coordination required to make cumulative voting work.

Role of Political Parties

In the US’s current two-party system, coalition-building is primarily done once and for all via party identification. The resulting coalitions are static and inflexible, and subject to change only at elections. PR makes dynamic coalition building around individual issues possible.


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