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A better proportion

Rob Richie // Published May 18, 2008 in Washington Times
I'm not surprised that some backers of Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, such as Leon Panetta, now wish the Democratic nomination had been contested under winner-take-all rules as done in most Republican nomination contests ("Clinton under pressure for June exit with 'dignity,' " Nation, Wednesday). It can be seductive to know that different rules would boost your candidate.

However, the primary season has, in fact, shown the value of proportional representation in primaries. Consider that Sen. Barack Obama has won a greater share of the national popular vote and far more states than Mrs. Clinton. Would it really make sense to have Mr. Obama's losses in several big states trump all the votes cast in smaller states? Instead, the Democrats' contest is like a national race unfolding state by state — making sure small states and their voters count as much as those in big states.

Just as George W. Bush was not hurt by a vigorous contest in 2000 while Al Gore waited in the wings, Mr. Obama may well be boosted by the spring campaign. According to Rasmussen Reports, Democrats' advantage in voter self-identification has grown to 10 percent from just 2 percent in December — in part because of their candidates dominating the airwaves. Democrats have built broader donor networks and registered and turned out more voters than Republicans. Democrats have plenty of time to unify by convention time.

Time will tell, but Republicans would do better to accept the Brock Commission's 1999 recommendation to use proportional representation rather than Democrats moving to winner-take-all.

ROB RICHIE
Executive director
FairVote
Takoma Park