FairVote has identified ranked choice voting as our preferred fair representation voting method: RCV promotes majority support, discourages negative campaigning, provides more choice to voters, minimizes strategic voting, promotes minority representation, and saves money on primaries and runoffs. We continue to work on variety of fair voting reforms outside of ranked choice voting, such as Districts Plus, cumulative voting, and limited voting.
The methods discussed here are more susceptible to gaming or tactical voting than ranked choice voting is, and are less effective than RCV at promoting minority representation and improving voter choice, among other benefits of RCV. While each of these methods provides greater proportional representation to voters in the cities, states, or countries where they are used, we recommend them only as steps toward the use of ranked choice voting.
Cumulative voting and the single vote method have each been used in local and state government throughout the United States, and are described in more detail below. Districts Plus is FairVote's improvement upon single-winner districts: a mix of Mixed-Member Proportional systems used in countries such as Germany and New Zealand with American-style, candidate-based elections.
In places that use bloc voting, voters have a number of votes equal to the number of candidates who will be elected, but they are restricted to casting no more than one vote per candidate. This winner-take-all method can easily be made into a fair representation voting method by extending cumulative voting rights to the voters. Illinois elected its State House of Representatives from three-seat districts with cumulative voting from 1870 to 1980, with a number of important benefits. Voters have cumulative voting rights in at-large elections in several jurisdictions in Alabama, California, New York, South Dakota, and Texas. Additionally, cumulative voting rights are often extended to shareholders in corporate elections to prevent a single majority shareholder from controlling the entire board of elections.
The simplest fair representation voting method is a variant of "limited voting" (so-called because voters have fewer votes than the number of seats to be elected) called the single vote method. Each voter has one potent vote, and the candidates who receive the most votes are elected. When electing at-large, counties in Connecticut and Pennsylvania are required by state law to use limited voting with limited nominations, meaning that political parties must nominate fewer candidates than the number of seats to be filled. Local jurisdictions in Alabama and North Carolina have adopted the single vote or other variants on limited voting in response to lawsuits brought under the Voting Rights Act.
For those who like local, geographic-based representation, Districts Plus is a particularly attractive fair representation voting system. It makes every vote in every district meaningful in every election, and ensures that the party that receives the most votes wins the most seats.
Districts Plus preserves the current system in which most representatives are elected from single-member districts. It adds "accountability seats" to the legislature to guarantee that when one party's candidates gets the most votes, that party will win the most seats. As a result, every contest in every district is meaningful in every election. Parties will have an incentive to field strong candidates in every district, no matter how imbalanced that district may be.
FairVote has developed a comprehensive Districts Plus plan for the Michigan House of Representatives, which experienced a lack of accountability in the 2012 elections after Republicans retained control of the House despite Democrats receiving the majority of votes. To learn more about how Districts Plus would work in the United States, read that report here. We include Districts Plus as a key policy to enhance the democratic process in our Policy Guide 2016.
Districts Plus is a variant of a system that is commonly used internationally in countries such as Germany and New Zealand called Mixed Member Proportional. MMP is a mixture of traditional winner-take-all systems and proportional representation systems used across the world. MMP can be used to improve both single-member district, winner-take-all systems and multi-member districts elected under proportional voting forms of proportional representation. See FairVote's blogs on Germany's 2009 Elections, Scotland's use of MMP, and proportional representation methods in Malta for more on what Districts Plus could and does do in international elections to improve representation, or watch the video below to learn more about Multi-Member Proportional systems.
The open ticket method, or "unordered open list system" combines the benefits of proportional representation with simplicity for voters and administrators. Voters cast a single vote for a single candidate in a partisan election. Candidates are elected if they pass the same threshold used in ranked choice voting. Additionally, remaining seats are filled by looking at what proportion of voters voted for candidates of the same political party. For example, in a three-seat district in which a majority of voters favored candidates running as Republicans, two seats would be awarded to Republican candidates.
While much of the current dissatisfaction with American politics stems from the effects of winner-take-all congressional elections, similar problems exist in the states. Fortunately, fair representation voting systems can improve elections at all levels of government.
Our fair representation voting plan for the California State Assembly would reshape the state's politics by combining assembly districts into multi-seat "super districts," similar to those proposed in Monopoly Politics for the election of the U.S. House. The adoption of such a system would give California voters more choices, more competitive elections, and help promote fair representation of political and ethnic minorities.