State Choice of Voting Method Act

State Choice of Voting Method Act

Since 1967, a federal statute has required all states to elect all Members of the U.S. House of Representatives in single-winner districts, even though many states had historically elected at-large or in multi-winner districts. Although the law was well-intentioned, it has locked in a system of manipulation of district lines for political gain.

At a minimum, Congress should repeal that mandate, returning to states the right to use multi-winner elections for their congressional delegations. To accommodate the concerns over use of at-large elections to dilute the votes of political and racial minorities, Congress should require that any state using multi-winner elections must do so in a way that allows such minorities to elect candidates of choice.

As an example of such a proposal, FairVote recommends the State Choice of Voting Method Act. That Act would merely repeal the 1967 single-winner district mandate and specify that any state using multi-winner elections must use a voting method that satisfies three criteria:

  1. The election method ensures majority rule and equal voting power;
  2. The method ensures that if a candidate receives more than one-third of votes cast in a multi-winner election, then that candidate will be elected; and
  3. The election method does not violate the Voting Rights Act.

In short, the Act specifies that if a state uses multi-winner elections, it must also use fair representation voting.

These fair representation voting methods are already in use in over 200 cities, counties, and other local jurisdictions. From 1870 to 1980, Illinois elected its state house of representatives with fair representation voting. Most democratic countries elect their national legislatures in multi-winner elections. 

The Act draws on a similar bill introduced in 1999 by Rep. Mel Watt (D-NC) and co-sponsored by Members including James Clyburn (D-SC) and Tom Campbell (R-CA). It received favorable testimony from the Department of Justice.

To learn more about the State Choice of Voting Method Act, see our one-page policy brief and model statute.

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