Voices & Choices

Connecticut Continues Tradition of Minority Party Representation in 2017

Connecticut Continues Tradition of Minority Party Representation in 2017

On Tuesday, voters across Connecticut went to the polls to vote to elect their local governments. Seventy-eight municipal councils and boards across the state are elected using a form of fair representation voting. As in Virginia and New Jersey, Tuesday was a big day for Democrats (and at least one Roman Centurion) in Connecticut. Unlike many other parts of the country, however, a big election for one party in Connecticut doesn’t mean that other parties will be completely excluded.

In Connecticut, these municipalities use limited voting to elect their town councils, school boards, zoning boards, and other bodies. Under limited voting, voters vote for fewer candidates than there are open seats. For example, to elect a 9-seat town council, voters in a limited voting election cannot vote for 9 candidates, but rather are “limited” to voting for only 6 candidates. While not as representative as ranked choice voting or cumulative voting, limited voting is much more equitable than block voting elections, where voters vote for as many candidates as there are open seats (and which is commonly is used in local at-large elections across the country).

Connecticut also promotes minority party representation by capping the number of seats a party can win in an election, a practice called “limited nominations.” On a 6 person board, for example, one party cannot win more than 4 seats. Like limited voting, this serves to prevent one voting bloc (a political party, in this case) from gaining total control of an elected body at the expense of minority groups. The purpose behind this law (known as the “Minority Representation Statute”) is to include a minority perspectives and ideas in local decision-making.

That goal may seem out of place in today’s polarized political climate, but it shows how important the method of voting is to governance. The power of elections (and the laws regulating them) does not end once the votes are cast and the winners declared. Voters unhappy with the performance of their elected representatives should reconsider how they select those representatives. As Connecticut shows: there are many options to choose from.

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