The Fair Representation Act

Our country is ready to reform our elections. Now is the time for Congress to act. The Fair Representation Act is the bold, comprehensive solution that solves our problems with partisan gerrymandering and uncompetitive elections, and encourages politicians to represent everyone, not just their base.

Partisan gerrymandering has only gotten worse in an era of sophisticated technology and polarized voting patterns. Redistricting has become a fraught endeavor, replete with corruption, controversy, and years of expensive litigation. Because the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2019 that partisan gerrymandering was a political issue beyond the ability of federal courts to decide, an act of Congress is the only way to end gerrymandering in all states.

However, our problems go beyond gerrymandering: Single-winner districts no longer work well for American democracy. They lock most voters into congressional districts that are increasingly skewed toward one party, and leaves too many voters unrepresented and powerless to affect outcomes. Millions of Americans -- whether urban Republicans, red-state Democrats, independents, women and communities of color -- are dramatically underrepresented, with little chance of fixing this at the polls.

The Fair Representation Act helps fix this. Voters would elect representatives with proportional ranked choice voting in larger multi-winner districts. Safe "red" and "blue" districts would be a thing of the past, as every district would elect both Republicans and Democrats in proportion to their level of support. With proportional results, there would be no gerrymandering, every election would be competitive, and our votes would be far more powerful than they are today. Senators would also be elected with ranked choice voting.


With more choices in the general election and proportional outcomes, the Fair Representation Act will create more opportunities for women, people of color, urban Republicans, rural Democrats, and independents.

We must open elections to reflect our full diversity. The Fair Representation Act is the strongest commitment and most complete solution to voter equality, equal representation and greater choice. It’s how we make our democracy work again -- for everyone. 

 

Click on a topic to begin.

Why we need the Fair Representation Act 

Since 1970, every state has elected only one per district in a winner-take-all election, due to a federal law passed in 1967. The U.S. Constitution does not say how states should elect their Members of the House of Representatives, and states used a variety of methods for most of the nation's history. After half a century of exclusive use of single-winner districts, we need a new standard.

560315https://www.youtube.com/embed/LvqEGpHfcZw0mediaencrypted-media

Elections under the single-winner district system are broken:

  • Elections are not competitive. More than 85% of U.S. House districts are completely safe for the party that holds them. In 2020, the median margin of victory in a congressional race was over 27 percentage points. Millions of Americans are perpetually represented by politicians they oppose, with little hope of changing things at the polls.

  • Outcomes are distorted. Massachusetts Republicans haven't elected a House Member in more than 2 decades. Arkansas Democrats are similarly shut out. Minor parties are nearly always shamed as "spoilers." One party can run the House even when the other earns more votes. In fair elections, those with the most votes should win the most seats, but every American deserves a fair share.
  • Representatives are more polarized than voters. Winner-take-all districts make representatives more accountable to primary voters than the district as a whole. As a result, members are punished for finding opportunities for compromise with the opposite party. Our systems of checks and balances do not work if members cannot reach across party lines.

The Fair Representation Act can help:

  • Meaningful elections. By electing candidates proportionally in districts each electing at least three winners, the Act would ensure that every voter could elect someone from the major party they support. And different values and viewpoints within each party's "big tent" would have the opportunity to support - and even elect - a candidate in the general election.
  • Accurate Representation. Because election results with proportional ranked choice voting would accurately reflect the left, right, and center within each district, the skewed outcomes of our current system would be a thing of the past. Voters that are now shut-out, like Republicans in Massachusetts or Democrats in Arkansas, would win their fair share of representation. In every state, the number of seats earned by each party would align far more closely to their statewide share of the vote.
  • Open elections to reflect our full diversity. With proportional outcomes and a wider variety of candidates advancing to the general election, the Fair Representation Act will create more fair opportunities for women, people of color, urban Republicans, rural Democrats, and independents.

What Does The Fair Representation Act Do?

The Fair Representation Act is a proposed federal statute to change elections for Members of Congress. Beginning in 2022, representatives would be elected by proportional ranked choice voting in primary and general elections. Members would be elected in multi-winner districts of up to five seats, with districts being drawn by independent redistricting commissions. Senators would also be elected by ranked choice voting.

The bill consists of three core components:

    1. Ranked choice voting

    2. Multi-member districts

    3. Requirements for congressional redistricting

 

Ranked Choice Voting for Primaries and the General Election

The Fair Representation Act requires that primary and general elections for both Representatives and Senators be held with ranked choice voting. The goal of this system is to maximize the number of voters who help elect a candidate.

  • The ballot will give voters the freedom to rank candidates in order of choice: 1st, 2nd, 3rd and so on.

  • Vote counting proceeds in rounds. At first, every ballot counts only for its 1st choice. 
  • For the election of only 1 winner (as in Senate elections), if a candidate receives a majority (50% + 1) of the votes, then that candidate will be elected. 

  • For the election of more than 1 member statewide or in a multi-winner district, instead of one candidate winning with more than half the vote, more than one candidate will win, each with their own smaller share of the vote. That makes the system proportional, ensuring that multiple groups of voters can each elect their own representative. The threshold to win depends on the number of winners: 

1 winner

2 winners

3 winners

4 winners

5 winners

1/2 + 1 vote

1/3 + 1 vote

1/4 + 1 vote

1/5 + 1 vote

1/6 + 1 vote

 

  • At first, every ballot counts only for its 1st choice. If a candidate passes the threshold, they win one of the seats.
  • Votes cast for winning candidates in excess of the threshold (surplus votes) count proportionally for their next choices. Each vote is treated equally and no votes are wasted.

  • In a round where no one passes the threshold, the candidate in last place is eliminated. If a voter’s top choice loses, their vote will count for their next choice. 

  • This process repeats until all seats are elected. 

  • States will receive $1 million plus $500,000 per representative to pay for election administration and education costs associated with ranked choice voting.

Multi-Winner Districts in States with More Than 1 Seat

The Fair Representation Act repeals the single-winner district mandate (2 U.S.C. 2c) and replaces it with a multi-winner district mandate applicable to all states that elect more than one Representative. 

  • Any state electing 5 or fewer members will not use districts, but will elect all statewide.
  • Any state electing 6 or more members will elect from multi-winner districts. Multi-winner districts may not elect fewer than 3 or more than 5 members each, with an equal number of persons per seat. 

  • For primary elections, each political party will generally nominate candidates equal to the number to be elected in the district, though states may permit parties to choose the number of their nominees. States with “Top Two” primaries will advance twice the number to be elected in the district.

Requirements for congressional redistricting

The Fair Representation Act requires that any state drawing multi-winner districts must create an independent redistricting commission to adopt its district map.

  • A state using districts—only those electing 6 or more members—must do so by establishing a citizens’ independent redistricting commission. States that already have such a commission can continue using it, so long as they follow the criteria listed below.
  • The makeup of the commission and its operation is based on the For the People Act, H.R. 1. The commission will ultimately consist of 15 members, 5 each from the majority party, the minority party, and the independent group. All of the procedural requirements in H.R. 1 apply.

  • After assembling an independent redistricting commission, a state is entitled to $150,000 per representative to offset its costs.

  • Districts must be drawn according to criteria, in the following order of importance: 

  1. compliance with the U.S. Constitution; 

  2. consistency with the Voting Rights Act;  

  3. providing racial, ethnic and language minorities an equal opportunity to participate in the political process and to elect candidates of choice;

  4. no district can be completely safe for one political party (based on prior presidential vote totals); 

  5. as few districts as possible should elect 4 candidates (to avoid frequent 2-2 splits); 

  6. as many districts as possible should elect 5 candidates (to maximize proportionality); 

  7. as few districts as possible will divide any community of interest, municipality, county or neighborhood.

  • No district plan may unduly favor or disfavor any political party when considered on a statewide basis.

  • Each independent redistricting commission must operate transparently. After holding hearings around the state, it will publish preliminary maps, and then hold at least 3 further hearings with opportunities for public comment. 

  • A majority of the commission (including at least one from each of the 3 groups) must approve a final congressional district map by August 15th of the year ending in the number one.

  • If the independent redistricting process fails to adopt a redistricting plan on that timeline, a plan will instead be adopted by a three-judge panel in Washington, DC, using the same criteria.

 

The Fair Representation Act in Your State

Under the Fair Representation Act, Congress will still be the same size it is now, but the districts will be larger and each will elect 3, 4, or 5 winners. When more than one person wins in a district, more voices in that district can be represented. With proportional ranked choice voting, there will be no "red" or "blue" districts. Voters in the majority will elect most of the winners, but not all of them. Voters in the minority also get a seat at the table.

VA-Current-FRA.JPG

Below are examples of multi-winner district maps for every state. The states that elect 5 or fewer Representatives will have no districts and elect all statewide. States larger than that are divided into multi-winner districts that elect 3, 4, or 5 winners each. The analysis of each map assumes the state will use ranked choice voting, as required by the Fair Representation Act. Details about how each district map was drawn are below the table.

Click on your state to find out how the Fair Representation Act could transform representation in your state. 

Alabama Hawaii Massachusetts New Mexico South Dakota
Alaska Idaho Michigan New York Tennessee
Arizona Illinois Minnesota North Carolina Texas
Arkansas Indiana Mississippi North Dakota Utah
California Iowa Missouri Ohio Vermont
Colorado Kansas Montana Oklahoma Virginia
Connecticut Kentucky Nebraska Oregon Washington
Delaware Louisiana Nevada Pennsylvania West Virginia
Florida Maine New Hampshire Rhode Island Wisconsin
Georgia Maryland New Jersey South Carolina Wyoming

 

To create these maps, FairVote partnered with Kevin Baas, creator of the Auto-Redistrict program. The maps are computer-generated based on user-specified criteria. Because the maps are computer-generated, they cannot take into account communities of interest and other considerations that an independent redistricting commission would. Instead, the program attempted to draw districts that would keep counties intact. We do not claim that these are the actual districts that would be used under the Fair Representation Act. They are examples. We did not attempt to "put our thumb on the scales" to increase fairness in any of these. For more analysis of these districts, see FairVote's Fair Representation Act Report.

 

Supporting Research

Comparative Structural Reform

Partnering with 13 leading scholarly authorities on electoral reform and legislative functionality, FairVote conducted an in-depth assessment of 37 different structural reforms. Each scholar assessed the impact of each reform on 16 different criteria to assess how it would impact legislative functionality, electoral accountability, voter engagement, and openness of process. The reform at the heart of the Fair Representation Act, ranked choice voting in five-winner districts, was assessed to be the most impactful.

Monopoly Politics

Monopoly Politics exposes the undemocratic and destructive nature of winner-take-all elections to elect "the people's house." Use the interactive map to learn more about our fair voting solution: a plan to combine existing congressional districts into a smaller number of multi-winner "super districts," each electing between three and five Members by ranked choice voting. Read comprehensive analyses about the impact of reform, and descriptions of House elections as they are and as they could be in all 50 states.

The Fair Representation Act Report

The Fair Representation Act Report outlines how multi-winner ranked choice voting will transform the U.S. House of Representatives. Using the model established by the Fair Representation Act, the report simulates the impact of multi-winner ranked choice voting in maps drawn by independent commissions with district maps drawn by the Autoredistrict computer program. It includes a report on the impact on each individual state as well as analysis of the overall impact in making elections more competitive and representative.

Papers and Articles

 

Resources and Handouts

HR 3057 (2017) Resources

Here is a video that explains how ranked choice voting works in multi-winner districts: 

How You Can Get Involved

Congress is broken. Too often, politics is defined by unfair rules that make “the people’s house” unaccountable, ineffective, and disconnected from ordinary voters. Winner-take-all elections are leaving many voters unrepresented, and special interests are drawing districts to manipulate election outcomes. It’s time to put voters in charge. It’s time for fair elections that give Americans an effective and reflective Congress of, by, and for the people.

Take action: 

  1. Sign the petition in support of the Fair Representation Act
  2. Click here to contact your U.S. Representative

How You Can Help in Your State

You can help promote fair representation statewide and locally today. State legislatures can help reform Congress by adopting interstate compacts for fair representation. You can also help to advocate for ranked choice voting in your city or state.

 

Join Us Today to Help Create a More Perfect Union