Voices & Choices

The Fair Representation Act Symposium Spotlight: George Cheung

The Fair Representation Act Symposium Spotlight: George Cheung

At a time when Americans increasingly feel like our elections are broken, a bold new proposal has been put forward. The Fair Representation Act is intended to create meaningful voting reform by replacing our winner-take-all system with a fair and proportional system: Ranked choice voting.

Hear scholars and practitioners discuss what impact the Fair Representation Act would have on our democracy at our upcoming symposium, A Congress for Everyone: The Impact of the Fair Representation Act.

February 4th at 3pm, New York University, Washington DC. Click here to learn more and RSVP.

Where did your passion for Democracy begin?
My parents are immigrants from Hong Kong as your parents, but grew up under British colonial rule. Under that system, they had no say in public policy. I remember my dad talking about how he felt like a second-class citizen - that all of the decisions were made to benefit the British. After they left Hong Kong, they came to Vancouver BC, where I was born. Eventually, we ended up in the US. While taking civics class in public school, I always thought about the importance of becoming a citizen - and using my voice and my vote in a way that my parents never had in Hong Kong. 

Why do you support the Fair Rep Act?
I support the Fair Representation Act because I believe that we need to move away from our “first-past-the-post” system. As I researched more about our electoral system when I was in college, I learned that they system is quintessentially British - and that, by and large, only former British colonies continue to use it. It is a majoritarian system in that a winner gets all of the representation. When it comes to voting rights, the only remedy in redistricting cases is the creation of the so-called “majority minority” district. This means that the only time communities of color can get some level of equitable representation (when there are racially polarized voting) is when they are highly segregated. And as someone who used to work in civil rights law enforcement, we need to do everything we can to dismantle segregation. Therefore, we cannot rely on voting rights protects that are predicated on segregation.

If we enacted the Fair Rep Act tomorrow, how do you think it would change our politics?
If enacted, I believe that we should see more parties contesting for seats. I’d be very excited to see a party that is truly committed to racial equity be able to speak truth to power and actually win seats. I think that would shake up our antiquated two-party system and get more people excited about engaging in politics.

What’s another pro-democracy movement you think is important right now?
Another part of the pro-democracy movement that is gaining some well-deserved attention is deliberative democracy. I serve on the board of the Jefferson Center, runs processes called “citizen juries” or “community assemblies”. In this process, a panel of 30-60 people are randomly selected to learn, deliberate, and recommend policies for a problem with no clear solution. Though I am committed to my views on electoral systems, we need more spaces for people to learn about their government. Without a meaningful process to formally invite people in, our government will suffer from a lack legitimacy and residents will continue to be disengaged. This is a cycle we must break.

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