- About Us
- Save the Date: FairVote's 25th Anniversary Fundraiser!
- Lani Guinier: Champion of Democracy
Lani Guinier: Champion of Democracy
Lani Guinier is a 2017 Democracy Champion award winner for her lifetime achievement. Professor Guinier’s commitment to fair representation and voting rights started in the 1970's, when she served in the civil rights division of the Department of Justice.
In 1993, Professor Guinier was nominated to head the civil rights division of the Department of Justice. Opponents mischaracterized her writings, leading to President Bill Clinton withdrawing the nomination. FairVote was a prominent voice explaining her fair, democratic vision of democracy, such as in this 1993 article, and we have been reform allies ever since. See Professor Guinier's book Lift Every Voice and these links to examples of her scholarly and popular writing about fair representation electoral systems such as ranked choice voting and cumulative voting.
Tyranny of the Majority: Fundamental Fairness in Representative Democracy, Book authored by Lani Guinier
This collection of law review articles and essays provide insight into Professor Guinier's deep thinking about democracy. It includes analysis of how winner-take-all district elections fall short of our goals and offer American forms of proportional representation as the enduring means to protect and sustain voting rights.
Second Proms and Second Primaries: The Limits of Majority Rule, Boston Review
"In the debate over competing claims to democratic legitimacy based on the value of minority group representation, I side with the advocates of an integrated, diverse legislature. A homogeneous legislature in a heterogeneous society is simply not legitimate. But while black legislative visibility is an important measure of electoral fairness, taken by itself it represents an anemic approach to political fairness and justice. A vision of fairness and justice must begin to imagine a full and effective voice for disadvantaged minorities, a voice that is accountable to self-identified community interests, a voice that persuades, and a voice that is included in and resonates throughout the political process. That voice will not be achieved by majoritarian means or by enforced separation into winner-take-all racial districts. For in the end democracy is not about rule by the powerful -- even a powerful majority -- nor is it about arbitrarily separating groups to create separate majorities in order to increase their share. Instead, the ideal of democracy promises a fair discussion among self-defined equals about how to achieve our common aspirations. To redeem that promise, we need to put the idea of proportionality at the center of our conception of representation."
The Miner’s Canary, The Nation
"To reclaim the missing elements of representation, it is necessary to consider alternative electoral systems...These proportionate and semiproportionate systems not only better represent voters based on their own choices; they enable local political organizations to emerge by giving them a legislative voice in proportion to the number of voters they mobilize. Such representational models are based on a more fluid idea of both racial and political representation. They call upon intermediate groups, including those forged by a political race commitment, that offer conditions for democratic participation that have largely been ignored or disregarded–groups that, rather than reflecting geographic districts, coalesce at a specific time in response to a specific issue."
Making Every Vote Count, The Nation
"What we need are election rules that encourage voter turnout rather than suppress it. A system of proportional representation–which would allocate seats to parties based on their proportion of the total vote–would more fairly reflect intense feeling within the electorate, mobilize more people to participate and even encourage those who do participate to do so beyond just the single act of voting on Election Day. Most democracies around the world have some form of proportional voting and manage to engage a much greater percentage of their citizens in elections. Proportional representation in South Africa, for example, allows the white Afrikaner parties and the ANC to gain seats in the national legislature commensurate with the total number of votes cast for each party. Under this system, third parties are a plausible alternative. Moreover, to allow third parties to run presidential candidates without being “spoilers,” some advocate instant-runoff elections in which voters would rank their choices for President. That way, even voters whose top choice loses the election could influence the race among the other candidates."
Forum Response: Faith in Politics?, Boston Review
"This requires structural change, not just a different set of leaders. It means multi-party, not just two-party, democracy. It means election rules that permit locally grounded, issue-oriented political organizations. Such rules are called proportional representation proportional voting.The vast majority of mature democracies have already adopted systems of proportional representation (PR)...Women do much better with party list systems than they do in winner-take-all, candidate-centered elections like we have in the United States. Proportional voting can also support the development of local political organizations that educate and mobilize voters because it changes the incentive structure for elections. Unlike our system, in which incumbents are reluctant to do anything to broaden the electorate that put them in office, under PR such organizations gain seats to the extent they mobilize additional support."
The Triumph of Tokenism: The Voting Rights Act and the Theory of Black Electoral Success, Michigan Law Review
From abstract of law review article: "Consequently, black electoral success theory simply recon-figures winner-take-all electoral opportunities into geographically based, majority-black, single-member districts. Representing a geographically and socially isolated constituency in a racially polarized environment, blacks elected from single-member districts have little control over policy choices made by their white counterparts. Thus, although it ensures more representatives, district-based black electoral success may not necessarily result in more responsive government. In Part III, based on my critique of the black electoral success theory, I put forth suggestions for a different approach to voting rights reform. Relying on what I tentatively call "proportionate interest representation"9 for self-identified communities of interest, I propose to reconsider the ways in which representatives are elected and the rules under which legislative decisions are made."