Voices & Choices

New York Times: proportional representation and the urban-rural divide

New York Times: proportional representation and the urban-rural divide

Divisions split this country at every turn: ideological, generational, economical. Perhaps none are more sharp than those of geography, with the separation between the urban left and the rural right growing wider every day.

Add in a rigid two-party system and the temptation on each side to manipulate maps to their own advantage, and, as a new New York Times piece on the work of electoral reform scholar Jonathan Rodden notes, “we keep adding more reasons to double down on geography as our central fault line, and to view our policy disagreements as conflicts between fundamentally different ways of living.”

The consequences are more than just disagreement, though. It also poses a fundamental threat to the democratic principle that every vote should count equally. Because the disproportionate concentration of Democrats in urban areas creates an uneven balance in voting influence that benefits the more Republican rural areas.

But what if it didn’t have to be that way? Certainly, if we look to other European democracies, we don’t see the same disproportionate influence of some voters over others.

As Rodden describes in the article,

“That’s because most representatives are elected from single‑member districts where the candidate with the most votes wins, as opposed to a system of proportional representation, as some democracies have.”

But the United States, too, can realize the benefits of a proportional representation system under a proposal known in Congress as the Fair Representation Act. Introduced by U.S. Rep. Don Beyer (D-VA) in 2017 and slated for reintroduction this year, the bill combines ranked choice voting with multi-member districts drawn by independent redistricting commission to create a ‘Congress for every American,’ where every voters’ voice matters, no matter their zip code.

Read the full New York Times article here.

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