Pennsylvania has a long history with fair representation voting methods. Charles Buckalew, a United States senator from Pennsylvania, wrote a seminal work on the benefits of proportional representation in 1872. In it, Buckalew describes how proportional representation increases voter satisfaction and diversity in government and how the adoption of limited voting in Sunbury, Pennsylvania in 1870 allowed for the election of Democrats to a traditionally all-Republican municipal government.
Pennsylvania counties have used fair representation methods for over 100 years. Since 1871, most Pennsylvania counties have used limited voting to elect their three county commissioners at-large. The use of limited voting in Pennsylvania is not restricted to county elections. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania's largest city, has used limited voting to elect its seven at-large city council members since 1951.
The primary reason for Philadelphia’s adoption of limited voting was to end partisan gridlock and single-party rule by Republicans. Since its implementation, Philadelphia has steadily elected more Democratic candidates, with Democrats currently holding 66 percent of the council’s at-large seats. Philadelphia's limited voting now works to protect the Republican Party from being completely shut out of Philadelphia's city government.
Limited voting is an extremely modest form of fair representation voting, but it can serve as a critical stepping stone to fairer methods. In 2004, Governor Ed Rendell formed the Election Reform Task Force to develop reforms for Pennsylvania’s elections. In its final report, the task force recommended that Pennsylvania adopt instant runoff voting or another fair representation method statewide. To learn more about fair representation voting methods and how they work, go to our proportional representation page.