Reihan Salam: Champion of Democracy


Reihan Salam earns a 2017 Democracy Champion Award for his outstanding journalism and powerful essays about fair representation and ranked choice voting as the best way to end gerrymandering. A truly innovative thinker, Reihan is executive editor of the National Review, a columnist for Slate and a contributing editor at National Affairs. His 2014 essay for Slate on "The Biggest Problem in American Politics," and his coauthored commentary this July in the New York Times are two of the most powerful arguments for the Fair Representation Act. On social media, he regularly draws attention to ranked choice voting and fair representation. See excerpts from his two fair representation essays and links to the full pieces below.

How to Make Congress Bipartisan, The New York Times, July 7, 2017, with FairVote's Rob Richie

Who is locked out of representation? Moderates and conservatives in our biggest metro areas, and liberals in the heartland. They are the tens of millions of voters who defy stereotypes of left and right, and are perfectly positioned to bridge our seemingly unbridgeable political divides. Our political life is being poisoned by the absence of their voices.

The reason is that when your district majority matches your party, you need only fear primary election voters who are quick to threaten apostasy from the party line. This intensifies polarization in Congress, making legislative compromises necessary for passing bills all but impossible. Power continues to shift dangerously to the executive. The end result is a death spiral for our constitutional order.

The good news is that there is a way out: replacing our winner-take-all elections with a form of proportional representation where every voter matters in every election. It comes in the form of the Fair Representation Act, a bill introduced recently by Representative Don Beyer.

The Biggest Problem in American Politics, Slate, September 11, 2014 

If our goal is to create legislative districts that truly reflect their electorates, our best bet would be to give up on single-member districts altogether and replace them with multi-member ones. Take the case of my tribe, the forlorn conservatives of New York City. Even if the New York state Legislature decided that it wanted to carve out a new district to represent conservatives scattered across the five boroughs, and not just those in Michael Grimm’s swing district, they’d have an almost impossible time doing so.

For one thing, we don’t all live in a heavily Republican enclave called “Giulianiville.” A similar problem arises for minority groups that aren’t isolated in particular neighborhoods. The only reason it is possible to draw majority-minority districts for blacks in the Deep South and some Northern and Western cities is that black segregation is still with us. Drawing majority-minority districts for less-segregated minorities, like Asians, is a different story. (The only Asian-majority congressional district in the United States is in Hawaii, though there is one district in California’s Silicon Valley that comes close.)

When you combine single-member districts into bigger multi-member districts, the picture starts to look quite different. The beauty of multi-member districts is that they allow us to use what FairVote calls “fair representation voting.”


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