Gerrymandering. Partisan gridlock. No-choice elections. Lack of diverse representation. These challenges, compounded with the rise of apathy towards our democratic institutions, have led to the most socially and politically divided moment in our lifetimes. Despite these overwhelming challenges, the passage of the Fair Representation Act would help heal our electoral institutions and lead to better governance.
With almost 90 percent of congressional districts completely safe for the party that holds them, single-winner, winner-take-all elections don’t work well for urban Republicans, red-state Democrats, independents, women and communities of color. It also doesn’t work for the candidates who fear being primaried in their home districts, forcing them to appeal to a more vocal minority of voters.
The Fair Representation Act helps fix this with multi-winner districts and ranked choice voting to ensure everyone gets a choice and the larger layout of districts means gerrymandering lines become less relevant.
With this legislation poised to be re-introduced in Congress in the coming weeks, here is a look at some of the positive media coverage for the Fair Representation Act over the past month…
A foreign solution to America’s political dysfunction by Ishaan Tharoor Washington Post (Feb. 16th) “The incentives to compromise or cooperate with political rivals are absent in a two-party, winner-take-all system — while cooperation between opposing parties through coalition governments, which is the usual governing arrangement in countries with proportional voting systems, promote gentler, kinder politics,” noted political scientists Noam Gidron, James Adams and Will Horne. They added that, “without reforming basic features of the U.S. electoral system, plurality-based, winner-take-all partisan competition will likely continue to sustain political hostility.”
How Long Can Democracy Survive QAnon and Its Allies? by Thomas Edsall New York Times (Feb. 10th) “Victor shares the view that Congress could repeal the law mandating single winner-take-all congressional districts to allow larger, multi-member districts coupled with ranked choice voting and expanding the size of the House. These reforms can be accomplished locally, or by changes in federal law and would fundamentally change the way Congress works — in ways that are both good and bad, but where the positives outweigh the negatives.”
Making Congress a better place to work by Molly Reynolds Brookings (Feb. 10th) “Proposals for significant change are numerous: eliminating the Electoral College, modestly expanding the size of the House of Representatives, adopting ranked-choice voting and/or multi-member legislative districts, and eliminating the legislative filibuster in the Senate, to name a few.”
Women’s Representation: Saluting Black Women in Politics—Past, Present and Future by Cynthia Richie Terrell Ms. Magazine (Feb. 5th) “When reintroduced in the 117th Congress, Beyer’s bill will include an increase in the number of House members along with ranked-choice voting in multi-seat districts that will lead to a significant increase in the number of women elected.”
Democrats may only have one chance to stop America from becoming a one-party state by Ryan Cooper The Week (Feb. 3rd) “But if we elected House members in large, multi-member districts chosen through ranked-choice voting, that would no longer be the case. This would give just about everybody some kind of representation — from conservatives in New York City to liberals in Alabama — and ensure that votes for smaller parties would not be wasted.”
The Peril and Promise of Redistricting Reform in H.R. 1 by G. Michael Parsons Harvard Law Review Blog (Feb. 2nd) “Second, Congress should consider putting the House on a path towards multimember districts elected through a proportional voting method like ranked-choice voting. This could take a number of different forms, from a mandatory approach (such as H.R. 4000, 116th Cong. (2019)), to a permissive approach (removing the single-member district requirement to let states/commissions experiment with multimember districts), to a more exploratory approach (establishing a commission to study such reforms and report back to Congress before, say, 2025).”
Democrats Need to Radically Expand American Democracy—And Fast by Scott Remer In These Times (Feb. 2nd) “These are critical reforms, but don’t go far enough. Another measure that Democrats should add to the legislation is ranked-choice voting with proportional representation, as outlined in voting reform group FairVote’s Fair Representation Act.”
Some House Democrats want to pass ranked-choice voting bill this year Yahoo News (Feb. 1th) “I was pretty suspect that it would be possible to go to multimember districts. I didn’t really understand how ranked-choice voting worked, and the notion of expanding the House seemed a far cry. But ... I started to realize that the House was really broken in some fundamental ways.”
The problem for representative diversity isn't runoffs, it's single-winner elections by Dan Eckam The Fulcrum (January 28th) “Yes, we can do much better than single-seat legislative runoff elections. We should institute proportionality wherever we can. But when we're electing someone to a singular office, we need the majority requirement to help overcome vote-splitting and produce greater legitimacy for the winner.”
It’s Not Enough to Just Break Records in the 117th Congress Ms. Magazine (January 12th) “Ranked-choice voting in multi-seat districts decreases the importance of party affiliation, increases healthy competition for seats, encourages issue-focused campaigns, and decreases the cost of running. Implementing these reforms will lead to substantial and sustained progress toward women’s equal representation at a fraction of the cost of funding individual campaigns.”
How Much Danger Is American Democracy In? FiveThirtyEight (January 12th) “And maybe we see this play out a little in the U.S. That is, I could see a pro-democracy faction within the Republican Party joining with Democrats to support electoral reforms (such as the Fair Representation Act, a piece of election reform legislation that would establish multi-member districts with ranked-choice voting).”
From our Senior Fellow David Daley: How to stop an Insurrection Caucus: These reforms could reduce GOP extremism and save our democracy Salon (January 12th) “It's also time for a national discussion on how single-member, winner-takes-all congressional elections aid and abet broken government and polarization; the Fair Representation Act, introduced the previous two Congresses by Virginia congressman Don Beyer, would end this root problem and create proportionality and swing seats everywhere by introducing a system of larger, multi-member districts with winners chosen through ranked choice voting.”
How to Quarantine a Political Virus: Stopping the Sedition Caucus by Improving Democracy Union of Concerned Scientists (January 12th) “Ranked choice (STV) systems offer a more candidate-centered option, while mixed-member proportional (MMP) systems retain single-seat districts, but provide compensatory seats that allow smaller parties to be represented. Any of these options would invigorate competition, bring new ideas into the political process, and help build governing coalitions that don’t rely on extremists.”
What Georgia teaches us about the problems with winner-take-all elections The Fulcrum (January 5th) From a founder of FairVote Howard Fain: “What we need are proportional "participation trophies" for all voters and their preferred representatives. Fairly representing the interests of all voters tends towards coalition governance and true majority rule. Winner-take-all leads to polarization, even the arrival in the House this week of a Georgian who supports QAnon conspiracies — flying under cover of winning a "majority" election.”
Donald Trump's gift to America: Realizing we've never been a liberal democracy Salon (January 2nd) "If you look at, say Germany or New Zealand, which have mixed-member proportional representation systems, you realize that our electoral institutions have institutionalized minority rule and locked in policies at odds with what large majorities of Americans seem to want on almost every issue."
How to Fix the House of Representatives The New Republic (December 31st) “By adopting proportional representation, Congress could ensure that the people’s house always actually represents the people.”
Letter: Albany needs electoral reforms by Peter A. LaVenia, Jr PhD. Time Union (Feb. 4th) “Instead, we need proportional representation. Commonly used around the world, proportional representation awards seats in legislatures to parties and their candidates based on the percentage of vote they receive in the general election. Voters would have a chance to elect a multiparty council, and we’d see real democracy in Albany.”