Proportional Representation1 Essay

This essay has a total of 1187 words and 6 pages.

Proportional Representation1



PROPORTIONAL REPRESENTATION
What exactly is proportional representation (PR), how does it work, and what are its
advantages over our present system? The way it works is simple proportional
representation system come in several varieties, but they all share two basic
characteristics. The first way is they use mullet-member districts. Instead of electing
one member of the legislature in each small district, PR uses much larger districts that
elect several members at one time, (about five or ten). Second, the proportion of votes a
party receives determines which candidates win the seats in these multi-member districts.

We are use to our single-member district system, in which we elect one candidate in each
legislative district, with the winner being the candidate with the most votes. But while
we view this winner-take-all system as normal, in reality our approach to elections is
increasingly at odds with the rest of the world. The vast majority of Western democracies
see American-style elections as outmoded and unfair and have rejected them in favor of
proportional representation. Most of Western Europe uses PR and a large majority of the
emerging democracies of Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union have chosen PR over our
form of elections. The United States, Canada, and Great Britain are the only Western
democracies that continue to cling to winner-take-all arrangements.

The single-member district voting system has been on the wane worldwide because it has a
number of serious drawbacks. It routinely denies representation to large numbers of
voters, produces legislatures that fail to accurately reflect the views of the public,
discriminates against third parties, and discourages voter turnout. All of these problems
can be traced to a fundamental flaw in our system: only those who vote for the winning
candidate get any representation. Everyone else -- who may make up 49% of the electorate
in a district -- gets no representation.

We are all familiar with this problem. If you are a Democrat in a predominately Republican
district or a Republican in a Democratic one, or an African-American in a white district,
then you are shut out by our current election system. You might cast your vote, but it
will be wasted on a candidate that can not win. In the 1994 elections for the U.S. House
of Representatives, more than 26 million Americans wasted their votes on losing
candidates, and so came away from the voting booth with no representation. Under
single-member district rules we may have the right to vote, but we don't have the equally
important right to be represented.

To make matters worse, this denial of representation on the district level often produces
distortions in representation in Congress and our state and local legislatures. Parties
often receive far more (or far fewer) seats than they deserve.

Proportional representation has been widely adopted because it avoids an outcome in which
some people win representation and the rest are left out. Under proportional
representation rules, no significant groups are denied representation. Even political
minorities, who may constitute only 10-20 per cent of the voters, are able to win some
seats in these multi-member districts. In PR systems, nearly everyone's vote counts, with
80-90 per cent of the voters actually electing someone, compared to 50-60 percent in most
U.S. elections. Under PR, we can also be sure that our legislatures will accurately
reflect the voting strength of the various parties. If a party receives 40 per cent of the
vote, it will get 40 per cent of the seats, not 20 percent or 60 percent as can happen now
with our system.

The unfairness of winner-take-all elections and the advantages of proportional
representation are particularly obvious when we consider the situation of third parties in
the U.S. Voters are increasingly dissatisfied with the offerings of the two-major parties
and recent surveys indicate that over 60 per cent of Americans would now like to see other
parties emerge to challenge the Democrats and Republicans.

Adopting PR would finally allow for free and fair competition between all political
parties. Supporters of minor parties are forced to either waste their vote on a candidate
who cannot win; vote for the lesser-of-two-evils among the major party candidates; or not
vote at all. In short, single-member district elections are rigged against minor parties
and serve to unfairly protect the major parties from competition. This problem would end
under proportional representation, which is designed to ensure that all political groups,
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