“Swing voters have gained a reputation for being the one remaining moderating force in our politics. But more often they are a mercurial mix of unorthodoxy and political uninterest — and they hold disproportionate power to decide the fate of the country.”
“In a better system, all votes would matter equally everywhere, instead of just those of swing voters in swing districts.”
WASHINGTON, DC – Yesterday, The New York Times published a story by Fix Our House Co-Founders Lee Drutman and Charlotte Hill about how disengaged swing voters with little knowledge of politics hold a disproportionate amount of power to determine control of Congress, thanks to America’s current system of winner-take-all congressional districts.
"Our way of doing elections doesn’t work for anybody,” they write. “Both frustrated partisans and disgruntled swing voters would be better off if they could vote for and in a different political system — one that increases competition while also engaging more Americans in elections.”
With proportional representation and multi-member congressional districts, all votes would matter equally and all districts would be competitive, unlike the current system where only a tiny sliver of House seats are up for grabs and where swing voters in those districts have an outsized ability to determine the balance of power.
If you would like to reach Lee Drutman or Charlotte Hill for a story, please email email@example.com.
The full article in The New York Times is available here, and excerpts are included below. Read more about Fix Our House and proportional representation here.
“[S]wing voters have gained a reputation for being the one remaining moderating force in our politics. But more often they are a mercurial mix of unorthodoxy and political uninterest — and they hold disproportionate power to decide the fate of the country, based on the price of gasoline or a reflexive turn against the party in the White House. . .
“What we’re left with in our polarized system is that the only real swing voters are those who either don’t really follow politics (most swing voters) or whose deeply considered political values leave them ambivalent about the two major parties (a few highly educated voters with an outsize media presence). . .
“As Democrats and Republicans continue to diverge, especially over fundamental questions like “Was the 2020 election legitimate?” and “Is America a democracy?” the stakes of winning over these mostly disengaged voters are higher than ever. . .
“Why do those who pay very little attention to our politics, whose vote choices are largely inscrutable and who are the most likely to default to voting against the party of the current president, hold the most decisive power? The answer is as simple as it is unsatisfying: Because that’s how our voting system is set up. . .
“Swing voters hold an idiosyncratic mix of priorities and values that scramble the common liberal-conservative divide. Some are economically liberal and socially conservative, while others, albeit relatively few, are the reverse. . .
“But this is not to say that swing voters are moderates. Undecideds are just as likely as partisans to hold a mix of extreme and mainstream positions. The only difference is that these positions do not neatly align with those of one party. . .
“Many swing voters feel they have good reason to hold both parties in contempt. Election season in contested races is dominated by attack ads from the right and the left. A logical takeaway would be that both parties are terrible — in which case, maybe the best outcome really would be a divided government. Hence the logic of voting against the White House in congressional elections. . .
“Nobody is happy. The partisans blame the swing voters for not knowing enough to see the world as clearly as they do. The swing voters feel they have no good options and blame the partisans. Our way of doing elections doesn’t work for anybody. . .
“There is a long-term alternative to this way of conducting politics. The problem we’ve described is a direct consequence of our single-winner congressional districts. If we adopted proportional, multimember districts, all votes would matter equally across the country, and even more important, because more parties would be viable under such a system, voters disengaged by our two-party system would be far more likely to find a party that represents them and have a reason to be informed. . .
“Both frustrated partisans and disgruntled swing voters would be better off if they could vote for and in a different political system — one that increases competition while also engaging more Americans in elections. But that is not yet on the ballot.”