The Atlantic: “A growing number of political-reform advocates. . . blame the current winner-take-all system for driving U.S. politics toward dangerous levels of polarization.”
“Without radical change, they say, the damage could be irreversible.”
“[Proportional representation] would foster coalitional, cross-partisan governance, while larger, multimember districts would all but eliminate partisan gerrymandering.”
WASHINGTON, DC – Yesterday The Atlantic reported on Fix Our House and the rapidly growing support for proportional representation in the U.S.
Proportional representation is a system where a political party’s share of seats in Congress is determined by its share of support from voters. Electing the U.S. House using multi-member districts with proportional voting rules would allow underrepresented conservatives in Democratic areas and liberals in Republican areas to have representation in Washington.
“Supporters of proportional representation,” Russell Berman wrote for The Atlantic, “view the system as a prerequisite for breaking the two parties’ stranglehold on American politics. It would foster coalitional, cross-partisan governance, while larger, multimember districts would all but eliminate partisan gerrymandering.”
The Atlantic story quotes two of Fix Our House’s co-founders, Lee Drutman and Eli Zupnick, who lay out the group’s strategy for building support for this electoral reform in Washington, D.C. “It’s clear that there’s no path to major structural reform in Congress right now,” Zupnick said. Fix Our House is aiming to “lay the groundwork for this policy to move when the moment is right.”
Other policy advocates like Protect Democracy’s Grant Tudor were quoted in support of the effect that the reform would have on America’s extreme polarization: “[T]here’s something structural about a multiparty [system] that depresses polarization, depresses the risk of political violence—that depresses extremism.”
The full article is available at The Atlantic here, and excerpts are included below.
“Fix Our House. . . envisions a new configuration for the lower chamber of Congress in which districts would elect several representatives, not just one. Most states would have fewer but larger districts, and unlike America’s current system, a district wouldn’t simply be won by the party with the most votes; instead, its multiple seats would be parceled out according to the percentage of the vote that each party gets. . .
“The system is known as proportional representation. If implemented, its backers believe it could help transform America into a multiparty democracy. . .
“That such an idea has gained a following is a reflection of just how frustrated election experts have grown with the fractured state of American politics, and how worried some of them are for the future. They believe—or at least hope—that a new season of reform in the U.S. will make possible proposals that were once deemed unachievable. . .
“Supporters of proportional representation—which is used in advanced democracies such as Australia, Israel, and countries throughout Europe—view the system as a prerequisite for breaking the two parties’ stranglehold on American politics. It would foster coalitional, cross-partisan governance, while larger, multimember districts would all but eliminate partisan gerrymandering. . .
“‘Your enemies are never permanent. And your friends today might be your opponents tomorrow, and maybe your friends the day after,’ Grant Tudor, a policy advocate at the nonpartisan group Protect Democracy, explained to me. ‘So there’s something structural about a multiparty [system] that depresses polarization, depresses the risk of political violence—that depresses extremism.’”
“States have been required to elect only one representative per district since 1967, when Congress banned multimember districts to stop southern states from using a version of the system to ensure that white candidates won House seats. Fix Our House wants Congress to amend the law in a way that allows states to adopt multimember districts without returning to the racist practices of the Jim Crow era. The organization’s allies in the civil-rights community argue that if properly designed, multimember districts would increase representation for communities of color, including in places where they have struggled to win elections because they are dispersed throughout the population rather than concentrated in neighboring areas. . .
“The groups Protect Democracy and Unite America recently published a report examining the idea, and another advocacy group, FairVote, has begun to reemphasize proportional representation after years of focusing mostly on ranked-choice voting. Last year, voters in Portland, Oregon, approved the use of multimember districts (and ranked-choice voting) for the city council. Multimember districts have also generated discussion among Republican state legislators in Wyoming, one of the nation’s most conservative states, although the idea has yet to move forward there. . .
“Reformers tend to downplay the long odds of their campaigns, but the leaders of Fix Our House are surprisingly candid about their near-term chances of success, or lack thereof. “It’s clear that there’s no path to major structural reform in Congress right now,” a co-founder of the group, Eli Zupnick, told me. He said that Fix Our House wants to “lay the groundwork for this policy to move when the moment is right.” That means promoting the idea to other advocates, lawmakers, and opinion makers so that if there’s, say, a presidential or congressional commission to study different ideas, proportional representation makes it into the conversation.”