“As the 2020 redistricting process comes to a close, it is clear that our winner-take-all system…is fundamentally broken,” the letter says. “We call on Congress to adopt inclusive, multi-member districts with competitive and responsive proportional representation.”
“Right now, we have a system where more than 90 percent of districts elect members in low-turnout primaries that reflect only the priorities of each party’s respective bases,” said Eli Zupnick, a co-founder of Fix Our House, which helped organize the letter.
WASHINGTON, DC – In case you missed it, yesterday The New York Times reported on an open letter from more than 200 leading democracy experts calling on Congress to reject its winner-take-all system of elections and adopt multi-member districts with proportional representation for the U.S. House of Representatives.
“Our arcane, single-member districting process divides, polarizes, and isolates us from each other,” the professors write. “It has produced a deeply divided political system that is incapable of responding to changing demands and emerging challenges with necessary legitimacy.”
The letter is a who’s who of political scientists, legal scholars, and historians from academic institutions across the country, including nine of the 18 living U.S.-based winners of the Johan Skytte Prize, often considered the Nobel Prize for political science. It comes in the wake of a failed redistricting process that left more than 90% of districts uncompetitive and they say demonstrates a clear need for reform.
“One factor powering the shift in favor of multimember districts,” writes Blake Hounshell in The New York Times, “is the failure of independent redistricting commissions to bring about fundamental change.”
Fix Our House Co-Founder Eli Zupnick says that ending Congress’s winner-take-all elections would create paths to power for leaders like Rep. Liz Cheney, who represent large groups of Americans who are politically homeless in the current system. The change would also “force parties to compete across the country for every voter, and each district would elect representatives that truly reflect the values and priorities of that district.”
The scholar letter represents the growing momentum for proportional representation in the U.S. While more proportional systems have had broad-based consensus support from scholars for decades, efforts to push Congress to adopt them are increasing in response to increasing concerns about the security of American democracy.
“In a sharply written open letter to Congress published on Monday and shared in advance with The New York Times, the scholars tell lawmakers, “It is clear that our winner-take-all system — where each U.S. House district is represented by a single person — is fundamentally broken.” They call on Congress to “adopt inclusive, multimember districts with competitive and responsive proportional representation. . .”
"The list of signatories includes nine of the 18 living U.S.-based winners of the Johan Skytte Prize, a prestigious Swedish award that has become a kind of unofficial Nobel for political science: Robert Axelrod, Francis Fukuyama, Peter J. Katzenstein, Robert Keohane, David D. Laitin, Margaret Levi, Arend Lijphart, Philippe C. Schmitter and Rein Taagepera. . ."
“In simple terms, what these professors are proposing is a shift from …
"Districts where voters in each of the two major parties first choose their representatives through partisan primaries, then select a single winner during the general election
"A system in which voters choose multiple members to represent the same area, with votes allocated proportionally to the population. . .”
“The letter writers argue that the change would “render gerrymandering obsolete” and “help ensure that a political party’s share of votes in an election actually determines how many seats it holds in the House. . .”
“They also say it would dilute the impact of the Supreme Court’s recent moves to weaken the Voting Rights Act because it would empower communities of color, which often find themselves on the losing end of elections unless they make up an absolute majority of a district. . .”
“One factor powering the shift in favor of multimember districts is the failure of independent redistricting commissions to bring about fundamental change. . ."
“According to the Cook Political Report, only 33 House districts are tossups, meaning that they are competitive in general elections. A further 23 districts are classified as leaning toward Democrats or Republicans, meaning that only in a wave election are they likely to change hands. . ."
“Eli Zupnick, a co-founder of Fix Our House, an advocacy project that favors proportional representation, said that moving away from a winner-take-all system would help politically homeless politicians like Representative Liz Cheney of Wyoming, who lost a Republican primary this summer, to compete and win across the country. . .
“Right now, we have a system where more than 90 percent of districts elect members in low-turnout primaries that reflect only the priorities of each party’s respective bases,” Zupnick said. . .
"But the proposed changes, he said, “would force parties to compete across the country for every voter, and each district would elect representatives that truly reflect the values and priorities of that district.”