ISSUES - Proportional Representation

Proportional Representation for the Minnesota State House of Representatives
ensures fair and equitable representation of the electorate.

 


Moving from “Winner-Take- All” to Proportional Representation (PR)

The Ecology Democracy Network mandates Proportional Representation for the Minnesota State House of Representatives to ensure fair and equitable representation of the electorate.

What is a Proportional Representation voting system?

Proportional representation (PR) is a democracy based voting system that ensures the right of fair and equitable representation of voters in proportion to the percentage of votes received. So, if the 134 member Minnesota House of Representatives were to become a 200 member body with 10 seats assigned to each of 20 voting regions, and your political party received 10% of the vote in your voting region, your party would win one seat in the House. In essence, PR assures that political parties or candidates will have the percent of legislative seats that reflects their public support through the fair and equitable vote of the electorate. A party or candidate need not come in first to win seats as in a “Winner-Take-All” voting system, which only allows for one seat per district.

In a Proportional Representation voting system, voters select a candidate to represent them without fear of “wasting” a vote, as their vote counts regardless of whether or not their candidate comes in first; their electoral voice is fairly and equitably represented in the legislature by a representative number of seats in proportion to the votes received. (PR Voting systems are discussed in more detail found below) This democracy based electoral system is successfully implemented by a majority of the world’s successful democracies (i.e. Denmark, Holland, Switzerland, Australia, Germany, Sweden, Spain, and Austria.). And, in proportional representation systems there is generally a 75-95% voter turn-out. While in the US system, since 1960 voter turnout runs 37-63%. Source: http://elections.gmu.edu/Turnout_2008G.html

What is a “Winner-Take- All” voting system?

We currently vote in a “winner-take-all” voting system where the candidate who receives a majority of the vote “wins” and those in the minority lose. For example, if the electorate votes 49.999% for candidate A and 50.001% for candidate B in a given district, candidate B wins. In other words, the voters representing 49.999% of the electorate receive no representation in the legislature as the representative acquiring 50.001% becomes your elected “voice” of majority. Because of this voting system phenomenon, we are often forced to vote for the “best of the worse” (i.e., we vote for a candidate that we do not fully support) in fear that our vote may be “wasted”. Worse yet, we refuse to vote, as we do not feel represented by the candidates. As a result, of all the world's democracies, the United States has one of the lowest percentages of voters participating in elections, and we do not have fair and equitable representation of the people in our legislature. The existing system of “winner-take-all” is obsolete. Proportional Representation resolves this by ensuring fair and equitable representation of the electorate.

I know Proportional Representation ensures fair and equitable representation of the electorate, but how does it work?

Of the many PR voting systems, the following briefly discusses the most common and how they work:

List System – In the most widely used form of PR, voters’ selects one party and its slate of candidates to represent them. Party slates can be either “closed” or “open” (allowing voters to indicate a preference for individual candidates). If a party receives 25% of the vote, they receive 25% of the seats in the legislature, 9% of the vote receives 9% of the seats, and so on. A minimum share of the votes may be required to earn representation; typically a 5% threshold is used. This type of PR is ideal for large legislatures on state and national levels.

Mixed Member System (MM) - This PR hybrid elects half the legislature from single-seat, “winner-take-all” districts and the other half by the List System.

Preference Voting (PV) or, Ranked Choice Voting (RCV) - A voter simply rank candidates in an order of preference (1,2,3,4, etc…). If a voter’s first choice is eliminated, excess votes are “transferred” to subsequent preferences until all positions are filled. Voters can vote for their favorite candidate(s), knowing that if that candidate doesn’t receive enough votes their vote will “transfer” to their next preference. Preference voting is ideal for non-partisan elections (i.e. school boards).

How might PR be of use to us?

PR is proven to assist in the breaking of political impasse on important yet difficult issues (i.e., environmental health, health care, and social security) through the inclusion of full electorate representation (small party representation) which allows new ideas and views to be heard. In essence, PR does not allow for ideological bias, as small parties are allowed to be represented and, as a result, are capable of facilitating a greater and more informed discussion on policy issues and options, thereby enhancing the ability to reach sound, equitable consensus. Your electoral voice is heard and decisions are made, “all for one and one for all”. For example, Germany’s PR voting system resulted in representation from the “German Greens”; The German Greens, without winning a single district election, and having received less than 10% of the electoral vote, raised numerous perspectives and positions that, initially in the minority, achieved national consensus.

So how do we change from “Winner-Take-All” to PR, fulfilling a democratic promise of “one person, one vote”?

PR for the Minnesota State House of Representatives could be implemented through a simple vote of the legislature. For municipalities it can be passed through voter initiative in Charter or Home Rule Cities. For example, Minneapolis now elects local officials using Ranked Choice Voting and St. Paul voters have approved the use of Ranked Choice Voting for future municipal elections. By building, supporting, and electing candidates who agree with the mandates of the Ecology Democracy Network, political will is immediately mobilized to elect the Minnesota House of Representatives through a voting system of proportional representation, improving our democracy through fair and equitable representation.

There are many versions of proportional representation in the world. To learn more follow this link : http://www.mtholyoke.edu/acad/polit/damy/prlib.htm