For a few years now, I’ve thought that the US needs to move to proportional representation (PR) for our electoral system. Now that we’re done with the conventions for both major parties here, it is more apparent than ever that we need to move to it.
What is Proportional Representation?
Basically, PR is an electoral system in which parties on a ballot are given the same percentage (or as close to it as possible) of seats in the legislature as they received in the election. Usually, parties have to receive a certain percentage of votes (a threshold) in order to receive seats. For example, if your party of choice received 25% of the votes in the election, it would have 25% of the seats in the legislature. It should be noted, however, that PR is used in parliamentary systems, which means the US would have to move to one as well.
Why Is Now a Good Time for the US to Adopt a PR System?
PR is much more democratic than our current First Past the Post system. As it stands, all a candidate needs to receive to win is a majority of the vote. So, if they receive 51%, they win and go on into office. That also means that 49% of the population now feel they are not being represented.
A PR system would also make voting more pleasant in situations like we now find ourselves. We’ve got two candidates for president that are quite disliked. Take a look at this article, for example, over at fivethrityeight, “Americans’ Distaste for both Trump and Clinton is Record-Breaking.” In it, Harry Enten, points out that “Clinton and Trump are both more strongly disliked than any nominee at this point in the past 10 presidential cycles.”
In addition to the unpopularity of the candidates, the two major parties are split over their nominees. As we saw at the recent Democratic convention, Bernie Sanders’ supporters are unhappy with the process and the results. On the Republican side, Ted Cruz spoke at the convention about voting one’s conscience (i.e. don’t vote for Trump if you don’t like him).
So, if you don’t like either candidate, for whom do you vote? Progressives are being told to suck it up and vote for Clinton because if they don’t, Trump will win, and that could lead to a dictatorship. Conservatives are being told to suck it up and vote for Trump because if they don’t, Clinton will win, and that will mean at least four more years of Obama-esque policies. They’re also being told a vote for the Greens and Jill Stein, or the Libertarians and Gary Johnson, is just a wasted vote and could lead to Clinton/Trump winning. What do you do then if you truly believe in the platforms of Stein or Johnson?
What Might a PR System Look Like in the US?
Based on the current situation, I think we would have at least six big parties. These are just generic names, so you can name them whatever you please- Greens, Social Democrats (Bernie Sanders’ supporters), Moderate Democrats (Hillary Clinton supporters), Moderate Republicans (non-Trump supporters), Nationalists (Trump supporters), and Libertarians.
This system would truly allow people to vote their conscience and feel represented in government. It might also help avoid the gridlock and government shutdowns we currently experience.
For more information on the PR system I recommend the two following websites: FairVote and the Electoral Reform Society.
What do you think- is it time for the US to change our electoral system?
Thanks for reading.