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Would Proportional Representation Strengthen the Republic

Uploaded by Nategrey on Nov 05, 2004

Charles Anderson

Would Proportional Representation Strengthen the Republic?

America, the world’s second oldest Republic, is one of the few democracies that still use the traditional single-winner system to determine the outcome of its elections. Most of Europe, as well as Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and Israel employ some form of fully proportional or semi-proportional representation in their voting. Proportional Representation (PR) is roughly defined as, “a group of voting systems whose major goal is to ensure that parties and political groups are allocated seats in legislative bodies in proportion to their share of the vote, [i.e.] a party receiving 30% of the national vote should receive 30% of the seats in the legislature” (PR Library, 2001). In the UK and in Canada the debate over whether or not to fully embrace PR is ongoing. Should America jump on board with this popular idea too? Is there enough proof of PR’s efficiency for us to abandon what we’ve always done? Despite cries that winner-take-all isn’t “fair” enough, the arguments for a complete withdrawal from our conventional system aren’t sound enough. For the most part, they seem to legitimize any notion, so long as no one person’s notions count more than another person’s (Graber, 1996). In 1788, James Madison spoke of the “ascendancy of passion over reason” in political decision-making, and that’s what a lot of the arguments for PR really amount to. They offer a lot of conjecture and circumstantial evidence in favor of PR, but no real concrete justification for abandoning our current system.

Under the American winner-take-all system, when the populace goes to the polls they cast one vote per-person for one candidate per-position. The candidate who acquires more votes than any other is elected, regardless of whether or not he or she wins a majority of all votes. Sometimes this

method is called “first-past-the-post” (Types of Electoral Systems, 1999). It’s simple to understand, the person who convinces the largest group of people to vote for him wins. The winner is then however, responsible for properly representing all of his constituents, not just the ones who share his views. The winner must work, theoretically at least, for the good of the whole, not just for his group. Suppose that a plurality winner enters her state legislature with 47 percent of the popular vote, having upset a...

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Uploaded by:   Nategrey

Date:   11/05/2004

Category:   Politics

Length:   12 pages (2,628 words)

Views:   1903

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