The report details and advances a roadmap for adopting proportional representation to shore up the foundations of our democracy.
“Each American lives in a congressional district in which every two years they may vote for a single official to alone represent their district in the U.S. House of Representatives,” the report states. “This reality is so familiar to most that it perhaps appears self-evident: how else would elections work? Globally, though, this is unusual among democracies; and it has not been the norm for much of American history.”
Drawing on decades of scholarly work, the report finds that replacing current winner-take-all elections with a proportional system of representation could curb gerrymandering; increase the share of competitive congressional seats; expand the ability of racial minorities to elect candidates of their choice; allow conservatives and liberals to gain representation in proportion to their actual support within a state; decrease dangerous levels of polarization; and lessen political extremism and the risk of political violence, among other effects.
“Too many American elections are decided in low-turnout partisan primaries with polarizing candidates and unrepresentative electorates; this report provides a new framework for how states could experiment with proportional solutions that address a root cause problem: winner-take all elections,” says Beth Hladick, research director at Unite America, a co-publisher of the report.
The report examines the chief statutory barrier to reform—the Uniform Congressional District Act (UCDA), a 1967 federal law mandating the use of single-member districts for House elections—and options for amending it. “Unlike many other big, structural reforms that require constitutional amendment, the House could adopt a more proportional system for its elections through regular lawmaking,” says Beau Tremitiere, a co-author and counsel at Protect Democracy. “This report intends to be a guide for understanding the current statute’s history and the critical considerations Congress should grapple with in amending it.”
As the report observes: “Amending the UCDA offers policymakers a path to meaningful structural change with tools at their ready disposal.”
“The House’s electoral system began evolving immediately after the Founding—just as the Framers intended,” says Grant Tudor, a co-author and policy advocate at Protect Democracy. “In that tradition, this is about imagining what the next iteration of a more representative House might be.”
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