You may also be interested to learn more about the problems with single-seat elections and their solution with Instant Runoff Voting.
The Problems with Multi-Seat Elections in the United States
However, it should never be the case that 49% of the people are completely unrepresented. This is why we have other governmental bodies with multiple seats, such as City Councils and Congress, to represent us. Yet, even in these bodies it is possible for a huge percentage of the population to go unrepresented.
Imagine a hypothetical state that has 5 districts. Imagine that in each district, 60% of the voters are liberal and 40% conservative. If each district votes for one Representative (a single-member district system) according to these demographics, and the person who gets the most votes wins the seat for that district (a winner-take-all system), the state would end up with 5 liberal Representatives and zero conservative ones. On the surface, this may sound fair. In each district the person who was supported by the majority won. And yet the end result is that 40% of the population has no representation.
This is a common outcome when we use a system based on "single-member districts" and a "winner-take-all" voting method. Yet this is exactly the method used throughout the United States. There is a better way: Proportional Representation.
Proportional Representation: Solving The Problems with Multi-Seat Elections in the United States
In a winner-take-all system the 60% vote for liberal candidates would lead to all of the Representatives being liberal. But in a Proportional Representation system, we would end up with 3 liberal Representatives (60%) and 2 conservative Representatives (40%). In other words, the state would end up represented by a group that proportionally mirrors the demographics of the voters. Now everyone, including minority groups, has representation, while still ensuring that the majority has more representation as it should.
Obviously the system works in the same way in areas where the minority group is the more liberal group. Regardless of the demographics, Proportional Representation makes sure that each group has a level of representation that relatively matches its prevalence in the population. And of course the system works in similar fashion for other multi-seat bodies, such as City Councils, at all levels of government.
In reality, there are a number of different forms of Proportional Representation voting systems. Each has its quirks, but all are grounded in the basic principle that the people should be represented in proportion to their views in the population. Visit the Center for Voting and Democracy to learn more.
More Resources Regarding Instant Runoff Voting
Learn More about Proportional Representation
- How Proportional Representation Elections Work by Professor Douglas J. Amy
Organizations that Promote Proportional Representation
- Visit FairVote's Proportional Voting Solution page.