Now there have been a few different versions of this system. I am writing my version of the system here. It is similar to the Party list system and is meant to be applied to governing bodies that contain multiple officials representing geographical areas. So this works for state legislatures, congress, senate and city councils. Similar systems are gaining popularity in the EU.
How is proportional representation different?
Sure thing. Let’s take a look at this from a smaller level so it makes more sense. Californians have the responsibility of electing 53 congressmen to cover the congressional districts of California. We’ll use 50 for it’s nice round number crunching support, so 50 representatives in California.
Back to the system: PRS still involves parties (hold opinions till I’m finished). Each party makes a list of its top representatives it wants to get elected. This list is determined by rules the party sets, but each person on the list has to be ranked against the rest. So if the list has ten people on it there’s 1 to 10. 1 being the top guy.
When an election runs voters vote for the party they want. So let’s say the Purple party gets 10% of the votes. That means they provide 10% of the representatives which would be 5 for our California example above. If the Stupid party gets 50% of the votes they get 25 representatives. And if the Tiny party only gets 2% of the votes they will still get 1 representative.
Are representatives assigned…proportionally?
No, congressional districts will still exist so they each will be assigned a representative. And probably without gerrymandering because it doesn’t matter what the makeup of the district is since all representatives would be elected at a higher level (ie. State level for our example).
How are representatives assigned?
If, after the election, a representative is still in office, they keep the district they are in. If a representative is not reelected, their district is vacant and one of the newcomers will take their place. This does mean that districts will have representatives that do not match the political makeup of the district. On a local level they will still need to represent the interests of their district when dealing with local issues. It’s kind of like a real job that way.
What about proportional representation at the national level?
Congress goes to Washington to make decisions on Federal issues. In these cases the representatives return to their party lines and vote accordingly. Let me restate that: On issues directly affecting their district they take their people into account, on issues on a federal level they fight for their party.
If my example was for a state legislature, they would represent their district on issues directly related to their district. Also when the issues are on a state level, they would revert back to their party views. Further: City councilmen represent their wards, but on citywide policies they would revert to party interests. It is scalable.
What about the drama?
There’s always drama. However, since candidates don’t run individually slander doesn’t really enter the picture. If they do a bad job the party will drop them from the list. If people don’t like the party, they won’t vote for them.
If a trend comes up (environmentalism comes to mind) then new parties come up. Once the problems the party was meant to solve are solved they will probably lose popularity. It’s somewhat self correcting.
What are the benefits of proportional representation?
Glad you asked:
- Small groups get a voice, even if it is a small voice.
- This could mean an end to lobbyists. Why lobby when you can spend money on your party? The party becomes the lobbyist.
- Party loyalty will no longer be etched in stone. It’s ok to vote for the Spaghetti party, it will ensure easier access Italian food.
- No party loyalty for politicians too. Al Gore could have left the Sex in the Whitehouse party and gone to the Environmental party with no ill effects. Heck he could have invented the pants party.
- Real bandwagons. Instead of politicians having to change their stances every few years they can stick with their ideals. Let another party jump on a new idea, create a bandwagon and let it peter out on its own.
- No professional politicians, only professional public servants. They apply for the job at the party. If they do well they stay on the list. If they do poorly they’re out.
- Public interests might actually be fulfilled.
I see a kink in your argument.
Of course you do. Who said this was perfect? I’ve thought of a few myself.
- Initial implementation would still see a huge support for the two major parties. It will take a while for the idea to catch on. Plus those two parties would spread fear of change. Luckily there are already a few small parties that have some supporters. They would finally get to show their stuff.
- It would have to be tested in a few states first. Yup, it would have to start somewhere. This would never get implemented at a federal level unless it worked well in 10 to 15 states.
- What if a bad party gets all the money and lies to the public? If they do a bad job it will be self evident. People will start voting for other parties. All the money in the world would not make us vote for the Nazi party, twice.
- Won’t politicians still continue to be clickish? Probably. If it leads to a poorly producing party people would stop voting for them.
- Won’t you always have the same politicians at the top? Yes, especially those who found or fund the party. This goes back to the “if they don’t produce, people stop voting for them” argument. Parties will quickly get over their loyalty issues if it means losing votes. The question they will ask is “Will we lose votes if this guy is on our list?” If the answer is yes, out he goes.
- What about extreme parties? Yeah, they’ll get a voice too and they probably have a following to ensure they get in at least once. The reason these groups are successful now is that they can attach themselves to some reputable organization like the Republican or Democratic party. If all they have is themselves to rely on the road won’t be so easy.
I’ve got more.
I’m sure you do. Remember, when you complain about something make sure you have a solution. Here is mine. Now I’m off to complain about politics. Up, up and awaaaaaay!