Democracy has been one of the leading government systems embraced by many countries. One of the definitive elements of democracy is the representation of the people through elections. Elected representatives from the legislature that is responsible for formulating laws governing the state and representing the interest of the people. There are two major electoral systems, including the district-based and proportional representation systems (Dickovick & Eastwood, 2018). The United States is one of the leading democracies in the world with a bicameral system of government whose elections are based on a single-member district electoral system. This paper argues that adopting the US proportional representation (PR) system will change its politics, including making the electoral process inclusive, increasing voters’ choices, ending gerrymandering, and empowering women. These are the key issues that define the nature of the US politics presented by the current electoral system.
Inclusivity is one of the prominent issues surrounding US politics. In the current electoral system, only the majority of the electorate is represented, while the minority groups are disregarded. Only the winning candidate gets to the legislature in the single-member district system, while those who lose the elections are not considered. It renders the votes of the many people who voted for the losing candidates futile and denies them representation (Dickovick & Eastwood, 2018). Additionally, people voting for African-American, Asian, and other minority groups’ candidates vying for elective positions in white-dominated areas are not represented when the candidates favoring the white majority win. The single-member district system does not produce results that reflect the choice of the public (Dickovick & Eastwood, 2018). For instance, when many candidates are vying for the same position, the votes may be split such that the leading candidate may win the elections with less than 50% of the votes (Dickovick & Eastwood, 2018). In this scenario, the majority of the electorate who voted against the winning candidate is not represented in the legislature.
However, adopting proportional representation is likely to change the issue of inclusivity by ensuring that all the votes cast in an election count. Through this system, the political seats are shared according to the ratio of the votes they get (Dickovick & Eastwood, 2018). In this case, even the minority parties with the lowest votes get the chance to represent their people. The proportional representation system is likely to reduce the influence of political parties in their strongholds and encourage voter turnout. For instance, there is often low voter turnout for Democrats’ followers in states controlled by the Republicans and vice vasa because the votes of the minority do not influence the results of the elections under the current US system.
Besides, the minority groups such as immigrants have often been subjected to discrimination by the voting system, where their votes do not impact the outcome of the election. These groups have struggled to elect someone who can effectively address their issues. Most of their candidates are often unpopular and overshadowed by the dominance of the major political parties. Therefore, the adoption of proportional representation is likely to change US politics by reducing the influence of the Republicans and Democrats and making the electoral process inclusive of all the parties.
Increasing Voters’ Choices
The dominance of the Democrats and the Republicans in the US electoral system has limited voters’ choices during elections. Although there are other parties, such as the Libertarian Party and the New Party, the single-member district voting system does not give them a chance to rise to prominence by being competitive in elections. Most of the formed US parties fail to survive the winner-take-all system that favors the candidates elected based on the majority of the votes. Although these parties have supporters among the electorates, the will of such supporters is not often reflected in the election results. Therefore, these voters are left with limited choices of either wasting their votes by voting for the losing candidates in their preferred parties or voting for one of the major parties that may not be representing their interests (Däubler et al., 2018). This challenge has made the single-member district system appear to be rigged by the two dominating political parties against the smaller parties in the US elections.
Adopting proportional representation in the US will create a conducive environment for the small parties to thrive by fielding candidates who can be voted for by their supporters. When the ground is leveled for all the candidates to participate in the election regardless of their party’s dominance, the voters get a wide range of choices (Däubler et al., 2018). This improves the voting process by allowing the electorate to vote for the candidates that share the voters’ interests rather than voting for a candidate because of their political parties. This system is likely to make US politics competitive and allow politicians to actively engage with the people to outdo their competitors. Additionally, by increasing the choices of candidates for the electorate, the voter turnout is likely to increase because people will have the confidence that their vote will count regardless of the party they are voting for. Many political parties are formed to address the emerging problems facing the Democrats and Republicans, making the US public more politically diversified. However, this diversity can only be reflected in the legislature if the proportional presentative system is adopted.
Gerrymandering is another element that characterizes the nature of US politics to make political parties more powerful. Gerrymandering involves manipulating the electoral congressional and district borders to develop a competitive advantage for a particular party against its opponents (Keena et al., 2019). Gerrymandering has been common in enabling politicians to dilute the influence of opposing political parties and create a friendly environment to propagate their interests with less opposition. In most cases, gerrymandering in the US occurs after ten years when the census statistics are released. The party controlling the government has the advantage of conducting gerrymandering to its favor. This practice has been widely criticized for indirectly interfering with the credibility of election results. Members of the parties negatively affected by gerrymandering are likely to be concerned because their reduced influence makes their votes less important. This strategy has been actively used by the incumbent legislatures seeking reelection (Keena et al., 2019). Gerrymandering has proved effective in eliminating competition but has tainted the principles of democracy of, fairness and integrity during elections.
Proportional representation makes district boundaries a non-essential determinant of the election results. Therefore adopting this form of system in the US will eliminate gerrymandering by reducing the dominance that parties enjoy in their strongholds and create a level ground for the thriving of other parties. All the voters will receive an equal share of the elective seats, which makes it fair to propagate the interests of each party participating in the elections. The principles of proportional representation often conform to the aims of the census process, which includes reflecting the diversity of the public. Proportional representation aims to reflect this diversity through a legitimate representation of the people in the legislature (Dickovick & Eastwood, 2018). Unlike gerrymandering, which seeks to intimidate the minority groups and promote the interest of the majority, the proportional representation system aims to promote the interest of the majority and respect the minority groups and create a conducive environment favorable for the survival of all parties.
Aside from eliminating gerrymandering, proportional representation is likely to increase the number of women in the US legislature than how the current system supports. Most women in the current system lack a neutral ground on which to grow. The shadow of the major political parties gives them little chance to show their leadership abilities. Men dominate the nature of US politics. For instance, only 13% of the legislature is women (Matthews, 2019). This number is significantly low comped to the rest of the developed world. The adoption of proportional representation in the US will eliminate sexism and gender-biased election practices and give women the opportunity to grow politically.
In conclusion, the adoption of proportional representation can greatly change the dynamics of US politics in various aspects. The dominance of the Democrats and Republicans will be greatly affected, and smaller parties will have the opportunity of thriving. The Democrats and Republicans have been controlling the US legislature for a long period despite the transformation that the US electorate has experienced. However, this transformation is not reflected in the legislature because the current single-member district electoral system favors the majority and disregards the interest of the minority groups. However, the proportional representative system aims to create a conducive ground for the thriving of all parties in the election by ensuring that each party gets its fair share of the polls.
Däubler, T., Müller, J., & Stecker, C. (2018). Assessing democratic representation in multi-level democracies. West European Politics, 41(3), 541-564.
Dickovick, J. & Eastwood, J., 2018. Comparative Politics: Integrating Theories, Methods, and Cases. 3rd ed. Chapter 9.
Keena, A., Latner, M., McGann, A. J., & Smith, C. A. (2019). Common Forms of Gerrymandering in the United States. Decyzje, (32).
Matthews, M. C. (2019). Developments in gender and US politics: A call for intersectionality. Sociology Compass, 13(7), e12716.