July 29, 2006
Overview. California’s representative government is plagued by an unprecedented number of noncompetitive elections. The Legislature is highly partisan because over 90 percent of legislative districts strongly favor one political party over the other. Incumbents are not accountable to voters and act without fear of losing re-election.
<p>In the past, states like Arizona, Iowa and elsewhere have attempted to increase competition with independent redistricting commissions. But in recent years these commissions have proven to be less effective, as Democratic and Republican voters have become increasingly segregated into regional partisan strongholds (known as “red and blue America”). </p> <p>Consequently, a declining number of moderate legislators have not been able to perform their historic bridge-building role to shape a bipartisan consensus around needed policies. Not surprisingly, California’s voter turnout is one of the lowest in the nation and near the lowest in the state’s history. </p> <p><strong>The Solution: Proportional Representation.</strong> A proportional representation system is designed to introduce greater competition into legislative elections, decrease regional partisan balkanization, eliminate partisan gerrymanders, increase voter participation, encourage moderate and third party candidates, and produce a legislature that better reflects the breadth of political opinion in our state. Proportional voting systems have been in use around the world and in local U.S. jurisdictions for decades. They have proven to be particularly effective at producing representative bodies from areas with broadly diverse or divided populations. Today, there is no better system to enfranchise the wide range of views that make up California. </p> <p>There are many ways to design a system using proportional voting methods. Briefly, the method would use multi-seat districts, ranked ballots and proportional tallies. For example, one model for the California Assembly might convert the state’s 80 single-member districts into 16 districts with five representatives each. Voters would rank five selections in each district and any candidate who gained about 17 percent of the vote would be elected. </p> <p class="normalweb1"><span style="font-size: 10.5pt; font-family: Arial; color: #333333">This kind of “moderate proportional representation” uses a moderately-high threshold to elect winners -- about 17 percent (five seats per district), as opposed to extremely low thresholds like 1 or 2 percent that have led to some instability in certain democracies. The benefits of moderate proportional representation include: </span></p> <ul><li>Making all parts of the state competitive for both major parties<!--[endif]--></li><li><!--[if !supportLists]--> Republican candidates could win seats in coastal areas (“blue California”), and Democrats could win in rural areas (“red California”)<!--[endif]--></li><li><!--[if !supportLists]--> Moderates, independents and third parties could be elected. <!--[endif]--></li></ul> <p> For the <a href="/downloads/Proportional%20Voting.pdf" target="_blank">complete paper</a><a href="/downloads/Proportional%20Voting.pdf" target="_blank">,</a> please see the attached PDF version below.</p>