American democracy is not working. We have a president who lost the popular vote by almost 3 million ballots, a Congress that reflects gerrymandered district lines rather than the will of the people, and a voting system that discourages rather than encourages the high turnouts that are needed to achieve a genuinely representative democracy.
The Republican Party, which has benefited from this dysfunction, is in no rush to change things, as Ari Berman explains on page 18. Indeed, the GOP has at its highest levels facilitated the voter-suppression scheming and lies of charlatans like Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach via President Trump’s Orwellian “Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity.” So it falls to progressive Democrats, independents, and third-party activists to champion democratic renewal.
For the Democrats, there are two ways to address this crisis. They can either carry on as they always have and hope that they get better at being an opposition party within a fundamentally flawed system. Or they can reject the failed status quo and propose to reform the system in ways that realize the promise of competitive elections and popular democracy.
Representative Don Beyer has chosen the latter route. In late June, the Virginia Democrat introduced the Fair Representation Act, a plan to democratize congressional elections with a bold reform that could also be used to bring real competition to state legislative contests.
Rob Richie, executive director of FairVote, which has worked with Beyer, calls the Fair Representation Act “the most comprehensive approach to improving congressional elections in American history.” As FairVote explains: “Under the Fair Representation Act, all U.S. House members will be elected by ranked-choice voting in new, larger multi-winner districts. This system would replace today’s map of safe red and blue seats that lock voters into uncompetitive districts, and elect members of Congress with little incentive to work together and solve problems….”
For Americans who are used to the traditional single-member-district approach to electing the US House and state legislatures, this may seem like a leap into the unknown. It’s not. Communities across the country elect city councils, county commissions, and school boards on an at-large basis, effectively making cities, counties, and school districts into multi-member districts.