Early last month, I suggested that Democrats use their trifecta to pass open-list proportional representation (OLPR). The argument for OLPR was that it would be incredibly easy to implement, i.e., it can be done in a emergency-motivated hurry. The argument for PR of any type is now familiar: partisan geography. Related to this is the need to stop/slow down realignment by retaining House control in 2022. Republican congressional obstruction will allow Republicans to claim that Democrats get nothing done, then keep chipping away at the party’s working-class base. Meanwhile, on a parallel track, continued threats to voting access make doing something even more urgent.
In short, Democrats are subject to coalition-raiding, and the overall right to vote is in danger (and has been for seven years).
A natural question to ask is: can the bleeding be stopped by retaining single-seat districts (SSD)? This is an open question. It does seem like any federal-level redistricting legislation will include “partisan fairness criteria,” i.e., provision that new maps not systematically advantage one or the other party. Here are two more relevant considerations:
1) How easy is it to draw fair SSD maps, both as a function of partisan geography, and given operational realities of redistricting within states?
2) Assuming it is doable, does this assessment account for changing district partisanship? In short, are we so far down the realignment road that “fair” districts, drawn using retrospective data, will miss the mark anyway?
As far as I know, the answer to (1) is “well, it seems doable.” With respect to (2), I have not heard anything.
Michael Feinstein, a former Santa Monica mayor, has an excellent piece on Alaska’s new brand of ranked ballot. Here is my favorite selection:
It’s very dangerous for our democracy to misread (or misrepresent) the frustration that comes from voters’ lack of choice under our current system — that comes from having only two competitive major parties that are not fully representative of the range of viewpoints in the electorate — and conclude that voters reject the idea of political parties per se.
This same anti-party mentality assumes the growing number of non-affiliated voters (who chose not to register as a party member in voter-registration-by-party-states) means these voters reject political parties per se, when the reality is that the electoral system does not render electorally viable parties that represent them.
There is a longer discussion on Matthew Shugart’s blog.
This is the best thing I’ve read from IVN in a long time. Normally, IVN tends to pour gas on the same anti-party fire that Feinstein notes in his piece. Not all reforms are created alike, and, as Feinstein notes, we are at a critical point of decision. Choices made now could set direction for years.
Here is what part of the US House would have looked like, 2019-20, if seats had been allocated under open-list PR based on votes in primaries. The results assume statewide allocation. I used a Hare quota and largest-remainder rule. I also removed runoffs from the data.
What is open-list PR? In this case, you vote for one candidate. This vote counts both for a person and a party.
This is not really the right way to do this. I used primary votes as a way to see how intra-party factionalism might find expression… and as a way to see what might happen if parties just ‘got rid of primaries,’ instead letting anyone who wants join the list (subject to whatever ballot access rules exist for primaries). Problems with my math are: (a) fewer people vote in primaries than generals; (b) not all districts saw primaries.
Anyway, maybe someone will find something interesting in the results. Let me know if you do!
Thanks to this crew for making the primary data available: