Bills in Congress right now would produce better elections in the United States.
By Lily Hart
Undemocratic Elections and Partisan Gerrymandering
Throughout the country, voters face various forms of unfairness and lack of representation in elections. Our current winner-take-all electoral system does not allow voters to always vote for their preferred candidate. Sometimes, individuals are interested in more than one candidate, and want to express their support for them, but can’t. Partisan gerrymandering has also become an increasingly worrisome practice in states throughout the country. Districts are being drawn to favor a certain party, and not constituents.
So… How Do We Fix This?
Congress has recognized these flaws within our electoral process, and is looking to ranked choice voting (RCV) as a solution. With RCV, voters can vote for multiple candidates, elections tend to be friendlier between candidates, and more women, Black, Indigenous, Latino/a, and Asian American candidates have been elected.
The Fair Representation Act (H.R. 3863) fights against partisan gerrymandering and would allow for more competitive elections. Single-winner districts are too partisan and do not allow voters of the minority party in a district to have a true voice in elections and legislation. H.R. 3863 combines proportional ranked choice voting with larger multi-winner districts to create a more equitable voting system. The Fair Representation Act would introduce real competition within districts — no longer resting on ultra-partisan lines and instead rewarding good governance. This legislation would also lead to the election of candidates from marginalized communities. Supporters of the Fair Representation Act include Representative Don Beyer, Representative Jamie Raskin, Representative Ro Khanna, Representative Joe Neguse, Representative Earl Blumenauer, Representative Jim McGovern, Representative Jim Cooper, and Representative Scott Peters. FairVote Action supports this bill because multi-winner districts better represent voters across the country.
Another bill, the Voter Choice Act (H.R. 5500/ S.2939), is sponsored by Representative Dean Phillips and Senator Michael Bennet, and co-sponsored by Senator Angus King. It strives to revise the Help America Vote Act (2002) in order to aid state and local governments transitioning to RCV. Not only would the bill allow Congress to award grants for tabulation software, and efforts to educate the public on RCV, it would help with the technical aspects of switching over or keeping an RCV system. State and local governments receiving these benefits would have the opportunity to create more democratic elections. The government’s efforts to promote RCV shows Congresspeople recognize the current voting system in America is not working in voters’ favor, and that it needs to be reformed.
Other Noteworthy Bills
There are a few other notable federal bills that support RCV. The For the People Act (H.R. 1/ S.1), sponsored by Senator Jeff Merkley and Representative John P. Sarbanes, would subsidize voting systems that have the ability to count ranked choice ballots. It would also allow the Government Accountability Office to study RCV. The Freedom to Vote Act (S.2747), sponsored by Senator Amy Klobuchar, would fund RCV elections as a part of the State Democracy Promotion Program included in the act. While these last two acts aren’t explicitly designed to promote RCV, they do have helpful elements in them that incentivize the use of RCV elections.
Ranked choice voting has become increasingly popular as it is recognized for its usefulness in creating a truer democracy in America. Those that vote in RCV elections experience more freedom to choose candidates they truly support. Larger multi-winner districts would also create the opportunity for more voters to be properly represented in Congress.
While our elections system is flawed, there are viable solutions to choose from. FairVote Action is thrilled to see RCV become the fastest-growing election reform in the country as it has been utilized in state and municipal elections across the nation. As our national leaders continue to grapple with solutions to heal our democracy and set us towards a path of real representation, election reforms like RCV and the Fair Representation Act can ensure our elections truly represent everyone.