These are introductory resources for understanding why winner-take-all elections are detrimental to representation in America, how proportional representation can fix that problem, the historical evidence for proportional representation success in the United States, and the mechanisms for how proportional representation and single-transferrable vote (STV) works.
Framing the Problem: Winner-Take-All Elections
These resources explain why winner-take-all elections leave so many people without representation and why, despite all the success we’ve had with getting the right to vote, America still seems broken.
How to break the two-party hold on American politics (source: Vox)
Vox describes why winner-take-all elections leave a large number of Americans without representation in the United States and suggests how proportional representation could solve this issue.
One Way to dismantle structural racism in America: Disband the two-party system
George Cheung argues that America’s two-party system prevents communities of color from addressing structural racism. George and Matthew discuss race, power and electoral reform on NBC’s Think: Opinion, Analysis and Essays.
Framing the Solution: Proportional Representation
These resources help explain why, how and where communities have enacted and benefitted from electoral reforms such as proportional representation.
Historical and Contemporary Examples
There are many historical examples of proportional representation in the United States. This list will expand as we continue to gather resources and create content that explores PR’s historical, and contemporary, uses.
From Ashtabula to Cincinnati to Cleveland, America’s heartland has adopted proportional representation, repealed it and are now trying to bring it back. Here are a few resources about PR’s history in the Heart of It All.
Cincinnati’s 1988 Proportional representation Initiative by Richard Engstrom, University of New Orleans, Lakefront, New Orleans, Louisiana 70148 (1990)
This is an academic report on Cincinnati’s PR experience. The author claims that the sponsors of the initiative believed the proportional representation system would have increased representation for the Black community and women in Cincinnati. The initiative was placed on the ballot and received support from 45.4% of people who voted on the issue.
Cincinnati previously had used PR from 1925-1955. It was replaced with a simple plurality at-large system, which resulted in a lack of representation for many demographics in the city.
New York City
Back to the future: What New York’s democracy experiment of the 1930s says about today
Article looks at the history of proportional representation in New York city and compares the 1930’s use of proportional representation to the recent ranked choice voting reform in 2019.
This article examines one of the first African-American members of the New York City council in the 1930’s. Ben Davis was also a member of the communist party.
These 32 school boards were created in 1970 and were in existence for nearly 30 years. They were created at the tail end of demonstrations and protests over public education’s inadequate and crumbling infrastructure. They adopted proportional representation as their electoral system as a way to fairly and equitably elect 9 members for each school board.
A Historical Summary of the Single-Transferrable Vote in the US
Fairshare and the Electoral Reform Society reprinted professor Douglas Amy’s article on the forgotten history of STV in the US. Professor Amy summarizes the impacts of STV for political and racial minorities, its use in the US and its repeal. This is a PDF document.