Legal Resources

A Resolution of the Board of Directors of
The Center for Voting and Democracy
Calling on President Bill Clinton to Establish A National Commission on Voting System Reform

Whereas public opinion polls indicate widespread and growing public dissatisfaction with the performance of our governmental, political and representative institutions at all levels;

Whereas the recent Supreme Court decision Shaw v. Reno casts considerable doubt on relying on race conscious districting as the means to enforce provisions of the Voting Rights Act to increase elected representation of legally protected racial and ethnic minorities;

Whereas the United States Declaration of Independence states that governments derive "their just powers from the consent of the governed;"

Whereas nothing is more important in determining the "consent of the governed" than a citizen's right to help elect a representative of his or her choice and thus to have his or her viewpoints directly represented in the halls of government;

Whereas the plurality voting system used in nearly all U.S. elections results in many voters casting "wasted votes" for candidates who fail to come in first in district or state elections despite earning substantial voter support;

Whereas the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States guarantees all citizens "equal protection of the laws;"

Whereas existing plurality, "first-place-takes-all" voting systems base representation on the election districts in which voters live, not what these voters think and believe;

Whereas our system of exclusive reliance on single-member districts for legislative elections is unavoidably subject to gerrymandering designed to favor the election of a particular candidate or member of a particular political party;

Whereas under "one-winner" elections, those in the minority -- whether racial, ethnic or political -- in particular areas frequently fail to help elect their fair share of representation, thus being denied "equal protection of the laws;"

Whereas any democracy worthy of the name should encourage high voter turnout and ensure representational fairness for women and racial, ethnic and political minorities who have substantial public support;

Whereas voter turnout in democracies using democratic alternatives to our voting system averages 80% to 90% compared with voter turnout of 55% or lower for the United States;

Whereas only 10% of the United States Congress is comprised of women while the national legislatures of other democracies that use democratic alternatives to our voting system frequently contain between 20% and 40% female membership;


Whereas the vast majority of established democracies and virtually all new democracies successfully use proven and effective voting systems which allocate representation in proportion to votes received by political parties or independent candidates;

Whereas proportional and semi-proportional voting systems have been used with demonstrable success at the municipal and state level in the United States;

Whereas the Democratic Party currently uses a form of proportional representation to elect delegates to its presidential and vice-presidential nominating conventions;

Whereas President Bill Clinton, although nominated under the Democratic Party's proportional representation rules, recently stated erroneously that proportional representation was "anti-democratic;"

Whereas the United States inherited our plurality voting system from our former British colonial rulers without the opportunity for an informed national debate at a time when our voting population was characterized by much less geographic mobility and much less cultural, racial, ethnic and political diversity;

Whereas our local, state and national legislative assemblies should reflect the full diversity of voter opinion within their respective jurisdictions if their decisions are to represent legitimately the wishes and preferences of all voters, yet plurality voting systems do not provide such representation;

Whereas our sole reliance on a plurality, single member district system to elect representatives produces legislators who have every incentive to put the interests of their geographic constituency, which by definition comprises a small fraction of the population, before the broader interests of the community, state or nation as a whole;

Whereas a truly representative democracy should guarantee that the majority has the right to decide and that minorities of substantial numbers have the right to representation, yet plurality voting systems provide neither of these guarantees;

Whereas the United States Constitution does not prevent local, state and federal governments from adopting democratic alternatives to our "first-place-takes-all" voting system;

Whereas in 1985 a Royal Commission in New Zealand, appointed to investigate that country's 140-year-old plurality voting system, strongly recommended adoption of proportional representation, a recommendation subsequently supported by over 85% of voters in a 1992 national referendum;

Now, therefore, be it resolved by the Board of Directors of The Center for Voting and Democracy, a non-partisan, education organization, that the President of the United States should immediately form a broadly representative National Commission on Voting System Reform to examine democratic alternatives to our current voting system, to compare the democratic performance of our voting system with that of other countries, to educate the public about the range of voting systems, and to make recommendations on ways to achieve fairer systems for voting and representation at all levels of government in the United States.