In July 1995, The Center for Voting and Democracy asked its members to write letters thanking Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney for her bold proposal to amend the 1967 law requiring single-member districts in order to allow states to use PR in multi-member districts for U.S. House elections.
Members were encouraged to explain briefly why they like PR. Following is a representative collection of the many excellent letters we received.
Gwendolyn Patton: "It continues the legacy of our voting rights struggle which was never for blacks only in our democratic goal to establish a government of, by and for all of the people."
Ed Still: "It allows the people to choose their own representatives -- rather than the representatives choosing who gets to vote for them."
Carolyn Campbell: "I like PR because: 1.) I am a fan of true democracy. 2.) Smaller parties / minority voices need to be heard, and larger parties need to re-examine their philosophy and take stands."
Bruce Gungle: "Thank you for offering a pro-active and common sense solution to the ills that plague the U.S. electoral system."
Raymond R. Ackerman: "Voter apathy stems from feeling unrepresented and that real change can't happen. With two parties fighting to be most centrist, all other are locked out. With PR, voters will see the possibility of change."
Steve Chessin: "The preference voting form of PR reduces negative campaigning. In a hotly-contested election, candidates will need the second, third, etc. choices of people who list an opponent as first choice to win. This means they can't alienate their opponents' supporters if they expect to win."
Lillian Laskin: "It will encourage more people to become active voters and believe in the politicians because a range of views could be represented."
Eric Lund: "It would eliminate gerrymandering, whether done for partisan or other purposes. Who will represent a district's voters is already decided before an election when there is gerrymandering."
Bruce Mast: "PR allows everyone to participate in the political process, not just those with enough money and clout to sway mainstream voters."
Wilma Rule: "It is the fairest system for the representation of minority and non-minority women. Presently the U.S. Congress is 89% male and a wholly unrepresentative body. Countries with PR have a fairer representation of women."
Diana Sottile: "It will encourage greater voter turn-out and in the long run a government closer to a real democracy; for the people, meaning all people."
Rein Taagepera: "It makes representation possible for those minorities that want to be represented."
Eric Fried: "It's fairer! People have more choice when they can vote for a third party without throwing their vote away, and millions want that choice. I know: I ran for Congress in California on a third party line and got 9% -- and with PR, thousands more would have supported me."
Eric Lorenzini: "It allows all members of society to be fairly represented. A winner-take-all system, like we have now, will never produce a Congress that is truly representative -- politically, racially or otherwise -- of Americans. With the recent Supreme Court decision on redistricting, PR is more needed than ever to ensure fair representation."
Nat S. Lerner: "It offers all voters equal representation and a real stake in making democracy succeed and is an essential step in building a sane society where all are respected."
Walter Apelsen: "Some of the gerrymandering that is now going on is producing districts of ridiculous shape and size. We should now be ready to adopt proportional representation as the most simple and direct means of assuring that many viewpoints on government will be recognized."
Jeff Martin Knutson: "It would decrease the power of corporate-funded lobbyists. The voice of all groups would be heard."
Kevin O'Malley: "It can increase participation, not just in election, but in politics in general. It will increase the integrity of the political discourse. It is a real solution to past electoral discrimination."
John F. Lally: "Third party candidates and their supporters would have a voice in Congress and other legislatures."
Bob Auerbach: "When PR is used, better qualified candidates of all parties run. Also better qualified candidates get elected."
Scott Becker: "The winner-take-all system guarantees that at least some and possibly 49% of the people go unrepresented. PR forces the legislature to be much more representative of the people."
Alison D. Oldham: "I'm convinced that PR (in any one of its several possible forms) is a far more elegant and politically acceptable way of guaranteeing fair representation for minorities of all kinds (whether racial, ethnic, ideological, religious or whatever). In addition, it will help to reinvigorate participation in the political process."
Ron Beland: "1.) PR decreases the dominance of moneyed interests in our elections; 2.) It also gives a voice to committed minority interests who otherwise feel alienated, and thereby encourages more citizen participation in government."
John Bonifaz: "It helps fulfill this nation's promise of democracy so that all voters have real choices and real opportunities for their voices to be heard."
Fairman C. Cowan: "It is a method of voting which most effectively reflects the wishes of the voters."
Charles Johnson: "PR simply and completely eliminates the need for districting struggles, making gerrymandering impossible and irrelevant."
Tore Kapstad: "Representation by proportion of votes reflects more accurately the sentiments of the people than the current one-size-fits-all Congressperson. Plus, it works!"
Mark Jones: "PR increases the level of representation of women in legislative bodies. It also allows for innovative forms of affirmative action."
Carol Veldman Rudie: "PR: 1.) guarantees maximum democratic participation; 2.) allows all political views to be expressed; 3.) increases political participation of minorities and women without artificial geographic districts."
Deborah Richie: "PR gives me a chance to have a voice in government and I know my vote will count -- it's a chance to choose the candidate I believe in rather than the lesser of two evils."
Paul Etxeberri: "It is more democratic in that very few votes are wasted -- all votes go to elect someone. It provides We the People with justice, not the status quo's just us."
Judith C. Mallott: "It addresses voter apathy -- my vote doesn't count. The winner-take-all system locks out a true dialogue -- or problem-solving approach to social legislation."
Marion Steininger: "It will make more groups believe there is a point in voting, and it will increase the probability that outsiders will run and win."
Philip and Marrion Goldstein: "Our congressional district is a swing district, usually won by a narrow margin. That leaves almost half the voters of the district unrepresented."
Margaret Gregory: "I like PR because it more adequately represents the needs and hopes of the people of our country. Not everyone is in support of the two parties that always get elected, and I feel wider representation would make for a more honest government and a more flexible government."
Andrew Lang: "It is party-blind, color-blind, gender-blind; in short, it is just. Without it, minorities of all kinds are excluded twice over."
Gerald Meyer: "PR will allow for political representation of parties which the present system excludes. Also, it will encourage voter participation among the majority of the American people who presently feel they have no reason to vote."
Reginald Neale: "It can help change the dynamics of electoral politics to concentrate on the issues as opposed to trivialities and mudslinging."
Huntington Terrell: "PR makes it much more likely that most voters will have representatives who represent their most important interests. Many more people will vote, fat cats will have much less influence and our laws and public policies will meet the needs of many more people, and will promote the common good. We will be much more closer to having a government of, by and for the people."
Terry Woodnorth: "I would be represented in government by a person and a party that holds the same views as I do. It would be someone I could hold accountable on specific positions."
Becky Manning: "It is a step towards getting the responsibility for government into the control of its citizens and its true public servants and out of the hand of the self-serving politicians."
Lee Mortimer: "PR allows the greatest number of people the best opportunity to elect a representative that best represents their views. Single-member districts are inherently unrepresentative because they exclude so many people from representation."
Kenneth Pulliam: "It can give every potential voter the hope that they can have some representation in the government."
David Richie: "PR encourages voters to vote for candidates whose beliefs and values are like their own -- 20% of the vote should be enough for a candidate to win in a 5-member district."
Timm Shaw: "PR allows everyone's vote to really count for something meaningful."
Ann Sink: "PR would enable like-minded constituencies spread out over a broad region to band together to elect a representative."
Bill Collins: "Because PR systems allow candidates to win who otherwise could never win 51% in a single-member district, new candidates will come forward. This new blood will invigorate politics, and attract voters who today see no reason to turn out on election day. I wish I could vote for you."
Marian Spencer: "It is the fairest method known under which people may vote. It unifies, rather than divides the electorate and it ensures a diverse leadership representative of all the people who vote. It encourages voting -- the one thing which makes a democracy work."
Dan Zavon: "The single transferable vote -- the purest form of PR -- is the equivalent of multiple run-off elections. Run-off elections are designed to insure that the election results are a reflection -- not a distortion -- of the true intent of the electorate."
Jeff Birdsong: "This system gives almost everyone representation. It is representation based on issues and beliefs, not arcane geographic representation."
Peggy Orner: "With PR we would end up with a Congress more representative of all the people."
Kathy Paulmier: "It makes sense to me that our complex society needs a system that is more than winner-take-all. We need to include rather than exclude people's needs and opinions."
Robert J. Hayes: "It will allow the voices of more people to be heard and deepen the democratic value of elections as reflecting the feelings of the people. It will help defuse potentially violent confrontations in our society by allowing proper channels for people to be heard rather than taking to the streets."
Tim Arnette: "It brings more power back to the people."
Janet Seay: "It is a civilized and democratic solution to the evils of a winner-take-all system -- the greatest of which is that it promotes demagoguery and thwarts genuine democracy."
Bill Tomczak: "The current system encourages an ignorant populace that can be easily manipulated by the best controller of their image."
Roger Baker: "It could help prevent Groupthink: uniformity of opinion, illusion of invulnerability and other group properties that lead to high-risk ventures, by introducing diversity and criticism into legislative bodies. Also, it offers amplified creativity when people aim for win-win solutions and thus more creative, inclusive solutions."
Jake Carton: "Campaigns ought to be issue-driven by pluralists and not money-driven to capture the middle 5% of the voting electorate. We are becoming a monolithic tyranny of the middle-swing vote."
Curt Firestone: "PR is democracy!"
Michael Harvey: "PR will encourage the formation of alternative parties that will be able to take controversial stances on issues and give voters a bona fide chance in casting their vote."
Meta E. Heller: "It allows shades of opinion on issues to be expressed by candidates -- and voters. It would bring the U.S. in line with other major democracies of the world. Redistricting must be reformed before the next census."
Becky Liebman: "PR provides apathetic non-voters with a chance to vote for candidates that really stand for something, that really speak to them wherever they may be in this richly diverse country of ours."
Melvin E. Mackey: "We are not a true democracy. We are a representative democracy. Or are we? Using PR election systems will result in greater representation for the average voter. We can become a representative democracy in name and in reality."
Mike Parkis: "It has a chance to end the exclusion of black Americans from full participation in the American political process."
Howard Pellett: "It will make everyone a participant because they will know that their vote will count."
David Richardson: "It provides all with representation in proportion to the extent their views are shared by the entire electorate, not just the majority of the electorate. In this way, it encourages voter turnout, because each voter has a chance to influence the outcome."
Herrman Ross: "It allows constituencies, be they majorities or minorities, be they based on party, race, gender, sexual orientation, socio-economic background, geography, or any combination thereof, to win their fair share of seats, creating legislative bodies that are mirror images of the electorate."
Kathleen Hart: "There should be some representation for all people in a district -- not just the one portion that could turn out the most votes."
Jan Rezek: "PR would allow for an election system that allows more ideas to be represented as well as more groups of people. It is time for our government to consider an elections alternative that better represents all the people."
Readers interested in writing similar letters are encouraged to send us a copy at: The Center for Voting and Democracy, PO Box 60037, Washington, DC 20039