Essays from Canada

Born: 1981
Essay themes: Proportional representation, two-party politics

Political participation is indeed decreasing among America's young people. You will still find them rallying, yelling and waving billboards over one thing or another, but very little practical participation, such as voting. What has caused this decline? After researching, and simple observation of human nature, I've drawn several conclusions.

For the most part, people simply don't care. Democratic, republic, what's the difference? Both parties just want your money and will do whatever they want regardless of public opinion. Or so it is believed. Perhaps that is going a little overboard. Not everyone from my generation is quite that uninformed. Some people really do care, but feel that there is no possible way to make a difference.

Are they so wrong? It is possible to have a President elected with less than 50% of popular vote. When one votes, they aren't even voting for the President. They are voting for a person who promises to vote for the president - the elector. However, the elector is not bound in any way to vote for who they say they will. According to the procedural Guide to the electoral college, "No Constitutional provision of Federal Law requires electors to vote in accordance with the popular vote in their State." True, while the cases where the elector has voted against his or her party are few and far between, the possibility remains. Your vote could have absolutely no effect on the election outcome.

Not to be ignored, is the lack of choice. When it comes right down to it, the American voter has but two options. Can two political parties even hope to come close to representing people from the many diverse regions and ethnic backgrounds this country contains? What if it became possible for more parties to enter the political arena? Perhaps if one had the option of voting for ideas or goals instead of merely for the lesser of two evils, one might be more inclined to care.

This, I believe, is where proportional representation (PR) comes into play. For those of you to whom this is a new concept, it is very similar to what the name implies. As it stands now, each state has an equal say in Washington. With PR the constituencies would be divided according to population instead of state lines. This would increase the value of every person's vote. Also, instead of one representative to an area, any number of people could run for the same constituency. When the vote has been taken, the party with the majority of votes would have the majority of rule. However, it would not have complete control as it does now with the winner take all method. The minority or minorities whatever the case may be, would have seats proportional to the number of votes they received.

Therefore, even if the person you voted for was not elected, it is quite possible that a representative from your party would still have a voice in government. In other words, just because you voted for the "loser" doesn't mean that the ideas & programs you were supporting have gone out the window. Your vote would still make a difference. And that, ladies & gentlemen could be the incentive needed for my generation to get more involved in politics.

Is proportional representation a cure-all end-all? I wouldn't go that far. It still has many details that practical application would iron out. I do believe that it would increase political participation, not only by young people, but by the population in general . History has proven over and over that people are more likely to be involved in something they care about. They are more likely to care when it affects them personally or when they can affect it. Proportional representation appears to be a step toward that end.