Notable Quotables

"The right of voting for representation is the primary right by which other rights are protected."

-- Thomas Paine

"... Laws and institutions must go hand in hand with the progress of the human mind ... As that becomes more enlightened, institutions must advance also to keep pace with the times."

-- Thomas Jefferson

"The principal difficulty lies, and the greatest care should be employed in constituting this representative assembly. It should be in miniature an exact portrait of the people at large. It should think, feel, reason and act like them. That it may be the interest of the assembly to do strict justice at all times, it should be an equal representation, or, in other words, equal interests among the people should have equal interests in it. Great care should be taken to effect this, and to prevent unfair, partial and corrupt elections."

- John Adams, Thoughts on Government, 1776

"... the portrait is excellent in proportion to its being a good likeness,...the legislature ought to be the most exact transcript of the whole society... the faithful echo of the voices of the people."

-- James Wilson, at the Constitutional Convention

"The Electors [voters] who are on a different side in party politics from the local majority are unrepresented... [This system] is diametrically opposed to the first principle of democracy, representation in proportion to numbers."

-- John Stuart Mill, Considerations on Representative Government (1861)

"[I]t is a weak point in the theory of representative government as now organized and administered, that a large portion of the voting people are permanently disenfranchised."

-- James Garfield, U.S. President (1881)

"Proportional Representation is the shield and the essence of the charter."

-- Murry Seasongood, Mayor of Cincinnati 1926-1930

"The case for [PR] is fundamentally the same as that for representative democracy. Only if an assembly represents the full diversity of opinion within a nation can its decisions be regarded as the decisions of the nation itself."

-- Encyclopedia Britannica

"Unquestionably, it can be shown that PR can provide the greatest equity in representing all sectors of the community. ... There is a renewed interest in PR because of its potential usefulness as a means to assure representation of minority populations and technological advances..."

-- National Civic League, Model City Charter, Seventh Edition

"The current 'first-past-the-post' system is undemocratic. On that ground alone, it needs to be replaced."

-- The Economist [1991 Editorial]

"Many Americans do not realize that we could institute proportional representation for most elections in the U.S. without amending the Constitution. In helping to educate the public about the potential for voting system reform, CVD can play a central role in a pro-democracy movement right here in America!"

-- John Anderson, National Chair, Center for Voting and Democracy, 1980 Independent Presidential Candidate

"Because of our peculiar electoral law, the American government is divided between two parties. The American people are not."

-- Michael Lind, Executive Director, National Interest in the Atlantic Monthly, August, 1992

"[W]e need to put the idea of proportionality at the center of our conception of representation."

-- Lani Guinier, Professor of Law, University of Pennsylvania in the Boston Review, Sept./Oct. 1992

"[PR] gives voters more choices and gives both the majority and the minority (or minorities) their fair share of representation ... without the ridiculous contortions of the gerrymanders forced by small, single-member districts."

-- Professor Kathleen Barber, member CVD Advisory Board in the Cleveland Plains Dealer, 10/27/92

"Since becoming a resident of Cambridge in the 1950's, I have been fortunate to have always had a representative of my choice on the City Council and on the School Committee, thanks to proportional representation. In contrast, I have never had a representative of my choice in the U.S. House of Representatives because I am a Republican in what was Tip O'Neill's and is now Joe Kennedy's district."

-- John Moot, long time resident of Cambridge, Mass. in an op-ed, 1992

"Gerrymandering is one of the great political curses of our single-member district plurality system and one that can only truly be lifted by adopting proportional representation."

-- Professor Douglass Amy, Real Choices, New Voices, Columbia University Press, New York, 1993

"Another change that could have a positive outcome [on voter turnout] is the addition of more political parties and candidates... [T]he one way to assure more diversity on the ballot is to change the electoral system and adopt proportional representation."

-- Seymour Lipset "Why Americans Refuse to Vote," Insight, 2/94

"There is no issue that is more sensitive to politicians of all colors and ideological persuasions than redistricting. It will determine who wins and loses for eight years."

-- Ted Harrington, political science chair, UNC-Charlotte quoted during Shaw v. Hunt trial, March 1994

"... we should recognize that our approach to splintering the electorate into racially designated single-member districts does not by any means mark a limit on the authority federal judges may wield to rework electoral systems under our Voting Rights Act jurisprudence.... Already, some advocates have criticized the current strategy of creating majority-minority districts and have urged the adoption of other voting mechanisms -- for example, cumulative voting or a system using transferable votes -- that can produce proportional results without requiring division of the electorate into racially segregated districts....nothing in our present understanding of the Voting Rights Act places a principled limit on the authority of federal courts that would prevent them from ... securing proportional representation based on transferable votes."

-- Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, joined by Justice Scalia in Holder v. Hall [United States Law Week, 6/28/94]

"[A] far-reaching reform that deserves more attention is modifying our electoral system in the direction of proportional representation with an eye to opening up the parties and increasing voter participation.... Americans should at least begin thinking about how to modify our system in a proportional direction.

-- Kevin Phillips, Arrogant Capital (1994)

"The system of proportional representation ensures that virtually every constituency in the country will have a hearing in the national and provincial legislatures."

-- Bishop Desmond Tutu, The Rainbow People of God (1994)

"In place of this winner-take-all system of individualized, expensive, and superficial contests in single-member districts, we propose that each state be turned into a single, multimember district from which its allotted number of House seats would be filled by a means of PR (proportional representation)."

-- James Skillen, Executive Director, Center for Public Justice Recharging the American Experiment

[Baker Books, Grand Rapids, Mich., 1994]

"There may have been a time when our interests were more or less tied to our geography. But in the highly mobile society that America has become, political viewpoint certainly seems worth considering in drawing the boundaries of a district .... One interesting proposal would cut the Gordian knot by eliminating districts altogether in favor of a proportional representation scheme."

-- William Raspberry, Washington Post column, October 1994

"[We now have] a flawed kind of democracy....[we need to] look at some way to get proportional representation...we should adopt some form of it."

-- Jerry Brown, former governor of California, Santa Rosa, California, 1/28/95

"[The goal] should be to seek a congress that looks broadly, like the nation, and state and local bodies that look like their communities. The means to achieve that end are not mysterious. They're well tried. ... the nasty fact is that our winner-take-all election system, adopted from 18th century England and unchanged, has the potential to leave up to 49.9% of the voters in any district feeling unrepresented -- whatever their race or ethnicity. Most other democracies have moved beyond us in making their systems more representative. ... Proportional representation ... helps create a greater sense of inclusion."

-- USA Today editorial, 6/30/95