As political disillusionment intensifies in America, Diamond and Plattner (2006) show that parties and candidates are becoming more cynical thus culminating into low voter turnout. Several proposals have been brought forth to revolutionize the American electoral system among them the campaign finance reform.
However, the attention given to the most recent reform (PR system) has made more people to consider replacing the current SMD (winner-takes-it-all) system with the PR system. United States is a democratic and a multi-party state.
Therefore, an effective electoral system should cater for the interests of the parties present and the people without compromising on democracy. What impact is the change likely to have on (a) party-system and (b) democracy in U.S.? These are the most fundamental questions that people should seek to answer before replacing the SMD system.
It is important that we understand the party-system and the democratic deficiencies present in SMD so that we can decide whether PR will be a practical option. The SMD system discriminates against third parties, does not represent all voters, discourages people from voting and enacts laws that do not correspond with the public views.
These problems reveal a fundamental flaw in the electoral system; the only persons represented are those who elect the winning candidate. The rest, about 49% in every district never get any representation as the election system shuts out the minorities from participating in elections.
What happens is that a Republican who is in a Democrats dominated district votes but his/her votes go to waste because the Republican candidate never wins. Due to lack of minorities’ representation in the electoral system, Shively (2011) asserts that there is heightened lack of democracy in the electoral system.
This explains why there is distorted representation in the state, local legislatures and Congress. The SMD system also shows evidence of unequal representation of political parties. Parties end up getting more or less, than what they deserve. For instance, the House of Representative Elections (1994) saw the Democrats in Washington get 22% of the seats despite winning with over 50% votes.
As put across by Diamond and Plattner (2006), PR systems make use of multi-member districts and uses larger districts to elect the members required as an alternative to voting a single member in every small district. In addition, the number of candidates who win seats in the multi-member districts is dependent on the votes each party gets.
For instance, in a PR district consisting of 20 members, if the Democratic Party gets 50%, the Democratic candidates get ten seats. If the Republican Party gets 30%, the party’s candidates secure six seats and if there is a third party with 20%, four seats are reserved for its candidates.
A PR system would make sure that all people and parties get a fair and just representation. This is because under PR, there is representation of all significant groups including the political minorities who might only garner 10 or 20 % of the votes. The PR system ensures that the legislature reflects the parties’ voting strengths.
For instance, a party with 40% of the votes gets 40% of the seats. Presently, the party-system reflects the unfairness of SDM. The Republican Party and Democratic Party, which are the winning parties, dominate the electoral system thus limiting other parties from winning. The PR system will offer diversity and make sure that emerging third parties such as the Liberation party, the New Party and the Greens get realistic chances to challenge the two major parties.
Such parties will only need 10% of the votes to elect a candidate hence guaranteeing the viability of the minor parties. Shively (2011) notes that this would lead to a healthy multi-party state where there is fair and free representation and competition among political parties.
This would also guarantee that there are varied choices during elections. Each person can find a party or candidate that he/she can enthusiastically support. As a result, the public would exercise its voting rights in a democratic manner and with the assurance that their votes are not wasted; there is a guarantee that a 10% vote would see a candidate who can represent their views/needs in parliament.
For this reason, voter turnout would be high meaning that the multi-party system formed would be heterogeneous. Thus, varied political perspectives present in the electorate would guarantee that there is a wide-ranging political debate that would uphold democracy, lead to new ideas and sound decision-making.
To maintain or uphold democracy, Shively (2011) emphasizes that the government should allow all people to participate equally in every decision that affects them. The PR system will enhance democracy by giving the party-system a complete overhaul whereby the dominance of the winning parties will be eradicated and equal representation of all political parties, including the minor ones guaranteed.
The PR system will also ensure that the electoral system upholds democratic rights, including voting rights and political representation rights of all citizens. Simply stated, PR system will cater for the party-system and democratic deficiencies in the SMD system without compromising on the role of the electoral system.
Diamond, Larry Jay., and Marc F. Plattner. Electoral Systems and Democracy. Baltimore, MD: JHU Press, 2006. Print.
Shively, W. Phillips. Power and Choice: An Introduction to Political Science. 12th Edition. Dubuque, IA: McGraw-Hill, 2011. Print.