In Towards Proportional Representation for the U.S. House, Protect Democracy and Unite America examine a 1967 statute enacted by Congress—the Uniform Congressional District Act (UCDA)—that mandates the use of single-member districts for House elections; how the system is weakening the foundations of our democracy; and policy options for reform.
“While U.S. House elections use single-member districts, more common among democracies is some form of proportional multi-member districts. The two models give rise to two distinct electoral systems: the former, a winner-take-all system in which a single candidate, with a plurality or majority of the vote, represents the entire district (“takes all”); and the latter, a system of proportional representation in which multiple winners secure legislative seats in rough proportion to the votes they receive.”
Drawing on decades of scholarly work, the report finds that replacing current winner-take-all elections with a proportional system of representation could curb gerrymandering; increase the share of competitive congressional seats; expand the ability of racial minorities to elect candidates of their choice; allow conservatives and liberals to gain representation in proportion to their actual support within a state; decrease dangerous levels of polarization; and lessen political extremism and the risk of political violence, among other effects.
As one scholar concludes in a global study of democratization, “if any generalization about institutional design is sustainable,” it is that winner-take-all electoral systems “are ill-advised for countries with deep ethnic, regional, religious, or other emotional and polarizing divisions.” Towards Proportional Representation takes stock of the House’s winner-take-all system and options for amending federal law to address its deficiencies.