Democracy is in crisis. Even as the country is deeply divided along class and ideological lines, it seems to be unified in its frustration with our current brand of politics. Polls show that less than 20 percent of the country approves of the way Congress is doing its job. The time has come to consider a transformative idea that reflects the American electorate’s desire for moderation and fairness and that encourages the reemergence of bridge builders and candidates with an eye for compromise. That idea involves changing the way we elect members of the House of Representatives. This week I introduced the Fair Representation Act, which would make two fundamental changes in how voters elect their representative in the U.S. House.
First, it would allow voters to rank the candidates in order of preference, rather than simply voting for their top choice. Some version of this system is already used in many municipalities, and six states have adopted some kind of ranked-choice voting for congressional elections. If your first-choice candidate does not win, your second or third choice may. This spurs candidates to work to appeal to a broader swath of voters, which would calm polarization in many parts of the country.
Second, the Fair Representation Act would change congressional districts into “multi-member districts,” as used in many states for their legislative elections. Think of it as a hybrid between what we have today and Senate seats, in which two people jointly represent a larger area. States with five or fewer House members would elect all their representatives at large. Any state with six or more members would elect representatives in multi-member districts.