Minorities lose out in winner-take-all voting

Sometimes it is hard to visualize a voting system that’s not winner-take-all. The U.S. Senate is a vivid picture of what a winner-take-all voting system produces.
The Senate is 91 percent male. It is also 97 percent white. There are three racial minorities (a Native American, a native Hawaiian and an Asian-American) — not quite a picture of America. This is to be expected as long as we use winner-take-all voting, because political minorities don’t get represented in winner-take-all elections. That leaves the U.S. Senate an extremely majoritarian body.
Of course, the U.S House of Representatives isn’t much better, because we only elect one person from each district, and that is inherently winner-take-all. Female representation only increases to 12 percent in the House. There’s only one independent (out of 435). We should use cumulative voting or some other proportional voting system that elects more than one person from a district to get more diverse and representative members of Congress. Otherwise, we’re left with only the majority’s voice being heard.
Although we can’t do much about the U.S. Senate (reforming that body requires a constitutional amendment), there’s no reason to use winner-take-all voting for the House. We should use cumulative voting the next time we draw the map (in 2001).
Right now, though, there’s a federal law that mandates the use of winner-take-all voting by using single-member districts. That law needs to be amended to let states use cumulative voting to elect their Congressmen. HR 3068 would have done the job last session — now we need a new bill introduced. Ask your member of Congress to do so.
Dan Johnson-Weinberger is the founder of Illinois Citizens for Proportional Representation. Check out their Web site at http://www.prairienet.org/icpr, or e-mail the group at [email protected].