A Right to Representation

Proportional Election Systems for the Twenty-first Century

Kathleen L. Barber

The United States is one of very few democracies in the world to use winner-take-all elections to choose representatives for legislatures, city councils, and even most school boards. A typical American election occurs in a single-member district or ward, where the candidate with the most votes wins, whether chosen by a majority or, in a multicandidate race, by only a plurality of voters.

From this practice stems the endemic underrepresentation of minorities in our political life. Enforcement of the Voting Rights Act has led to increased minority electoral success, but the strategy most commonly used—creation of majority-minority districts—has come under attack in the Supreme Court.

Alternative voting methods—cumulative voting, limited voting, instant run-off, and several varieties of proportional representation—are gaining acceptance in the United States, but are not widely understood. In this book, an outgrowth of her earlier Proportional Representation and Electoral Reform in Ohio, Kathleen L. Barber explores their origins, explains their use and adaptability, and supplies empirical evidence of how they actually work in practice.

The increasing diversity of the American population in the twenty-first century makes the issue of representation a compelling one, as the nation seeks to integrate into its political life an ever-widening array of groups. Barber argues that the right to vote is the right to cast an effective vote, which in turn generates the right to representation.

Kathleen L. Barber is a retired professor of political science living in Cleveland, Ohio. She is the author of numerous articles and essays on government and politics.

Nov 2000
Political Science/Urban Studies
240 pp.  6 x 9

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