The way America elects its members of Congress is flawed. Congress is not truly representative of the American population because so many voices are simply cut out. When a candidate can win an entire district with 55 percent of the vote and completely ignore the views of the other 45 percent of the population, something is wrong.
What if the seats were split? What if that 45 percent went to the candidate or candidates who had the other views? Such strategies could be used in favor of a more liberal or a more conservative representative body of Congress. The idea, however, isn’t about making Congress more liberal or conservative, as the usual rhetoric would say. It is about giving Congress back to the American people.
In the congressional election system, representatives are elected by their state or district with a winner-takes-all policy requiring a simple majority vote to win. The problem comes when someone who was elected by 51 percent of his or her constituency – never mind the fact that it’s not the constituency that has the power – undermines the voices and rights of the other 49 percent. This makes for a shabby democracy, because the voices of the people are not represented to the best possible degree, making it much easier for politicians to go against the wishes those who voted them into office and simply say that the people who disagree are obviously not the ones who voted for them.
Another problem with the system is that it deters people from voting for third parties, which have just as much a right to represent people as Democrats or Republicans.
Third party candidates are often accused of taking votes away from one of the major parties’ candidates, usually a Democrat. This reputation can deter voters from choosing a candidate who they feel truly represents them to choose what they believe to be the lesser of two evils between the Democrats and Republicans.
This mindset is problematic because it only allows a small range of views to be represented and keeps power in the hands of those who have always been in power. It is not democracy when voters are turned away from their candidate of choice in favor of someone who can beat the next-worse candidate.
Districts are also an issue. Because they are small, it is easy to redraw them in favor of a specific party, slicing up pockets of strong blue, red or green voters and regrouping them with voters who vote with whoever is in charge. If districts were bigger, it would be much harder to split up these strong voter areas, a change which may not benefit either party but would do a great service to the American people.
Here is an example of how a congressional election could work: A Democrat wins 55 percent of the vote, a Republican wins 35 percent and a Libertarian wins 10 percent. Normally, the Democrat would win the entire state or district. However, I propose that the three could share one seat. Then, when Congress votes, the Democrat’s vote would count for 55 percent of the seat’s vote, and the Republican’s and Libertarian’s votes would count for 35 percent and 10 percent respectively. This way, the voices of the people they represent are heard more clearly. This would also make third party candidates more relevant and end the fear that is associated with voting for them.
Of course, all of this falls short of a complete solution. It may not solve the problem of lobbyists lining politicians’ pockets, rigged elections and outdated, unfair and broken voting systems, or the issues of gender, race and economic inequality between Congress and the American people, but it is a step.
Today’s political atmosphere is one of change. The American people must realize that change is not voting for someone else to tell them what to do, as has been the order of politics for long enough.
Real change is shifting the reins of power out of the hands of a group of elites who are disconnected from the people and into the hands of the people themselves.
A more democratic mode of representation is a necessary step in this direction. It cannot be forgotten amid the celebrity gossip, new seasons of everyone’s favorite TV shows or what summer movie hits are worth seeing.
Jose Ferrer is a sophomore majoring in sociology.