Would Proportional Representation give more representation to smaller parties?

Voters sometimes want another option; here’s one way to raise the volume of voices that are being drowned out


Being a first-time voter can be exciting in any normal year; however, the United States uses a system that leaves voters to choose between only two parties that are supposed to represent about 328.2 million people.

In the United States the Democrats and Republicans dominate many of the elections because they are the two major parties in the United States. While they are umbrellas for many different groups, some groups may feel unrepresented.

For instance, people like Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden ran under the same party and people like Donald Trump and Mitt Romney are in the same party as well — but on completely different spectrums, and the candidates don’t have the same ideas.

This doesn’t allow for many options, so the first-time voter has to learn to settle for one of the two and find which party fits the best this year.

The two-party system limits other parties from Presidential elections. For example, Bernie Sanders was registered as an independent for the Senate election. However, he has to re-register as a Democrat to be able to run in the Presidential Democratic primaries. Due to new rules from the Democratic National Committee, he had to commit to being labeled as a Democrat, according to NPR.

If Sanders did not do this, he wouldn’t have gotten as far as he did in any of the presidential elections. He labels himself as a Democratic Socialist but the only way to get far in the presidential election is to have affiliation with either major party.

Some of the underrepresentation comes from the two-party system but also from a single-member district, winner-take-all style of elections. 

Trying a Proportional Representation system at the state or county level would help more people be representative and allow other parties to have a voice.

Dr. Amir Abedi, Western Washington University professor of political science, said, “A system that is a ‘winner-takes-all’ favors the two-party system naturally because of the mechanics and physiological effects.”

While all systems have their flaws, Proportional Representation would allow other parties such as Libertarians and the Green Party to have a part in government and allow some representation to the people who do not support Democrats or Republicans.

Abedi explains the concept: “So. if you have three people running and two of them come close to winning, the people who support the third candidate, who always loses by a big margin, have only two options: Either they stop voting … or they support one of the two candidates that have a realistic chance of winning,” Abedi said. “And as you can see, it squeezes out the third party… think Libertarians or Green party. Any kind of third party you can think of is marginalized because the rules work against them.”

Proportional Representation would give fair representation to everyone. For instance, instead of one person getting elected to a district there would be a multi-district representation where multiple people would be elected to a district. So instead of one seat per district there would be three  or 10, depending on the size of the district, according to FairVote, which is  a nonpartisan  organization that provides information and education about electoral reform.

This gives room for other parties to form and other parties to become part of choices and policies.

For instance, in Switzerland they switched to a Proportional Representation system in 1918, which allowed for more people and small parties to be represented because the majority system that was put in place was not accurately representing the political landscape of the country, according to SWissinfor.ch a website that provides independent reporting on Switzerland.

“So, if you have a lot of divisions in society, it might be more difficult for the electoral system to squeeze all the potential parties into just two. On the other hand, if you have a proportional system where instead of just electing one representative, you elect four, five, maybe 10 representatives in each district, you can share the seats and that allows smaller parties to elect a share of those representatives,” Abedi said.

For instance, if you had a district with 10 representative seats and Party 1 could get five of the seats, Party 2 could get four and Party 3 could get one, Abedi said. “So as a result of that the smaller party can still stick around because they will elect people, small numbers, but they are still there — so as a voter you don’t feel like you are wasting your vote.”

This gives those parties a platform to express their views.

However, no system is perfect. In Proportional Representation there are concerns such as   smaller parties will have too much power in coalition governments

For instance, if there are three parties, Party 1 (a large party) has more of the votes than Party 2 (another large party), but Party 3 (a small party) could join with one of the larger parties to give them a majority of the power, which could possibly go against the majority of what the voters voted for, according to FairVote.

This becomes a problem because the small party is making the decision, not the voters. This would directly go against the whole point of a Proportional Representation system

But this can be avoided if there is pressure applied to the smaller party on which larger party they may decide to partner, according to  FairVote.

Overall, the Proportional Representation system would allow those people who are Democrat or Republican to be represented as well as forcing all parties to work together.

While no system is flawless, it is more important to allow all voters’ vote to count and all voices to matter.