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Richard Rider

In this lopsided blue state, most CA GOP voters have no reason to vote. But there is a solution.

At this point, I’d estimate that about three-fifths (60%) of November 2018 California voters supported Democrats, and about two-fifths (40%) supported the GOP.  But that’s just my conjecture as to the ratio.

The results of the CA governor’s race — a good indicator of statewide political party preference — indicate that the Democrat advantage in votes is a bit smaller than my SWAG three-fifths figure.  Democrat Gavin Newsom won with 57% of the vote.  Republican John Cox got 43%.

Yet the Democrats will now hold 3/4 or more of the both California State Assembly AND State Senate seats. Even more one-sided are the CA House of Representative results — Democrats won 45 seats. The Republicans won only 8.  In other words, the Democratic Party won EIGHTY-FIVE percent of these House seats with at most only a 60% majority of those who voted.

Is this supposedly the widely touted “representative democracy”?  Not in MY book!

The core problem is that in America we hold “winner-take-all” district elections for legislative seats. That can leave many — even MOST — voters in such a district with zero legislative representation.  It discourages many from voting — knowing that “their vote doesn’t count.”  It’s doubtless a very significant factor in our democracy having the lowest voter turnout of just about any democracy in the world.

Let me illustrate just how lopsided this “winner-take-all” mode can be.  Assume that in CA, 60% of those who vote choose Democrats regularly, and 40% of the voters choose to support Republicans.  Let’s also make the admittedly unrealistic assumption that this political party preference percentage is spread uniformly across the state.  Now consider this:  In this scenario, how many Republicans in California would be elected to our State Assembly, our State Senate,and the House of Representatives?

The grand total?  ZERO!  40% of California voters would have no legislative representation at all.  Why even vote? Who thought this democracy model up?

Fortunately other countries have long since implemented a solution.  The solution?  Proportional representation (PR) — a very common system of selecting a legislature in other countries.  Each party gets the number of legislative seats in proportion to the percent of vote they received in the election. Voters pick the PARTY, not the district personality.

For instance, in Germany, if the Greens get 10% of the vote, they get to occupy 10% of the seats in parliament.  Each party gets (roughly) the same percent of representatives as they get in popular votes.  It is INDEED fair.

A couple caveats worth mentioning:

1. Usually to get legislative representation under such a PR system, a party must by law get 3% to 5% of the popular vote (depending on the country).  That minimum vote requirement keeps the true fringe parties out of the system.

Normally under this scenario a country ends up with representatives from three to six parties.  In our country, both the Green Party and the Libertarian Party would almost surely be represented.  I doubt the Socialist Party would get a 5% minimum vote — since they are already ably represented by both the Democratic Party and the Green Party.  Similarly I doubt that some far-right party would make the cut.  But maybe they would — that’s representative democracy.

2.  Where proportional representation is adopted, they generally have Parliament or the General Assembly pick the President, Grand Poobah, Dictator — whatever.  I strongly OPPOSE that aspect of the parliamentary system.

Let’s maintain our country’s “Separation of Powers” by having the public elect the country’s executive branch leaders — President and governors — by public vote — for a fixed number of years.  But have our representatives — or at least ONE house of our federal and state representatives — elected using proportional representation.  In California, that reform would make the minority party somewhat relevant, while the Democrats would still ultimately control the state.

Post election, some California Republicans will belatedly understand the merit in my proposal — it’s hardly a new idea.  But as I said, it’s not gonna happen.  Still, it’s worth knowing that a reform is available — IF enough people wanted it to happen.