Single Member District Representation follows a set of rules that differentiates itself from multi-member districts and creates some advantages for being represented by one official. The first rule is that for every legislative district, there will be one representative. The second rule follows up on the first by stating that each district must be contiguous; they cannot be distant from one another. The third rule came later in 1962 from a court case called Baker v. Carr, it resulted in districts being established on the principle of one man, one vote. For example, if district A had a population of 100,000 and district B had a population of 1,000,000, you would want to live in district A because you had a far better chance of being rightly represented in that district. The fourth rule was established by The Voting Rights Act of 1965 which was created in order to protect against racial discrimination in voting, which protects majority-minority districts. A fifth rule that has never been enforced states that districts need to be compact and that they should avoid making changes. There was almost a sixth rule enforced with Single Member District Representation. The sixth rule was to get rid of ideological gerrymandering, meaning that officials could wipe out Republicans in a district for more liberal votes, but this rule fell through. The United States uses Single Member District Representation.
A downside of Single Member District Representation is that it gives over-representation to the majority party. For example, party A can have 10% representation, making party B have 0% representation. On the other hand, if it were to happen that party A had 5% representation and party B had 5% representation, then this would also be unfair because no party gets the majority. The fairest result would be if party A got 6% and party B got 4% representation because A would still get the majority they deserved.
A real-life example of how Single Member District Representation is flawed can be seen in 1994 when Republicans won over The House of Representatives after the Democratic party had the House for forty years in a row. The Republicans won over the House by saying that they thought there were not enough minorities in the government. Republicans wanted to create more majority-minority districts. Minorities were swung voters so whoever talked about minorities was the party they typically voted for. The Republicans’ claim of wanting to put more minorities in the House had a very little positive impact on black representation in the House and didn’t help any other minority group. A key component of Single Member District Representation is gerrymandering. Gerrymandering is defined as manipulating the boundaries of an electoral district in order to achieve the goal of favoring one party over the other. The Republicans used a form of gerrymandering called packing, which neutralized the voting by concentrating the Democrats voting power in one district to reduce their voting power in other districts. The Republican’s goal of creating minority districts actually hurt minorities more. Democrats recognized this and sued Republicans in the court case known as Miller v. Johnson (1996). Republicans ended up winning this case because their tactics were justified by saying that it’s okay to draw districts based on minority race so long as it’s not the only criteria. But Republicans would strategically make the other criteria be high school dropout rate, low-income households, or single mother households, all of which are typically associated with minorities. Republicans were basically using the same variables, targeting minorities, and hurting them more.
I contend that years ending in zero are the most important election years because the census occurs during this time, meaning it decides the way the government runs for the next five years. For example, in Texas in 1990, the Governor was Democrat Ann Richards, but in 1994 George W. Bush beat her in the elections, making a Republican the governor. In 1996, the Senate switched from Democrat to Republican. By 2000, when the census occurred, the governor, lieutenant governor, and senate were all Republican, while the House was a Democrat. Gerrymandering created maps that favored the Republicans so that in 2002, the House became Republican, and that’s when Texas became a red state. Basically, every ten years during the census, the politicians pick who votes for them, people don’t get to. In order to overcome gerrymandering, there needs to be a high voter turnout.
Another reason people dislike Single Member District Representation is that if one votes for a third-party member, it’s almost guaranteed that candidate won’t win, giving more support to the candidate whose highest in the polls. This is what people mean when they say “choose the lesser of the two evils” because voting for a third party member is seen as pointless as they won’t win and will instead make the party member that that voter disagrees with the most, end up winning. There’s a solution to this problem created in the Louisiana Primary. They require a majority so they do a runoff election to make sure there are only two candidates after the first round if there’s no majority. But, there is a flaw with this solution because say if there are two Republicans and ten Democrats running, the Democratic votes are divided against themselves, making the top two voted-on candidates Republican. Another flaw with the Louisiana Primary is that if the majority of everyone’s second choice is the same candidate, it won’t matter because people’s first choice candidates are the other two candidates.
Proportional Representation is used by the majority of Democracies. To simply define Proportional Representation, the percent of support a party gets is the percent the party receives. A flaw with Proportional Representation can be seen in the country Italy. In Italy, a party gets representation even if they get .01% of votes, this creates a lot of small parties. But there are also examples of stable Proportional Representation, for instance, in Germany. In Germany, a party needs 5% of the votes in order to get representation as a party. This hurdle eliminates all the small, little parties or gives opportunities for those small parties to join together to form one party. There are pros and cons to both Proportional Representation and Single Member District Representation, but I contend that if used in a stable manner, Proportional Representation is the better of the two. My preference for Proportional Representation is best shown through its stable use of it in Germany. After WWII, Germany created six political parties, giving German citizens a nice array of steady choices of parties, unlike Italy which has too many options, and the U.S. which has too few.