Consolidate Congressional Districts to Make Elections Fairer

Multi-member congressional districts would lead to more proportional representation and political moderation.

The 111 Huntington Avenue skyscraper in Boston, Massachusetts, October 22, 2010
The 111 Huntington Avenue skyscraper in Boston, Massachusetts, October 22, 2010 (Thomas Hawk)

Last month, I made two arguments for a more proportional voting system in the United States:

  1. Politics should not be reduced to two options.
  2. Proportional representation discourages regional factionalism.

I recognized at the time that a full switch to proportional representation is unlikely but argued that adding runoffs could allow third parties to flourish without playing spoiler.

Another, easier way to accomplish the same goal would be to combine single-member congressional districts into multi-member districts.

Bigger districts, better representation

The idea, championed by Virginia Democrat Don Beyer, would give representation to Democrats in majority-Republican states and vice versa — as well as more room to third parties.

Beyer gives Massachusetts as an example in an op-ed for The Washington Post. A quarter of its voters are Republican yet Democrats hold all nine of the state’s congressional districts.

This means that the Republican quartile of the electorate rightly feels left out and disillusioned and Democratic candidates largely run and govern from the left, knowing it is the source of their only true opposition.

Divide Massachusetts into three congressional districts instead, each with three congresspeople elected proportionately or by ranked-choice voting, and Republicans are bound to win couple of seats.

More moderates

Massachusetts Democrats would also have an incentive to appeal to the middle as opposed to the left.

Applied nationally, we would have more moderate Democrats from districts leaning Republican and vice versa, creating a type of politician — now nearly extinct — known as a “bridge builder.”

Learn more from political scientist Lee Drutman at Vox.