The Case for Enlarging the House of Representatives
Part VII: Other Reforms to Pair with Enlarging the House
Our Common Purpose offers other recommendations to ensure that a newly expanded Congress brings representatives closer to the American people and gives voters a stronger say in congressional elections.50
Introduce ranked-choice voting in presidential, congressional, and state elections.
Ranked-choice voting means more choices for voters, and with more choices, voters will need to evaluate more candidates. Smaller districts would make it easier for voters to evaluate a larger range of candidates directly, since candidates will have fewer voters they need to connect with. This means that voters could more effectively rank candidates. In larger districts, where voters may have a harder time directly evaluating candidates, they will be more likely to fall back on partisan cues and advertising.
Allow states to use multi-member districts on the condition that they adopt a non-winner-take-all election model.
With multi-member districts, two or more House districts would be combined into a new, larger district, which would send multiple representatives to Washington. When paired with a proportional voting rule, multi-member districts would prevent the drowning out of minority votes (both demographic and ideological minorities) and signal a victory for equal voice and representation.
Support adoption, through state legislation, of independent citizen-redistricting commissions in all fifty states.
Independent redistricting commissions are designed to ensure fairness in the drawing of congressional districts. Districting involves balancing myriad values, including partisan fairness, compactness, competitiveness, keeping communities of interest together, and fair representation for racial minorities. The more districts in a given state, the more potential plans an independent redistricting commission can draw up and compare. The more potential plans, the more likely such a commission can find a plan that balances these competing values.
Pass “clean election laws” for federal, state, and local elections through mechanisms such as public matching donation systems and democracy vouchers, which amplify the power of small donors.
A public matching and voucher system of small donor empowerment depends on voters being engaged and being able to evaluate candidates. The smaller the district, the more likely voters will be able to assess the qualities of their representatives directly, and thus the more likely they will be motivated to make small donor contributions and use their vouchers wisely.
- 50For more on these recommendations, see American Academy of Arts and Sciences, Our Common Purpose, 24–27, 30.