As the Trump administration’s “repugnant” and possibly illegal attempt to collect state voter data—which critics have characterized as part of a broader attempt to suppress the vote—continues to backfire immensely, several House Democrats are pushing for legislation that would bolster voting rights by taking aim at gerrymandering and giving voters more freedom through a system called ranked choice voting (RCV).
“The only way [systemic] change is going to come is if we have the grassroots citizens start to demand that change.”
—Ro Khanna (D-Calif.)
Spearheading the effort is Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.), who recently introduced the Fair Representation Act, which he argues would “ensure that every voter has their voice represented in Congress, and make real progress towards bipartisan focus on getting results for the American people.”
Beyer’s legislation has two co-sponsors thus far: Reps. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.) and Ro Khanna (D-Calif.).
The bill calls for several monumental reforms that supporters say would “create more opportunities for women and people of color from across the spectrum to compete in fair elections” and take on entrenched two-party dominance.
The most transformational element of the legislation, argues The Intercept‘s Zaid Jilani, is RCV, a system under which “voters would be able to rank their preferences among various candidates and parties, rather than simply casting one vote for each office.”
“If no candidate receives a majority of first-preference votes, then second-preferences are accounted for, and so on, until one candidate has a majority,” Jilani notes. “Under RCV, you can vote your conscience without helping a candidate you loathe win instead.”
This, Jilani writes, would have the effect of “forc[ing] major party candidates to respect third-party voters and their ideas—after all, they would want their second-preference votes, and their third, and so on and so forth.”
The bill would also remove the power of drawing congressional districts from the grip of state legislatures by requiring states to redistrict through independent commissions. This, Beyer argues, would prevent racial and partisan gerrymandering—which has become pervasive throughout the U.S., particularly in GOP-controlled districts—and “ensure that every voter has their voice represented in Congress.”
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