Why Election Reform?
California's electoral system is uniquely antiquated, unrepresentative, and unresponsive. We have the same amount of legislators as we did in the 1860s, our winner-takes-all elections have created a duopoly that offer voters few meaningful options, and Sacramento has consistently failed to pass legislation that would benefit hard-working Californians. Yet, when looking at democracies around the world, the vast majority function far more effectively and have multiple parties representing citizens in their legislatures. We should too.
By reforming the way we conduct our elections, we can make California a multi-party democracy that minimizes partisan conflict, reduces legislative gridlock, and offers voters electoral choices that don't require them to select the lesser of two evils.
If we want a better democracy, we need more political parties.
One of the core tenets of democracy is a commitment to consensus-building and compromise. With an institutional design that limits political competition between two parties vying for complete control of the legislature, California—along with the rest of the United States—has fallen victim to zero-sum politics.
Over the last decade, partisan polarization in the pursuit of complete governmental power has resulted in both major parties seeing the other as the embodiment of evil, leading to toxic debates around basic democratic norms like election integrity, campaign finance, and voting rights.
In politics, conflict is inevitable. But with an alternative electoral design, it's possible to make compromise inevitable as well. Part of the reason why anti-democratic sentiments aren't rising in multi-party democracies is because their institutions are structured to require coalition-building. If politics is defined as who gets what, when, and how, what we’re really talking about is power. When power is not concentrated in one group of people at the expense of another, but shared between groups of people and manifested through the formation of coalition governments, we can transition from a culture of domination to cooperation.
If we want more political parties, we need proportional
There are two main types of electoral systems: plural and proportional. California and the United States use a Plural Electoral System. We appoint representatives through winner-take-all elections wherein the candidate who receives the most votes represents an entire voting district. Most advanced democracies, however, use electoral systems with Proportional Representation. These are designed to accommodate nearly all voters' preferences by ensuring that political parties receive a proportional amount of seats in the legislature to share of votes received.
Ways to Adopt Proportional Representation in California:
In order to bring multi-party democracy to California, we'll need to reform our current system by adopting basic features that are inherent in most existing proportional electoral systems.
1) Increase the Size of the Legislature
Between the State Assembly and Senate, the current number of legislators in California is 120, which is the same amount as when California became a State in the 1860s and the population was 600,000. Today, it's close to 40 million. With so few elected officials representing such a large population, introducing proportionality would be incredibly difficult. To realistically create new opportunities for partisan representation, it is important to increase the amount of legislators representing voters.