Questions of minority representation have long plagued the U.S. voting systems. The standard election often leaves political, racial, or ethnic minorities with little chance of being represented. Race-conscious districting remains the primary policy tool used for providing representation of racial and ethnic minorities in the United States—and it continues to generate tremendous conflict. Can alternatives to race-conscious, single-member districts offer benefits that extend beyond simply providing descriptive representations of minorities?
This study examines one such “semi-proportional” representation election system: Cumulative Voting (CV). For over a decade, scores of local U.S. governments have been elected by Cumulative Voting. This provides us with the ability to examine the effects of CV elections over time. Moreover, the use of CV in the United States allows us to compare politics in places that adopted CV to highly similar places that did not. Electoral Reform and Minority Representation shares evidence that CV elections can produce minority representation that matches levels generated with the drawing of race-conscious “majority-minority” districting. It also offers evidence that the quality of democratic processes in CV communities is in several ways higher that those under districts.
Given America’s growing racial and ethnic diversity, and given successful legal challenges that limit the use of race-conscious districting Electoral Reform and Minority Representation suggests that Cumulative Voting may be a better way to achieve minority representation in U.S. politics.