President James Garfield, a supporter of Proportional Representation, said, "It is a weak point in the theory of representative government as now organized and


If Only Election Reform Were as Easy to Get as the Beatles and Led Zeppelin

President James Garfield, a supporter of Proportional Representation, said, "It is a weak point in the theory of representative government as now organized and administered, that a large proportion of the voting people are permanently disenfranchised."
Americans and the British share a language, and I don't mean only a mother tongue. Thank you, UK, for the Beatles, Led Zeppelin, and the Sex Pistols. You took American blues, transformed it, then sent it back. Then there's politics, and even though we don't have a queen or parliament (we do have the latter if you capitalize the P as in P-Funk), there's a shared mood in the air as people in both nations are currently loathing their respective governments.

Americans and Brits are both tired of the politicians in power. We're holding our House of Representatives in low esteem, while many in the UK think the House of Commons is bollocks. Never mind the politicians campaigning as outsiders; you can't get through a U.S. or UK media portal without reading about some poll revealing that people are sick, weary, tired, and leery of their leadership.

People want something different. Here, ask most people and they'll tell you they've had enough of Republicans and Democrats. Yet the two major parties that voters loathe get re-elected over and over again. In the UK, the two dominant parties are Labour and Conservative. But in this year of discontent, the May 6 election is at this time a solidly three-way race. According to one poll, another party, the Liberal Democrats, currently hold the lead in the election at 33 percent!

The Liberal Democrats usually come in third place, but considering the restless public mood, it should be no surprise they're currently on top. Back in the U.S., in our own season of discontent, where is the big American third party? It will very likely not happen this year, but I believe it will come. (After all, there is a template for one: Check out the Rock Party.)

Voters in the U.S. seem to write off third parties and tend to stick with the GOP/Democratic duopoly, with minor parties polling in the single digits. Those dogged Brits, however, aren't afraid to tell the two major parties to "bugger off," and many stick with a big third party like the Lib Dems. This group has been around for a while; in the last election they got 22 percent of the vote. But with the current voting system, that translated into only 10 percent of the seats in government. What's happening is that the current election system in the UK is causing distortions, in which the seats in government are not allocated fairly.

If you got a chance to see my previous post featuring the video of Monty Python's John Cleese, you'll see his bit about how the third-place party gets a tiny share of seats--representation that's far short of the support they got at the polls. It's a laugh riot!--I guess until you consider how unfair it is.

The UK and U.S. have different forms of government, but we have the same kind of election system. Both nations are carved up into single-member districts. Because the of the way districts are drawn, they tend to benefit one party or another. This means the election is settled there before any ballot is even cast. In the UK, they're seriously talking about changing the election system so that political diversity will be better reflected in government than it is under the current system.

I'm into community-based political solutions, and see value in people coming together to meet needs or solve problems. As a rock bass player/activist, I should have picked a sexier issue instead of proportional representation, a kind of voting system that creates more opportunities for people to participate in government. I really don't like writing about math fractions, vote transfers, or election thresholds--as much as you probably don't like reading about them! But I soldier on, because it's part of my politics.

When folks come together outside of government in their own group, they don't need to accommodate everyone. Government, however, has an obligation to be inclusive. We pay taxes to it and are subject to its laws, therefore we should have a fair shot at sitting at the table. Unfortunately, here in the U.S., as in the UK, this is not the case. People are restless, and in these kinds of moments change can roll in, resulting in a new wave of politics. England's not dreaming, they're talking about changing the election system. This is more likely if the Lib Dems get more seats. But even if they get the most votes, because of the current voting system, that doesn't mean they'll win the most seats in government.

I believe the U.S. is prime for this kind of change too. Election reform should not be seen as some kind of English import--it's more like a shared language. Even though it's pronounced differently, the word "fair" has the same meaning in both nations.

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