Pages tagged "Topic: Proportional Representation"
RepresentWomen researches and advances the best practices for reaching gender-balanced governance in the U.S. Our research shows that voting systems shape the opportunities women have to run for office and get elected. This timeline accompanies a new brief that analyses the impact of proportional ranked choice voting (PRCV) on women's representation in the United States. Through this timeline, we highlight milestones for women thought leaders and elected officials who have contributed to the ongoing story of PRCV in the U.S. Both the brief and timeline are part of an ongoing series updating our research on voting systems in the U.S. and the impact different systems have on women’s political representation. Previous installments in this series covered voting systems around the world and the impact of ranked choice voting (RCV) on women’s representation.
RepresentWomen researches and advances the best practices for reaching gender-balanced governance in the U.S. Our research shows that voting systems shape the opportunities women have to run for office and get elected. This brief is part of an ongoing series updating our research on voting systems in the U.S. and the impact different systems have on women’s political representation. Previous installments in this series covered voting systems around the world and the impact of ranked choice voting (RCV) on women’s representation. The following brief covers how proportional ranked choice voting (PRCV) works, the history of PRCV in the United States, the issues with our current plurality/winner-take-all (WTA) system, and why PRCV is the best system to advance women’s political representation in the U.S.
RepresentWomen’s research shows that progress toward political parity is slow and uneven in the United States. Our research also shows that our current WTA voting system is partially to blame for the underrepresentation of women in politics because it rewards gatekeeping behaviors that prevent women from running for office. By removing the barriers women face, system strategies such as PRCV facilitate candidate entry, increase competition, drive deeper candidate-constituent relationships, decrease polarization, and yield more representative outcomes.
Based on the available evidence, we have found that PRCV mitigates the threat of majority tyranny and places power back in the hands of voters, paving the way toward a gender-balanced and representative democracy.
- PRCV creates opportunities for women candidates to enter politics by eliminating fears of vote splitting, decreasing campaign costs, reducing incumbency advantage, and encouraging candidate recruitment.
- PRCV enables multiple constituencies to elect candidates of choice. Because PRCV elections are multi-winner, multiple interest groups can be represented within the same district, allowing for diverse governing coalitions in terms of gender, race, and ideology.
- Women played a critical role in advancing PRCV within the United States. Not only does PRCV have a deep history of use within the United States, but women have been a part of this movement from the beginning.
- PRCV resulted in the election of the first women on several city councils, including in Cleveland, OH; New York, NY; Hamilton, OH; and Cambridge, MA.
- PRCV is the only form of PR compatible with all United States elections – both partisan and nonpartisan. The majority of local elections are nonpartisan, and PRCV is the only PR system that has been tried in the U.S.
RepresentWomen is committed to researching and identifying the best practices for increasing women’s representation in politics, drawing from evidence around the world. Part of this work leads us to closely track parliamentary elections and compare the outcomes from year to year. In 2021 and 2022, we identified 44 elections where women achieved record highs for their representation in parliament. The purpose of this analysis is to bring attention to how election rules and voting systems shape opportunities for women to enter politics.
Between 2021 and 2022, 85 countries held elections for their lower houses of parliament. In 44 of these countries, a record number of women were elected, constituting a “golden year” for women’s political representation in that country.
Through the use of case studies, the following analysis hones in on the role that systems-level factors, such as election rules and voting systems, play in creating opportunities for more women to be elected worldwide. We found that:
- Countries are breaking records for women’s representation each year. Of 85 countries that held elections in 2021 and 2022, 44 broke records for women’s political representation records and achieved “golden years.”
- Not all “record-breaking” progress is significant. While some countries have made considerable gains in women’s representation in a short period, others, including the United States, are making incremental progress.
- The countries that have made the most progress adopted gender quotas. Additionally, 65% of countries that attained a golden year have either proportional (PR) or semi-proportional (semi-PR) voting systems. This finding echoes previous research that has established a positive relationship between gender quotas, proportional representation, and women’s representation.
- Repealing quotas negatively impacts women’s representation in politics. While the countries that made the greatest progress toward gender balance adopted gender quotas, those that repealed quotas experienced an immediate decline in women’s representation. In addition to reaffirming the impact that quotas have on women’s representation, this finding suggests that quotas alone don’t resolve all barriers to representation.
Analyzing women’s representation globally shows that many other countries have progressed toward gender balance in politics; learning from these countries and adopting the election rules and voting systems conducive to gender-balanced governance is critical if we are to have full and fair representation in the United States.
Our International Voting Systems Dashboard has five tabs:
1. Parliaments and rankings
This tab shows the structure of government, the rank for women's representation (based on the percentage of women in the lower house), the number of women elected, and the percentages of women in the chambers.
2. Voting systems of parliaments
This tab shows the type of voting system used, along with sub-categories, and the date of the most recent election.
3. Gender quotas
This tab details the types of gender quotas implemented in each chamber of parliament.
4. Heads of state and government
This tab shows the current Heads of State (HoS) and Government (HoG) & their respective genders (F or M), election dates, and titles. This tab also
This section shows the number of cabinet members, the number of women in the cabinet, the percentage of women in the cabinet, and the most recent verification date.
The goal of this dashboard is to contextualize the U.S. within the world, show the unique systems used around the globe, and show where women's representation is the highest.
This dashboard is interactive! Scroll over each country to see the data.
This 2023 International Voting Systems Snapshot ranks countries according to women's representation in the lower house of their national parliament. As displayed in our 2023 International Voting Systems Memo, most countries ranked above the U.S. have a proportional voting system, and women are least represented in countries with plurality-majority systems. These findings emphasize the need to study the impact of voting systems, as well as why implementing proportional voting is vital to leveling the playing field for women in the U.S.
- Proportional (PR) systems represent subgroups according to a party or candidate's vote share.
- Semi-Proportional (Semi-PR) systems combine elements of proportional and plurality-majority systems. Semi-PR systems are often more representative than non-PR systems because they ensure that political minorities are at least somewhat represented.
- Plurality-Majority systems allow the candidate with the most votes to win, no matter how slim the margin.
Voting systems are the rules and procedures that determine how people are elected. Each system informs how ballots are designed, how people cast their votes, how the results are counted, and how the winners are determined. The type of voting system can greatly impact voter turnout, the role of political parties, candidate engagement, and representation in government.
To read more about the voting systems used around the world, see our International Voting Systems Memo.
Women’s political representation is vital to sustaining good governance worldwide. But while women comprise over half of the world’s population, men still hold the majority of seats in almost every legislature. Research has shown that diversity in political representation leads to more inclusive and effective lawmaking. Women, in particular, bring different forms of consensus building and attention to various policy issues, including but not limited to “women’s issues” such as healthcare, childcare, and education. This means that political processes and outcomes suffer when women are excluded from office.
RepresentWomen has been studying the relationship between voting systems and women’s political representation for the last five years. Through our research, we have found that voting systems shape opportunities for women to enter politics. In both the United States and around the world, cases like New York City, South Africa, and New Zealand further demonstrate the viability of major system changes and the potential impact of adopting a new voting system.
The following memo presents an update to our analysis of voting systems globally, their impact on women’s representation, and the case for proportional ranked choice voting in the United States. Where appropriate, we also discuss the role of complementary candidate-focused strategies and initiatives, such as gender quotas and candidate recruitment groups.
The goal of this memo is to equip our partners in the U.S. with updated data and supporting literature on the impact of proportional representation (PR) on women’s representation, drawing from stories of how PR improved women’s representation in the United States (1910s-1940s), South Africa (1990s-today), and New Zealand (1990s-today). This memo further builds the case for proportional ranked choice voting (PRCV) in the U.S., pushing back on recent efforts to introduce non-viable forms of PR. Previous research releases on this topic: 2020, 2019, 2018.
Voting systems inform how ballots are designed, how people cast their votes, how the results are counted, and how the winners are determined. The type of voting system used can greatly impact voter turnout, the role of political parties, candidate engagement, and representation. While there are many kinds of voting systems used around the world, there are three basic types:
- Plurality-Majority (Non-PR): Non-proportional systems allow the candidate with the most votes to be declared the winner. In plurality systems, a candidate can win with less than 50% of the vote; in majority systems, a runoff ensues if a candidate does not receive at least 50% of the vote.
- Proportional Representation (PR): In a proportional system, seats are allocated to parties in proportion to the total number of votes received. PR is used around the world in various forms; New Zealand uses a mixed member proportional system (MMP), South Africa uses a party list system, and several cities in the U.S. use proportional ranked choice voting (PRCV).
- Semi-Proportional (Semi-PR): Semi-proportional systems combine elements of non-PR and PR systems. Semi-PR systems are often more representative than non-PR systems because they ensure that political minorities are at least somewhat represented.
According to our research, women’s representation is lower in countries with plurality-majority systems because plurality systems reinforce existing barriers for women in politics; when a candidate only needs a plurality to win, political parties and donors are more likely to back “establishment” candidates (often white men) to improve their odds. Plurality voting also limits competition against incumbents and encourages negative campaigning, potentially deterring women from running in the first place.
Proportional representation (PR) yields the best opportunities for women. Unlike plurality systems, where a single candidate–and party–wins the district, multiple winners are elected to represent a single district in PR systems, and multiple political parties may be represented at a time. In addition to creating more opportunities for political minorities to be represented, PR systems tend to create more diverse legislatures, with more women and people of color nominated and elected. Overall, PR is the best way to ensure full and fair representation.
With the support of women’s organizations like the National League of Women Voters, PRCV was first adopted in the United States during the Progressive Era, leading to the milestone elections of women and people of color in cities like New York City. Though few original cities use the system today, a new wave of cities are now looking to adopt PRCV. Based on our research, RepresentWomen supports the adoption of PRCV over other forms of PR in the United States. In addition to being the only form of PR with a history of use in the U.S., it is also the only form of PR that is suited for nonpartisan elections, which are held in two-thirds of American cities.
This snapshot displays women's political representation in the 38 OECD countries. The columns show which voting system is used, the subcategory of that voting system, and if gender quotas are used.
Released: September 2022
In 2022, we released a report on the outcome of the 2021 elections in New York City. RepresentWomen partnered with The New Majority NYC (formerly 21 in '21) to study 1) the impact of term limits, matching funds, ranked choice voting, and candidate-focused strategies on women's representation, 2) how these factors worked together to bring NYC a majority-women council for the first time in history, and 3) what it will take to maintain and build upon this success story in the future.
This map shows whether states have single-member plurality districts, two-member districts, or 3+ member districts (multi-member). The map also shows the two states that use ranked choice voting (Alaska and Maine). District magnitude matters because this determines how many subgroups can be represented. If there are more seats available, more groups obtain representation.