The Fair Representation Act (HR 3863) is a proposed federal statute to change elections for Members of Congress. Beginning in 2022, House Members would be elected by ranked choice voting in primary and general elections. Members would be elected in multi-winner districts of up to five seats in states with more than one seat, with districts being drawn by independent redistricting commissions. The bill consists of four core components
Ranked Choice Voting for Primaries and the General Election
Multi-Winner Districts in States with More Than 1 Seat
Drawing Districts with Independent Redistricting Commissions
Fair Representation Voting Rule Instead of Winner-Take-All Voting Rule
The Fair Representation Act requires that primary and general elections for in Congress be held with ranked choice voting. The goal with this system is to maximize the number of voters who help elect a candidate.
The ballot will give voters the freedom to rank candidates in order of choice: 1st, 2nd, 3rd and so on.
Vote counting proceeds in rounds. At first, every ballot counts only for its 1st choice.
For the election of only 1 Member, if a candidate receives a majority (50% + 1) of the votes, then that candidate will be elected.
For the election of more than 1 Member in a multi-winner district, the threshold to win goes down. It is just over 1/3rd of vote for 2 seats, 1/4th for 3 seats, 1/5th for 4 seats , and 1/6th for 5 seats.
If a candidate exceeds that threshold of votes from 1st choices only, then that candidate will be elected.
Votes cast for winning candidates are “reweighted” so that any part of the votes that did not help elect that candidate can count for the next ranked choice in the following round.
In a round where no one passes the threshold, the candidate in last place is eliminated. If a voter’s top choice loses, their vote will count for their next choice.
This process repeats until all seats are elected.
In June of 2021, states will receive $1 million plus $500,000 per Representative to pay for election administration and education costs associated with ranked choice voting.
The Act would become part of the Help America Vote Act.
The Fair Representation Act repeals the single-winner district mandate (2 U.S.C. 2c) and replaces it with a multi-winner district mandate in states that have more than one seat.
Any state electing 5 or fewer Members will not use districts, but will elect all statewide.
Any state electing 6 or more Members will elect from multi-winner districts. Multi-winner districts may not elect fewer than 3 or more than 5 Members each, with an equal number of persons per seat.
For primary elections, each political party will nominate candidates equal to the number to be elected in the district. States with “Top Two” will advance twice the number to be elected in the district.
A state using districts—only one of those electing 6 or more Members—must do so by establishing a citizens’ independent redistricting commission. This approach is based on the proposal in the Redistricting Reform Act of 2015.
In states that must draw districts, a nonpartisan agency develops a pool of 60 candidates: 20 affiliated with the state’s majority party at the time of redistricting, 20 from its minority party, and 20 who are unaffiliated with either of those two parties. After a bipartisan legislative committee approves that pool, the nonpartisan agency randomly selects 4 from each category to create the 12-member commission. Those 12 choose a chair, who must come from the unaffiliated group. The commission then can operate.
After assembling an independent redistricting commission, a state is entitled to $150,000 per Representative to offset its costs.
Districts must be drawn according to criteria, in the following order of importance:: contiguity; consistency with the Voting Rights Act; no district can be completely safe for one political party (based on presidential vote totals from prior elections); as few districts as possible should elect 4 candidates (to avoid frequent 2-2 splits); as many districts as possible should elect 5 candidates (to maximize proportionality); respect for existing political boundaries and communities of interest; compactness; and respect for visible geographic features.
Each independent redistricting commission must operate transparently. After holding hearings around the state, it will publish preliminary maps, and then hold at least three further hearings with chances for public comments.
A majority of the commission (including at least one from each of the 3 groups) must approve a final congressional district map by August 15th of the year ending in the number one.
If the state does not establish the requisite non-partisan agency or legislative committee, if the legislative committee fails to approve a pool of applicants, or if the independent commission fails to approve a final plan, then a panel of federal judges will develop and adopt a congressional redistricting plan, guided by the same criteria.
In the current district system, mandated in 1967, a candidate is only sure to win if receiving a majority (50% + 1) of the votes. This is called a “winner-take-all” voting rule.
Many states and cities with multi-winner districts also have winner-take-all voting rules. That means a majority (50% + 1) of the voters can elect 100% of the seats.
The Fair Representation Act establishes a “fair representation” voting rule. A majority (50% + 1) of voters can elect a majority of the seats, but not all seats. In a 5-winner district, 17% of voters can always elect 1 seat, 34% of voters can always elect 2 seats, and so on.