Voting Systems

States have the authority to design their voting systems, so long as they do not violate the Constitutional Amendments or federal laws that prohibit them from discriminating against voters by gender or race.  In a 1997 case the US Supreme Court decided that states could design rules that made it very difficult for any but the two major parties to compete.  One of the very few times that the Supreme Court intervened to overturn a state law regarding the election process was in Gore v. Bush when it overturned a Florida Supreme Court decision that according to Florida law ballot counting in that contested Presidential election should continue.

Often states allow cities to develop their own rules regarding how local officials are elected.

Cumulative Voting – Amarillo

In Amarillo, Texas, which is is 16 percent Latino and 6 percent black, a minority had not been elected to the school board since the 1970s.

In 1998, several concerned Black and Latino citizens, together with the Amarillo chapter of the League of United Latin American Citizens (and later the local NAACP), sued the school board under the Voting Rights Act. … Read More

Cumulative Voting – Illinois

The state of Illinois had a semi-proportional voting system to elect the lower House from 1870 to 1980. This was a minor modification of the winner-take-all rules. The state was divided into three-seat districts. Voters had three votes but had the option to give all three votes to one candidate. As a result, in Illinois, district typically had two representatives representing two major factions within the majority party and one representative from the minority party.… Read More

Proportional Representation

While some reformers believe that campaign finance reform will cure many of the ills of our election process, others feel the key is proportional representation, or other, related reforms. Proportionalrepresentation means electing representatives to our legislatures in proportion to their support in the population. Under our current system of winner-take-all elections in single-member districts, the...

Proportional Representation – Cambridge

Cambridge's nine City Councillors and six School Committee members are elected at large by Proportional Representation (PR) for a two year term. Any partly or candidate receiving more than 10 percent of the vote can obtain at least one seat on the Council.… Read More

States’ Choice of Voting Systems Act – Federal

A nice example of a Federal legislative initiative giving states the right to establish innovative voting systems. It was offered in 1999.… Read More

Voting Equipment

After the controversial Presidential election of 2000, many communities were compelled to re-examine their voting equipment and consider alternatives. In addition the Federal government passed legislation in 2002 (Help America Vote Act)that created standards for voting equipment and funding to states to make the switch. In the rush to pass this new law some key elements were left out, such as a voter verifiable paper receipt.… Read More


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David Morris

David Morris is co-founder of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance and currently ILSR's distinguished fellow. His five non-fiction books range from an analysis of Chilean development to the future of electric power to the transformation of cities and neighborhoods.  For 14 years he was a regular columnist for the Saint Paul Pioneer Press. His essays on public policy have appeared in the New York TimesWall Street Journal, Washington PostSalonAlternetCommon Dreams, and the Huffington Post.