California State Flag Californians for
Electoral Reform
PO Box 128, Sacramento, CA 95812
cfer DASH info AT cfer DOT org
Home   |  About CfER   |  Join / renew   |  Learn   |  Legislation   |  Local Campaigns   |  Community Outreach   |  Search
Notable Quotes:

"The right of voting for representation is the primary right by which other rights are protected." -- Thomas Paine

"[legislatures in the United States] should be an exact portrait, in miniature, of the people at large, as it should think, feel, reason, and act like them." -- John Adams

"... the portrait is excellent in proportion to its being a good likeness,...the legislature ought to be the most exact transcript of the whole society... the faithful echo of the voices of the people." -- James Wilson at the Constitutional Convention

"The Electors [voters] who are on a different side in party politics from the local majority are unrepresented... [This system] is diametrically opposed to the first principle of democracy, representation in proportion to numbers." -- John Stuart Mill, in Considerations on Representative Government (1861)

"[I]t is a weak point in the theory of representative government as now organized and administered, that a large portion of the voting people are permanently disenfranchised." -- James Garfield U.S. President (1881)

"Proportional Representation is the shield and the essence of the charter." -- Murry Seasongood, Mayor of Cincinnati 1926-1930

"The case for [PR] is fundamentally the same as that for representative democracy. Only if an assembly represents the full diversity of opinion within a nation can its decisions be regarded as the decisions of the nation itself." -- Encyclopedia Britannica

"Unquestionably, it can be shown that PR can provide the greatest equity in representing all sectors of the community. ... There is a renewed interest in PR because of its potential usefulness as a means to assure representation of minority populations and technological advances..." -- National Civic League, Model City Charter, Seventh Edition

"The current 'first-past-the-post' system is undemocratic. On that ground alone, it needs to be replaced." -- The Economist [1991 Editorial]

"Many Americans do not realize that we could institute proportional representation for most elections in the U.S. without amending the Constitution. In helping to educate the public about the potential for voting system reform, CVD can play a central role in a pro-democracy movement right here in America!" -- John Anderson, National Chair, Center for Voting and Democracy, 1980 Independent Presidential Candidate

"Because of our peculiar electoral law, the American government is divided between two parties. The American people are not." -- Michael Lind, Executive Director, The Atlantic Monthly, August, 1992

"[W]e need to put the idea of proportionality at the center of our conception of representation." -- Lani Guinier, Professor of Law, University of Pennsylvania, in the Boston Review, Sept./Oct., 1992

"[PR] gives voters more choices and gives both the majority and the minority (or minorities) their fair share of representation ... without the ridiculous contortions of the gerrymanders forced by small, single-member districts." -- Professor Kathleen Barber, in the Cleveland Plain Dealer, 10-27-92

"Since becoming a resident of Cambridge in the 1950's, I have been fortunate to have always had a representative of my choice on the City Council and on the School Committee, thanks to proportional representation. In contrast, I have never had a representative of my choice in the U.S. House of Representatives because I am a Republican in what was Tip O'Neill's and is now Joe Kennedy's district." -- John Moot, long time resident of Cambridge, Mass., in an op-ed, 1992

"Gerrymandering is one of the great political curses of our single-member district plurality system and one that can only truly be lifted by adopting proportional representation." -- Professor Douglas Amy, Real Choices, New Voices, Columbia University Press, New York, 1993

"Another change that could have a positive outcome [on voter turnout] is the addition of more political parties and candidates... [T]he one way to assure more diversity on the ballot is to change the electoral system and adopt proportional representation." -- Seymour Lipset, "Why Americans Refuse to Vote", Insight, 2/94

"There is no issue that is more sensitive to politicians of all colors and ideological persuasions than redistricting. It will determine who wins and loses for eight years." -- Ted Harrington, political science chair, UNC-Charlotte, quoted during Shaw v. Hunt trial, March 1994

"... we should recognize that our approach to splintering the electorate into racially designated single-member districts does not by any means mark a limit on the authority federal judges may wield to rework electoral systems under our Voting Rights Act jurisprudence.... Already, some advocates have criticized the current strategy of creating majority-minority districts and have urged the adoption of other voting mechanisms -- for example, cumulative voting or a system using transferable votes -- that can produce proportional results without requiring division of the electorate into racially segregated districts....nothing in our present understanding of the Voting Rights Act places a principled limit on the authority of federal courts that would prevent them from ... securing proportional representation based on transferable votes." -- Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, joined by Justice Scalia, in Holder v. Hall [United States Law Week, 6/28/94]

"[A] far-reaching reform that deserves more attention is modifying our electoral system in the direction of proportional representation with an eye to opening up the parties and increasing voter participation.... Americans should at least begin thinking about how to modify our system in a proportional direction. -- Kevin Phillips, Arrogant Capital (1994)

"The system of proportional representation ensures that virtually every constituency in the country will have a hearing in the national and provincial legislatures." -- Bishop Desmond Tutu, The Rainbow People of God (1994)

"In place of this winner-take-all system of individualized, expensive, and superficial contests in single-member districts, we propose that each state be turned into a single, multimember district from which its allotted number of House seats would be filled by a means of PR (proportional representation)." -- James Skillen, Executive Director, Center for Public Justice Recharging the American Experiment [Baker Books, Grand Rapids, Mich., 1994]

"There may have been a time when our interests were more or less tied to our geography. But in the highly mobile society that America has become, political viewpoint certainly seems worth considering in drawing the boundaries of a district .... One interesting proposal would cut the Gordian knot by eliminating districts altogether in favor of a proportional representation scheme." -- William Raspberry, Washington Post column, October 1994

"[We now have] a flawed kind of democracy....[we need to] look at some way to get proportional representation...we should adopt some form of it." -- Jerry Brown, ex-governor of California, 1992 presidential candidate, Answering a question at "The American Electorate", an event sponsored by We The People Santa Rosa, California, 1/28/95

"[The goal] should be to seek a congress that looks broadly, like the nation, and state and local bodies that look like their communities. The means to achieve that end are not mysterious. They're well tried. ... the nasty fact is that our winner-take-all election system, adopted from 18th century England and unchanged, has the potential to leave up to 49.9% of the voters in any district feeling unrepresented -- whatever their race or ethnicity. Most other democracies have moved beyond us in making their systems more representative. ... Proportional representation ... helps create a greater sense of inclusion." -- USA Today editorial, 6/30/95

"Reconsider proportional representation. This political system, as opposed to the 'winner-take-all' process, has been effective in countries around the world and more fairly represents the true will of the people." -- Natural Law Party platform, 4/22/97

"A government is republican [if] every member composing it has his equal voice in the direction of its concerns ... by representatives chosen by himself and responsible to him at short periods." --Thomas Jefferson, 1816

"In a democratic government, the right of decision belongs to the majority, but the right of representation belongs to all." -- Ernest Naville, 1865

"Everybody feels that they are represented, that their voice was heard, and they are satisfied. It was the only election I have ever known of in which this feeling holds." -- Maj. J. W. Wooldridge, after Sacramento's 1921 preference voting election for city council

"The exclusion of minorities may defeat the will of the majority." -- George Hallett, 1937

"My most earnest wish is to see the republican element of popular control pushed to the maximum of its practicable exercise. I shall then believe that our government may be pure and perpetual." -- Thomas Jefferson, 1816

"Extend the sphere, and you take in a greater variety of interests; you make it less probable that a majority of the whole will have a common motive to invade the rights of other citizens." -- The Federalist, No. 10

"Men cannot be justly bound by laws, in making which they have no share." -- James Madison, Letter to Joseph C. Cabell, January 5, 1829

"Different interests necessarily exist in different classes of citizens. If a majority be united by a common interest, the rights of the minority will be insecure. There are but two methods of providing against this evil: the one by creating a will in the community independent of the majority that is, of the society itself; the other, by comprehending in the society so many separate descriptions of citizens as will render an unjust combination of a majority of the whole very improbable, if not impracticable." -- The Federalist, No. 51

"That it may be the interest of this assembly to do strict justice at all times, it should be an equal representation, or, in other words, equal interests among the people should have equal interests in it. Great care should be taken to effect this." -- John Adams, "Thoughts On Government"

"The LegisIature ought to be the most exact transcript of the whole Society. Representation is made necessary only because it is impossible for the people to act collectively." -- James Wilson, Constitutional Convention Debates

"Representatives should sympathize with their constituents; [they] should think as they think, and feel as they feel." -- George Mason, Constitutional Convention Debates

"Where a majority are united by a common sentiment, and have an opportunity, the rights of the minor party become insecure. In a republican government the Majority if united have always an opportunity. The only remedy is to enlarge the sphere, and thereby divide the community into so great a number of interests and parties, that in the first place a majority will not be likely at the same moment to have a common interest separate from that of the whole or of the minority; and in the second place, that in case they should have such an interest, they may not be apt to unite in the pursuit of it. It was incumbent on us then to try this remedy, and with that view to frame a republican system on such a scale and in such a form as will control all the evils which have been experienced." -- James Madison, Constitutional Convention Debates

"It is a matter of the highest importance, in forming this representation, that it be so constituted as to be capable of understanding the true interests of the society for which it acts, and so disposed as to pursue the good and happiness of the people as its ultimate end. ... There is no possible way to effect this but by an equal, full and fair representation; this, therefore, is the great desideratum in politics." -- Brutus the Anti-Federalist

"Referring them to the original simple democracy, it affords the true data from which government on a large scale can begin. It is incapable of extension, not from its principle, but from the inconvenience of its form... Simple democracy was society governing itself without the aid of secondary means. By ingrafting representation upon democracy, we arrive at a system of government capable of embracing and confederating all the various interests and every extent of territory and population ...It is on this system that the American government is founded." -- Thomas Paine, "Rights of Man"

"The first and leading error which naturally arises ... is to confound the numerical majority with the people, and this so completely as to regard them as identical." -- John C. Calhoun, "A Disquisition on Government" (1851)

"A perfect government ... would be one which would embrace the consent of every citizen, or member, of the community." -- John C. Calhoun, "A Disquisition on Government" (1851)

"[The power of acting by a majority] must be grounded on two assumptions, first, that of an incorporation produced by unanimity; and, secondly, an unanimous agreement that the act of a mere majority (say of one) shall pass, with them and with others, as the act of the whole." -- Edmund Burke, "Appeal from the New to the Old Whigs" (1791)

"Does it follow that the minority should have no representation at all? ... Is it necessary that the minority not even be heard? ... Mr. Hare's plan [Personal Representation, is] among the very greatest improvements yet made in the theory and practice of government." - John Stuart Mill, "Representative Government"

"What is the principle of democracy? Is it not that everybody should be represented, and that everybody should be represented equally? Am I represented by a member against whom I have voted, and am ready to vote again?" - John Stuart Mill, supporting his personal representation bill in House of Commons

"The present system is no more just to majorities than to minorities. It gives no guarantee that it is really the majority that preponderates. A minority of the nation, if it be a majority of the prevailing party, may outnumber and prevail over a real majority in the nation. Majorities are never sure of outnumbering minorities, unless every elector is counted - unless every man's vote is as effective as any other man's in returning a representative. No system but that which I am submitting to the House effects this, because it is the only system under which every vote tells, and every constituency is unanimous." - John Stuart Mill, in the House of Commons, 29 may 1867

"[My Personal Representation bill] would be a healing, a reconciling measure; softening all political transitions; securing that every opinion, instead of conquering or being conquered by starts and shocks, and passing suddenly from having no power at all in Parliament to having too much, or the contrary, should wax or wane in political power in exact proportion to its growth or decline in the general mind of the country." - John Stuart Mill, in the House of Commons

"Against ... class predominance, the personal representation of every voter, and therefore the full representation of every minority is the most valuable of all protections. Those who are anxious for safeguards against the evils they expect from democracy should not neglect the safeguard which is to be found in the principles of democracy itself. It is not only the best safeguard but the surest and most lasting, because it combats the evils and dangers of false democracy by means of the true." -- John Stuart Mill, in the House of Commons

"I saw in this great practical and philosophical idea ['Personal Representation'] the greatest improvement of which the system of representative government is susceptible; an improvement which, in the most felicitous manner, exactly meets and cures the grand, and what before seemed the inherent, defect of the representative system; that of giving to a numerical majority all power, instead of only a power proportional to its numbers, and enabling the strongest party to exclude all weaker parties from making their opinions heard in the assembly of the nation, except through such opportunity as may be given to them by the accidentally unequal distribution of opinions in different localities." - John Stuart Mill, Autobiography, 1875

"I can understand that persons, otherwise intelligent, should, for want of sufficient examination, be repelled from Mr. Hare's plan [personal representation] by what they think the complex nature of its machinery. But any one who does not feel the want which the scheme is intended to supply; any one who throws it over as a mere theoretical subtlety or crotchet, tending to no valuable purpose, and unworthy of the attention of practical men, may be pronounced an incompetent statesman, unequal to the politics of the future." -- John Stuart Mill, Autobiography, 1875

Ye'd wonder what's wrong wid the nation!
The way the elections was done
Was proportional reprisintation-
An' in consiquince iverywan won.
-Punch, 12 Sep 23

"[The House of Representatives] ought to know and sympathise with every part of the community." -- George Mason, Constitutional Convention Debates

"The goal of Mr. Pierce was that in the House of Representatives, Citizens of the States would be represented ... individually." -- Notes of the Constitutional Convention Debates

"The Communists have elections, but they have only one candidate on the ballot. It shouldn't be that way in America." -- John Ashcroft, autobiography

"The majority of a majority are, in almost every case, a minority of the people." -- Simon Sterne, 1871

"We have confounded two independent and entirely different political ideas and processes: the right of representation and the right of election." -- Simon Sterne, 1871

"The hallucination [that has] prevented the representative chamber from being ... what we all feel that it should be [is] that the right of the majority to govern carries with it the right of the majority to sole representation." -- Simon Sterne, 1871

"The present mode of choosing representatives ... is based on the just principle of the right of the majority to govern -- but in practical legislation it is connected with a very erroneous one, that the voice of the majority alone is to be regarded." -- Thomas Gilpin, Philadelphia, 1844

"It is the right of every interest to be represented, as far as possible." -- Thomas Gilpin, 1844

"If the power is not immediately derived from the people in proportion to their numbers, we may make a paper confederacy, but that will be all." -- James Madison, Constitutional Convention Debates

"We hold that, construed in its historical context, the command of Article I, Section 2 [of the Constitution] that Representatives be chosen 'by the People of the several States' means that, as nearly as is practicable, one man's vote in a congressional election is to be worth as much as another's." -- U.S. Supreme Court, Wesberry v. Sanders, 1964

"In the United States ... all parties are willing to recognize the rights of the majority, because they all hope at some time to be able to exercise them to their own advantage. ... This state of things is harmful in itself and dangerous for the future." -- Alexis de Tocqueville, "Democracy In America", Chapter 15

"I attribute the small number of distinguished men in political life to the ever increasing despotism of the majority in the United States." -- Alexis de Tocqueville, "Democracy In America", Chapter 15: "The Unlimited Power of the Majority in the United States, and its Consequences"

"Democracy is like a rising tide; it only ebbs to flood back with greater force, and soon one sees that for all its fluctuation it is always gaining ground." -- Alexis de Tocqueville

"Laws and institutions must go hand in hand with the progress of the human mind. As that becomes more developed, more enlightened, as new discoveries are made, new truths disclosed ... institutions must advance also, and keep pace with the times." -- Thomas Jefferson, to Samuel Kercheval, 1810

"We might as well require a man to wear still the same coat which fitted him when a boy, as civilized society to remain ever under the regimen of their barbarous ancestors." -- Thomas Jefferson, to Samuel Kercheval, 1810

"Instant run-off lowers the likelihood of attack campaigning. It disfavors those who appeal to the extremes. Candidates have to address not just their core supporters, but also the supporters of other candidates who might make them their second-choice. With candidates positioned more towards compromise, eventually elected officials will also be poised more toward compromise--diminishing the polarization in politics that has done so much to harm our electoral process and depress voter participation." -- Tom Campbell, former U.S. Congressman (Republican) and State Senator

"Our children will be as wise as we are and will establish in the fulness of time those things not yet ripe for establishment." --Thomas Jefferson to John Tyler, 1810

"The real friends of the Constitution in its federal form, if they wish it to be immortal, should be attentive, by amendments, to make it keep pace with the advance of the age in science and experience." --Thomas Jefferson to Robert J. Garnett, 1824

"each Elector should give two votes, one naming his first choice, the other naming his next choice. If there be a majority for the first, he to be elected; if not, and a majority for the next, he to be elected: If there be not a majority for either, then the names having the two highest number of votes on the two lists taken together, to be referred to a joint ballot of the Legislature." -- James Madison, proposing a ranked ballot method for the Electoral College in 1824

"I am very strongly against one party rule of any sort. As a matter of fact, in my home town, in the election a couple of weeks ago, they elected a fully Democratic slate to the City Council. I am now arguing with some of my Democratic friends. I said, 'If you have any sense, you will realize the danger you are in. If things go wrong, you can't blame anybody else. It's your fault. And furthermore, now is a good time to discuss proportional representation.' I attended a high school where we elected the student council by proportional representation. There are several different systems, but I think the idea of 'winner take all' elections is foolish." -- Pete Seeger, January 4, 2006