The Redistricting Debate Continues: Is Proportional Representation Truly Fair or Legal?

WILL examines yet another inadequate, flawed statistical measure for assessing legislative maps

The News: The Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty (WILL) just released its newest redistricting report, Behind the Lines: Examining Proportional Representation in Redistricting. The report dives into the problematic concept of proportional representation in the gerrymandering debate, especially considering a recent Supreme Court of Wisconsin decision on the state’s legislative maps.  
What Is Proportional Representation? Proportional representation is a statistical measure. It assumes that the percentage of aggregate, statewide vote won by one party should be the same as the percentage of legislative seats that that party wins (e.g., 50% of the vote should result 50% of the seats in the legislature). This standard is used to assess or define gerrymandering, but it has several problems.  
The Quote: WILL Senior Research Analyst, Noah Diekemper, stated, “Proportional representation is a made-up goal with problematic consequences. It is not how legislative districts were legally or constitutionally designed to function and it ignores a state’s political geography. Our report outlines just how far Wisconsin’s ‘redistricting debate’ has fallen from the constitutional norms our Founders intended.”  
Problems of Proportional Representation:  
  • Depending on the geographic distribution of partisan voters, proportional representation might be literally impossible. 
  • It is notoriously hard for third-party candidates to win any races, even if they win a substantial percentage of the vote.
  • The Founders and our constitution could have recognized proportional representation as a standard, but they chose not to. Instead, they recognized the importance of considering the varying interests among communities within the nation and states. 


Dig Deeper: 
Noah Diekemper

Noah Diekemper

Senior Research Analyst

Will Flanders, PHD

Will Flanders, PHD

Research Director

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