Thursday, November 09, 2006

Disproportional Representation

Marty Lederman of Georgetown Law School and a regular contributor to Balkinization provides a great illustration of the disproportional representation that characterizes the United States Senate:

I wrote a friend of mine this morning to congratulate her on winning her first electoral race--for school board of our county--and mentioned in passing how remarkable it was that she had garnered in the vicinity of 125,000 votes. A few minutes later, I happened to notice that Craig Thomas of Wyoming had won reelection to the Senate--the United States Senate--with a landside (70%) victory consisting of 134,942 votes.

The winner of our nice little neighborhood school-board election received almost as many votes as . . . the next Senator from the great State of Wyoming!

Lederman goes on to note that there were roughly 32 million votes cast nationwide for Democratic Senate candidates compared to roughly 24 million votes for Republican Senate candidates. (I assume he's counting the two independents--Sanders and Lieberman--in the Democratic totals.) That comes out to about 57 percent of the two-party vote for the Dems. Of course, the Democrats (including the two independents) will have just 51 percent of the seats in the Senate--the narrowest of margins--to show for a 14-point spread in the two-party nationwide vote.

These, of course, are the rules that both parties operate under in our venerable system. As democracy increasingly becomes the norm rather than the exception among the world's states, it's worth noting that many people around the world find our tolerance for disproportional representation rather peculiar--and perhaps even undemocratic.