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Guest opinion: Proportional voting in Provo is better for us

By Fred-Rick Schermer - Special to the Daily Herald | May 21, 2022

We often complain about our politicians. They don’t listen to us; they are embedded with special interests; we vote but we don’t feel part of We The People; politicians take us for granted.

In Provo, we have a district voting system mixed with at-large representatives. Yet no matter how much we participate, our politicians are not always there for us; they are somehow much engaged in their own realities. It is like the voting game is slanted not in our favor but in theirs.

No surprise, therefore, that some stirring is occurring on the political front with representation in our city. Some Provo residents have contacted the internet grassroots organization Local Revolutions, which promotes voting reform via a unique legal pathway. The legal claim is that while the government of Provo is following state rules, the state rules are not following the U.S. Constitution for our local elections.

It gets a bit complicated, but it is as if the state behaves like a landlord that is coming into your home saying that you cannot cook Brussels sprouts for dinner. No matter our personal preferences for what we like for dinner, the state as our landlord should not tell us what we cannot cook in our own home.

The true point is that the state made it illegal for us to get the best voting system in place in Provo. Proportional voting is not allowed, says the state of Utah. The U.S. Constitution, however, declares that no government can deny or disparage rights held by the people and this is then a case of state overreach in our local Provo political realm. Naturally, the state can declare what can or cannot get cooked in the state kitchen, but the state should stay out of our kitchen.

Hundreds of political science professors from across the nation, including political science professors at Brigham Young University, have taken a look at this and none of them provided legal grounds that undermine this constitutional demand. A good number actually pronounced that the legal pathway is correct.

With proportional voting, at minimum 87.5% of Provo voters end up getting the representatives we want to represent us. That is 37.5% greater than the minimum we have right now.

Our voting system today is based on what is much like our flipping a coin — 50% plus one vote gets the win. Contrast this with proportional voting which is more like rolling a die. All voters roll their number from between one and six and all these outcomes form the end result.

We can express ourselves better when we can pick our candidates in a more refined manner. Proportional voting increases the influence, therefore, that voters will have on their representatives with this better voting system. The more influence the voters have, the less influence special interests and money will have on City Hall. We can make our representatives connect with us more than they are today.

Proportional voting is a smart system that was already devised by Thomas Jefferson. The name is based on “portion” — meaning that the same portion as found with the population is then expressed on the council. In an example, when 40% of the voters want and vote for representatives that are promoting better education, then 40% of the council seats go to these representatives. What the voters want, that is what the voters get.

The Local Revolutions grassroots organization on behalf of Provo residents sent city officials a Constitutional Invocation, demanding that the city implements proportional voting in Provo. Supporters for a better voting system are encouraged to email Mayor Kaufusi, the city clerk and the Election Commission of Utah County and demand the implementation of proportional voting per the U.S. Constitution.

The state made it illegal for voters to be represented in the most optimal manner possible. We should implement this more representative voting system at our own local level and tell the state to go take a hike, per the U.S. Constitution.

Fred-Rick Schermer is the founder of Local Revolutions, a grassroots organization working toward more accurate representation in politics.

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