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Read the Constitution

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I read "The Vanishing Voter" (cover story, Aug. 16) with considerable interest. I've been involved in electoral reform movements for 20 years, including serving for most of that time on the national executive of the Electoral Reform Coalition (ERC) in New Zealand. The ERC led the campaign to change the voting system for the Parliament of New Zealand from winner-take-all to proportional representation.

I'm writing for two reasons.

First, I'm glad to see more writers and columnists in the United States focusing on the failure of democracy in the U.S. to deliver any semblance of accountability or choice. Secondly, you appear to make the claim that the U.S. Constitution mandates winner-take-all voting for single-member districts for the House. This is a common belief, but reading the Constitution doesn't support it. No method of elections is specified for the House.

The Constitution does specify minimum numbers of representatives for some small states, but does not say how they might be elected. A form of proportional representation could be implemented with some cooperation between state and federal lawmakers, which would be entirely consistent with the Constitution.

The method of elections is defined in federal statutes linked to state laws, but these are laws and can be changed by legislatures.

Americans who wish to know more about Americans seeking electoral reform can look at www.fairvote.org, the Web site of the nonpartisan Center for Voting and Democracy.

Steve Withers
New Zealand

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