I am a Georgetown Ph.D. candidate studying election reform in the United States. My academic writing has appeared in American Politics Research, National Civic Review, The Monkey Cage, and USAPP. I have two big projects right now: a book on the historic use of proportional representation (PR) in American cities, then an article on the recent spread of "ranked-choice voting" in U.S. states.
Can PR elections be combined with American legislative institutions? How might PR win in the first place? I look for answers in the last wave of reform, 1915-60, when 24 cities adopted PR and all but one repealed it.
The American path to PR involves negotiation of new rules between a ruling-party faction and one or more out-parties. The result is a multi-party system, potentially with pre-election coalition parties.
Whether PR is stable depends on how parties approach legislative bargaining. When a multi-party coalition can be fluid, as it can in the absence of parliamentary-style "snap" elections, its largest party can get hurt. This leads the system's largest parties to attack smaller ones by changing the voting rules. Stability therefore requires one of two conditions: that only the second-largest party "rolls" its coalition, or that the legislative agenda be restricted between elections.
This project also gives the first quantitative history of PR in American cities. I draw on newspapers, archives, and newly digitized data from three very different party systems. These data cover 5,127 roll-call votes, 126 unique legislators, 1,011 rounds of vote-counting under the single transferable vote, 1,001 candidates, and their party affiliations over 25 elections. The data come from three representative cities: Cincinnati (1929-57); New York City (1937-47); and Worcester, Mass. (1949-61).
Thanks for reading.