by the Editors
We, the people of the United States, talk a good game about the blessings of liberty. But when it comes to the ways in which we utilize one of those blessings – the right to vote – the figures are nothing short of scandalous. The national voter turnout in the 1996 federal elections was 96,456,345, according to the Federal Election Commission. That number represents 49.08 percent of the country’s voting-age population. The percentage was even lower for the 1994 federal elections, a dismal 38.78 percent. It was that fateful election that brought a radical right-wing Republican Congress into power, and triggered a spate of laws openly hostile to the interests of women, children, people of color and the poor. What better reason for us to be diligent about expressing our core belie at the voting booth? Yet too many of us don’t.
Could it be that voter apathy has gripped our nation because some people are overrepresented in our legislatures while others are underrepresented? What would it mean if citizens felt more fully and fairly represented? To find out, we take a look at the theory, and the practice, of proportional representation. Two political scientists surve the alternative voting methods that would give women their rightful place in the country’s deciswn-making bodies. And we offer a report from Great Britain that highlights not only the stunning victory of the Labour party, but also the equally stunning increase in the number of women now seated in the House of Commons – and whether their numbers will matter.
Finally, we add a biting commentary from one exasperated woman, dissatisfied with our recent presidentia choices and with those feminists who insisted she had no choice. It’s true we need to concentrate on increasing the num bers of women in public office at every level. But it’s just as important to remember that not every elected woman wor in our best interests. Getting the right kind of women – thoughtful, committed, progressive – remains our great ch lenge. The 1998 congressional elections are more than a year away; it’s never too early to get busy. – The Editors
United Kingdom: New Labour, New Women by Kelly Candaele
United States: Ain’t I a Voter? by Wilma Rule and Stephen Hill
United States: Don’t Blame Me, I Voted for Myself! by Judith K. Witherow