Regarding your article “San Mateo Union High School District officials consider abandoning at-large system” in the Feb. 23 edition of the Daily Journal:

I find it frustrating that articles like this fail to even mention that proportional representation is an option. The supposed point of moving to districts is because in the at-large system, a 51% majority can elect all of the seats as a slate, running roughshod over the minority. Well, under a districted system, if the 51% majority is well-distributed, they can still win all of the seats. A system designed for proportionality will allow a candidate to win based on a geographic appeal — if you have very deep support from a historically unrepresented area, you can win based on that support. But you don't have to. You just need some coalition that provides a sufficient proportion of votes.

Proportional representation actually meets the goals of the California Voting Rights Act — the law in which the type of lawsuit driving this change for SMUHSD is based — better than districting. But the courts have already ruled districts to be a safe harbor, so that’s what everyone's doing. If they adopted PR, they might have to litigate the issue, and while it seems like they ought to win, nobody wants to take the risk. Voters deserve a system that actually treats all votes equally.

Auros Harman

San Bruno

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(7) comments

Patrick Henry

Auros, can you even explain to the rest of us what “proportional representation” is and why do you want to take away my voting power? Sounds to me like quotas. Are you upset that the people on the board don’t look and act like you do? District elections = divide and conquer and take away voting rights of the citizens so that we can get a candidate that looks like us elected. How Un-American. Didn’t even know San Bruno was in the San Mateo Union High School District.


The basic principle is that the number of votes a group puts up in the election should more or less translate into how many seats they end up holding. You might want to learn something about it before you reflexively attack people.

Under a Proportional Representation system, if Republicans are a third of the voters, they should end up with around a third of the seats, instead of the zero they end up with now, in most Bay Area towns. Personally I'm a registered Democrat, but I think the world would be a better place if there were more Silicon Valley Republicans winnings seats, but also more rural Democrats in places like the Central Valley or Wyoming. Even the reddest and bluest places aren't actually 100% dominated by either party, and the folks who are being shut out deserve a voice.


Sounds like a reasonable idea that should be tried, probably why it won’t.


Hah, indeed. Call me an idealist, though -- if enough of us push for it, I think it could happen. :-)

Wilfred Fernandez Jr


It sounds "Un-American" because it is. If you think about it, the same logic was applied by advocates of separate but equal. Whereas American values were rooted in out of many, one. I say to my well intentioned friends, I like my rice and beans but I love America. People are people, compete to be the best and if you fail, try again. People are smart enough to know what is good for them. They don't need government to tell them.


I don't see how having more voices represented at the table is Un-American. We've adopted many reforms over the years -- direct election of Senators, adding in women and minorities as voters, etc. There's a live debate over our method of electing the president, with some advocating for doing away with the electoral college, some states considering adopting the Nebraska system where each Congressional District gets tallied separately, etc. Maine has switched to using a ranked ballot method, and I think Alaska's considering it.

The whole point of the Federal system is that the states can be "laboratories of democracy". We should try more things. Plenty of countries around the world, including ones that we generally respect as successful allies, such as New Zealand, use a proportional method for their legislatures.

Wilfred Fernandez Jr


You make a case for your advocacy, but it is a non sequitur to the point I made. To you I say, change is natural and inevitable. But not always without unintended consequences. Americans adapt, an admirable trait that remains unchanged.

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