Proportional Representation

November 8, 1938

Report Outline
Possible Spread of P.R. After Election
Development and Workings of P. R. System
American Experience with F.R. Elections

Possible Spread of P.R. After Election

Referenda on P.R. in New York and Massachusetts

At the general election on November 8, citizens of New York state will vote on an amendment submitted by the 1938 state constitutional convention prohibiting the use of proportional representation in future elections conducted by the state or any of its subdivisions. Approval of the amendment would deal a disastrous blow to the “P.R.” movement throughout the country. It would have the immediate effect of outlawing the P.R. system adopted by voters of New York City in 1936, used for the first time in the 1937 municipal election, and of nullifying referenda on the question of adopting the system to be held, November 8, in Yonkers and Schenectady. Rejection of the amendment, on the other hand, would enhance the prestige of the movement and lend strength to current efforts to obtain adoption of the system in other cities in New York state, as well as in Chicago, Philadelphia, St. Louis, and elsewhere.

Adoption of P.R., as well as the city manager form of municipal government, will be voted on in four Massachusetts cities—Cambridge, Northampton, Quincy, and Waltham—on November 8. Permission to adopt the P.R.-city manager system by referendum vote was granted by the state legislature, at its 1938 session, to all cities except Boston, after such action had been recommended by a special commission on taxation and public expenditures.

Impending Action on P.R. Plans for Chicago and Philadelphia

Legislation permitting Chicago and Philadelphia to adopt the P.R.-city manager system by referendum will be offered in the Illinois and Pennsylvania legislatures when those bodies convene next January. During the special session of the Illinois legislature last June, a committee of the lower house held public hearings on a measure to allow any city in the state to adopt the P.R.-city manager system, but the bill failed to come to a vote before adjournment. The proposal was supported by Governor Horner but was opposed by the Chicago delegation, dominated by the Kelly-Nash machine, which had succeeded in defeating a similar measure during the 1937 session by a close vote.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
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Feb. 25, 2011  Redistricting Debates
Apr. 11, 2008  D.C. Voting Rights
Feb. 16, 2001  Redistricting
Aug. 12, 1994  Electing Minorities
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Feb. 05, 1982  Reapportionment: Year of Decision
Sep. 30, 1964  Reapportionment Struggle
May 03, 1961  Reapportionment in the Courts
Oct. 29, 1958  Unequal Representation
Oct. 10, 1950  Representation in the United Nations
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Nov. 08, 1938  Proportional Representation
May 13, 1929  The Census and Reapportionment
Dec. 06, 1927  Apportionment of Representatives in Congress
State, Local, and Intergovernmental Relations