Women Could Gain With Proportional Elections

Regarding the article "Women Marking Slow, Steady Gains in US Politics," July 18: One way we could speed the growth of women in office in the United States would be to adopt a proportional representation electoral system - one in which at least some candidates are elected at large to allow the distribution of seats to reflect accurately the distribution of votes among the competing parties or candidates. Almost without exception, nations using proportional representation have more women in office than the handful of nations using "winner-take-all" systems in single-member districts. Germany provides an opportunity to compare effects of electoral systems on women in office; half of its Bundestag is elected from single-member districts and half from an at-large party list proportional vote. In the 1983 West German election, 16 percent of winners in the party-list half of the Bundestag were women, while in the single-member district elections women won only 4 percent of the seats - close to the current percentages of women elected in such winner-take-all nations as Britain and the US. Proportional representation has a number of benefits, including allowing voters both a greater chance to have their vote count toward representation and an increased number of choices to express their will. The fact that it results in more women in office is reason alone to consider it seriously. Robert Richie, Olympia, Wash.

Letters are welcome. Only a selection can be published, subject to condensation, and none acknowledged. Please address them to "Readers Write," One Norway St., Boston, MA 02115.

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