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Why New Zealand's Two-Vote System Works

The author of the opinion-page article "Let's Dump Single-Member Electoral Districts," Aug. 8, is right. It is time for America to catch up with the rest of the world and replace its single-member district electoral system with proportional representation. However, I must take issue with one of the author's points. He suggests that we could stick with our tradition of candidate-voting rather than Continental European-style party-slate voting if we introduced a preferential-vote system in multiseat districts, such as in Ireland's or Australia's Senate.

We could do what has been done in New Zealand, another country with a long tradition of single-member districts. Voters there will now have two votes: one for a representative in a single-member district, and another for a party of their choice. This system lets every vote count and helps minority interests get represented. The party-list seats could be allocated state-by-state, to preserve the essence of state delegations. Such a reform could be combined with an increase in the size of the House, so that there would be fewer states with only one or two members. It is time for America to get serious about overhauling its antiquated political system.

Matthew Shugart La Jolla, Calif.

Japanese records may have answers

The recent articles relating to the end of World War II and the decision to use the atomic bomb have been extremely interesting. Whether it was necessary to use the bomb to bring about a rapid Japanese surrender will, I expect, remain unanswered. Many historians cite various allied military leaders to the effect that the Japanese were already defeated and ready to surrender.

Indeed, the author of the article "Why Truman Dropped the Bomb," Aug. 4, quotes Admiral Leahy as having such an opinion. Are there no Japanese documents available that discuss Japanese plans for surrender or plans to continue fighting? The contemporary documents and records of the Japanese leaders would seem to be a better indication of their plans for pursuing the war, rather than the opinions of American military leaders.

J. Milton Andres

Palos Verdes Estates, Calif.

Iron-fisted EPA attorneys

The front-page headline "Browner Dons Gloves for EPA," Aug. 8, could not have been more apropos. A large part of the Environmental Protection Agency's problem is the willingness of its regulators to don boxing gloves when kid gloves would be more appropriate. This antagonism on the part of EPA stems from the fact that it has too many attorneys in positions of authority. Given that attorneys are trained to be adversarial, their confrontational approach often ensures that pollution problems take too long to resolve, if in fact they are resolved at all.

As one former EPA employee, referring to the 40-odd attorneys in his regional office, told me, "Lawyers aren't happy unless they're litigating." Although that may be an unfair generalization, I fear that too many EPA attorneys are guilty of that charge.

Michael E. Campana Sandia Park, N.M.

What are we praying for?

Regarding the front-page article "A School-Prayer Dispute Divides Bible Belt Town," Aug. 4: One issue that apparently has not been considered by the opposing sides is, What is the purpose of prayer?

Has the Christian right come to the point that they pray about anything and everything? I don't dispute any person's right to do so; however, I do think people should reflect on what they are praying about. Do those prayers at football games ask for peace for the war-torn suffering in Bosnia? For the starving in Africa? Or do they merely ask for blessing and victory of one team or another?

Are we so wrapped up in our fight for our right to pray that we no longer consider what we are praying for?

Susan Palmer Albuquerque, N.M.

Your letters are welcome. For publication they must be signed and include your address and telephone number. Only a selection can be published and none acknowledged. Letters should be addressed to "Readers Write" and may be sent by mail to One Norway St., Boston, MA 02115, by fax to 617-450-2317, or by Internet e-mail (200 words maximum) to OPED@RACHEL.CSPS.COM.

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