Representation

In various ways, the question of representation is present in our culture and in our conversations at General Conference this year.

In the midst of a contentious election season, the election of delegates to conventions represent the votes of the people often means a skewing of the actual vote tallies.  For example: Mr. Donald Trump has only won 37% of the popular vote, but 45% of the overall delegate count. (http://www.nbcnews.com/politics/2016-election/despite-complaints-delegate-system-has-given-trump-22-percent-bonus-n553801).

I’m not an expert on party politics. I know the Democrats have super delegates that change the dynamics, and I’m not as familiar with the Republican allocation of delegates. Until Tuesday, many were counting on the delegate process to be a positive factor in the “Never Trump” contingent.

And yet, when we get to November, we will find ourselves again reminded that we are not a true democracy where every person has a vote. We are a representative democracy. We have a system (the Electoral College and our division of Congress) that protects the voices and interests of all by using both proportional (House of Representatives) and equal (Senate) representation.

Is it perfect? Probably not.

Is it equal? Nope.

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From https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electoral_College_(United_States)

But that’s actually the point.

I’m reminded of the graphic that shows the difference between equality and equity/justice.

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So, as we approach General Conference, I’m thinking about how to vote on legislation that proposes changes to our own delegate counts.

In a sense, we have tried to strike the same balance as the “Great Compromise” did in the US Congress. There are a minimum of delegates granted to every conference, no matter how small. The rest are divided proportionately. And that means our system shares the same kind of distribution inequality as the electoral college (according to # of people per delegate).

But that’s the point.

Our equitable system tries to protect the voice of our smaller regions. It tries to prevent the domination of the larger regions in our polity so that we can truly be a global church and hear from our neighbors far and wide. But it also creates room for proportionality so that we aren’t disenfranchising the voices of people either.

Maybe it’s a pretty good compromise.

1 Comment

  • bthomas

    November 12, 2016 at 11:30 am Reply

    A little over half the voters who cast ballots this past Tuesday would disagree with your estimate that a less than one man/one vote method of electing a President is fundamentally flawed and inequitable. In a few days this nation will have a new President, elected with less than a majority vote, elected simply because he was able to win those states whose electoral college ballots will put him in the White House. Since Wednesday people coast to coast have protested the failure of this system that defrauds the majority, a system that in their opinion saddles them with a President who is illegitimate because he has only minority support. Their opinion is justified. Representatives do not represent geography. They represent people. To grant representation to a geographic region privileging the few over the majority is on its face illegitimate.

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