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LWV League of Women Voters of the Cincinnati Area Education Fund
Smart Voter
Hamilton County, OH November 4, 2008 Election
Issue 8
Proportional Representation
City of Cincinnati

Charter Amendment - Majority Approval Required

Fail: 52,660 / 46.35% Yes votes ...... 60,943 / 53.65% No votes

See Also: Index of all Issues

Information shown below: Summary | Arguments |

Shall the proposed amendment to the Charter of the City of Cincinnati to provide for a method of proportional representation for electing the members of Council whereby each voter ranks candidate choice in descending order from 1 through 9 on each ballot; to provide for the counting of ballots and the determination of results whereby the ballots that are not needed or cannot be used to elect a candidate are distributed to the next highest candidate choice on each ballot who remains eligible to be elected; to provide for the ballot language and direction to voters; to provide for the election of two candidates for mayor in a primary election who shall be eligible for the regular municipal election for mayor; to provide for the election of mayor in the general election; to provide for the choice of write-in candidates; to provide for the election of council and the mayor by ballot without designation of political party; to provide for the marking, sorting and counting of ballots and tabulating the results in a manner consistent with the charter and general election law for non-partisan ballots; to provide for the ongoing validity of Article IX should any provision of Article IX be amended or held unconstitutional or in violation of state law; to provide for the use of mechanical, electronic or other devices for vote counting; and provide other procedures to implement proportional representation by repealing existing Sections 5, 5a, 7, 8, 11 and 12 and enacting new Sections 5, 5a, 7, 8, 11, 12 and 13, be approved?

Summary Prepared by League of Women Voters of the Cincinnati Area:

This proposed amendment to the charter of the city of Cincinnati would change the method of electing city council members. Now council members are elected under a 9X at-large system in which the voter selects up to 9 candidates without indicating preferences. The 9 candidates with the most votes are elected to council. If this amendment passes, city council members would be elected by proportional representation (PR), a preferential at-large system, whereby voters rank their choices for council. This amendment was placed on the ballot by initiative petition.


From 1924 to 1957 PR was the method of electing Cincinnati city council members despite attempts in 1936, `39, `47, and `54 to change the method. In 1957, voters approved a charter amendment replacing PR with the current 9X system. In 1988 and again in 1991, charter amendments to reinstitute PR were defeated. In 1993 a charter amendment to replace 9X with cumulative voting was defeated. Concerns for minority representation on council have led to these continued attempts to replace 9X.

Comparison of 9X and Proportional Representation (PR)

At-Large Elections - The current 9X system and the proposed proportional representation method are both at-large electoral systems meaning that representatives (council members) are elected from the entire government unit (the city of Cincinnati in this case) rather than from individual districts in the city.

Candidates under both methods run in a "field race," i.e. all candidates run for all the seats on council, not "head to head" for individual seats.

The Ballot - Candidates under either system would continue to be listed on the ballot without party designation (non-partisan ballot) and would be rotated on the ballot. Both systems provide for write-in candidates.

Marking the Ballot - In the case of 9X, each voter may vote for not more than 9 candidates by marking next to each candidate's name for whom the voter wants to vote.

In the case of PR, voters rank their choices of council candidates in order of preference from 1 through 9 by marking appropriate boxes. A voter may not vote for more than 9 candidates but may vote for fewer than 9.

Tabulating the Vote - The 9X ballot gives one vote to each of the candidates selected by the voter. The 9 candidates who receive the highest number of votes are declared elected.

The PR ballots are sorted and counted according to the voters' first choices. A quota to win is determined by dividing the total number of candidates to be elected plus one into the total number of ballots cast and then add one to that resulting number. Any candidate receiving the quota is declared elected. The number of first choice ballots beyond the quota are termed "surplus" ballots and are transferred by mathematical formula to subsequent choices as indicated by the voters on their ballots. If first choice ballots and transferred ballots do not reach the quota for any of the candidates, then the candidate with the fewest votes is declared defeated and that candidate's ballots are redistributed to the remaining candidates who have not been declared elected. A ballot is always transferred to the highest choice marked on it which will help elect a candidate. Eliminations and transfers are continued in this manner until 9 persons are declared elected.

  Official Information

City of Cincinnati website

Proportional Representation Forum

  • Wednesday, October 15 at 6 PM - around 7 PM at Cincinnati-Hamilton County Community Action Agency, 1740 Langdon Farm Road. Mount Holyoke professor Douglas J. Amy to give lecture, "Proportional Representation: The Argument For and Against Electoral Reform for Cincinnati." Q & A to follow. Sponsored by The Mount Holyoke Alumnae Club of Cincinnati. If you have questions, contact Lucille Blocksom at, or 321-4789.
News and Analysis

Google News Search

WCET-TV Channel 48 (Cincinnati) WVXU (91.7 FM) General Links

History of Proportional Representation in the United States
provided by FairVote, written by Prof. Douglas J. Amy

Better Ballot for Cincinnati
Website in favor of Issue 8

Committee to Protect Our Votes
Website against Issue 8
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Arguments For Issue 8 Arguments Against Issue 8
1. A PR election method is fair since voters with similar interests are represented on council in direct proportion to their voting strengths.
2. PR assures that a majority of council represents a majority of the voters while providing representation for significant minorities based on demographics or interests. This representation will encourage more participation of minorities in government and the election process.
3. Election by PR would enable council members to reflect the interests of politically cohesive minority groups without these groups having to be geographically concentrated.
4. PR may reduce campaign costs because candidates can focus their message to a smaller group of voters.
5. PR encourages higher voter participation than the current 9X method because more ballots count towards electing a council member.
6. Encourages positive campaigning and coalition building as candidates can benefit from being a voter's second or third preference.

1. The PR election method is unfamiliar to the American voter and not well understood.
2. PR could encourage government by special and minority interests. Council members elected under this system would be more likely to feel responsible to those interests which elected them than to city wide concerns.
3. PR may not reduce the cost of campaigning as candidates will want to reach the largest audience of voters to ensure a high ranking by those voters.
4. Implementation of PR will add additional costs for voting equipment, software and training. State and federal certification will be needed for any new voting software.
5. The PR vote count is complicated and it is unknown how long the vote count would take or how much it would cost.

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Created: January 24, 2009 10:48 PST
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