Safe Seats – seats that the incumbent has an overwhelming chance of winning each election, thereby continuing in office as long as he wants. The reelection rate in the ten years prior to 2003 was 98%. These seats are in districts that are often safe because they were gerrymandered. A significantly larger Multi-Member district, say one with four or five representatives, will pit an incumbent against several opponents in the general election, opponents from his party, the other major party, and perhaps third parties too. There will be more competition; it will be a more democratic election. Read more in Single Transferable Vote (bibliography.)
A Multi-Member district is one with more than one Representative. It might have five in contrast with our current single-member districts. Most Western democracies use some form of multiple-winner voting system, with the United States and the United Kingdom being notable exceptions.
As an example, let’s say your state had one or more districts with five Representatives each. At election time, there might be five incumbents and a number of other individuals running in your district, and they could be from both major parties or be independents or be from third parties. Your state might use the Single Transferable Vote (STV) system, in which case you would indicate your preference or ranking for the candidates by writing 1,2,3,4,and 5 beside their names. Your vote is allocated to your most preferred or #1 candidate, and after candidates have been either elected or eliminated, the computer will transfer any surplus or unused votes according to your preference, say to your #2 choice and so on. This system minimizes “wasted” votes, provides approximately proportional (party) representation, and enables votes to be explicitly cast for individual candidates rather than for closed party lists. It achieves this by using multi-seat districts and by transferring votes to other eligible candidates that would otherwise be wasted on sure losers or sure winners. It reduces the odds of a Representative holding a safe seat.
Safe seats also will be greatly reduced in the House of Representatives by term limits.
Congressional voter turnout (non-presidential years) has been steady – and very poor – at around 37% for the past 35 years or so. Voters don’t feel their vote makes a difference; they have lost trust. Multi-Member districts and term limits will give them more trust. This will lead to greater turnout and to voters that are more tuned in to the country’s issues.