This morning, in a report on NPR on the preparation for Iraq’s December assembly elections, correspondent J.J. Sutherland said:
Proportional representation, very much like the US Congress, where more populated states have more representatives [...] so Baghdad will get many more seats than, say, Anbar province.
Well, no. Proportional representation is nothing like the US.
First of all, as Sutherland noted in a sentence or two before the one I quoted, Iraqis will have many, many more choices on their ballots than we get on ours. With multiple parties presenting lists, the parties will be represented within each province in accordance to the votes cast in that province. That’s proportional representation.
The change from the last Iraqi assembly election is not proportional representation, but the replacement of the single nationwide district with 18 districts coinciding with the provinces. But that is not proportional representation. That is apportionment (as the US constitution defines it in Article I, section 3, without saying anything about how they will be allocated within the states). How those seats are allocated (to parties and/or candidates) once apportioned is a separate dimension of an electoral system.
As I have noted before, this is a common confusion in the US. But is it too much to ask someone whose job it is to report on elections to understand the difference between apportionment and allocation? To understand that a voting process resembling what most of the world’s democracies use is not “like the US Congress”?