Yesterday, the US Senate failed to break a filibuster against expanding background checks for buyers of guns.

Under the undemocratic and historically accidental rules of the Senate, it takes 60 votes to end debate. The majority mustered 55.

Whatever you believe about this particular legislation, supermajority rules are no way to govern a sophisticated, diverse, industrial democracy in a fast-changing global economy, especially when the supermajority requirement is piled on top of a representation system that absurdly exaggerates the influence of small-population states. The 55 Senators who wanted to break the filibuster represented not 55 percent of the electorate but 63 percent. Senators voting to sustain the filibuster represented just 37 percent. If Senators’ votes were weighted to reflect how many voters they spoke for, the majority would have broken the filibuster.

  • US Senate Math on background checks2

    In any other industrial democracy, representatives of 63 percent of the electorate could easily implement their legislative agenda. Time to fix the Senate.

    Methods and sources same as here. Senate vote tally here. Senate Majority Leader wanted to break the filibuster but switched his vote to “no” in order to comply with Senate rules that would thereby open him a parliamentary path to reconsidering the issue. I therefore tallied him as a “yes.” [UPDATE 4/18/13: A spreadsheet error led to me initially publishing this post with the population-weighted votes as 60-40, rather than 63-37.]