[EM] Vote Management

James Gilmour jgilmour at globalnet.co.uk
Fri Apr 11 10:57:36 PDT 2003

Alex wrote
> It seems that this phenomenon of figuring out how many candidates to run
> is a common feature of PR systems that focus on candidates rather than
> parties.  Cumulative Voting, Limited Voting, and STV all come to mind off
> the top of my head.
> Party list systems, even open-list systems, suffer from no such defect.

This may be a defect, but we must keep it in perspective.

First and foremost, STV-PR is NOT a party-PR voting system.  It is a voter-PR
voting system.  The effects of the "defect" may look very different when viewed
from these two different perspectives.  Of course, party managers might be annoyed
that their party failed to win the last seat because of the way their support
accumulated earlier.  But to the voter, it will probably matter much less that the
last seat was taken by their fifth preference rather than their fourth preference.

Party managers always make the mistake of assuming that every vote for one of
their candidates is a vote for their party.  Of course, it is not a vote against
their party, but party may not have been the principal motivation of a significant
number of electors, especially with second and lower order preferences.  Other
factors come into play, as decided by the voters.  That is what STV-PR is all

I suspect, in practice, vote averaging really affects only the filling of the last
seat in the multi-seat district.  Its importance will also vary from party to
party.  The party who were trying to make use of it in Northern Ireland are a
centre party who might well pick up later transfers from some supporters of the
more polarised parties.  Last year was the first time I had encountered this
practice - it has obviously been re-invented or re-introduced in Northern Ireland.
I never heard anything about it in the STV-PR elections of the 1970s.   The NYC
reports are, therefore, very interesting, but the importance apparently attached
to vote management in those elections may reflect more imagination than reality -
like the reports of the effects of bullet voting.

Party list PR systems may "suffer from no such defect", but they sure suffer from
their own set of defects that are much, much worse.  With closed lists, the voters
have no say at all about which candidates should take the seats.  With open lists,
even the best of the open list systems, there is no way of securing proportional
representation WITHIN the parties.  PR within a party can be at least as important
as PR among parties.  And of course, the voters can do nothing to achieve PR of
anything other than party.


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