[EM] 01/12/03 - James Gilmour Writes and Writes Somemore:

James Gilmour jgilmour at globalnet.co.uk
Thu Jan 16 16:18:15 PST 2003

> Donald had written:
> > District STV has this added problem because there is no linkage between the
> > party proportionality in the district and the party proportionality in the
> > entire jurisdiction.
> James wrote: "This is only a problem if you think it's a problem."
> Date: Mon, 23 Dec 2002 19:02:59 -0000
> Donald here:  It may not be a pressing problem, but it is a measure of the
> quality of a district election method and district Preference Voting/STV
> does not have any of this quality.

If there is a problem with districts, get rid of the districts.

> James: "There is much more to political representation than party
> proportionality."
> Donald:  I will agree that there is more, but party proportionality is
> number one and should and can be retained at near 100% while the `more' is
> included in a method.

It is not for you or me to say what "is number one".  What is "number one" in any
particular election should be decided by those who choose to vote in that
election.  That is part of my definition of "democratic representation".  The fact
that all party-PR systems place an unnecessary limitation on that makes all
party-PR systems unacceptable to me (that includes Party Lists, both closed and
open, and MMP).

> James:  Proportionality WITHIN parties is just as important as
> proportionality BETWEEN or AMONG parties."
> Donald:  Now you are going into the inner workings of a party, which should
> not be the realm of an election method.

This is complete untrue and is a mis-representation of what I wrote (quoted
correctly by Donald with my original emphases).  It is the proportionality within
the elected body (eg UK House of Commons) that matters and that is what should be
under the control of the voters through the operation of the voting system.  There
are issues within individual parties on which that party's supporters (= voters
who vote for that party, most will not be members) will be split.  To the extent
that those who vote for that party can identify that diversity among the party's
candidates, that diversity of view should be reflected in those elected, if those
voters so wish.  There are other issues (eg UK adoption of the Euro as our
currency) on which the supporters of several parties are split.  Again, democratic
representation would be healthier if that difference of view among the voters were
reflected in the composition of the House of Commons, provided always that that is
what the voters want.  In such cases, proportionality within each party would
result in PR on an issue that runs across the parties.

Voters also want PR on such matters as the gender, ethnic origin and religious
affiliation of their representatives.  All of these are about PR within each

> Each party has the power to decide
> which candidates to run in an election.  The election method merely does
> the math of the public votes.

I agree.  But the election method (voting system) should not artificially and
unnecessarily constrain the choices the voters can make.

> In order to improve the proportionality
> within parties, you will need to write some separate laws outside the
> election method laws.

Not so - just allow those who support (vote for) each party to decide which of its
candidates will be elected.

>  In the meantime you are free to vote for the
> candidates of the party that does have good proportionality within its
> party.  Maybe if a party did have very good inside proportionality it would
> attract more support, but I digress.

It is for each party to decide which candidates will maximise it appeal to its
supporters (voters) and potential supporters (potential voters).  If a party
recognises that its "market" is segmented, it would be wise to ensure that its
team of candidates will appeal to the segments it considers important.

> Donald had written:
> > Now, I will say that MMP does have a few flaws, but nothing that cannot be
> > corrected if a jurisdiction is willing to change a few rules of MMP, but in
> > spite of these few flaws, MMP is still the best district method in use
> > today and is also the best multi-seat method if the close member-link is
> > important to the people of a jurisdiction.
> James: "These comments make me suspect you have no personal experience of MMP."
> Donald:  If this comment of yours implies you think those of us who do not
> have your onhand experience should step out of any discussion of election
> methods and leave the field to you, well, guess again James, you are sadly
> mistaken, it does not work that way.  When I think you are correct I will
> say you are correct and when I think you are wrong I will say you are
> wrong.

There is nothing in what I wrote that could possibly justify these implications.

It is perfectly clear that my comment "These comments make me suspect you have no
personal experience of MMP" was made in the context your assertion: "MMP is still
the best district method in use today and is also the best multi-seat method if
the close member-link is important to the people of a jurisdiction."  All I
suggested was that if you had had first-hand experience of MMP, you would not have
made such an assertion - because it is not supported by the facts.  The problems
with MMP in both Scotland and New Zealand are matters of public record that have
been widely reported in the political media.

> Your direct contact with STV and/or MMP should be a very good learning
> experience for you and should have given you a good understanding of the
> good and defective features of STV and/or MMP, but you do not seem to have
> gained that understanding.  You are so close to the trees you cannot see
> the forest.
> There is very little STV in America and no MMP, so it is true I have no
> personal experience of either, but I would like to say that I also have no
> personal experience of laying an egg, but I am able to tell a good egg from
> a defective STV.
> Both STV and MMP have good and defective design features, you should be
> willing to see and admit these features of each.  From my vantage point I
> have a better view of the forest than you have.  Best you listen to me
> about the good and bad of election methods - Ha Ha.

The preceding three paragraphs are so patronising and condescending that I shall
not dignify them by further comment.  They do nothing to advance your argument.

> James:  "It has two serious flaws that no amount of tinkering will cure."
> Donald:  Oh, how wrong you are.  Current Top-Up MMP has some flaws, but
> nothing that cannot be corrected if we are willing to change some of its
> rules.  For example:
>  * We can use only district candidates on the party list, according to how
> well they did in their districts, to allow the voters to determine the
> candidates and order of the list.

Something like this has been proposed in the UK on several occasions for MMP
(which we call AMS = Additional Member System).  The fundamental flaw in this
approach is that the outcomes of the district contests are not fair reflections of
the relative merits of the candidates within any one party. The district results
depend on the number of parties and number of candidates contesting each district
and on the relative performance of all the other parties and all the other
candidates within the district.

>  * We can use Instant Runoff Voting in the districts to not only elect the
> best choice of the voters, but also to determine the best order of the
> candidates that go on the party list.

This would ensure that the district contest was won by a candidate with a majority
of the votes, but would not overcome the fundamental flaw explained above.  (Many
on this list would, of course, challenge any such use of IRV - but that's a quite
different discussion.)

>  * We can give the voter only one vote instead of two so that we avoid the
> distortions of cross party voting.

This would be a retrograde step and would introduce at least one new problem - it
would distort the "true" party PR.  Many analyses have shown that substantial
numbers of voters in single-member districts do not vote for their preferred party
to win, but vote tactically for another party that they believe has a better
chance of keeping out a party they do not want to win.  This is a perfectly fair
way for voters to behave in single-member districts (and it can be very effective
in achieving its aims!).  But it does mean that the sum of the single-member
district votes is not a fair reflection of the voters' support for the parties.
It was to overcome this problem that the "second vote" was introduced when MMP was
devised for Federal Germany in 1946.

And of course, MMP will always elect two different kinds of "representative".
This has been a major problem in both Scotland and New Zealand, but not in Germany
which has a very different political culture.


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