[EM] Answer and query, 7/12

John B. Hodges jbhodges at usit.net
Sat Jul 12 18:06:02 PDT 2003

Greetings- though I have no personal knowledge of the Liberal 
Democrats in England, I can say that the word "liberal", in its 
political sense, originally derives from "liberty"; the "classical 
liberals" were the libertarians of their day. The modern American 
usage derives from other meanings of the same word, such as 
broadmindedness and generosity. The entries in Webster's Collegiate 
Dictionary are too long to quote here, but they cover the several 
usages, and mention the English political party.

I have a question of my own. The forms of Proportional Representation 
that have a history of actual use are of two basic types: "Party 
List" systems and "Single Transferable Vote" systems. STV, because of 
the complexity of the ballot-counting and the requirement that the 
voters fill out a ranked ballot, is useful mostly for smaller 
districts of three to seven seats. Party lists are useful for larger 
"district magnitudes" of ten seats and up; many countries have found 
it wise to require a minimum threshold percentage (2, 3, 5%) before a 
party can get seats, to discourage tiny extremist parties. My 
question is this: what is there about these two methods that does not 
satisfy? People on this list are busy inventing voting methods that 
require calculations many times more complex, even one that required 
a few billion calculations for each voter's ballot. Granted that 
computation is cheaper nowadays, there remains the problem of 
legitimacy. Whatever you may think of the story I gave a link for a 
few days ago, the point of it was that the largest maker of voting 
machines in the U.S. was selling machines that (a) left no paper 
trail (b) were vulnerable to hacking. I think it's important that a 
"hand count" remain possible; so the voting method must be one that 
can be done by hand if necessary, both the counting and the 
calculating. What is so desperately bad about Party List and STV that 
would lead you to consider such complex alternatives?
John B. Hodges, jbhodges@   @usit.net
The two-party system is obsolete and dysfunctional.
Better forms of democracy: www.fairvote.org

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