[EM] Request comments on MMP?

John B. Hodges jbhodges at usit.net
Wed Jul 23 14:02:27 PDT 2003

Greetings- For my continuing effort to educate myself on these 
issues, I'd like to ask for people's views on the "mixed member 
proportional" system, the prototype of which is Germany. (I've heard 
New Zealand also has recently adopted this system, I'd like to learn 
more details of that case also.) In fantasy/utopian thinking, I 
imagine that MMP would be good for the U.S. Senate. One member chosen 
from each state by some single-winner method, the rest allocated to 
parties by party-list PR so as to make the TOTAL 100-seats 
distributed proportionally, or as close as possible thereto. This 
would require a Constitutional amendment, so I know it won't happen, 
but after imagining the House of Representatives chosen by STV-PR in 
districts of 3, 5, or 7 seats (the best outcome I can believe might 
actually happen) I'd like to give smaller parties some alternate 
route to representation.

USA voters are so accustomed to single-member districts that 
commentators who should know better are seriously proposing 
Cumulative voting in "superdistricts" of three seats, as a radical 
and daring reform. I agree it would be an improvement over 
SMD-plurality, but Gee, any reform is going to be hard enough to get, 
we should try to do better than that.

I know folks here don't much like Party-list PR, and most would 
rather avoid single-winner elections whenever possible, so perhaps 
MMP is just the worst of both worlds. Perhaps the best we can hope 
for for the Senate is some single-winner method, pick your favorite.

Party-list PR, for all its faults, has some aspects that could be an 
advantage, especially if applied only to part of the system. It 
allows much larger district magnitudes than STV, so the threshold for 
winning a seat can be much lower. Candidates on a list can be chosen 
AS an ensemble, i.e. deliberately chosen to be attractive to voters 
as a team, which would (and empirically does) lead to more women and 
minority officeholders than even STV. It subjects those officeholders 
elected BY party-list to serious "party discipline", which in turn 
makes party platforms into meaningful documents, which voters can 
read and compare, gaining MUCH more information about how 
officeholders are likely to vote on issues. It might be argued that 
even the aspect of list-PR that gives party heavyweights "guaranteed 
seats" could have a place as one piece of a large and diverse 
governing system. (For example, candidates for President are usually 
either Governors of large states, or Senators. MMP would give smaller 
parties at least a few "secure seats", where their officholder can 
accumulate experience, lay down a record of his/her votes on 
legislation, and develop name recognition.)
John B. Hodges, jbhodges@    @usit.net

"The secret of the demagogue is to make himself as stupid as
  his audience so that they believe they are as clever as he."
    -- Karl Kraus

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