[EM] Open Lists and Closed Lists

Dgamble997 at aol.com Dgamble997 at aol.com
Mon Jul 28 13:52:39 PDT 2003

Recently their have been a number of posts regarding the merits of open 
versus closed lists for list PR. I dislike closed lists and feel that voters not 
parties should decide which  individuals on a list are elected. However the fact 
that in an open list system a vote counts both for an individual and a party 
list can produce results unintended by the voters. Take the following example:

3 parties ( A, B and C) are contesting a 5 seat district. Each party puts up 
a full slate of 5 candidates. Each voter has 3 votes. 100,000 electors vote, 
each voter casts 3 votes.

31% of the voters support party A ( 31,000 voters)

29% of the voters support party B (29,000 voters)

40% of the voters support party C (40,000 voters)

One of the candidates of party B ( B1 ) is a well respected local politician 
who is liked by many of party A's supporters. Another of party B's candidates 
( B2 ) is very antagonistic to party A.

20% of party A's supporters (6200) vote for candidate B1 and two of their own 
party's candidates.

B1 is also extremely popular with party B supporters and receives one vote 
from almost all of party B's supporters.

Votes received by the candidates of party A and party B are as follows:

A1   26800                 B1    34000
A2   21000                 B2    18000
A3   16000                 B3     16200
A4    12000                B4     15000
A5    11000                B5     10000

Total votes received by each party are as follows: party A 86800,  party B  
party C 120000.

The D'Hondt highest average formula is used to allocate the seats: 

Party A  1 seat, party B  2 seats, party C  2 seats. Seats are allocated to 
the candidates on each list who receive the greatest number of votes.

Party B  elects candidates B1 and B2.

What would have happened if the 6200 party A supporters hadn't decided to 
vote for B1 and had voted for 3 candidates on their own party's list?

The votes for each party would have been as follows: party A 93000, party B 
87000, party C 120000. Party A would have obtained 2 seats, party B 1 seat and 
party C 2 seats.

The votes for party B candidates would have been as follows:

B1  27800
B2  18000
B3   16200
B4   15000
B5   10000

Candidate B1  the candidate who obtained the extra 6200  from party A and who 
party A supporters voted for is still elected. B2 who they don't like is  now 

By voting for a candidate they liked on another list party A's supporters 
have given that list enough extra votes to elect an additional member B2 ( who 
they don't like ) and reduced the number of seats obtained by their own party 
from 2 to 1.

Because a vote counts for both a candidate and a party voting for candidates 
on different lists can result in situations like the above unintended by the 
voters and objectionable to them.

The example given above was based on a situation that occurred in the French 
Fourth Republic in which Communist voters cross voting for Socialists in an 
attempt to defeat the candidate who headed the Communist list succeeded in 
giving the Socialist list just enough votes to elect a vehemently anti-Communist 

If you must use list PR my preferred type of list is the 'loose' list. A 
voter can only vote for one party list but can vary the order of candidates on 
that list ( for example in say an 8 member district the voter votes for one list 
and up to 4 candidates on that list. The votes for the party lists are used to 
allocate the seats between parties and the votes for the candidates to 
determine who on the list is elected).

Alternatively you could always use STV where votes only count for the 
candidates you vote for,  not for candidates of the same party who you don't like and 
didn't vote for.

David Gamble
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