[EM] Question for STV-PR supporters

Adam Tarr atarr at purdue.edu
Wed Jul 16 09:18:24 PDT 2003

James Green-Armytage wrote:

>         I agree that STV can be used for a district of any size. The main
>tradeoff in district magnitude seems to be between proportionality and
>connection with local / regional areas.
>         That is, the higher the district magnitude, the greater the
>proportionality, but the less connection between representatives and a
>particular geographic region.

I see a couple other factors to consider in the trade-off:

- A large list of candidates makes it hard for the voter to study them all, 
thereby forcing the voter into a more party-based decision 
process.  Similarly, larger numbers of winners make it harder for the voter 
to keep abreast of them all, and weaken the accountability of 
representatives to their constituents (a similar argument to your local 
connection one).

- Some would argue that a viewpoint should have to achieve some critical 
mass (say, 10% of the voters) before it should gain representation.  This 
reduces proportionality, but it helps prevent splintering and radicalization.

For these reasons, I feel like 7 or 8 is the ideal number of 
representatives for a district.  There could be exceptions - New York City 
could be one big 13-seat district, for example - but 7 or 8 seems like the 
right balance between proportionality, connection to the voters, ease of 
voting, and protection against splintering.

>         Personally, I like to see PR with a district magnitude of at least 10
>seats, and I would tend to prefer more than that rather than less.

I'd imagine you prefer larger districts because you see fewer factors 
motivating smaller districts than I do.

>         I agree that a paper ballot for a large-magnitude district might 
> be kind
>of expensive. For example, if you had 50 seats, you might have upwards of
>500 candidates. I've always imagined those kind of things on some sort of
>computer interface (with paper printouts etc., of course). That is, a
>user-friendly interface with various panels and buttons and whistles, one
>where you can search through the candidates by first name, last name,
>party, rank them as you go along, change your rankings, add write-ins or
>search from some kind of secondary list of candidates, and so on.

I agree that getting good implementation/results for large-district STV or 
PAV-based PR almost requires a user-friendly touch-screen interface.  That 
said, I don't think even the most whiz-bang user interface could enable the 
typical California voter to make informed choices about what 53 candidates 
to send to congress.


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