[EM] re: Brazil

James Gilmour jgilmour at globalnet.co.uk
Thu Jul 17 17:50:04 PDT 2003

> James Gilmour wrote :
> > If your group within your party has sufficient support to "deserve",
> > say, 5 of the 10 seats your party will be allocated, but 
> most of those
> > votes are concentrated on one very popular candidate from 
> your group,
> > your group will win only one seat, not five.

Stephane then asked:
> Does a party "deserve" that surplus as extra-seats?

It is not a question of whether the party "deserves" those seats.  All
those votes are votes for that party.  This is, after all, party list we
are discussing.  Every vote for every candidate of Party A is counted as
a vote for Party A and helps to secure seats for Party A.  That is how
the system works.

I was looking at groups (factions) within a party.  PR applies (or
should apply) equally to the groups within parties as it does to whole
parties.  My criticism of open-list party list PR was, and is, that it
will give PR of the groups WITHIN parties only by chance.  This happens
because the voter can express only one preference, and there are no

In much of what followed (CUT) you confused votes for parties and votes
for identifiable groups WITHIN parties.  If  Party A has, say, 30% of
the votes in the election for a 100-seat assembly, it should get 30 of
the seats.  If WITHIN Party A there is a left-wing group of that party
that has the support of 10% of the voters, it should get 10 of those 30
seats. If all those 10% votes are pilled up on one very popular
candidate of that group, the group will get only one seat.  The party
will still get its 30 seats, but the voters who support the left-wing
group within that party will be denied the representation they wanted.
Remember, we are talking about PR, so if that group has 10% of the votes
it should get 10% of the seats.

Comments about STV in the context are completely inappropriate.  STV is
NOT a party list system of PR.

STV-PR solves the problem, but only because it is not a party list
system.  The voters can choose freely and all the votes are
transferable.  So it is the voters who decide what PR will result.  It
may be PR of political parties (it usually is), but it need not be if
something else is more important to the voters.

> Could someone (try to) summarise STV-PR?
> Is it simple, not from the mechanical point of view, but for 
> the voter?

Simple enough.  We have multi-member districts (see other posts for
discussion of district magnitude).  Parties usually nominate one more
candidate than the number of seats they expect to win, but there is no
restriction.  Independents stand as independent candidates.  You vote 1,
2, 3, etc so far as you wish.  In UK implementations your vote is valid
even if you mark only "1" against one name.  You can mark as few or as
many further preferences as you want, and in any order.  There is no
element of party list in our implementations of STV-PR.  Candidates'
names are printed in alphabetical order - not by party.  Parties do give
advice to their supporters about how to vote, but those supporters are
free to do whatever they want when they mark their ballot papers.

> I do not think it is wise to make this choice based on
> "gender, ethnic origin, religious affiliation, professional 
> activity, etc." 

You may not think this wise, but I can tell you that that is what many
voters do and want to do.  It is not for you or me to tell  a voter who
wants to see more women elected that he or she should not give all the
highest preferences to all the women on the ballot before they give any
preferences to the men, if that is what they want to do.  Or to members
of their ethnic minority.  There is more to "PR" than PR of political
parties.  There is great debate here about how to make our elected
councils, assemblies and parliaments more fully representative of the
communities they serve.  As a democrat, I believe those decisions should
be made by those who vote (though there are separate issues about
ensuring adequate diversity among the candidates).  That is what STV-PR
allows the voters to do.

> and not on pure
> nuances or variations of positions and priorities between 
> candidates of the same party.

What are these "pure nuances or variations"?    Who is to decide whether
they are more appropriate criteria on which voters should discriminate
among the candidates?  As a democrat, I believe these decision should be
left to the voters, to decide themselves.  And so I am opposed to voting
system being manipulated to restrict those choices.

> However, I do not want to discuss the wisdom of the criterias.
> My problem is that I really disagree with you about the fact 
> that my "system would
> severely restrict the choices that voters can make".

 If there is only one candidate per party in each single-member
district, I don’t see how choice can be other than restricted.
> It seems obvious to me
> that one person alone cannot make a difference among those choices.
> So, if and only if you have understood the first difference 
> between SPPA and STV,
> being a non-discriminatory (to the mathematical sense) or 
> random riding distribution to sample the population,

This may be fine in theory, but it is completely unacceptable, at least
here in the UK.  Real geography does matter.  Councillors, MSPs and MPs
are not just legislators - they are also representatives, and our
electors expect a recognisable element of localness in that

> then you can understand that there will be 
> other persons
> thinking like you
> and voting like you in those ridings.

This is very similar in concept to the proposal, in the 1890s, that the
UK parliament (then 600 members) should by elected by STV-PR with the
whole UK as one electoral district.  Thus the voter on the south coast
of England and the voter on the north coast of Scotland who had similar
views, could both give their first preference to the same candidate who
might live in the centre of Wales.  No serious reformer promotes such
ideas of proportional representation in the UK today.


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