[EM] STV district magnitude

James Gilmour jgilmour at globalnet.co.uk
Mon Jul 21 15:32:09 PDT 2003

Stephane wrote:
> I do agree, but you need to prove that the adverse effects
> are not ghosts...
> I do not think that the advantages of a "reasonable district size"
> outcomes obviously its disadvantages when compared to pure PR
> systems.

You need to define "pure PR".  What is "pure"?  On what criteria?  In
whose view?  You appear to ignore completely all the previous discussion
in this thread and in related threads where it has been suggested there
is more to "PR" than "PR of registered political parties".

> Alex says that "a reasonable district size will also keep the
> representatives closer to those they represent, and will keep 
> the focus in
> elections more on the individual candidates because the field of
> candidates won't be as crowded."
> Geographical "closerness" is a bad thing.

This may be your opinion.  It may even be an acceptable opinion to a
majority of the citizens of your country.  But all I can tell you from
more than 40 years of practical campaigning for electoral reform in the
UK is that "closeness" matters to electors here.

> Yes in one hand it gives
> an elected representative that knows the district better than others.
> But on the other hand, it attracts several dysfunctional behaviors. It
> attracts lobbyist not legislators.

Where is the evidence for this?  The worst lobbyists (or the best,
depending on your point of view) are not those who represent the people
who live in their locality, but those whose promote single issues.

> It attracts people who want to get
> the best to their local community,

That surely is a laudable aim?

> at the detriment of the country or
> other districts nearby if necessary.

This is not a necessary consequence.  It suggests to me that the
structures and functions of government at federal, state, region and
town/city level are not adequately defined or separated.

> It institutionalizes 
> ghettos, 

I cannot see that this follows at all.

>purshasable votes for the next metro station or the next plant 
> subvention.

At worst, that COULD apply in any political system, but it is a
caricature because rarely will any elected member have such power or

> I agree, it
> worked like that for decades everywhere.

I don't agree at all.

> But if a system can offer
> elections using principles and not interests, ideas not 
> fashions, should'nt
> you consider this more closely.

Yes, of course.  But in practice, most electors look to their elected
representatives to fulfil a number of different functions
simultaneously.  Among these are (very) local interests and national
interests and international interests, as well as interests of many
different kinds on political issues, social issues and ethical issues.

> Making "virtual" ridings non-geographically-based migth not 
> be considered
> by serious electoral-reformers, and it is not going to be 
> feasible soon, 

It is complete non-starter so far as the UK is concerned.  Real electors
want their electoral districts (ridings) to have some real meaning in a
dimension to which they can relate.  That means their local geography at
some scale relevant to body being elected.  Real electors would not take
kindly to being allocated to any kind of virtual district to fulfil some
abstract concept of "pure PR".

> but
> do you see another way to remove personal interest from the 
> election process.

I would not want to do this, so the issue does not arise.  In a system
of representative democracy, the purpose of elections is to elect
representatives, where "representative" should be defined in whatever
terms the voters want.

> Ethics seems the only other way. 

I'm not sure what this means in the context of your argument.  I would
hope that all elected representatives would always behave in an ethical
way in discharging their duties.  But we know it will not always be so
-  human beings are human beings.

> We have bet on that for decades, yet
> scandals
> still follow each other even if we elect rich, well educated, 
> passionate and full of good will persons. 

There is little evidence that this lot is any better that the others  -
but nor are they a lot worse.

> I am an idealist if you want. 

There is no harm in that - I am an idealist, too - but if you want to
achieve some real reform you must temper some of your more idealistic
ideas with practicality.  But I do not share some of your ideals.

> But if you  hope those issues
> will vanish by themselves, you are more an utopist than me.  

I would not want all of the things you listed to vanish.  I believe
representatives should be representative, in every way that that

> You can't say it is
> impossible to reach the moon unless at least you try...

After 40 years, some of us have had plenty of experience.

> Finally, I do agree that a crowded field with too many names 
> is not good.
> SPPA tries to get the best of both worlds: only one name per party on
> the ballot but still the ability to compare all candidates of 
> a same party.

My principal problems with your proposal are:
1.  I reject your concept of "pure PR".  It is a myth and an illusion.
2.  Your "PR" is based exclusively on political parties.  There is much,
much more to PR than just PR of registered political parties. Or, at
least there should be.   I want to see voters able to obtain the "PR" of
whatever they want, as expressed through their responses to the
candidates who offer themselves for election.
3.  I disagree fundamentally with any system that involves national
aggregation of votes and allocation of seats.  I have argued in other
posts against giving representation to the smallest groups that
inevitably result from such systems.  UK politics would be an absolute
disaster if the voting system gave representation to any group that
could secure 1 / 659th of the UK-wide vote for the House of Commons in
the Westminster Parliament.  Israeli politics shows what can happen when
representation goes down to 1.5%.
4. Virtual electoral districts are not acceptable in the real world, no
matter how you choose to define them.


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