[EM] SPPA - was STV district magnitude

James Gilmour jgilmour at globalnet.co.uk
Wed Jul 23 04:59:09 PDT 2003

Stephane wrote (> )
> I used pure PR in the sense of any method that can produce
> a perfect match between popular support toward parties
> and seat won by those parties, to the integral limit of not 
> splitting representatives apart.

You have again defined your objective as "PR of political
parties".  This is the narrow objective that I reject.  There can
be PR of many other aspects of "political" life, as expressed by
the voters in their responses to the candidates.  What about PR
by gender, by religious affiliation, by ethnic origin, by
professional or work activity, by significant issues that cut
right across all party boundaries?

In these circumstances, it seems pointless to me to pursue some
concept of "pure PR" to the ultimate arithmetic limit.  Even if
you could achieve this goal, you would have PR only in one
dimension.  Voters' responses are multi-dimensional - or at least
they are when the voters are given the chance to show that.

> > 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
> > > 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
> > suggested there is more to "PR" than "PR of registered
> > parties".
> I do agree with you to the fact that there is more to only 
> political parties. I would not want people voting for ideas 
> without knowing who is going to implement those ideas and 
> how. I think independents are an asset as a guarantee that a 
> person can run for office without being linked to some 
> oligarchy. Both this element are present in SPPA as voters do 
> not vote for parties but for persons (as with STV) and 
> independents can run (as with STV). So please precise your 
> thoughts... What obstacle is so unavoidable that we have to 
> abandon PR systems fully proportional, pure PR systems using 
> my vocabulary, and not only PR list systems?

But unless I have misunderstood your descriptions of SPPA, votes
are aggregated within parties and seats are allocated nationally
to parties. That makes party PR the objective and, de facto,
everything else will be secondary to that.
> > > Alex says that "a reasonable district size will also keep
> > > 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.
> I do not have your experience.

I do not know what you mean by this response.  If you are
referring to my 40 years of campaigning, my personal involvement
is irrelevant.  What matters is what electors say they want.  UK
electors value "closeness".  My opinion may be reinforced by the
fact that I have never heard electors say anything different (and
I have been listening for quite some time).  I suspect it is the
same in many other countries, especially those with a legacy from
the British parliamentary system, but I would not presume to make
such assertions without direct local evidence.

> > > Yes in one hand it gives
> > > an elected representative that knows the district better
> > > others. But on the other hand, it attracts several
> > > behaviors. It attracts lobbyist not legislators.
> >
> > Where is the evidence for this?  The worst lobbyists (or the
> > depending on your point of view) are not those who represent
> > people who live in their locality, but those whose promote
> > issues.
> You have a local council to defend your towns problem. You do 
> not need a local
> representative when it comes to make national laws or budget. 

I find this statement amazing, especially from a citizen of
Canada.  I know what you mean when you say that you do not want
members of the federal parliament to make decisions purely on the
basis of local (geographical) interest.  But surely there is a
legitimate state or regional perspective when deciding the
federal budget or making national laws?  There certainly is here
in the UK.

> All they care is their locality interest and to put 
> exceptions for their particular case. Please try national 
> representatives to defend national interest: it works a lot 
> better. 

Electors expect elected representatives to represent them in a
number of different ways.  The priority given to the different
aspects of representation will differ among electors and among
elected members, and differ from time to time and from situation
to situation.

>Do not believe me, make simulations and see.

I don't know what simulations one could usefully make to
illustrate this, much less to prove the point.

> > > It attracts people who want to get
> > > the best to their local community,
> >
> > That surely is a laudable aim?
> by itself yes, but it depends how...
> > > at the detriment of the country or
> > > other districts nearby if necessary.
> >
> > This is not a necessary consequence.  It suggests to me that
> > structures and functions of government at federal, state, 
> region and 
> > town/city level are not adequately defined or separated.
> No. It is because representative at each of these levels 
> defend first the interest of the part that elected them and 
> next the whole entity. And it is normal human behavior as 
> long as the system retributes such behavior by reelecting 
> those who do so.

But this is a representative democracy.  If that is what the
voters want, is it really for you or me to say they should not
get it?  Whether you or I agree with such an outcome is
irrelevant - that is democracy at work.  If we don't like what
our fellow voters want, we can, of course, seek to educate them
to "better ways" or campaign for those who take a broader view -
but that is quite a different matter.

> > > It institutionalizes ghettos,
> >
> > I cannot see that this follows at all.
> When laws affecting in a specific way all rural persons in 
> brittain are taken,
> who protects the interests of that minority. The rural 
> districts representatives. I do not know from which political 
> party they are, but I can tell you they are minoritarian in 
> the english parliament because the system of districts 
> assigns a finished number of seat to those localities. 
> Minoritarian they are and minoritarian they will be after any 
> election, even if they were the target of a major unfair law 
> that would become the main subject of debates.

I'm afraid I cannot follow your argument here.  The rural
electors in the UK (or in any part of the UK, like England) are
in the minority, but not because of any scheme of districts.
They are in the minority compared to the urban electors because
there are fewer of them.  No scheme of districts is going to
change that.  Of course, you could "balance" the representation
by having very different numbers of electors per elected member
in the urban and rural districts, but such extreme manipulation
would not be acceptable (not since 1832).

That said, we do have a "rural bias" in the districting in most
parts of the UK, even when we use a system of PR, as for the
Scottish Parliament.  It is both accepted and expected.  In terms
of practical politics, there would not have been a majority vote
in favour of (re-)establishing the Scottish Parliament unless the
proposed electoral system would ensure over-representation of the
rural and remote areas of Scotland.  Of course, that distorts the
arithmetical equalness that some say is implicit in "one person,
one vote", but in the real world there is more to equality of
representation than arithmetical equalness.

> To be elected 
> somewhere with geographical districts, you need to match the 
> positions of this
> district interest groups.  So if any issue can advantage a 
> majority of these districts, forget defending the minority 
> point of view about it, how unfair it is. National 
> representative can fight such unfairness by using the 
> minorities to make the difference, because they only need a 
> small margin to beat other candidates of the same party and 
> get elected.  FPTP or STV can't (except for huge STV 
> constituencies in number of seats)
> because minority defenders need to beat the majority 
> defenders: in the best case they can be elected in some 
> districts and shout, in the worse case they lose everywhere. 
> With SPPA if a particular unfairness rises in all the 
> election, a majority of candidates wanting to repair it can 
> be elected because it is the electorate that chooses the 
> debates that matter.
> > >purshasable votes for the next metro station or the next
> > >subvention.
> >
> > At worst, that COULD apply in any political system, but it is
> > caricature because rarely will any elected member have such 
> > power or influence.
> No!! It is not the case with SPPA. Again I ask you as I did 
> Alex: where in England should a politician put a metro 
> station to favour the voters from the virtual district made 
> of the persons born between January 6th to January 10th of 
> any year? Ministers do have to take such decisions, you know 
> that very well.

There is no answer to your question.  Of course ministers do have
take such decisions and they are expected to consider competing
priorities.  If they are blatantly partisan in their decisions,
they will be called to account by parliament, by the media, and
ultimately by the voters.
> > > 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
> > > shouldn't 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.
> So use a representative from the institution that fits, using 
> districts that fits. For international issues, use 
> international committees with internationally elected people 
> who care as much about the health of english people than 
> tanzanians. 

This is pie in the sky.  For the foreseeable future, all
international decisions of any real importance will be taken by
national governments.  International bodies will be allowed to
take only the decisions that don't really matter.  Of course, the
realist might go further and say that what the USA wants, the USA
will get!

> If it's for using english funds to help fight 
> hunger in Tanzany, ask english representatives caring about 
> all english tax payers, not the parliament member who 
> represents South Liverpool and maintains a city exchange for 
> several decades with the Tanzania capital. In the same way, a 
> missing hospital in a town should not be claimed by a 
> representative from that locality in the parliament, it 
> should be the job of the municipal council. 

You are wrong so far as the UK is concerned.  The funds that
would allow the building of a new hospital are allocated at
central government level (separately for England, Wales, Scotland
and Northern Ireland), not at local council level.

> Do you expect the 
> representative to say "the people of Manchester out there 
> they need it first" if it is the truth?No, (s)he can't or 
> doesn't want to be reelected. SPPA allows politicians to 
> speak freely and to judge fairly. Hospital would get where 
> they are most needed to the best of our knowledge, not to the 
> best of our party next election results...

I don't follow at all how SPPA is going to change this.

> > > Making "virtual" ridings non-geographically-based might not
> > > 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.
> > electors want their electoral districts (ridings) to have
some real 
> > meaning in a dimension to which they can relate.  That means
> > local geography at some scale relevant to body being elected.
> > electors would not take kindly to being allocated to any kind
> > virtual district to fulfil some abstract concept of "pure
> I know you are right. What do you think of it with your 40 
> years of political experience. Can it get sold out to them? 

No, not a hope!!  I cannot see our kind of electors ever being
prepared to accept "virtual districts".  If there to be districts
of any kind, they will expect districts with a geographical
basis.  The only non-geographical districts I know of in public
elections are the "Professional Panels" used to elect the members
of the Irish Senate.

> I know some municipalites do not use geography to
> give seats, because it does not matter at such low level to 
> people having cars and not even knowing some direct 
> neighbours.

The town council examples from Ireland showed how the whole
council could quite reasonably be elected from one district with
9 or 12 members.  But beyond that, we have separate districts.

>  In Canada, many geographical case of conflict of 
> interest and (renvoi d'ascenseur) occurred: moving airports, 
> hospitals, relocalized plants, bridge, boat crossings, 
> museum, unfinished highways...

I am aware of such problems, but I think we in the UK have been
spared the worst excesses of this.

> > > 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
> > representatives, where "representative" should be defined 
> in whatever terms the voters want.
> I do not want to kill personal interest. Elected members are 
> still there to serve the people. I meant to kill corruption, 
> or at least the actually accepted part to it coming from the 
> localization of governements development projects.

The best guards against corruption and excessive partisan
decision-making are, firstly, to have a free press and then to
allow the voters to choose freely among all the candidates.
> >
> > > 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
> > ethical way in discharging their duties.  But we know it will
> > always be so -  human beings are human beings.
> Ethics can try to stop corruption. But humans being 
> themselves, I think we need an electoral system that removes 
> any incentive toward dealing for votes.

We shall always have "dealing for votes".  It is implicit in any
activity that allows a candidate to promote himself or herself as
the "best" person to be your representative.  Electors want this
in that they want their representatives to represent their views,
whether on the regional allocation of the national budget, on
international aid, or on the re-introduction of capital
punishment for murder.  If the current representative does not
represent your views as you would wish, you will not vote for
that candidate at the next election.

> > > We have bet on that for decades, yet scandals
> > > still follow each other even if we elect rich, well
> > > 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.
> Simulations done during the convention of electors held in 
> Montreal november 10th 2002 showed results obtained for a 
> fictive election with 12 seats and 13 voters per district, 
> using FPTP, MMP, STV and SPPA...  Of course such analysis 
> should be more numerous to gain in fiability.  Did you 
> received the summary of those results? I sent it to the EM

Yes, I've seen those results.  But to me they are of little
relevance.  The issue is to decide your objectives for the voting
system.  Once those have been decided you can see how well they
are met by different approaches and variations of the arithmetic.

> > > 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
> >
> > > 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
> > representatives should be representative, in every way that
> > implies.
> >
> > > 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.
> At the end of the electors convention, we elected the best 
> multiple-winners electoral method according to the 
> participants: STV won the final election using the four 
> methods as candidates. But SPPA beat MMP when using approval 
> as a selection method. FPTP finished last, any given 
> selection method (FPTP, approval, AV or Ranked pairs 
> (margin)) Maybe some surprises await for you, even after 40 
> years of experience...

Yes, but as I have just said immediately above, the real debate
should be about objectives.  The rest will fall quite quickly
into place once the objectives have been agreed.

> > > 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.
> No, it is a well-defined criteria. One you do not find as 
> important as other pragmatic considerations of yours.

Non, mon ami.  Vraiment, c'est un mirage!

As I have explained (or tried to explain) above, "pure" PR of
political parties is PR in just one dimension.  There are several
or many dimensions we might consider.  I do not want to predefine
what those dimensions should be - I would prefer to leave that to
the voters to determine, as they express their responses to the
candidates in the most sensitive way we can devise.  Also I
strongly reject using the one dimension that would entrench the
position of the parties in the political system and give them
even more power than they already have.  I am not a "party
smasher", nor do I regard political parties as "a necessary
evil".  Political parties are essential parts of the political
system - if they didn't exist, we should soon invent them.

> Some 
> people think STV is too complex for the additional PR gained. 
> Why not choose their opinion as the good one?

I am well aware of such views, but experience shows that
"ordinary electors" can make the system work extremely well to
get what they want.  Experience also shows that most who promote
such views are, in reality, opponents of any electoral reform, at
least here in the UK.  Interestingly, those same opponents of
reform imposed STV-PR on Northern Ireland in 1972.  But of
course, Northern Ireland is "different" and is conveniently
across a strip of water away from the mainland of Great Britain.
Northern Ireland was indeed different - they were throwing bombs
at each other.  It will be a sad day if we all have to do that
before we are allowed to have a sensitive voting system that will
ensure fair representation of all significant viewpoints within
the community.

> I think it 
> depends on the level of precision vs complexity each person 
> wants... STV being in the middle does not garantee any 
> superiority, sorry.

There may be a trade-off between the precision of PR and
complexity, but that is not the real issue.  The real issue is
"PR of what?"  Some are content with nothing or little more than
PR of registered political parties.  But for all the reasons I
argued above and in other posts, I do not think that should be
the objective of the voting system

> > 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
> > candidates who offer themselves for election.
> False. Your turn to show more misunderstanding of SPPA. It 
> uses parties as a simplification tool to diminish ballot 
> length and the number of speaker to listen to for a voter 
> wanting to do his(er) job well.

Forgive me if I have misunderstood how SPPA works, but to me any
system that involves aggregating votes nationally BY PARTY or
allocating seats BY PARTY, is essentially a party PR system.  It
will have all they inherent political defects of all party PR

> > 3.  I disagree fundamentally with any system that involves
> > aggregation of votes and allocation of seats.  I have 
> argued in other 
> > posts against giving representation to the smallest groups
> > 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
> > when representation goes down to 1.5%.
> It is your choice.

Yes, it is my choice.  And it is shared by vast numbers of UK
electors.  They may want better representation, but they also
want a workable political system.

> However, your paralysis argument is 
> unfounded when compared> 
> to the "crutch" option described to fix it in SPPA. I am a 
> serious electoral-reformer, so I would solve a problem 
> (misrepresentation) by creating another (unstability). Please 
> read before saying it is impossible. SPPA guarantees a stable 
> government that could produce bipartite coalitions for a 
> reduced mandate at worst. So please do not remove small 
> parties without necessity.

This makes a complete nonsense of your striving for arithmetical
exactitude in the PR of parties.  Your "fix" appears to say we
shall accept the results of "pure PR", but only if one party wins
a majority of the seats so that it can form a stable,
single-party government.  Otherwise we shall distort the "pure
PR" to manufacture a single-party majority.  If you believe in
this definition of "strong government", why not build that into
the voting system?  This has been done before: according one
professor of politics, in Mexico the party that won the most
votes was given 55% of the seats; in the 1920s Mussolini
introduced a new electoral law that gave two-thirds of the seats
to the party that won the most votes.  (In the event, the
Fascists did not need this distortion to secure power  -  they
won two-thirds of the votes!)

> > 4. Virtual electoral districts are not acceptable in the 
> real world, 
> > no matter how you choose to define them.
> It seems to be the case, more because of tradition and inerty 
> than because of rationalized inconvenients or logical 
> arguments as Alex wrote.

No, I think it goes much deeper than tradition and inertia, at
least here in the UK.  We also saw something similar in the
reaction of the electors in New Zealand when MMP was introduced
and elected two very different kinds of MP.  There is a very
strong local identity for most electors, and it seems to operate
at different scales depending on the scale of the body being
elected, eg town council, regional assembly, national parliament.
This need for "local identity" is not confined to elected public
bodies  -  I have encountered it within work organisations that
operate on a number of sites.


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