[EM] Re: alternate proportional method

Olli Salmi olli.salmi at uusikaupunki.fi
Mon Jul 28 05:27:12 PDT 2003

>At 00:27 +0100 26.7.2003, James Gilmour wrote:
>I had written:
>>  >PR of political parties is obtained only to the extent that
>>  the voters
>>  >vote the parties' tickets.  When the voters do this, party
>>  PR results.
>>  >But when the voters are motivated to seek PR of something
>>  other than the
>>  >parties, party PR does not result.  Thus PR of political
>>  parties may be
>>  >an outcome of STV-PR, but it is never the objective.
>Olli asked:
>>  I'm not sure I understand the practical significance of this. How is
>>  politics different in, say, Ireland, Malta, Northern Ireland, which
>>  have used STV for a longish period, from the Scandinavian countries
>>  which have used list PR at least as long?
>I cannot comment on Malta as I make no attempt to keep up with 
>Maltese politics.  I also think it is
>very difficult to make a direct comparison between the political 
>effects of two voting systems by
>making that comparison between two countries, especially such 
>different countries as the
>Scandinavian countries on the one hand and Ireland and Northern 
>Ireland on the other.  There are so
>many other factors that are confounded with that comparison that, at 
>the very best, we should make
>it only with great caution.

No disagreement here.

>You must also remember that for all of the recent STV period, Northern
>Ireland has been "province" within the UK, with at best, limited 
>devolved powers and for much of
>that time, no local powers at all at provincial level.  Bombs and 
>bullets also confound the
>political comparison.
>At one level you could say the different systems make very little difference.

That's the point I'm trying to make.

>As most voters mark
>most of their highest preferences on a party basis, the general 
>outcome is primarily PR of political
>parties in all these countries.  The assessment of other aspects of 
>representation is difficult
>because we rarely have any other tags that would allow us to assess 
>the proportionality of anything
>other than political party.  Of course, a further caveat with STV-PR 
>is that we don't KNOW that
>every first preference vote for a candidate of party A can really be 
>counted, in party terms, as a
>"vote for party A", because we don't know why that voter voted for 
>that candidate.

It's the same here. Some people just vote for a candidate they know. 
For most people the person is very important. Some people vote for 
party leaders. In the last election both the Prime Minister and the 
opposition leader were standing in Helsinki and it was widely 
publicized as an election for PM. This was the PM's idea but he lost.

>But I do have personal experience of seeing voters in Northern 
>Ireland give high priority to PR of
>something other than party.  In one Assembly election some years 
>ago, when party A's leading
>candidate was elected with more than a quota of first preferences, a 
>large proportion of his votes
>transferred not to the second candidate of the same party, but to 
>the leading candidate of party B.
>Party A and party B were in the same part of the political spectrum, 
>but the large number of
>transfers away from party A caused great concern to the managers of 
>that party (to put it mildly!).
>The reason for this non-party behaviour on the part of those voters 
>was, I discovered, that the
>elected candidate of party A and the candidate of party B who 
>received the large number of transfers
>were the two of the best known and respected citizens in their local 
>town in a largely rural
>constituency.  Those voters were saying that PR of their locality 
>was more important to them than
>strict ("pure") PR of their preferred party.  I don't how you might 
>see this reflected in the
>politics of the country, but it seems clear to me that this does 
>matter to the electors (because we
>see what they do when the voting system gives them that 
>opportunity).  Similar factors (eg locality)
>may operate in open-list party list PR when voters mark their one 
>preferred candidate, but the
>voters would not normally have the opportunity to vote across party 
>lines to express this

In the Swiss system and many German half-open systems they vote 
across party lines, that's no problem.

>STV-PR does emphasise the accountability of the elected members to 
>their local constituents because
>each is elected as a result of receiving a personal quota of votes. 
>This tends to make the elected
>members more attentive to their local constituencies than they are 
>typically in countries where
>party list systems are used.  Because of this, some Irish 
>politicians want to abandon STV-PR to
>loosen that link so that they can concentrate exclusively on 
>national politics.  Of course, we must
>be careful to take into account some other factors that might make 
>the virtue of a strong local link
>into a problem, eg the inappropriate small size of many of the 
>electoral districts in Ireland, and
>the fact that a significant number of TDs have traditionally also 
>been local councillors.   There
>have been two referenda in Ireland to drop STV-PR in favour of FPTP 
>(single-member plurality), but
>on both occasions the people voted against the government and forced 
>them to keep STV-PR.

The members here also get their own personal votes. And they no doubt 
know where their votes come from. The candidates tend to need a local 
power  base to get elected, which I heard several years ago from a 
guy who made a Master's Thesis about such things.

All registered parties nominate a full list of candidates. In 
Parliamentary elections the maximum number is 14 or the number of 
seats in the district (6-31), whichever number is higher. In local 
elections it's 1.5 times the number of seats in the municipality 
(17-80). The extra candidates may be needed because there's a system 
of alternate members in local government; if a councillor is unable 
to attend a meeting, the first unelected candidate will replace him 
or her in that meeting. And permanently for permanent disability.

This means that we have quite a lot of candidates to choose from, not 
just one more than the party expects to elect. I understand people 
like to cast their vote for candidates near them. In the budget 
debate it's common for MPs to propose monies for paving and bridges 
and what not in their own district, so the connection to locality 

In the last parliamentary election their were two Social Democratic 
candidates from Uusikaupunki, where my Internet Service Provider is. 
Neither was elected but their votes combined would have elected an 
MP. STV would have been better. Even with the Swiss system the 
townspeople wouldn't have wasted their vote.

Olli Salmi

More information about the Election-Methods mailing list