[EM] Open Lists and Closed Lists

Alex Small asmall at physics.ucsb.edu
Mon Jul 28 15:42:29 PDT 2003

David Gamble said:
> Recently their have been a number of posts regarding the merits of open
> versus closed lists for list PR. I dislike closed lists and feel that
> voters not  parties should decide which  individuals on a list are
> elected. However the fact  that in an open list system a vote counts
> both for an individual and a party  list can produce results unintended
> by the voters. Take the following example:


> If you must use list PR my preferred type of list is the 'loose' list. A
>  voter can only vote for one party list but can vary the order of
> candidates on  that list ( for example in say an 8 member district the
> voter votes for one list  and up to 4 candidates on that list. The votes
> for the party lists are used to  allocate the seats between parties and
> the votes for the candidates to  determine who on the list is elected).

Your goal here is to protect voters from themselves.  I think it's pretty
clear that when voters divide their votes among lists they run the risk of
electing a less preferred candidate from one of the lists.

Now, admittedly, I'm the guy who said STV shouldn't be used until 80% of
voters in the Miami-Fort Lauderdale-Palm Beach "axis of befuddlement"
understand it.  My main concern is that the mechanics of the system, and
the possible consequences of actions, be easy to understand.  STV flunks
the simplicity test IMO, even though it does a decent job of protecting
voters from themselves.  List systems that allow cross-over voting pass
the simplicity test, even though they don't protect voters from

It's similar to the situation with Approval Voting:  It might be tough to
decide whether I should approve my second choice in a 3-way race, but the
possible consequences of doing so are clear to me, as are the possible
consequences of NOT voting for him.  The only thing I have to figure out
is which outcome is more likely, and then I can take my chances as I see
fit, just like any other adult.

Now, there may be another good argument for a "loose list" rather than a
completely free list (distribute your votes among lists and candidates
however you see fit):  Say that a list is divided between moderates and
extremists.  The extremists might complain that cross-over voters helped
the moderates, essentially hijacking the party.  But I reject even that
argument:  If the extremists want to maintain purity in their party, they
should form their own party and exclude moderates from the lists.

(And, as always, insert all the usual caveats that this discussion is in
the spirit of "IF we have a list system, what should it be?" not "Should
we have a list system in the first place?")


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