[EM] bicameral design poll

Alex Small asmall at physics.ucsb.edu
Sun Jan 4 18:17:02 PST 2004

Suppose that political momentum built for proportional representation in a
state legislature.  The most likely scenario, at least in the short term,
is that people will be willing to entertain the notion of electing one
chamber by PR, but will insist on keeping the other chamber elected by
single-member districts.

Now, I realize that many people on this list reject (however rightly or
wrongly) the notion of bicameralism, or at least in non-federal states. 
And I realize that many people on this list (myself included to a large
extent) are less than enthusiastic about electing legislators from
single-member districts.

But, for the sake of discussion, let's just accept those features as
constraints in the SHORT TERM.  Here is the poll questions:

1)  Which chamber would you prefer to elect by PR:  The larger chamber or
the smaller chamber?  (Assume for the sake of this question that your
favorite PR and single-winner methods will be used in each chamber. 
Whether it's Condorcet, IRV, Approval, Borda, whatever;  or STV, PAV,
party list, cumulative voting, whatever.)
2)  What size would you recommend for the PR districts?  (This could be
anywhere from a handful, e.g. 5 or so, to electing the entire chamber
state-wide, e.g. 100 members for the single district.)

My answers:

1) If we must elect one chamber from single-member districts, I'd prefer
that it be the smaller chamber.

Reason:  Even if we use unbiased redistricting algorithms to avoid
gerrymandering, a smaller district is likely to be less diverse than a
larger district, and hence less competitive.  Here in California we've
seen what happens when districts are safe for one party or another:  The
elections are decided in party primaries, so you get a whole bunch of
really liberal Democrats and a whole bunch of really conservative
Republicans and not a whole lot of moderates.

2)  I'd recommend 10 members per PR district.  This keeps the size of the
district and number of candidates to consider at least half-way
manageable, but still ensures representation for a broad range of


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